Eggs On The Roof Reviews

Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food by Mark Hix
Pub­lished in paper­back on March 4th 2011 (Quad­rille, £14.99)
Pho­to­graphy © Jason Lowe



RAZOR CLAMS WITH WILD BOAR BACON AND HEDGEROW GARLIC
Jason Lowe
Mark Hix grew up in a house so close to the sea in Dor­set that he could spot mack­erel from his bed­room win­dow. At school he learned how to kill and pluck chick­ens and after les­sons would sidle over to the pier to go prawning with his mates.
Brought up by his grand­par­ents, Hix describes eat­ing simple sup­pers of noth­ing more than his Grandad’s homegrown toma­toes served with dark brown Sarson’s malt vin­egar, salt and buttered bread. Or a bowl of freshly boiled onions with melted but­ter. His Gran swore the home-grown onions would keep colds away, but he sus­pec­ted they ate them because they were cheap. It was ‘a simple house­hold’ where there was ‘noth­ing posh, just hon­est, earthy ingredi­ents.’ His evoc­a­tions of a frugal but happy child­hood make Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food a quirkily charm­ing book. The recipes make it a great one.
While Mark Hix was eat­ing toma­toes and Sarson’s by the sea, I was eat­ing beet­root dipped in the same brand of vin­egar a few miles along the coast. I recog­nise the child­hood he describes. But what he has suc­ceeded in doing is trans­form­ing those fleet­ing memor­ies of sea air, shrimp­ing, home-grown cucum­bers and his Grandad’s prized chrys­an­them­ums into a style of cook­ing that’s strik­ingly original.
The recipes he describes for razor clams with hedgerow gar­lic, skate cheeks, cod’s tongues, rab­bit brawn, lovage leaf frit­ters and fried green toma­toes in beer bat­ter are hon­est but supremely art­ful dishes that com­bine local, home-grown and for­aged ingredi­ents to magical effect. I ima­gine his Gran would have sniffed that the recipes are ‘too fancy’. My Great Aunt, pro­vider of the beet­root of my child­hood, cer­tainly would have done.
Hix is notori­ous for his energy and has a fero­cious appet­ite for work. True to his grand­par­ents’ val­ues he still for­ages for wild mush­rooms and sea­shore plants because oth­er­wise it would be ‘like ignor­ing free food.’ Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food, in this new paper­back edi­tion, includes recipes for soused gurn­ard with sea purslane, fried duck’s egg with brown shrimps and sprue asparagus, as well as eld­er­flower ice cream, apple may­on­naise and homemade cel­ery salt. Most are rel­at­ively straight­for­ward to make, if some­times chal­len­ging to shop for.
Mark Hix now has three Lon­don res­taur­ants as well as Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, a few miles west of his old child­hood home. He has the kind of crumpled, creased face that Gor­don Ram­say used to have and arms like a no-nonsense hos­pital mat­ron. But his food is del­ic­ate, exquis­ite and inspired.
This is the first Eggs on the Roof book review. There will be more reviews later in the year.

Review: British Seasonal Food by Mark Hix

Eggs On The Roof Reviews

Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food by Mark Hix

Pub­lished in paper­back on March 4th 2011 (Quad­rille, £14.99)

Pho­to­graphy © Jason Lowe

Razor Clams With Wild Boar Bacon and Hedgerow Garlic

Jason Lowe

Mark Hix grew up in a house so close to the sea in Dor­set that he could spot mack­erel from his bed­room win­dow. At school he learned how to kill and pluck chick­ens and after les­sons would sidle over to the pier to go prawning with his mates.

Brought up by his grand­par­ents, Hix describes eat­ing simple sup­pers of noth­ing more than his Grandad’s homegrown toma­toes served with dark brown Sarson’s malt vin­egar, salt and buttered bread. Or a bowl of freshly boiled onions with melted but­ter. His Gran swore the home-grown onions would keep colds away, but he sus­pec­ted they ate them because they were cheap. It was ‘a simple house­hold’ where there was ‘noth­ing posh, just hon­est, earthy ingredi­ents.’ His evoc­a­tions of a frugal but happy child­hood make Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food a quirkily charm­ing book. The recipes make it a great one.

