Past perfect: Hix's retro recipes

Get into the Seventies groove, says Mark Hix –whoever said that chicken Kiev has had its day?
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Indy Lifestyle Online

I think I've been sucked into some kind of Seventies time warp. It all started a month or so ago when I went for dinner with Giles Coren to Oslo Court up in St John's Wood (see Tracey MacLeod's review on page 47). It has the reputation, so I'm told, of being north London's equivalent to The Ivy. I wouldn't go that far, but it did have a retro buzz about it, strangely complemented by its situation on the ground floor of an apartment block. The menu is most certainly Seventies – I was offered a glass of Piesporter on arrival as I leaned on the bar next to a plate of crudités.

The dinner tied in with a TV programme that Giles and I are doing, called Supersize Me, which is based on cooking in the Seventies. The next Seventies throwback I had was lunch with Tom Parker Bowles, our very own Charles Campion and the great food PR queen Carolyn Cavele, at Pomegranates, Patrick Gwynn-Jones's restaurant on the Grosvenor Road, just off the Thames. Patrick's restaurant, which first opened in the Seventies, has always attracted politicians, rock stars and models.

Embarrassingly, it was my first visit to Patrick's restaurant in all my years in London; I wish I had visited sooner. Recent reviews have made the point that the restaurant is a bit tired. I would disagree, and so would the rest of our table. We had a brilliant lunch, with dishes like West Indian goat curry, escargot and wild mushroom pie, gravadlax (Patrick claims to be the first person to put it on a menu), steak tartare with chopped pickled herring and Jamaican fish tea (a spicy fish soup). Pomegranates is going to go on my list of restaurants that are perfect for a long, drawn-out lunch, the sort of lunch which could easily run into dinner – especially when you start it off with one of Patrick's brilliant Martinis.

Chicken Kiev with wild garlic

Serves 4

It's about time we had a chicken Kiev revival. It used to be all the rage but it's been absent from restaurant menus for years now and you rarely even see it frozen in supermarkets these days. I've given the old classic a little seasonal twist here, with a filling made with wild garlic.

4 free-range chicken breasts with the wing bone on, skinned
120g butter, softened
A handful of wild garlic leaves, cleaned and chopped
3tbsp flour
1 large egg, beaten
80-100g fresh white breadcrumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable or corn oil for frying

Lay the chicken breasts on a chopping board with the small loose fillets facing up. Remove these fillets with your fingers and put to one side. Using a very sharp filleting knife or similar, cut up (but not right through) and inside from the centre on either side of the breast to form two flaps you can fold open and then back again, over the filling.

Mix the softened butter with the wild garlic and season. Put the mixture in the middle of the opened up breast, and using the palm of your hand, flatten the little fillet that was removed and lay it over the butter. Fold the flaps back over the fillet to reform the breast and make sure it is perfectly sealed. Leave to rest in the fridge for 30-40 minutes.

Have three dishes ready, one with the flour spread out on it, one with the beaten egg, and the third with the breadcrumbs. Season the stuffed breasts and coat them in the flour, dusting off any excess, then put them through the egg and finally through the breadcrumbs. Pre-heat about 8cm of vegetable oil in a thick-bottomed saucepan or electric fryer to 160-180C. Deep fry the chicken for 6-7 minutes until golden. Serve with a vegetable such as creamed or leaf spinach or a mixture of seasonal vegetables.

Smoked salmon with Russian salad

Serves 4

The salmon fishing season is upon us and I can't wait for that first invite to get on to the water and get casting.

I know I've been banging on about my new salmon smoker, but I'm very excited about having my first salmon cured and smoked. If you haven't got a home smoker, then a fillet Tolstoy would be great for this. It's basically the thick, central part of the salmon and predictably it sells at a premium. You can get smoked salmon and Tolstoy fillets from Forman and Field (, Loch Fyne (, Brown and Forrest (, Princesse D'Isenbourg ( I'm going to smoke my own for this recipe, though sadly not using a fish that I caught myself.

I've had some shocking Russian salads over the years and now you just don't see it on menus; even Patrick didn't have it! Fresh ingredients are key and I'm sure most of the Russian salads in the Seventies were made with canned or frozen chopped vegetables. You can vary the ingredients according to what's in season – in spring and summer you could add peas, broad beans and runner beans.

4 slices of smoked salmon cut to about 1/2cm thick or 12 slices of fillet tolstoy

For the Russian salad

2 spring onions, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2cm dice
4cm piece of white radish or a kohlrabi, peeled and cut into 1/2cm dice
1 medium potato, boiled in its skin, cooled, peeled and cut into 1/2cm dice
A few sprigs of tarragon, chopped
A few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3-4tbsp good quality mayonnaise

Mix all of the ingredients for the salad with the mayonnaise and dilute with a little water if necessary. Spoon on to plates and lay the slice of salmon on top or by the side. You could grate some fresh horseradish on top as well.

Carpet bag steak

Serves 4

I haven't seen this on restaurant menus for ages. The thought of cutting through a rare steak into a luke-warm oyster is always slightly off-putting, but this is one of those dishes that you either love or hate. I've added a baked oyster on the side here and also some herbs and butter. Chips and lettuce-heart salad would be perfect with this, or you could go retro and serve it with grilled mushrooms and tomato.

What cut of steak you use is up to you but I rather think a rib steak or wing rib is going to work best for this dish. It would probably have been fillet in the Seventies, but fillet rarely has flavour.

4 rib steaks weighing about 250g each
Vegetable oil for brushing
8 large rock oysters, shucked and shells kept
2 shallots, peeled, halved and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
A couple of good knobs of butter
2-3tbsp fresh white breadcrumbs
2tbsp chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Using the point of a sharp knife, make a pocket in the side of the steaks large enough to fit the oysters, in fact make it about double the size. Season four of the oysters and carefully push them into the pocket.

Gently cook the shallot and garlic in the butter for a couple of minutes until soft, then mix in the parsley and breadcrumbs and season.

Pre-heat a grill and a cast iron ribbed griddle plate or heavy-based frying pan. Season the steaks and brush with a little oil. Cook for about 3-4 minutes on each side for rare and 5-6 for medium depending on the thickness of the steaks. Meanwhile, spoon the breadcrumb mixture on to the four remaining oysters and place on a tray under a medium grill for 3-4 minutes until golden. Serve the steaks on warmed serving plates with the oysters alongside them.

Tartare Baltique

Serves 4

We were all curious to try this steak tartare with chopped pickled herring when we spotted it on Patrick's menu. Some of the few restaurants that still bother serving steak tartare will actually mix it in front of you at the table. It's crucial to use very good quality beef and preferably meat that hasn't been hung for too long. You don't need to use fillet for steak tartare, but do so if you want. The eye of the meat from a rump, trimmed sirloin or even onglet and skirt or bavette are good because you can cut with the grain of the meat and then chop it. The flavour is going to be superior to fillet.

500g very fresh lean fillet, sirloin or topside steak, finely chopped
1 pickled herring fillet (rollmop or a neutral cure)
2-3 medium shallots, peeled, halved and very finely chopped
50g capers, drained, rinsed and finely chopped
50g gherkins, finely chopped
2tsp brandy
1/2tbsp tomato ketchup
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
A few dashes of Tabasco
1tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

With a very sharp chopping knife, chop your beef as finely as possible. Mix all the ingredients together and season to taste. You may wish to add a little more Tabasco, ketchup or Worcestershire sauce, it's up to you. Spoon the steak tartare on to a plate or, if you prefer, push it into a ring mould. Serve with a leaf salad and chips, or toast.

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