1. Cooking Christmas Up with Simon Hulstone at Taste of Christmas

    Taste of Christmas opened in London yesterday at the Excel.  Urvashi Roe had a great afternoon and shares the show highlights including a cookery workshop with Simon Hulstone

    I started at Action Against Hunger’s cloakroom as it was rather warm. The team were also selling a wide range of Christmas gifts, wrapping presents and had a shop ‘n’ drop area.

    Next up, off to get my “crowns”. The currency of the day.  Not all the stalls were taking these and most seemed to be accepting cash too but it was a rather fun way of buying things.

    Getting into the ‘spirit’ of Christmas

    First off I headed to the alcohol. Busy morning at work and a few tasters would certainly warm me up.  I loved this beautiful Botanist gin made from 31 botanicals – 22 native to the Isle of Islay in Scotland which are foraged by hand and distilled in their very special copper still called Ugly Betty.

    There are lots of workshops taking place all day and I stumbled upon the Zacapa Rum, chocolate and cheese pairing session.  It was fascinating.  Who knew how many iterations this glorious amber liquid goes through at such high altitudes to maintain the purity of taste.  It actually went really well with the cheese and chocolate they presented but I must admit I will be making the Zacapa soaked dates this weekend. Perfect on the Christmas cheeseboard.

    Christmas presents galore

    There are so many unique foodie gifts to buy at the show at really reasonable prices. I opted for some authentic and creamy Peanut Butter for my daughters from The American Food Company.

    Some Indian wine grown in the beautiful Nashik region for the in-laws from Namaste Wines.  This stunning Virgin Olive Oil from Crete for my husband from One.

    Cooking along with top British Chefs

    What I loved about the show was the free hands-on workshops.  All day there were thirty minute slots free of charge with some of our top chefs.  I booked in with Great British Chef’s Simon Hulstone as I am a big fan of his recipes on the site.  It was great to have a Q&A session with him at the Electrolux Training School.  When asked what his top tip was for Christmas, he encouraged people to cook what would bring people together to enjoy the food at the table. This didn’t have to be turkey, sprouts and Christmas Pudding.  This could be adapting the traditional Christmas ingredients into all-time favourites.

    Egg Nog Bread with Clotted Cream, Mincemeat and Caramelised Apples

    And that’s exactly what we did in the Electrolux Chef’s Secrets workshop.  Simon took us through the instructions step by step.  It was fast but he was great at coming round all the workstations and checking we were on the right track.

    First up was making caramelised apples. Simon said mine were “Spot on” so I was rather chuffed!

    Next up stale, chunky white bread, dipped into a creamy, eggy mixture and then fried in butter til golden.

    And finally served with a dollop of clotted cream. Super simple and a lovely way of incorporating Christmas flavours into a special breakfast.

    I must admit, I’ve never been a fan of eggy bread but as the egg mixture was mixed with cream, it really was truly delicious.  I loved the caramelised apples too and I think next time I’ll add a little cinnamon in too.

    Taste of Christmas is on 8th and 9th December 2012 with tickets priced from £18.50

    To try delicious recipes from Simon Hulstone in your own home, visit Great British Chefs.

  2. Ocado & Great British Chefs Mealtime Masterclass

    We were delighted to be involved in a UK first on Wednesday 20th June 2012, as along with  Ocado we broadcast the first UK virtual cook-a-long through Google+ Hangouts and live streamed via YouTube. The Ocado Mealtime Masterclass involved three Michelin starred chefs, a camera crew, live webstreaming on YouTube AND Matthew Fort as host - was it a case of too many cooks in the kitchen? Read on to find out

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Mecca Ibrahim

    The capacity for things to go wrong on live TV is quite high.  Add some new technology to the mix, with three Michelin starred chefs, Galton Blackiston, Simon Hulstone & Josh Eggleton,  demoing their showcase summer time dishes in front of thousands of people.  Get some of those people to cook the dishes at home, with their kitchens also appearing in the Google+ Hangout & YouTube live stream and the capacity for things to go wrong grows somewhat. 

