The Hix Report – Keep Things Simple

Our esteemed columnist on why, when it comes to food, his design philosophy is to keep things simple…

As Clerkenwell Design Week approaches, here at the Chop House we won’t be creating special, structural dishes or going off-piste with plates of food that have a spoon of foam circling the main ingredient. We’ll be sticking to our guns: no more than three ingredients on the plate and letting the main ingredient speak for itself.

When the first of the season’s asparagus arrives, I just steam it and serve it on a vintage silver stand with Hollandaise on the side. It’s all about the asparagus, not lots of other things on the plate. Last week I did an asparagus, pennywort and lobster salad. That’s my maximum of three ingredients, but I shaved the asparagus stems raw and cooked the tips and infused some rapeseed oil from the lobster shells for the dressing. Now that’s really complicated for a Hix dish, but I’ve utilised stuff here that may potentially have gone in the bin like the shells.

The great thing with seasonal ingredients is you can really show them off alone, without any bells and whistles. Gulls’ eggs are another one of my favourites that I serve simply, with just mayonnaise and some homemade celery salt. We offer them to the guest in a basket and they help themselves.

My career in food has obviously meant I’ve worked in places that go OTT on presentation. I went down the simple, seasonal route. I could have easily gone down the wrong, foamy road like some of my contemporaries, but I chose not to.

There is one presentational gimmick I have a soft spot for though, and that’s jelly moulds. I love a jelly and the most popular, especially when we host art parties, is the dreaded absinthe jelly. Over the years I’ve collected many jelly moulds and my favourites are the brain moulds I bought in the pound shop in Portobello Road. We serve ‘brain jellies’ at many creative dinners and the latest addition is a battery LED light set in the bottom of the jelly to light up the dinner table.