While Mark Hix was eat­ing toma­toes and Sarson’s by the sea, I was eat­ing beet­root dipped in the same brand of vin­egar a few miles along the coast. I recog­nise the child­hood he describes. But what he has suc­ceeded in doing is trans­form­ing those fleet­ing memor­ies of sea air, shrimp­ing, home-grown cucum­bers and his Grandad’s prized chrys­an­them­ums into a style of cook­ing that’s strik­ingly original.

The recipes he describes for razor clams with hedgerow gar­lic, skate cheeks, cod’s tongues, rab­bit brawn, lovage leaf frit­ters and fried green toma­toes in beer bat­ter are hon­est but supremely art­ful dishes that com­bine local, home-grown and for­aged ingredi­ents to magical effect. I ima­gine his Gran would have sniffed that the recipes are ‘too fancy’. My Great Aunt, pro­vider of the beet­root of my child­hood, cer­tainly would have done.

Hix is notori­ous for his energy and has a fero­cious appet­ite for work. True to his grand­par­ents’ val­ues he still for­ages for wild mush­rooms and sea­shore plants because oth­er­wise it would be ‘like ignor­ing free food.’ Brit­ish Sea­sonal Food, in this new paper­back edi­tion, includes recipes for soused gurn­ard with sea purslane, fried duck’s egg with brown shrimps and sprue asparagus, as well as eld­er­flower ice cream, apple may­on­naise and homemade cel­ery salt. Most are rel­at­ively straight­for­ward to make, if some­times chal­len­ging to shop for.

Mark Hix now has three Lon­don res­taur­ants as well as Hix Oyster & Fish House in Lyme Regis, a few miles west of his old child­hood home. He has the kind of crumpled, creased face that Gor­don Ram­say used to have and arms like a no-nonsense hos­pital mat­ron. But his food is del­ic­ate, exquis­ite and inspired.

This is the first Eggs on the Roof book review. There will be more reviews later in the year.

Mushrooms Are Friends of Mine’

A great friend gave me a present this week — a copy of food writer M. F. K. Fisher’s 1968 book With Bold Knife and Fork. She’d spot­ted it in the win­dow of a junk shop and knew I’d love it. The book fell open and my eyes fixed on the fab­ulous phrase ‘Mush­rooms are friends of mine’.

At my first job inter­view to become a trainee journ­al­ist I was asked ‘Are you in love with words?’ It’s a ques­tion that was, and still is, impossible to answer. But I think there’s a case to say that the ques­tion ‘Are you friends with mush­rooms?’ is even harder.

Mush­room and Chest­nut Pies

These pies are spec­tac­u­larly good and if left to go cold make the most per­fect snack for a pic­nic — one of the great pleas­ures in life. I’d even go so far as to say that ‘pic­nics are friends of mine’.

4 large field mushrooms

Around 4 table­spoons olive oil

Small knob of butter

2 small red onions

1 clove garlic

2 sticks celery

1 leek

Hand­ful fresh thyme leaves

12 cooked chest­nuts (optional, or you could use wal­nuts, but these too are optional)

Half tea­spoon ground cumin

Half tea­spoon fen­nel seeds

I ball mozzarella

20g ched­dar or other hard cheese such as gruyere

1 table­spoon creme fraiche

Puff pastry sheet

1 egg

Pre­heat the oven to 175 degrees C.

The idea of these pies is that the mush­room itself should form the base of the pie. The filling is both creamy and savoury, while the puff pastry on top is flaky and light.

With a poin­ted knife remove the stalks from the mush­rooms, along with a frill of the gills. Chop finely and put to one side.

Finely chop the gar­lic and onions and fry them gently in the but­ter and olive oil, reserving a table­spoon of oil for later. Cook for five minutes until soft but not brown. Add the fen­nel seed and cumin and then the finely chopped cel­ery and cook for a fur­ther five minutes. Add the finely chopped leek, the reserved chopped mush­room stalks, the crumbled chest­nuts if using and the thyme leaves. Cook for another five minutes. Stir in the creme fraiche and sea­son with salt and black pepper.