    Our day got off to a slightly unnerving start when we learnt that Matthew Fort our host was stuck on a train and unlikely to arrive in time for the live streaming with Galton Blackiston as he made Scotch Eggs.  Fortunately our CEO & Founder Ollie stepped in to take Matthew’s place

    Rather than being left to the comfort of my desk to Tweet, Google+ & Facebook the proceedings, I found myself at a shiny cookery workstation at the Open Kitchen with some ingredients laid out in front of me & asked to cook-a-long too.  Didn’t I say that I’d never made Scotch Eggs before?  My cries that I wasn’t the greatest at deep frying also fell on deaf ears. 

    Fortunately Galton’s calm instructions and cookery style meant that I soon forgot that my computer was live-streaming my handiwork along with other cooks on Ocado’s YouTube channel.  The calm moment ended when I realised two Michelin starred chefs were standing behind me. “I think your oil’s a bit too hot now" said Simon Hulstone. "I think we might need to call in the fire brigade”, Josh added helpfully.  ”Err I’m being streamed live here" I muttered and they wandered off assuming that I’d be serving burnt offerings in a few minutes.

    After I took the pan off the heat, let the oil cool down which meant I was behind everyone else on the screen, the Scotch Eggs actually cooked to a perfect golden brown.  The insides weren’t as runny as Galton’s but I was pleased with my first attempt.  

    Particularly as by now Matthew Fort had arrived and was the first to try them.  I stood in front of the Great British Menu judge with baited breath.  ”They’re actually jolly good”, he said, and proceeded to eat the other half! 

    Simon Hulstone was up next making Curried Chicken Kiev with Sag Aloo. This recipe had a lot of steps and some of the other people cooking in the kitchen asked for some help, so I was able to spend time acting as “sous chef”, chopping vegetables and stirring sauces. 

    Simon’s dish naturally turned out perfectly.  I was also very pleased to see that some of the people cooking in their kitchens at home had created some great looking versions too.

    Rosana McPhee has a tiny kitchen, so is always extremely organised with all of her herbs and spices laid out well.  Her version of Simon’s dish looked scrumptious. 

    Rosana McPhee's version of Simon Hulstone's Chicken Kiev

    Finally it was time for dessert with Josh Eggleton who would be preparing a beautiful dish - Pimms Jelly with Cucumber Sorbet. Just seeing the ingredients alone and we knew we were in for a treat.

    Soon the kitchen was full of fresh summery smells. Clean cucumber, fragrant mint & basil, and the distinct scent of strawberries, enhanced by a gentle poaching in a sugar syrup.

    Everyone got into the spirit of this recipe (and I don’t mean drinking the Pimms and Hendricks Gin).  The sun was shining and we were now all fully relaxed about being live streamed to the world on YouTube and Google+.

    With the help of some Magimix ice-cream makers Josh’s fresh cucumber sorbet churned quietly in the background as he set about putting the finishing touches to his Pimms Jelly.  

    An extra cheffy trick was the addition of powdered orange peel which had Matthew Fort literally swooning.  Those of us not cooking couldn’t wait to dive into Josh’s plate as soon as the filming had finished.

    Afterwards, we were also pleased to see that our cooks at home had also produced delightful dishes of Pimms Jelly which seemed to represent summer on a plate.

    Rosana McPhee's version of Josh Eggleton’s Pimms Jelly

    The wonders of streaming the Google+ hangouts on YouTube too, means that you can now watch the videos yourself

    Galton Blackiston’s Masterclass is here.  Simon Hulstone's here and Josh Eggleton's is here.  

    Look out for the little screens at the bottom of the main picture where you’ll be able to see people cooking alongside the chefs in their own kitchens.

    The whole experience was ultimately great fun and we’d like to thank James & Simon at Google+ and their film crew for working hard to get the technology all running smoothly.  Plus a big thanks to Galton, Simon and Josh for their great masterclasses and sharing tricks of the trade in the demos.  Huge thanks must also go to Matthew Fort for his eloquent & jovial hosting.  To Magimix for supplying the ice cream makers and to Open Kitchen for the use of their wonderful facilities.  

    Last but certainly not least to Ocado for the wonderful ingredients and for all of their amazing help in publicising event.  All of us at Great British Chefs had a brilliant time and we look forward to co-hosting more events like this in the future.

    If you’d like to make the recipes at home you’ll find them in our Mealtime Masterclass Collection.  Let us know over on our Facebook Page, if you ever tried cooking along with TV chefs or with online videos or DVDs at home.  We’d love to see how your experience compares with our live cook-a-long. 

