Kick start: Mark Hix gets creative with mustard

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Don't just spoon it on to the side of your plate, says our chef – use mustard to create delicious sauces and accompaniments to meat and fish dishes.

Apart from tomato ketchup, mustard must be the most popular condiment in the UK – and as my grandfather used to always remind me, most of it gets left behind on the side of people's plates! There are, however, many more interesting ways to use mustard as an ingredient in itself.

As well as adding a real kick to a dish, mustard as a flavouring goes well with all sorts of ingredients, including oily and smoked fish. I have loads of mustards in my fridge including one I bought at Rick Stein's food festival called Grumpy Old Man's mustard (available from which combines scrumpy and mustard seeds in a lovely stone pot. I like to have a good selection in my larder to create bespoke dressings and sauces. Another favourite is the traditional French mustard brand Grey Poupon, which makes both Dijon mustard and wholegrain mustard à l'Ancienne.

Okra with mustard seeds

Serves 4

Some people can find okra off-putting, particularly if they have experienced the slimy canned stuff served in high-street Indian restaurants. When you deal with the fresh stuff, it's a completely different thing, especially if cooked briefly.

2tbsp ghee
1 green chilli, thinly sliced
2tsp ground cumin
2tsp yellow mustard seeds
2tsp black mustard seeds
tsp turmeric
tsp fenugreek seeds
2 medium onions, peeled, halved and finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 large firm tomatoes, finely chopped
250g okra, thinly sliced
200ml vegetable stock
2tbsp chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the ghee in a wide saucepan or frying pan and cook the spices for a minute on a low heat or until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking on a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, stirring every so often, until the onions are soft. Turn up the heat, add the okra and cook for a couple of minutes so the okra cooks evenly. Add the stock and tomatoes, season and continue cooking until the stock has reduced right down to almost nothing. Stir in the coriander, remove from the heat, season a little more if necessary and serve.

Roast guinea fowl with mustard fruits

Serves 2-4

Mustard fruits is an Italian relish with a real kick; it's made with fruits and mustard and is available at quality delis and supermarkets. They are traditionally served with hot or cold meats such as baked or boiled ham, duck and suckling pig. I roasted a guinea fowl not so long ago and they worked a treat, giving the bird's flavour a new dimension. You can serve this with traditional seasonal roast accompaniments or a good green salad containing some spring vegetables.

1 guinea fowl weighing about 1.5kg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A little vegetable or corn oil for basting
A few sprigs of rosemary
Half a head of garlic
Mustard fruits, to serve

Preheat the oven to 240/gas mark 8. Season the guinea fowl inside and out and put the rosemary and garlic in the cavity. Place in a roasting tray on its back and brush with a little oil. Roast for 20 minutes then turn the oven to 200C/gas mark 6 and cook for a further 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes, then either joint it on the bone or carve it off the bone and serve the mustard fruits separately.

Baked mackerel with mustard and Parmesan crust

Serves 4

The mackerel down in Dorset made an early appearance this year in mid-March, which has been great news for both fishermen and diners. A good fresh mackerel is one of the finest tasting fish you'll ever have, with its rich, slightly oily flesh. If the mackerel are small you can butterfly them like kippers; ask your fishmonger to do this if you aren't that confident with a filleting knife and ensure all the small bones are removed – or, if the mackerel are medium to large, then just fillet them and serve one decent-sized fillet per person.

You can serve these as they are with a simple leafy salad or some lightly cooked spinach.

4 x medium-sized mackerel or 2 large ones, prepared as above
40g butter, melted
80-100g fresh white breadcrumbs
60g freshly grated Parmesan
1tbsp chopped parsley
1tbsp chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1tbsp grain mustard mixed with 1tbsp Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 220C/gas mark 7. Put the breadcrumbs in a food processor along with the melted butter, Parmesan, parsley and chives. Season and mix for about 10 seconds. Lightly season the mackerel on both sides and put them on to a lightly oiled baking tray, skin-side up.

Spread the mustard on the skin then lightly press the breadcrumb mixture on to the fish, covering all the skin. Bake for 10-15 minutes, carefully remove with a fish slice and transfer to warmed plates.

Kidneys with mustard and tarragon

Serves 4

You can use lamb, veal or ox kidneys for this dish, though smaller kidneys like lamb will obviously take a fraction of the time to cook. Over the years I've discovered that you can get very good results from ox kidneys and liver by actually cooking them slightly pink, in the same way as you would more expensive calves' offal and at a fraction of the cost.

Serve this dish with nice buttery mash or polenta or some greens.

2 large veal or ox kidneys, weighing about 700-800g each with the fat on, or about 600g cleaned of any fat
Vegetable oil for frying
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mustard sauce

3 medium shallots, peeled and finely chopped
A good knob of butter
2tsp Dijon mustard
2tsp wholegrain mustard
50ml dry sherry
300ml double cream
1tbsp tarragon, chopped

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Season the kidneys and cook them in a little vegetable oil in an ovenproof frying pan for 4-5 minutes on a medium heat, turning so they colour evenly. Transfer to the oven for 10 minutes, keeping them pink. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes while you make the sauce.

To make the sauce, gently cook the shallots in the butter for 2-3 minutes, stir in the two mustards and sherry and simmer for a minute. Add the cream, bring to the boil and simmer until the sauce has reduced by half and thickened; season.

Halve the kidneys lengthways, then cut each half into thin slices, reserving any blood to add to the sauce. Add the kidneys to the sauce with the tarragon and return to the heat for a minute to heat the kidneys through.


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