Sunday 24 October 2010
Hix Oyster and Chop House- the book
Having bought and loved Mark Hix's book on British Seasonal Food and being a fairly recent adopter of oysters I was very excited when his new book Hix Oyster and Chop House arrived.
Oysters to me were always a sophisticated dish I felt I 'should' like but wasn't actually sure of. Having avoided them on menus, partly because I was worried I didn't like them and partly because of the anxiety of not being quite sure of how to eat them 'properly', I decided to just go for it and try one at Borough market on a sunny Saturday.
The good news is that like mushrooms and gherkins before them the oysters I had hated as a child I absolutely loved as a grown up- and so a new obsession was born.
This book is brilliant because it explains all about oysters in great detail: all the different British and Irish varieties are described by the characteristics, there is a good guide to how to prepare oysters and then several interesting recipes for them.
This book is in many ways far more educational than lots of the modern food coffee table books available. It explains in depth about the different cuts of all the kinds of meat served at the restaurant. My Mother and Grandmother probably know all about meat cuts and what to order at the butcher for what recipe but I'm afraid beyond a Sunday roast, a steak or a chicken breast I'm sadly lacking in knowledge of what to buy and how best to cook what I do get. This book is helpful in that regard without ever stopping being a good, glamorous read like lots of the food books which are lighter on the detail.
That isn't to say there aren't lots of beautiful recipes to get all worked up about too. The book opens just as any good meal should, with some information about the drinks served at Hix Oyster House- including the famously delectable Hix Fix.
Then there are a wealth of recipes to either try or fantasise about arranged as you might order them in the restaurant. The recipes include soups (I particularly like the sound of the crayfish and cider brandy soup); salads (including some fabulous dressings like mimosa and bramble); toasts (asparagus with Dorset drum cheddar for me please); fish of course (griddled squid with broad bean relish sounds especially good; there is meat too with a range of traditional and not so traditional sauces; also happily the side dishes at the restaurant are included- for me sides and starters are the best bits about any meal and these would make me order bowls and bowls of extras. Finally of course there is pudding- heaty rhubarb crumble and elegant strawberry sparling wine jelly among them. For all that I love sweet things I don't always want them at the end of a meal- so I was pleased to find a discussion of the many kinds of cheeses you might like to try.