  3. Taste of London 2012 & The Best of Height Cuisine

    At Great British Chefs we were lucky enough to be invited to a preview of Taste of London 2012 & learn more about (and taste) Simon Hulstone's menu for the festival's headline sponsor British Airways. They call it Height Cuisine, we call it delicious.  Find out how amazing food can be served at 30,000 feet & what else you’ll be able to see at this summer’s big foodie event.

    Chilled Chocolate Fondant with Salted Caramel Centre by Simon Hulstone

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Mecca Ibrahim

    Did you know that our taste buds change when at 35,000 feet in the air? We’ve probably all got a story about airline food.  However, I imagine that we don’t put the often tasteless food down to pressure or the change in environment, but just blame the airline for preparing poor food.

    British Airways faces the daily challenge of serving food to 100,000 customers at 35,000 feet, which has a dramatic impact on the senses. This year, at Taste of London they’re giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about ‘Height Cuisine’, the airline’s commitment to serving delicious dishes that work, even in the air.

    Simon Hulstone at British Airways Height Cuisine Launch - Taste of London 2012

    To get a greater understanding of how to serve up a mouth-watering menu at altitude, Height Cuisine was developed by BA working closely with chefs, suppliers, nutritionists and cabin crew from around the globe.

    Simon Hulstone won a contest to prepare British Airways’ Olympic themed menu which will be served on long haul flights from London Heathrow from July 2012.  The challenge was to create high quality food, featuring local produce, which drew from Britain’s culinary heritage and was Olympic themed. Tough in itself.  Not only that but, Simon had to be aware of the things such as height of dishes, the fact that the hot dishes would need to be pre-heated, which would also take taste from the food, in addition to being aware of how our tastes change in high altitude.

    He spent the past year being mentored by Heston Blumenthal & took inspiration from British Airways menus back in 1948, the last time the Olympic Games were held in London.  Dishes were re-invented for 21st century audience and are rich in umani, a naturally salty flavour enhancer found in foods such as parmesan, oily fish, tomatoes, goats cheese & soy sauce.  With that in mind, Simon’s menu includes a Rillette of mackerel dressed on pickled cucumber carpaccio and Golden Beetroot Salad with goat’s cheese.

    Salmon Tartare by Simon Hulstone

    In the post war years food was rationed and ingredients that were plentiful such as  ox cheek & fish played an important part of people’s diet during those times of  austerity.  Athletes at the 1948 games enjoyed a diet rich in fish, with the British Trawler Association donating 40,000lbs of seafood to them.

    Certain cuts of beef were also used at the time with “Braised beef chasseur with young carrots & chateau potatoes” featuring on the airline’s 1948 menu.  Simon has re-worked this dish for today’s audience with umani rich ingredients to become “Potted braised beef with a potato & horseradish topping, served with hispy cabbage, baby carrots & roasted shallots with a rich jus”.

    In honour of the Games, British Airways is putting particular emphasis on ingredients from London.  So you’ll find locally sourced salmon and sugar from East London in the dishes.  That East London sugar has gone into the delicious chilled chocolate fondant with salted caramel centre you see pictured here.

    At Taste of London the airline will be showcasing its 2012 summer menu. You’ll also have the opportunity to sample some of Simon’s dishes before they take to the skies in July and August. 

    There’s much more food to sample at Taste of London and also cookery demonstrations and Q & A sessions with some of London’s greatest chefs. I sat in on a Q & A with Angela Hartnett of Murano who gave no nonsense practical advice about preparing for dinner parties.  ”Less is more”, she said and her favourite dinner party meals involve a huge one pot dish such as risotto or a large bowl of pasta where everyone can dive in.  She’s also a fan of “desserts in a glass”, particularly lemon possett, which she says is one of the easiest things to make, yet tastes wonderful.

    A number of chefs from Great British Chefs website have pop up restaurants at the show, where you can taste their signature dishes in sample sized portions.

    Alfred Prasad at Taste of London 2012

    I had a brief chat with Club Gascon’s Pascal Aussignac who was delighted to announce that his intriguing sounding Marmite Royale & Soldiers had received a Taste Festivals Award for the second year in a row.

    Club Gascon Marmite Royale & Soldiers at Taste of London 2012

    I’m looking forward to trying that dish out when I visit the show again over the weekend.  If you’re visiting, it’s worth taking an umbrella and some sturdy shoes, as the weather in London isn’t expected to be dry over the weekend.  However, the rain didn’t get in the way of a fun day out.

