Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hawksmoor at Home

I would love to eat at one of Hawksmoor's restaurants, the steaks sound wonderful, the drinks even better and they seem fond of marmalade - it's a heady combination and sadly not one I'm likely to find locally. However you can still have 'Hawksmoor at Home' - this is a new kind of cook book for me in that it feels like it will be a transient visitor in my kitchen - normally when a book finds itself on the shelf it's on it for the long haul, this one gives an impression of being on a journey and when it's taught me all it can it'll demand to be passed on to someone new. 

'Hawksmoor at Home' is as much scrapbook and biography as it is cookbook. It's lavishly illustrated with pictures of food, staff, happy customers, and a whole lot of bits thrown in for ambience - everything from Hogarth prints to - well, rather more contemporary cartoons with lots in the way of Victoriana in between. It's an attractive way to share a philosophy - which is what this is. There's nothing really ground breaking; the range of recipes is pretty much limited to steaks, ribs, oysters, lobster, and reworked classic puddings (trifle, jelly and blancmange) and other things in a similar line - it's a few things done very well - which is an approach I can't help but approve of.

So far this book has helped me reach a new level of brownie making - leaving out the whole nuts (although I like to substitute some of the flour for ground almonds) and cutting down the sugar a bit you spoon 200g of marmalade over the top of the batter. (I stuck with a much loved though adapted version of Nigella's brownies when I saw that the Hawksmoor recipe which claims to make a mere 15 squares of chocolate heaven called for 8 eggs, half a kilo of sugar, and another half kilo of chocolate. Either those brownies are huge or you'll end up with rather more than 15 - and either way it's a lot to eat.) It's a revelation, never will you have a better, more fudgy brownie and the slightly bitter orangey marmalade hit is heavenly.

It's also dramatically improved my ability with a steak. Cooking steak is one of those things you take for granted as being quite simple and so often turns out to be a bit disappointing. Well in truth it is simple, but still needs to be done properly. It's worth searching out the best meat you can afford, ensuring that it's been dry aged for - well 21 to 28 days are what I managed to find on offer, 28 days is probably better, 21 days is what was left by the time I finished work and could buy my steaks. After that it's a matter of getting a pan (preferably griddle) as hot as possible, resisting the urge to season with salt or oil the pan, (if it's hot enough the meat won't stick presumably because the fat in it does the job oil would), flipping the steaks regularly, not overcooking them, and then letting them rest for 5-10 mins before you eat. The Scottish one confirmed  these as the best steaks I'd ever cooked and as good as he'd had in a long, long time. I'm sticking with what I've learned - there will be no compromise.

This is a lovely book, to look at, to read, to cook from. It still has a bit to teach me both in technique and history, and when I've finished with it I look forward to passing it on to someone equally carnivorous so that it can raise their expectations and change their table too. Highly recommended for meat eaters everywhere.  

1 comment:

  1. This book sounds brilliant but that could be because I only had raw apple, red pepper and cucumber salad with yoghurt dressing for dinner when what I really wanted was a dam good steak! As I am the first to post a comment I could tell you that it would make a fantastic mother's day present. Love you. Mum xxx