From his career through Caprice Holdings, running the kitchens of the 'to be seen at' restaurant of the late 90's, to preparing Oscar ceremony dinners and now adding more and more restaurants to his own expanding empire, Mark Hix has been a longstanding and established face in the British Chef line up. To say I was excited about receiving a copy of his latest book was an understatement. Hix's food writing has a certain restful charm, quite polite really. Not too heavy on superlatives and even complex recipes seem so very relaxing to read. I must admit, I was a little dubious as to how he could follow up from his previous book, British Seasonal Food, but I needn't have worried. Hix Oyster & Chop House takes quite a different approach. It's a cook book to take with you to the beach or to flick through in a pub. A gentle read but informative and inspiring. It's also nice not to hear, "seasonal", and "local produce" every five minutes, which these days, can be words often tiresome to hear. With someone in Hix's position, you take it as a given, you need not ask.
The Oyster section is brilliant. After my recent trip out on the Othniel Oyster Farm in Poole Harbour, a place I source my own Oysters from, I was pleased to see that the guys got a proper mention for their outstanding product not to mention their unique and delicate way of harvesting them. The recipe for Bloody Mary Oysters will have me on the phone as soon as I have finished this post to go pick up some Rock Oysters this afternoon. I may even knock up one of the beef and oyster pies for supper.
Amidst all the wonderful recipes, (I don't mean to kiss ass but I really do fancy making all of them), The Bar section, I can tell now will become the most dog-eared of all the pages. Pork crackling with Bramley apple sauce, Quails egg shooters and deep fried scallop frills all look so simple to make and perfect for a sunny day alongside a drink. Which could be chosen from the British drinks list that Hix has created and written about. Perhaps, the white wine named collaboratively Tonnix by Mitch Tonks and Mr Hix, or the Nyetimber Sparkling white wine made in West Sussex from traditional champagne grape varieties.
'On Toast' could possibly be the next section to see quite a bit of use from me. Chopped livers, mackerel, tomatoes and Dorset crab all are making me reconsider my mundane cereal I had this morning. There are sections for every occasion and I think whether you are shy and intimidated in the kitchen, or incredibly confident preparing meals, I am sure you will find recipes that you will actually have a go at and cook, not just look at the pictures. If anyone ever dare contest or question what Britain has to offer culinarily, pick up this book and throw it at their head, if the spine end gets them somewhere near the nose, award yourself extra points. This book really has me excited about cooking at the minute, I must admit that recently I had been lacking motivation in the kitchen some evenings but with the added bonus that a lot of the ingredients are local to me in Dorset, I really have had an injection of enthusiasm.
Hix Oyster & Chop House is available from 2nd July 2010.