    There’s a huge range of artisan food producers, top notch ingredients and boutique suppliers at the festival.  

    You’ll not only find the best of British from exhibitors, like the show’s official ingredients partner Ocado, but a world of cuisine on offer.  I’m going on holiday to Thailand later this year, and was keen to get a flavour of one of my favourite cuisines at the Taste of Thailand demo area.

    The number of demos was pretty impressive and I came away from the event  feeling prepared for summer cooking with some great BBQ tips from Weber Grills, who have a host of chefs including Simon Rogan & Jacob Kenedy from Bocca di Lupo giving live demonstrations on more unusual barbecue dishes, such as foraged vegetables & hot smoked salmon.

    Finally there’s a number of fun stands for you & your family to enjoy, including Action Against Hunger who have a pop up photo-booth where you can pose with a number of chefs’ tools of the trade & costumes & take home a fun momento of your day out.

    There’s more photos of Taste of London 2012 in our Flickr Set.

    The festival runs from Thursday 21st - Sunday 24th June 2012 at Regent’s Park.  There are still a few tickets that can be bought on the door for sessions.  You can also find recipes from a number of the chefs with pop up restaurants or demo’ing at the show in our Taste of London Recipe Collection.   

    Have a great time and don’t forget to take your umbrella!

  4. Great British Menu 2012 - South West Heat Finals

    Friday 1st June 2012 saw the end of possibly one of the best weeks of Great British Menu. In the South West round all three competitors Simon HulstonePaul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw showed British cooking at its best.  However, only one chef could go through.  Great British Chefs blogger Monica Shaw was on hand to see who that would be. 

    Blog post by Monica Shaw

    Is it just me or was the South West week one of the best weeks of Great British Menu? The three competitors - Simon HulstonePaul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw - represented a phenomenal trio of chefs, all with strong personalities and incredible skill. But each chef is decidedly different and it was impossible to predict whose style would make its way to the judge’s chamber. And with all three chefs being part of the Great British Chefs website, we couldn’t help but cheer them all on.

    Simon Hulstone's dessert from BBC2's Great British Menu

    But come Thursday night, judge Tom Kerridge had spoken, and competitive newcomer Simon Hulstone (despite an amazing dessert) took a bow, leaving Paul and Nathan to battle it out under the careful judging of Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton.

    There was no confusing whose dish was whose, with Nathan standing out for his classic dishes made with local ingredients, whereas Paul used specially commissioned serving platters to create theatre and playful presentations.


    Hog’s pudding with seaweed, potato terrine & mushroom ketchup by Nathan Outlaw from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    Nathan was first up with his starter of hog’s pudding with seaweed, potato terrine and mushroom ketchup: his take on a hearty Olympic breakfast. All of the judges were quick to criticise its appearance: “it’s a bit beige,” said Matthew. But the flavour combination was a “beautiful piece of thinking" according to Oliver. Prue agreed: "Composition is perfect…it just looks awful.”


    Breakfast of Champions by Paul Ainsworth from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    Paul’s ‘Breakfast of Champions’ brought more breakfast fare, this time pork belly with hash browns and an innovative black pudding pan au chocolat. “The high point is the bacon…cured to perfection,” said Oliver. Prue praised the poached egg with potato crust: “this is just wonderful.” But Matthew was unconvinced by the serving of breakfast as an Olympic starter: “I want them not to have breakfast; I want them to have something they’ve never eaten before.”


    Mackerel and mackerel belly roll with oyster, horseradish & cucumber sauce by Nathan Outlaw from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    Moving on to the fish course, Nathan - a two Michelin starred seafood chef - was feeling pretty confident with his mackerel and mackerel belly roll served with an oyster, horseradish and cucumber sauce, which scored a 9 during the heats. The judges weren’t convinced. Oliver called it “poncified fish" with "no personality”: “I’m looking for rock n’ roll”. Matthew Fort agreed that the “mackerel needs a more powerful hit to stand up to the sauce.”

