Desserts

Desserts

By
Mark Hix
Contains
15 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781844003921
Photographer
Jason Lowe

I tend to keep our dessert menu short and sweet, basing it largely around old-fashioned nursery puddings and other classic favourites, such as crumbles, tarts and jellies. I’m always looking to make the most of our homegrown fruits, however short their season, and the dessert menu reflects this. Berries, cherries and currants feature in the summer; pears, plums and apples through autumn and winter; and outdoor rhubarb from early spring.

We have fun with jellies all the year round, suspending berries in elderflower and Perry jelly in the summer, and making them a bit more alcoholic in the winter with sloe gin, absinth and Somerset eau-de-vie, using the liquor from our Hix fix cherries.

The dessert menu is also an opportunity to feature some of our artisan producers including Willie Harcourt Couze, eccentric Devon chocolate producer, and Julian Temperley, Somerset’s unconventional cider maker. They come together in my truffle recipe and Julian’s oak-aged cider brandy inspired my Shipwreck tart. You’ll find the desserts here easy to replicate at home – and easy to adapt with the seasons. Enjoy...

Cheese

We are a nation of enthusiastic cheese makers and produce great cheeses that are at least on a par if not better than those from other countries, in my opinion. I reckon we are even giving our friends across the Channel a run for their money.

As a kid I wasn’t really aware of the cheeses produced in the West Country; it was always Cheddar and Stilton at home, and the occasional piece of Blue Vinney – rare in those days – when my Gran could get her hands on some. Lymeswold, the soft, insipid, mild blue was considered a fancy cheese then; thankfully that one has disappeared off the cheese makers’ map.

When I first worked in London around 20 years ago, cheeseboards comprised French cheeses and English Stilton – even poor old Cheddar never got a look in. I’m never quite sure in a restaurant whether the customer is looking for the grand cheese trolley with its disparate assortment of varieties, or just one or two selected cheeses. It is tricky to keep all the cheeses on a bulging trolley in prime condition and very, very difficult to control the wastage. I much prefer to offer just one or two selected cheeses; this enables us to select fine-quality cheeses at their best and serve them in prime condition.

The West Country is, of course, home to Cheddar, our most famous cheese and there are plenty of excellent farmhouse Cheddars produced on a small scale by skilled cheese makers to choose from. Among my favourites are Dorset Drum Cheddar from Denhay Farm, and Keen’s and Montgomery’s – both Somerset Cheddars.

Stinking Bishop is another very good West Country cheese, produced by Charles Martell. It is a washed rind cheese – washed in Perry to create a delicious, pungent cheese with a rich, creamy, oozing interior.

There are also some distinctive West Country blue cheeses made by the Ticklemore Cheese company, including Beenleigh Blue, a lovely sheep’s milk cheese, and Harbourne Blue, a great goat’s cheese with a crumbly texture and a powerful flavour.

I’ve come across great cheese makers all over the country, even within a 30-mile radius of London. Sandy Rose, for example, produces award-winning cheeses from her farm just outside Wokingham in Berkshire, including Barkham Blue, which was acclaimed as ‘best new cheese’ in its first year at the World Cheese Awards. Made from Channel Island milk, it is a distinctive cheese with a natural mould-ripened rind, rich blue flavour and smooth, buttery texture.

In addition to artisan cheese makers, we now have cheese aficionados like Juliet Harbutt and musician Alex James working together with cheese makers to produce interesting new cheeses. Their company, Evenlode Partnership, have turned out three great cheeses, including the soft goat’s cheeses Little Wallop and Fairleigh Wallop, made in Somerset by Peter Humphries of White Lake cheeses. Little Wallop is washed in Julian Temperley’s cider brandy and attractively wrapped in vine leaves.

Evenlode’s third – and my favourite British blue cheese – is Blue Monday made by Ruaraidh Stone in Tain, Scotland. To me, it compares favourably with a well-made Gorgonzola picante and I often serve it with perfectly ripe pears, honey and walnuts, or use it in salads.

The British and World Cheese awards, which I’m often asked to judge, are a great source of inspiration and the UK and Ireland always come out pretty well. It’s heartening to see so many high-quality entries and there are always excellent new cheeses to put on the restaurant menus.

Featured Recipes in this Chapter

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