Hix Oyster and Chop House; Mark Hix

Hix Oyster and Chop House was recommended to me by Paul Cocker, a fellow food lover who just happens to design cook books (First Catch Your Pig & Living Over The Shop to name just a couple). I’ll admit that I probably wouldn’t have bought the book had it not been on offer at the time, but at £4 I really couldn’t resist! And, I’m glad that I didn’t.

Firstly, this is a nice looking book. With a simple matt finish and luxurious gold raised lettering, this book feels both durable and special. Flicking through the glossy pages (which are adorned with some rather tasty pictures), the oysters, meat and ‘on toast’ chapters particularly appealed and I was looking forward to spending a week with this book.

Desperate to get some meat back on the menu I kicked off with Lamb Chops with Cucumber and Mint. The chops were just char-grilled (which is how I usually cook chops) so, for me, it was the warm cucumber and mint salad that was particularly intriguing. The dish was simple to prepare and the flavours worked beautifully. In fact, for me, the salad evoked memories of Thai food for me; had a few peanuts and noodles been thrown in, it would have been quite similar to a Thai style salad I make.

Fish House Salad was Mark’s ‘British take on a salade Nicoise’ as mackerel is the fish of choice here. The rest of the ingredients are pretty standard Nicoise stuff with green beans, lettuce and eggs, and what really makes this recipe for me is the fact that the cooked mackerel is marinaded in a mix of oil, cider vinegar and spices. This really makes a difference to the dish as the flavours cut through the mackerel and gives it some lift. I absolutely loved this one; it smelt, looked and tasted good and I’d happily make it again. Despite this being a salad it was surprisingly filling and thanks to some nifty work with the oil measurements, I managed to pull the dish well within ‘diet-safe’ levels.

Spicy Glazed Huss with Crispy Shallots was made with coley and without the shallots. This was another easy one; the fish was marinated in a variety of spices with some honey, hp sauce, ketchup and lime juice and then baked in the oven. For me this wasn’t the most successful of dishes. The spicy coating was tasty, but it was a bit too wet for my liking. Maybe adding breadcrumbs could work…

Come Friday and I was ready for a treat. And what better way to celebrate the end of the week than by cooking steak for tea?! Chop House Butter, with an ingredient list of herbs, wine and Henderson’s relish (yes Mark uses Hendos in this recipe), was the perfect accompaniment; which is quite handy as I now have four packets of the stuff in my freezer. On the side I served Autumn Greens with Wild Mushrooms. Tasty and nutritious, I would have loved to have cooked everything in butter as directed in the recipe, but my diet meant that was never going to happen. It was still good though.

So… thanks Paul for the recommendation. I’ve really enjoyed the dishes I cooked this week and, once again, I know that there are a few more for me to try (mutton chop curry or rabbit and girolles on grilled puffball anyone?!). And with ingredients such as rabbit, mutton, veal and oysters, this is a real food lovers book and I recommend it to anyone who likes good British cooking.

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