    Monkfish, Two Showings by Paul Ainsworth from BBC2’s Great British Menu 

    Paul’s Monkfish ‘Two Showings’ seemed to fair better, with all of the judges enjoying his nose-to-tail monkfish served on an inventive two-tiered Colosseum-shaped platter. All of the judges enjoyed the top tier: “the curry deep fried monkfish is quite amazing,” said Oliver. But the second tier - monkfish liver on toast - ended things on a bitter note, with Prue visibly cringing at the taste: “too powerful for me.”


    Wishful Chicken by Paul Ainsworth from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    For the main course, it was Paul’s turn to feel confident - his ‘Wishful Chicken’ chicken kiev scored a perfect 10 during the heats. And here the judges mostly agreed, with Oliver calling it a “triumph”. But there was some debate over whether the elements worked together, with Matthew once again criticising its “beigeness”.


    Duck, barbecue monkfish, rosemary, samphire and asparagus by Nathan Outlaw from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    It was left to Nathan’s modern day surf n’ turf of duck, barbecue monkfish, rosemary, samphire and asparagus to steal the show. And steal it did. All of the chefs loved the barbecue sauce, but it was the whole combination that made this outstanding. “We’ve never had meat and fish together and I love the way the various elements are knitted,” said Matthew, “when they come together they make something even better and that’s where the true genius lies." Prue agreed: this was "gold medal winning stuff.”


    Elderflower and lemon tart, strawberry sorbet and meringues by Nathan Outlaw from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    If Nathan’s main was a win, his pudding was surely a letdown, with all of the judges lambasting his elderflower and lemon tart, strawberry sorbet and meringues. “It’s not a good sorbet,” said Oliver. “The base is very undercooked,” said Prue of the tart: “this is clearly a chef who’s a great chef, but doesn’t think pudding is important - it’s not up to scratch.”


    "Then & Now" by Paul Ainsworth from BBC2’s Great British Menu

    Following that, the judges must have been thoroughly pleased to end on Paul’s ‘Then & Now’, a pudding of pistachio and olive oil sponge with chocolate disk and gold caramel sauce. “This chocolate disc is completely orgasmic,” said Matthew. “If I just won a gold medal and had a choice between the medal and this chocolate pudding, I’d choose the pudding - it’s Nirvana,” said Oliver.

    And so, it was judgment time. Earlier in the episode, Oliver Peyton said, “I want the chefs to demonstrate to the world the greatness of Britain.” And so despite Paul’s “dazzling” menu, it was Nathan who won on “pure gastronomy”, an apt reminder that Great British Menu is about showcasing British food, which Nathan certainly does with his use of local Southwest ingredients cooked simply but to perfection.


    Well done Nathan Outlaw for winning the South West heat! And well done Paul Ainsworth and Simon Hulstone who put up some pretty heavy competition. It was a fantastic week.

    If you’re in the UK you can watch this episode on BBC’s iPlayer for the next few days.

    The heats are over, and next week, it’s the finals!  Nathan Outlaw will join Alan Murchison who won the Scottish round,  Daniel Clifford who won the Central round, Colin McCurran who won the North East round, Chris Fearon who won the Northern Ireland roundSimon Rogan who won the North West round, Phil Howard who won the London & South East round and Stephen Terry who won the Wales round. You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here.

    Blog post & photography by Monica Shaw

    What did you think of the results of the Southwest finals?  

  5. Great British Menu 2012 - South West Heat Preview

    Week Eight of the seventh series of The Great British Menu and the last of the regional heats ends with the South West. Over these eight weeks, twenty four of Great Britain’s finest chefs including many chefs from Great British Chefs site are competing in regional heats for the opportunity to create a four course menu at an Olympic banquet, hosted by sporting legend Sir Steve Redgrave with a guest list of British sporting greats.  This week (starting 28th May 2012) chefs from the South West will be competing to create the final banquet.

    At Great British Chefs we’ll be cheering on all three competitors Simon Hulstone, Paul Ainsworth and Nathan Outlaw - who can all be found on our site.  Tom Kerridge  pictured above will be judging their efforts this week. 

    Paul Ainsworth is a frequent competitor on Great British Menu, wowing the judges with his Taste of the Fairground dessert in the final banquet in 2011.  His Toffee Apple and Marshmallow Kebabs were part of his fairground themed menu

    Toffee Apple and Marshmallow Kebabs by Paul Ainsworth

    Southampton-born Paul got his break courtesy of Gary Rhodes. After spending three years at Rhodes in the Square, Ainsworth moved to Gordon Ramsay’s organisation, working first at his flagship Royal Hospital Road restaurant and then with Marcus Wareing at Petrus.

