12 April 2011

"British Seasonal Food" by Mark Hix - a review

I mentioned a few days ago (quite a few days ago actually) that I had received Mark Hix’ (or is that Mark Hix’s?) book “British Seasonal Food” (for which I should like to thank Quadrille Publishing) and was going to review it – well, here goes.

Mark Hix is, apparently, a very famous chap who, my loss as it turns out, I hadn’t heard of due to my living remotely for so long.  Not having heard of him I approached the book in a know-it-all sort of manner; “British” - well that’s easy, “Seasonal” - I’ve always tried to cook seasonally whenever I’ve been around seasons, “Food” – well, duh, that’s my speciality.  This ridiculous attitude was quickly dispelled by reading the book.  Mark Hix’ interesting ideas and the exciting new-to-me ingredients made me feel quite perky as soon as I started it.

The recipes are inspiring; in fact I have already been inspired to search out wild garlic and will report back as soon as I’ve got some.  I very much like his use of every possible bit of his ingredients; homemade celery salt from celery leaves, pretty and useful rhubarb syrup from peelings etc., some useful ideas for preparing sudden lunches.

The book is divided into the 12 months of the year and on the last day of March I cooked “Purple-Sprouting Broccoli Tart with Beenleigh Blue” only I used Tenderstem Broccoli because, apparently the purple sprouting didn’t sprout this year in the South West - seemingly the very cold winter decimated the crop.  I also used Cornish Blue because I really like it and therefore I already had some.   So this wasn’t a strict test of the recipe but it worked very well, made a delicious lunch and is a case in point about using up trimmings.  The broccoli stalks are cooked separately from the heads, purĂ©ed with butter and mature Cheddar and spread on the base of the tart.  A similar thing is done with asparagus in his Asparagus Tart in May.

As I was halving the recipes (Real Man not being an adventurous eater) I had some pastry leftover so also made the rhubarb tart which he did eat!  We had no double cream as per the recipe so I used Cornish clotted cream and drizzled the rhubarb syrup syrup pinkly over it.

I apologise for not having taken any photos of these two dishes, especially the rhubarb tart which was very pretty – my camera was hiding!  I couldn’t find it anywhere – must get one of those big SLR jobbies that are difficult to lose.   I had the camera when I started cooking …

For lunch yesterday I had, and I agree this wasn’t all that sudden bearing in mind I had intended to make it on Sunday, Celery and Stilton Soup.  Many soups containing blue cheese are rich and heavy but this was light and fragrant making an ideal lunch with a couple of slices of you know who (Vicky’s) bread.  I would stress the importance of pressing as much vegetable matter (yum!) as possible out of the celery when straining as the soup is very runny, so much so I had trouble getting my garnish to float for the picture!

I am very tempted by recipes later in the year;  the Honey Roast Sea Trout with Fennel sounds enticing as does the Creamed Arbroath Smokies with Soft Boiled Duck’s Egg (I like fish, me) and I don’t intend to wait till December to try the Chocolate Dipped Walnuts.

I do feel that some of the ingredients (cod chitterlings, monkfish liver, sea purslane etc) might be a bit obscure and difficult to find or daunting for many people, especially those not lucky enough to live in the countryside, there is a lot of foraging going on.  The book is, I think, more for the serious foodie than for someone looking for something different for dinner, but for us it is the dogs!  (English expression meaning very good.)

The book, a large paperback, is very attractive, full of mouth-watering photos by Jason Lowe and quirky drawings by Marcus Oakley plus lots of sidebars with more recipes and good ideas of how to use things up.  It was published in paperback by Quadrille Publishing on 4th March 2011, ISBN-10: 1844009432, ISBN-13: 978-1844009435

Ooh – I’ve just seen Peppered Venison Chops with Sweet and Sour Onions - that sounds good!

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debra pike said...

ooh, get you! if y ou wnat wild garlic there's tons around here! and i also have lots of the purple sprouting stuff growing in my garden oddly enough,,i was going to bring you some today!but forgot!sorry!

debra pike said...

and i can't spell..consi