Sunday, May 27, 2007

My Hero

The current run of BBC TV’s Great British Menu has given us a new hero. Mark Hix won his regional round to represent us here in the South West, and in the final judgment he had two of his dishes given the approval of the Great British Public for the menu for a grand dinner at our embassy in Paris in June, to be attended by the greatest of the French chefs. He’s the Chef-Director of Caprice Holdings Limited in London, overseeing all the restaurants and events in the Caprice Group, which would be a job to drive you crazy I would think. But Hix will be remembered by those who watched the tv series for the fact that he spent half his time reading the newspaper while his opponents worked themselves into early graves.

I loved his dessert of Perry jelly with summer fruits and elderflower ice cream. It is a West Country take on jelly and ice cream and should knock the socks off the Frogs. Perry – a sweet cider made from pears – is just starting to recover after the Babycham years. Perry pears are small and ugly, and they make a wonderfully fragrant soft delicate drink. One favourite is the Stinking Bishop pear, whose juice is also used to wash the rind of the now famous Stinking Bishop cheese (thank you Wallace & Gromit).

I noticed when I looked into some of the recipes from the series that many of them were immensely complex, as you would expect from a bunch of capital chefs. Hix’s recipe for his dessert is stunningly simple and I reproduce it here in its entirety. He presented it in a ring mould, with the ice cream in the centre, but mine is in two parts.


For the elderflower ice cream
300ml/½ pint whole milk, preferably Channel Island
6 medium free-range egg yolks
100g/4oz caster sugar
300ml/½ pint Jersey or clotted cream, or a mixture of the two
200ml/7fl oz elderflower cordial
For the perry jelly and summer fruits
4 gelatine leaves
500ml/18fl oz perry (sparkling pear cider)
75g/2¾oz caster sugar
125g/5oz mixed berries, such as blueberries, raspberries and wild strawberries

1. For the elderflower ice cream, bring the milk to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan, then remove from the heat. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl, pour in the milk and whisk well. Return to the pan and cook over a low heat for about five minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Do not boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the cream and elderflower cordial. Leave to cool, then churn in an ice cream machine (according to manufacturer's instructions) until thickened. Decant into a clean container and place in the freezer.
2. For the perry jelly and summer fruits, immerse the gelatine leaves one at a time in a shallow bowl of cold water and leave for a minute or so until soft. Bring 100ml/3½fl oz of the perry to the boil in a medium saucepan, add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Drain and squeeze the gelatine leaves, then add to the hot perry and stir until melted. Remove from the heat, add the rest of the perry and stir well. Put the pan of jelly somewhere cool, but do not let it set.
3. Divide half the berries among four individual jelly moulds, or use one large mould. Pour in half of the cooled jelly. Chill for an hour or so to set, then top up with the rest of the berries and unset jelly. (This ensures the berries stay suspended and don't float to the top.) Return to the fridge to chill until set.
4. To serve, turn the jellies out onto plates and place a scoop of the elderflower ice cream in the middle of each one.

Mark Hix’s second dish to represent Britain in Paris is his take on Stargazy Pie. This is a Cornish dish, usually made with pilchards, their heads sticking up out of the pie as if looking up at the sky. Hix makes his with freshwater crayfish and rabbit. As both of these creatures are running riot in this country, damaging waterways, native species and crops, what better to do with them than feed them to the French!


Linda said...

Definitely excited by these recipes. First thing I'm trying is the icecream. I'm crazy for the cordial, but it is very hard to get over here. I happen to have some (after much seeking- so I bought a fair supply), and I'm ready to go with the whole thing when my first farm box strawberries arrive in a few weeks.

Stargazie pie (I wondered if it was mythical), belongs as an illustration in a Maurice Sendak book. The very thought makes me want to draw it!

June said...

Hi Linda

Do you by any chance have a branch of IKEA anywhere near you? Elderflower cordial is one of the strange things they sell.

Do check out the Stargazy pie recipe on the BBC site. It is absolutely Dali-esque with the crayfish sticking out of the pastry crust! And if you do draw it, do let me see.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Now that looks delicious. I love Perry as an ingredient - more delicate than cider and so fresh.

lindy said...

june-IKEA is where I got mine-it's the only place that has it, but it's a bit of a trek from home- an hour's drive (in someone else's car- no bus goes.) I should have got more-really stocked up.

Every time I go to IKEA, I wind up with a ton of extra stuff....It's very seductive, because of the low prices, and a lot of it looks very appealing. But even cheap hangers and dustbins add up, if you get enough of them. I did get my favorite pasta pot there.

June said...

I hesitate to mention it, but we could all make our own elderflower cordial - you only need about half a dozen flower heads and some lemons and sugar. It's a cinch.

June said...

By the way...the first time I made the elderflower ice cream I got distracted and added twice the amount of cordial I should have. With the result that the ice cream refused to freeze. However, what I ended up with was an icy custard, which, over strawberries, is an excellent invention! You can just keep it in the freezer and pour it when you need it!

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