    In 2006, the opportunity to open a restaurant with two friends brought Ainsworth to the West Country. Here they opened Number 6, set in a Georgian town house in the Cornish fishing village of Padstow.

    After three years emulating his culinary mentors, Ainsworth put his name above the door and re-thought his approach. Now Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 restaurant serves simpler, more affordable food – appealing to both tourists and locals, and achieving two AA rosettes.

    Boiled Egg and Soldiers by Nathan Outlaw

    Nathan Outlaw began his career at his father’s restaurant in Kent, perfecting his culinary technique at Thanet College. Following a decade of work with the likes of Peter Kromburg, Rick Stein, Paul Ripley and John Campbell, Outlaw opened Restaurant Nathan Outlaw at the St Enodoc in 2007 and the Nathan Outlaw Seafood and Grill in 2009.

    Since then, he’s garnered two stars from the critics at Michelin, and his eponymous eatery has been named Best Fish Restaurant and one of the UK’s top 10 restaurants by the Good Food Guide. Nathan has appeared on the Good Food Channel’s Market Kitchen, as well as the BBC’s Saturday Kitchen and Great British Menu. 

    Tea and Cake by Nathan Outlaw

    His food can be very playful as witnessed by his tea and cake recipe and his Boiled Egg and Soldier recipe which both featured in Great British Menu in 2009. 

    Finally and with is first time to the show will be be Simon Hulstone. The son of a chef, Simon was a Roux Scholar, Knorr National Chef of the Year and World Junior Chef by the time he was 30. After working in kitchens like Cotswold House, Cheltenham’s Bacchanalian and the Bailiffscourt Hotel, he moved to Devon to head up the Elephant, having already attracted the Michelin panel’s attention.

    Mackerel pate and cucumber pickle by Simon Hulstone

    Simon was selected to redesign the menu for BA First Class in 2012 and was the star of its pop up venue in East London.  Like Nathan he has also contributed recipes to both of the Great British Chefs apps.

    On Monday’s episode,  Paul, Simon & Nathan will be presenting their starters.  On Tuesday, they move onto a fish course, on Wednesday main course and on Thursday it’s the turn of desserts.  For each of those days they will have to impress veteran judge Tom Kerridge before going through to Friday’s final.

    On Friday the two chefs who receive the most points from Tom for the week will cook their dishes again for restaurateur and cookery writer, Prue Leith, fellow restaurateur and businessman, Oliver Peyton, and food journalist and author, Matthew Fort.  Matthew is Great British Chefs strategic advisor who also blogs for us and writes the introductions for a number of our ingredient collections.  The winner will go into the finals (joining Alan Murchison who won the Scottish round,  Daniel Clifford who won the Central round, Colin McCurran who won the North East round, Chris Fearon who won the Northern Ireland roundSimon Rogan who won the North West round, Phil Howard who won the London & South East round and Stephen Terry who won the Wales round).

    You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here. Also catch up on last week’s Wales Heat Final Great British Menu judging on our blog.  This week Great British Menu will be on BBC2 at its regular time of 7.30pm.

  6. Cooking with Flowers for The Chelsea Flower Show

    One of the UK’s biggest celebrations of all things floral starts this week: The Chelsea Flower Show. Did you know that there’s a growing trend for eating flowers?  Not just as a garnish but as the main part of the dish. The Chelsea Flower Show will include a number of edible exhibits & at Great British Chefs we take a look a some of our favourite ways of cooking with flowers including a wonderful dish of edible tulips by Pascal Aussignac of Club Gascon.    

    Photo of Primavera Tulips by Urvashi Roe aka @BotanicalBaker 

    Post for  Great British Chefs by Mecca Ibrahim

    At the Chelsea Flower Show 2012 Jekka’s Herb Farm are launching an exciting range of edible flowers. Also The Plankbridge Hutmakers Ltd Artisan Garden will feature heirloom cultivars of heritage vegetables, displayed in rustic containers.

    At the show you’ll see flowers that can be used as garnishes to make meals look pretty. Also flowering herbs such as nasturtiums and borage have the benefit of adding colour to leafy salads in addition to being great to eat.  But, have you ever thought of flowers taking a more starring role in a dish?  Edible tulips make an interesting talking point for dinner parties.  

