Clarence Court Eggs and the Heston Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding

What could be better than having Mark Hix expound personally on why he recommends Clarence Court eggs at a select tasting in the private dining room at Hix Soho? Better than doing a blind comparison of three egg brands via steaming plates of creamy scrambled and perfectly presented boiled eggs? Better than the eggselent* three course eggy menu that was served up to us afterwards?
The answer is “Taking home 2 doz eggs in an Orla Kiely goodie bag”. BRING IT ON.

Mark Hix talked to us about why he’s a Clarence Court Ambassador (partly the vivid yellow colour of the egg yolks – as he said, you eat with your eyes too), chattered about the modern art (all of the art in the restaurant was specially commissioned) and we had Tonnix wine to drink (a collaboration between him and Mitch Tonks, conceived over a lunch at their mutual Portuguese wine merchant, label designed by their mate Tracey Emin) and tried different a trio of egg dishes.  I loved the posset which surprised me – usually not a fan of that type of dessert.

I’m already a fan of Clarence Court’s Burford Browns, and as it happened we’d just shopped so I was looking at a fridge containing 36 eggs. It’s not that big a fridge. First off, a luxurious Saturday breakfast of boiled duck egg and sourdough toast. (if only we’d had truffles too we could have tried to recreate our favourite Tristan Welch starter at Launceston Place) After 5:40 mins precisely as mandated by Delia, they were little pools of yolky sunshine and my only complaint was I hadn’t been offered two of them. The chef pointed out that they’re bigger than chicken eggs. I  tried to nick some of his and had to make do with purloining toast.

I’d contemplated making quail scotch eggs but on an evening when I knew I had to use up 500g of mince, the boyf had an inspired idea: thanks to his flicking through Nigella’s “Kitchen“, we ended up with Meatloaf.

Rather than the chicken eggs which she naturally suggests, I used one duck egg to bind it all admirably and nestled 10 hardboiled quail eggs into the centre of the meat. It works a treat as every slice has a reasonable allocation of egg throughout.

Finally I decided to attempt my grandmother’s custard to finish the eggs – I reckoned it would be the perfect accompaniment to something else in the fridge – the Heston from Waitrose Hidden Orange Pudding. I’d been thrilled when Waitrose sent me one and then hesitated to open it. My Dad *loves* Christmas pudding and I knew I’d be very popular if I brought it home.
Like “home”, home.
To Ireland, for Christmas. That was a month away at that stage.
Boo. Then Helen kindly said she had lots left over in her fridge and gave me some, and I get to be awarded the “Best Daughter” prize. Win!!

I have to admit, I really liked the pud. Mainly because it smelled just like the one my Mum makes, so it was going to be a winner, though Mum’s pud has certainly never strayed anywhere near an orange, and it’s honestly nothing like a Sussex Pond Pudding (one of my colleagues pointed out that that was where the inspiration probably came from) but I like the whole nuts and the sweetness – it was rather less stodgy than Christmas pud can regrettably be.  Famously, it sold out and there wouldn’t be any more on offer as they take too long to mature.  That makes feel almost churlish saying how well it went with proper egg custard, made with one of the last Burford Browns.

Ingredients

  • 1 Burford Brown egg yolk, at room temperature.
  • 10 g sugar
  • 100ml whole milk
  • 1 vanilla pod or vanilla essence to taste

Method

  1. Mix the milk and sugar in a saucepan
  2. Put the vanilla seeds or essence into the mixture to infuse and then bring it slowly to the boil
  3. Beat the egg yolk
  4. Slowly pour the hot mixture over the egg yolk , beating constantly so the yolk doesn’t curdle
  5. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan and whisk constantly while heating gently until it coats the back of the spoon.

Now it’s on to a dry January, and a vast stacked of Post-It’d book marks.  Lots of new recipes to try this year.

Review: Hix Chop & Oyster House by Mark Hix

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