Hillfarm Rapeseed Oil Lunch at Hixter:
Growing up in Norfolk, I was all too aware of rapeseed. My mother, who came from a farming family in Somerset, hated the vast fields of bright yellow flowers which puncuated the countryside. For her, rapeseed was the root of all evils – or at the very least, the cause of my hay-fever. According to farmer Sam Fair of Hillfarm Oils that is unlikely – it doesn’t flower at the time most of us start to sneeze and it is insect rather than wind pollinated. I doubt he could have convinced my mum – for her, fields of rapeseed just didn’t look like English countryside.
I’ve used rapeseed oil for cooking for a while now. I have to admit that I generally prefer a good virgin olive oil for salad dressings, but that’s probably because I developed a love of food from spending my summers in France. And, the distinctive, nutty, peppery taste of EVOO is something I associate with those days. Where I DO like rapeseed is for shallow frying and roasting. It has a higher burn point than olive oil and doesn’t smoke as much. Even if like me, you are not a great chef!
What about in the hands of a great chef and restaurateur? I went along to Hixter on Bankside to meet the Hillfarm team and Mark Hix himself to enjoy a ‘Rapeseed Oil Lunch’.
Of course the food went way beyond anything I might be able to make for myself. Though I do wonder if I could recreate something like these scrumpy fried rape greens in a light batter. We all kept going back for more. And, I think you could just about pretend they were healthy?
While using rapeseed oil to cook your Yorkshires might lack the authenticity of the beef dripping my mum would have used, it’s a lot healthier and does seem to help produce a great, fluffy, crispy result.
I’m not an egg fan – I’d never pick a scotch egg from the menu in a restaurant, but somehow this rather perfectly cooked game scotch egg slipped down very nicely. And, while I might not choose rapeseed oil mayonnaise for every salad, it did pair very well with the rich yolk of the egg and the gamey meat coating of the egg.
My favourite dish was a stunning plate of marinated Manx queenies with cucumber, wild chervil and rapeseed oil. I love most shellfish and fresh, marinated queenies are a delight. Here, the slightly mustardy rapeseed oil worked well to complement the little morsels. I think I counted 6 shells on my plate before I decided any more would be gluttony.
The main course a delicate, poached filled of Fraserburgh cod with rape greens and maple peas had me rejoicing. It was beautifully cooked, firm and flakey and looked a delight on the plate.
Rounding off the meal was what was described as a Temperley Mess, with honeyed madeleines, laced with rapeseeds. Temperley is a Somerset cider brandy. My mum might just have been converted!
It was a fabulous meal, developed by Mark Hix and executive chef Kevin Gratton, as a tribute to hillfarm produce. Versatility demonstrated by the use of different parts of the plant, we feasted in style and left with samples of oil, mayonnaise and even hand-cream to try at home. I think I might just have to return to Hixter on Bankside to check out the regular menu…sooner rather than later.
With many thanks to Hillfarm Oils for the invitation to join them
16 Great Guildford St,
London SE1 0HS