The RNLI and me: Mark Hix
Celebrity chef, restaurateur and food writer Mark Hix MBE shares his love of the RNLI - and a tasty fish recipe - as he gears up for this weekend's Food Rocks festival in Lyme Regis.
Food Rocks is a free, family-friendly festival where fundraising efforts – including cooking demonstrations and an auction for Hix’s time as a personal chef – will raise money for the RNLI and the Fishermen’s Mission.
A keen sea-goer, Mark took part in the RNLI Fish Supper in 2015, by cooking dinner for the crew at Tower Lifeboat Station. He’s a fan of BBC TV series Saving Lives at Sea, and continues to support the annual Lyme Regis Lifeboat Week.
Q&A with Mark Hix
Why have you chosen the RNLI as one of the beneficiaries of Food Rocks?
I have a boat in the harbour, as do lots of my friends, and when the weather is good I spend as much time as possible on the water. The RNLI is also important in London on the Thames. It’s a crucial waterside emergency service. We have been supporting the RNLI at HIX for the last 10 years.
What is it about coastal communities like Lyme Regis that is special to you?
I am from West Bay so I am always drawn to the coast. I have a home in Charmouth just up the road from my restaurant HIX Oyster and Fish House in Lyme Regis, and am on the coast most weekends. I tend to hang out with my friends who are local fishermen when I am in Dorset as there is always good banter and joviality in the local pub! It’s the complete opposite to London life and you definitely get a strong sense of community here.
Do you get out on the water much yourself, or do you prefer to enjoy its delicious bounty?
I go out as much as possible on my boat when the weather is good. There is something very relaxing about being on the water, and I love to fish.
Why do you think RNLI supporters would enjoy the Food Rocks festival?
It’s bigger than ever this year. It’s based on the seafront in Lyme and it’s free to attend. The cooking theme for this year is bycatch* , and we are promoting recipes with little waste. We are also going plastic-free.
I think there are very few festivals like this that solely raise money for charities. This also raises awareness of the RNLI. Not everyone knows the extent of the work of the RNLI – so raising its profile through a fun family-friendly festival is a good thing to do, as well as bringing people to the Lyme area.
* bycatch: the unwanted fish and other creatures trapped in nets while fishing for different species
Mark's recipe: Crispy Pouting and Bacon Salad with Horseradish
Pouting is a member of the cod family. It is an extremely underrated fish that fishermen usually throw away. But eaten fresh out of the water within 24 hours, it's delicious. This dish makes good use of both the skinny tails and the fatty belly of your fish.
Serves 6 as a starter
- A whole piece of streaky bacon, weighing about 150g, rind removed and cut into rough 2cm cubes
- Vegetable or corn oil for deep frying
- 250g or so of the pouting tail and belly, cut into rough 2cm chunks
- 100–150g gluten-free self-raising flour
- 100ml milk
- A couple of handfuls of small and tasty salad leaves like pea shoots, landcress, rocket
- 2tbsps freshly grated horseradish
- 1tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
- 4tbsps rapeseed or olive oil
- 2tsps Dijon or Tewkesbury mustard
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Put the pieces of bacon in a pan of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, then drain in a colander.
- Heat a little of the oil in a frying pan and fry the bacon on a medium heat for 5–6 minutes, turning the pieces as they are cooking until they are crisp, then blot on some kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven or under a very low grill.
- Meanwhile, preheat about 8cm of oil to 160–180°C in a large thick-bottomed saucepan or deep-fat fryer.
- Season the fish, then pass through the flour, shaking off any excess. Pass through the milk, and then again through the flour.
- Deep fry for 2–4 minutes, turning the fish with a slotted spoon as it cooks, until crisp and golden. Remove from the oil and drain on kitchen paper.
- To serve, whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season. Toss the leaves in the dressing and arrange on serving plates with the pouting and bacon, then scatter the horseradish on top.
About Mark Hix
After 17 years as head chef at Caprice Holdings, Mark opened his first self-titled eatery, HIX Oyster and Chop House in Farringdon, London. Since then, he’s opened several more restaurants, published a number of cookbooks on British cuisine, written a regular food column for the Independent, and made a heat-winning appearance on the BBC TV show The Great British Menu.
About Food Rocks
Now in its 6th year, Food Rocks 2018 will take place from 8-9 September and promises to be bigger than ever, with diverse cooking demonstrations by well-known chefs, lots of local produce, talks, tastings and more besides.
Mark founded the event in 2013 to promote the produce of his beloved home town, Lyme Regis, and the surrounding area.
Visit hixrestaurants.co.uk/restaurant/food-rocks to find out more.