Another country

Our award-winning food writer Mark Hix shares some simple, memorable dishes that he created on his recent travels abroad. Photographs by Jason Lowe
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I've been travelling around a bit recently – to places including Jersey, Ireland, New York, LA and Nice. The trips were a mixture of business and research, as well as cooking dinners for the likes of the jewellery designer Stephen Webster, who was opening his new shop on Rodeo Drive in LA. I also enjoyed cooking for Richard Rose, who was the highest bidder for a Selfridges auction in aid of the RNLI, and consequently won the cooking services of Bill Granger and myself at his house in the South of France. So I thought for this week I would introduce you to a few of the dishes I've created abroad recently. Cooking in a different country is always fun, as I love the challenge of just turning up and not knowing what to expect in terms of ingredients and facilities.

Serves 4

The fish market in Saint-Paul de Vence consisted of a couple of tables where the local fishermen brought their catch, and the fact that there were hardly any fish to choose from was a salutary reminder of how our seas are being depleted of fish stocks. We settled for what looked like giant mackerel with a more tuna-like flesh but they were fresh out of the sea and perfect for a raw ceviche starter.

400-450g mackerel fillets, skinned and boned

1 red chilli, peeled and finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The juice of 2 limes

1tbsp finely chopped coriander

For the dressing

3-4 green tomatoes, half, seeded and finely chopped

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

1 medium green chilli, seeded and finely chopped

1tbsp chopped chives

1tbsp olive oil


golden beets and fennel

Serves 4-6

There were great locally-grown vegetables at the farmers' markets in LA, although they did cost an arm and a leg. Fish was less exciting, so we opted for safe farmed salmon for one of the Stephen Webster dinners at his new shop.

250g good-quality salmon fillet

2tsp Dijon mustard

2tbsp clear honey

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 or so golden beets, boiled in their skins in salted water until tender

2-3 baby fennel with their ferns

For the dressing

1tbsp cider vinegar

2tbsp olive oil

2tbsp peanut or corn oil

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Season the salmon fillet and place on a baking tray. Spread with the mustard and spoon over the honey. Chop most of the green ferns from the fennel (reserving a few for the garnish) and scatter over the salmon. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until just cooked and slightly pink.

Meanwhile, peel the beetroots, preferably while they are still warm, and cut into wedges. Slice the fennel bulbs and any tender stalks with a sharp knife or on a mandolin as thinly as possible.

Whisk the vinegar and oils together with any juices from the salmon and then season. Toss the beetroot and fennel in the dressing, season and arrange on a serving dish or individual plates then break the salmon into pieces and arrange on top and scatter some of the green fennel ferns on top.

Serves 4-6

Kevin Gratton, my group head chef, encountered some logistical problems with this dish that we served at the opening night cocktail party at Stephen Webster's new shop. First, I forgot to tell Kevin that heavy cream in the States doesn't behave like our double cream and it ends up separating, so we had to do a bit of culinary doctoring to get the topping right.

Second, Kevin left the pastry bases for this dish in the oven as we were on our way to Stephen's shop and they got burnt to a cinder, so we had to think on our feet and decided to use some thin lavash bread (Middle Eastern flatbread), which happily worked a treat.

Kevin is still being gently teased about the hiccups in LA, but this delicious tart with the lavash bread has ended up on our menu in London and it's a great simple solution for a dinner-party tart. Cheers, Kev, this one's named after you!

1 large leek, halved, cut into rough 1cm dice and washed

250g oyster or button mushrooms, sliced

A couple of good knobs of butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

250ml double cream

150g freshly grated Parmesan

50g fresh white breadcrumbs

A piece of flatbread or a flour tortilla about 30cm in diameter

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Melt the butter in a heavy-based saucepan and gently cook the leeks and mushrooms for 3-4 minutes with a lid on without colouring. Add the double cream and two-thirds of the Parmesan, season and simmer until the cream has reduced and is just coating the leeks and mushrooms. Put the flatbread on to a baking tray and spread the leek and mushroom mix over, then scatter over the breadcrumbs and the remaining Parmesan. Bake for about 10-12 minutes until lightly coloured and serve immediately.

Serves 4-6

This was the dessert Bill and I created at Richard Rose's house in Saint-Paul de Vence. We came across some unusual berries which were a cross between a raspberry and a wild strawberry, which we used for this Antipodean Pavlova.

250-300g raspberries

For the meringue

4 egg whites

150g caster sugar

tsp cornflour

tsp white wine vinegar

To serve

Vanilla ice-cream

First make the meringue. Preheat the oven to 120C/gas mark 1. Clean the mixing machine and whisk in boiling water and dry with kitchen paper to remove any traces of grease, as this will affect the stiffness of the egg whites. Whisk the egg whites until stiff. Add the caster sugar and continue whisking until they are really stiff and shiny. Add the cornflour and vinegar and whisk again for about 45 seconds. Spoon the mixture on to a baking tray, lined with silicone or greaseproof paper, into a long slipper shape. Cook in the oven for 3-4 hours or until the meringue is crisp on the outside and soft in the middle, but don't let the outside colour. You may need to cook it a little longer depending on your oven; remove and leave to cool. Blend half of the raspberries until smooth in a liquidiser – you may need a couple of tablespoons or so of water to help them blend. To serve, hollow out the meringues by carefully pushing the centre in with the back of a spoon to make room for the ice-cream. Fill the cavity with scoops of the ice-cream, then spoon over the sauce; scatter over the rest of the raspberries.

Mark Hix is the Guild of Food Writers Cookery Journalist of the Year