Put the remain­ing olive oil in the palm of your hand and smooth the bases of the mush­rooms around your palm to coat them in oil. Place the mush­rooms in a heat­proof dish and heap the cooked mix­ture inside each one. Divide the two cheeses equally between the mush­rooms and sprinkle over the top. Cook the mush­rooms in the oven for fif­teen minutes until the cheese is bub­bling and melted. Cut the puff pastry sheet into circles the same size as each mush­room and place them on top. The mush­rooms will vary in size — I found I needed to cut the pastry with a mug, a glass and a small meas­ur­ing cup to get the circles to fit snugly. Brush beaten egg over the pastry. Replace the pastry-topped mush­rooms in the oven and cook for a fur­ther fif­teen minutes until the tops are golden and crisp. Allow to cool slightly and serve with a green salad.

What bet­ter friends could you have than mush­rooms and someone who comes to the door bear­ing gifts?

Pecan Pear Pain Perdu

When I was a break­fast TV reporter my pro­du­cer Brian, who longed to make art­house films, used to groan that we were being forced to explore ‘the u-bend of Brit­ish tele­vi­sion’. He said we’d plumbed new depths the morn­ing I did a live para­chute jump strapped into the same suit as a mem­ber of the Red Dev­ils sky-diving team.

I thought of Brian today when I dis­covered the truly awful nov­els of Amanda McKit­trick Ros. Born in 1860 and a shock­ing social climber, she thor­oughly deserves her title ‘the best worst nov­el­ist ever’. Brian would have wept if he’d ever read this: ‘The liv­ing some­times learn the touchy tricks of the traitor, the tardy and the temp­ted; the dead have evaded the flighty earthly future, and form to swell the ret­inue of retired rights, the right­eous school of the invis­ible and the rebel­li­ous roar of the raging noth­ing.’ It’s no won­der that J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis used to read her work aloud to each other to see who would col­lapse into giggles first.

Miss McKit­trick Ros was clearly addicted to the school­girl art of allit­er­a­tion so I have a feel­ing she would have adored my Pecan Pear Pain Perdu. Since it’s Valentine’s Day any moment, I’ve pro­duced a heart-shaped Pecan Pear Pain Perdu. But feel free to dump the soppy hearts if you’re not in the mood.

Pecan Pear Pain Perdu

For two people

2 pears

1 large egg

100ml milk

4 tea­spoons caster sugar

2 thick slices stale white bread — hence the term ‘perdu’ or ‘lost’. The slices can be no-nonsense oblongs or you can snip them with scis­sors into hearts — whichever shape matches your sens­ib­il­it­ies or the state of your love life.

80g but­ter

Hand­ful pecan nuts

Halve the pears, peel and core them and then cut length­ways into 1mm thin slices. Put to one side. Break the egg into a shal­low bowl, whisk with a fork and add 2 tea­spoons of sugar and the milk. Dip the bread slices into the egg mix­ture, turn­ing over to coat each side. Melt approx­im­ately 40g of but­ter in a fry­ing pan over a medium heat. When hot and frothy, add the bread and fry for a couple of minutes on both sides until golden brown. Put each slice on a plate.

Wipe the fry­ing pan with kit­chen paper and then melt the remain­ing 40g of but­ter over a medium heat, along with the rest of the sugar. Stir until dis­solved and then add the pear slices and the pecan nuts. Cook gently for 4 or 5 minutes until the pears are soft and golden and the nuts are well coated. Arrange the pears and nuts art­fully over the bread.

Serve with creme fraiche and eat while read­ing Amanda McKit­trick Ros aloud to your part­ner and star­ing into his or her ‘globes of glare’ — McKit­trick Ros’ truly hideous term for eyes. Make sure you’re wear­ing sexy ‘south­ern neces­sar­ies’ — her term for knick­ers — and don’t, for good­ness sake, break into ‘glob­ules of liquid lava’ — that’s sweat darling, sweat.