    In this video you’ll see award winning chef Pascal Aussignac visiting a flower market to select some organic tulips for his delicious Primavera Tulips starter & preparing them for his restaurant.  This recipe are part of Great British Chefs Flower Recipe Collection showing there’s more to flowers than just a table decoration. 


    We think you’ll find few flower recipe collections to rival this one.  In addition to Pascal’s showcase Primavera Tulips (more on them later) it features his Gladiola petals and spicy violet pearls, both of which have been in Great British Chefs apps.

    For the coming summer months, try Marcus Wareing’s gin and tonic granita decorated with edible flowers.  It’s ideal for spending a nice sunny day relaxing in the garden. 

    Chilled cucumber and horseradish gazpacho with Lymington crab salad and pickled white radish by Matthew Tomkinson

    There are also numerous dishes that use edible flowers to make them look stunning, such as Matthew Tomkinson’s gazpacho pictured above.  

    Or try Simon Hulstone’s Rose and Almond Tansy pudding with butternut squash ice cream.  The dessert is flavoured with rosewater and tansy, a wild herb and a somewhat forgotten ingredient. Simon Hulstone has had great success with this recipe in competitions – so much so that he named his first daughter Tansy. 

    Urvashi Roe aka @BotanicalBaker is an ex-florist and a keen cook and made Pascal’s Primavera Tulips a few months ago

    Primavera Tulips 

    Check out Urvashi’s blog post about making these tulips for us and in summary here are her top tips for cooking tulips:

    • Try to buy organic tulips or use ones growing in your garden as these obviously have less fertilisers on them.
    • Use really brightly coloured tulips like red or deep pink because you’ll lose some colour with the steaming. My tulips were bright red but as you can see the cooked petals are purple.
    • Leave your tulips to wilt so the stems fit nicely into your steamer.  Tulip stems suck water up really fast and this is why they stand annoyingly upright when you want them to have that floppy magazine effect.  Leave them out of water for about 30 minutes and the stems will perfect. Incidentally to keep the floppy effect in a vase just top up with no more than an inch of water every day.
    • Make sure you take all the inner parts out of the flower as some are poisonous.  I chopped the large bits with a pair of scissors and then took a paring knife to shave off the rest.
    • Make the filling and pea purée the day before because then this perfect, pretty plate of flowers will take just 5 minutes to serve up. 

    Pascal’s Primavera Tulips are part of Great British Chefs special Edible Flowers Recipe Collection

    Have you ever tried cooking flowers before?  Which other flowers would make an ideal part of a meal?  We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page

  7. Simon Hulstone creates British Airways London Olympics Inspired Menu

    Golden Beetroot Salad with Goat’s Cheese & Elderflower Dressing - from Simon Hulstone's BA Olympic Menu - Photography by Nick Morrish

    In partnership with British Airways, official airline of the London 2012 Games, Simon Hulstone has been mentored by Heston Blumenthal to create two menus that will be served from July to September on BA flights. As Great British Chefs visitors will know, Simon already has a Michelin star at his restaurant, The Elephant, in Torquay, but won a “Great Britons” competition run by BA to promote native talent.

    Simon spent the past year being mentored by Heston Blumenthal as part of the BA Great Britons competition & programme, which is supporting British talent in the run up to the London 2012 Games.

    With a nod to Heston’s creative approach, Simon’s dishes take inspiration from the airline’s menus dating back to 1948 – the last time the Games were held in London. Popular ingredients from the time have been incorporated into his menu, with some dishes reinvented for a modern day audience – rich in umami and using local produce.

    Simon said: “It’s an honour to have created a menu that millions of people will experience during the Games – I can’t think of a better platform to showcase British cuisine.”

    Working with Heston and his experimental team, Simon researched food in post war Britain, as well as the 1948 airline menus. With food being rationed at the time, ingredients that were plentiful such as ox cheek and fish played an important part of people’s diet during these austerity years. However, athletes at the 1948 Games were able to enjoy a diet rich in fish, as the British Trawler Association donating 40,000lbs of seafood to them! 

    Rillette of mackerel dressed on a pickled cucumber carpaccio - Photo - Nick Morrish

    Simon’s menu reflects these trends, and includes; ‘Rillette of mackerel dressed on a pickled cucumber carpaccio with sour dough croutes’ and ‘Fish pie using sustainable sourced hake, dressed with parmesan pomme puree and a warm tartare sauce’.

