It’s always a good sign when you’ve had a recipe book for approximately three weeks and it already looks like it’s been handed down through the generations. My copy of Hix Oyster & Chop House by Mark Hix bears the grease stains from roast chicken, splatters of stock from chicken soup and there’s a blob of garlic sauce on page 133.
The first impression that I had after flicking through the book was “I really should take a walk down to the butcher’s.” The Meat chapter is a cut-by-cut guide, with pictures (in fact he even suggests, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, bringing the book to the shops so that you can point out what you want if it’s on display) with a description of how they cook it at the restaurant, weights, and a little history. I probably should have read what he said about hanger (or l’onglet) a little more carefully before heading off to the Ginger Pig – while the flavour is tremendous, it’s a slightly chewier cut than most and benefits from being sliced before serving. I realised afterwards that’s always how I’ve had it in restaurants. Still tasted good.
The first recipe I made was for the seasonal chicken soup. We probably roast a chicken once a week in our house and while I occasionally freeze the carcasses until I’m ready to make a huge batch of stock I might also make soup. Often more of a broth than a soup to be honest. The difference with the Hix recipe, essentially, it that it uses a roux of flour and butter into which you gradually ladle the stock and simmer for another 30 minutes. Sauté some mushrooms, add some fresh herbs – and you have a dish fit for kings, frankly. Velvet texture and sublime flavour, it’s become an utter staple for us. The Hix recipe does suggest using whole chicken pieces but I find it works fine with the remainders of the roast bird, or with thighs or wings.
With plain old available-in-Waitrose-now rather than new season garlic, we also made the sublime Baked New Season Garlic Sauce. The leftover went in to the following night’s soup to make it even creamier and pungent because otherwise I was tempted to eat it with a spoon. Next up is going to Monkfish Cheek and Fennel Pie and I’m already looking forward to it.
The book is full of simple classics and an enthusiasm for seasonal, local produce that’s admirable. Not everything makes the cut around here, but Hix Chop & Oyster House has earned its place on the bookshelf.
Thank you to Quadrille for sending me a review copy. Hix Oyster & Chop House is available from Amazon, rrp £25.00