    In 1948 certain cuts of beef were also used, with dishes such as ‘Steak and mushroom casserole’ and ‘Braised beef chasseur with young carrots and chateau potatoes’ featuring in the airlines’ 1948 menus. Simon reworked this chasseur dish for a new audience with umami rich ingredients, & created ‘Potted braised beef with a potato and horseradish topping, served with hispy cabbage, baby carrots and roasted shallots with a rich jus’.

    When looking at desserts, tinned fruit was a common theme both on board flights and was also as part of the regular diet in the 1940’s. Simon has paid homage to this in some of his dishes including a Lemon curd cheesecake with raspberry and basil compote.

    Also in honour of the Games’ East London home, British Airways is putting particular emphasis on ingredients from the area. This includes locally sourced salmon, and sugar from East London.

    BA’s Olympic menus will be available on long-haul flights departing from London Heathrow between July and September. Simon Hulstone will be cooking at airline-themed pop-up ‘Flight BA2012’ in Shoreditch, London from April 4th-17th 2012. Visit www.facebook.com/britishairways for bookings.

    For more recipes from Simon Hulstone, visit his collection on Great British Chefs

    What’s the best food you’ve ever had on a flight?  We’re be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  8. Making Chocolate Fudge, Nougat, Mulled Wine & Christmas Crackers at Great British Chefs Workshop

    On Friday Homemade London held and exclusive workshop for Great British Chefs. Our guest blogger Urvashi Roe aka @BotanicalBaker, went along to find out how to make Nougat, Fudge & Mulled Wine.

    All photos byUrvashi Roe (except where stated)

    I’ve gone a bit crazy with making Christmas gifts this year. There are so many foodie treats that are quick, easy and cheap to make that look wonderful presented in some rustic glassware from a charity shop. Most of the gifts I’ve made are baked though so I was rather excited to learn how to make Simon Hulstone’s Dark Chocolate Fudge and Martin Wishart’s Nougat at Homemade London’sChristmas Cracker workshop.

    A common ingredient in both recipes was liquid glucose.  It’s a light coloured syrup derived from corn starch and it basically helps to control sugar crystals forming so it’s useful in food that needs to set like fudge, nougat, jellies and ice creams.  This is readily available in most supermarkets nowadays in the baking section.

    So first up the fudge. Pretty store-cupboard ingredients - good quality dark chocolate, butter, double cream, caster sugar and then the not so basic - glucose.  And a pretty simple method too.  Simply heat the sugar, glucose and cream til it reaches 120C then add the butter and heat til it’s all a bit bubbly.

    Then stir in the chocolate and turn out into a prepped baking tray to set at room temperature.

    The workshop was very interactive so I hung around for the best bit.

    Meanwhile we were treated to Adam Gray’s super simple mulled wine recipe. I was rather surprised at all the herbs and spices that went in.  The smells were amazing and the addition of a little peach schnapps made this taste very much like German Gluhwein which I love. I will be making this on Christmas Eve to sip with my mince pies.

    Next on to the nougat. Again a very easy recipe to follow at home on the Feastive App or using your own scribbles.

    First off Nicola heated the honey, sugar and glucose together to a bubbly 145C and then poured this into a stiff meringue with the help of some lovely volunteers.  

    Photo by Great British Chefs

    This stiffened up further and cooled down as it was mixed up even more.

    Photo by Great British Chefs

    And then we stirred in some glace cherries, salted pistachios and hazelnuts to form a gloopy mixture that was left to set.

    Photo by Great British Chefs

    Finally to make the crackers that would house these wonderful edible treats.  We had some lovely glitzy materials to fill and decorate the crackers with.

    As you can see it was a very relaxed way to spend a Friday evening. 

    The mulled wine didn’t hamper the concentration…or the creativity. 

    Photos by Great British Chefs

    Thank you to our lovely tutors and to Great British Chefs for some simple recipes. 

    Perhaps I’ll leave a flask of mulled wine out for Santa this year with a few of these sweet treats instead of boring old carrots for Rudolf!

    Blog post for Great British Chefs by Urvashi Roe.  More photos of the workshop on Great British Chefs’ Flickr set

    What sweet treats or petit fours are you making over the Festive period?  We’re sharing ideas discussing over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page