1. Great British Menu 2012 - Wales Heat Preview

    Week Seven of the seventh series of The Great British Menu and it’s the turn of Wales. Over 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 21st May 2012) Welsh chefs will be competing to create the final banquet.


    James Sommerin, Angela Hartnett,  Stephen Terry and Richard Davies - BBC2 Great British Menu Welsh Contestants

    On Monday’s episode,  James who is part of Great British Chefs original recipe app will be preparing sage cream, onion, chicken and Welsh ‘Brie’ truffle toast. Richard is making a ravioli of quail, parfait of foie gras, roasted salsify and Madeira jelly and Stephen presenting “The Opening Ceremony”.

    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 Angela Hartnett before going through to Friday’s final.

    James Sommerin has impressed reviewers, guests and the judges of Great British Menu before in 2009. The Crown at Whitebrook has had a Michelin star to its name for five years running, the Good Food Guide lists it among its top UK restaurants, and the Observer named James a Chef to Watch in 2008. Keeping a safe distance from the well-trodden clichés of Welsh cuisine is imperative for Sommerin, who has said of his menus, ‘I wanted to focus on the more unusual products, to show there’s more to Wales’.


    Mackerel, white chocolate, horseradish and beetroot by James Sommerin

    His dishes tend to marry three or four distinct flavours in imaginative combinations. Visitors to his restaurants can take advantage of a tasting menu drawing UK ingredients, global influences and techniques from forward-thinking culinary innovators.

    Bubblegum panna cotta by James Sommerin

    His menus on Great British Chefs app include a seared cod with asparagus, crab beignets and samphire and the most playful of a bubblegum panna cotta.

    On Friday the two chefs who receive the most points from Angela 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 and Phil Howard who won the London & South East 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 North East 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.

  2. Turning Kitchen Catastrophes into Culinary Triumphs

    Sometimes things don’t go as planned, and nowhere is that more true than in the kitchen.  After watching last night’s dramatic North West episode of Great British Menu and having a small culinary disaster of our own at Great British Chefs, Doreen  decided to look at how kitchen failures can be turned around ….. 

    Blog post by Doreen of Tasty Fever

    Maybe the oven was acting up again. Maybe you didn’t get your timing right. Maybe you ran out of a key ingredient. Maybe the dish turned out wonderful, but the guest you made it for didn’t like it. 

    My forays in the kitchen are nowhere near Great British Menu material, but after watching last night’s dramatic episode, and seeing a number of instances in competitive cooking shows like Great British Menu where things are overcooked, undercooked, burnt, collapsed or otherwise ruined or unappreciated, it made me think of the instances I’ve had with cooking and baking where things just went wrong.    

    A couple years back, I was seeing someone, and in order to try to impress him, as many people smitten silly with someone have done before me, I wanted to make him something to eat. 

    I decided upon baking a chocolate dessert I had made before with great success—little molten chocolate cakes baked in muffin tins that ooze rich chocolate when cut open. It’s a fantastic dessert that’s relatively simple to make, and I thought I’d have no problem throwing it together.

    No problem at all.

    So, despite it being 10:30 at night, I was determined to make these little cakes, confident they’d turn out excellent. Well, for whatever reason, things didn’t turn out well, and the cakes turned out incredibly dry—a far cry from the moist, gooey middle they were supposed to have. 

    Needless to say, I was devastated, particularly as I had worked as a baker in a café before, so not only was this failure a blow to my ego, it challenged my concept of myself as a baker. I felt like I’d lost a talent I was quite proud of, and it was all the more embarrassing to fumble in front of someone I really wanted to show off in front of.

    Actually, there are many things one can do with dry chocolate cake to turn it into a fantastic dessert. From this thread on Chowhound answering someone with a similar problem, I could have turned the dry little fiascos into chocolate trifles drenched in custard or cream, made chocolate bread pudding or used it as part of an ice cream dessert.

    Anne Willan, the British-born founder of the cookery school La Varenne in California, wrote a book full of wonderful suggestions on what to do with a dull roast chicken, how to reinvent a failed chocolate mousse and an array of other remedies for kitchen disasters. Willan’s book, A Cook’s Book of Quick Fixes & Kitchen Tips: How to turn adversity into opportunity (published by Quadrille), is a handy reference for home cooks to find inspiration when things don’t go quite as planned.

    I’m looking to make these chocolate profiteroles by Geoffrey Smeddle soon, and should the choux pastry puffs happen to fall, Willan’s excellent tip will come in handy:

    "If the sweet puffs have fallen and cannot be filled, sandwich filling between two puffs, adding raspberries or other fruit if you like. Place the puffs on plates. Make a caramel: heat 200g sugar with 125ml water until dissolved, stirring occasionally. Bring to the boil and boil without stirring to a deep golden caramel. Take the pan from the heat and plunge the base in a pan of warm water to stop cooking. At once trail warm caramel over the puffs in a lattice. The caramel will set to be crisp as it cools".

    This tip sounds delicious, as do a number of other fixes in Willan’s book. I’m looking to pick up a copy from Abebooks before I subject any other love interest to my cooking or baking.

    One of our staff members at Great British Chefs, (who shall remain nameless) had a disappointing result when trying to bake a cake this morning.  

    Actually we blame our oven as it’s not the most forgiving when it comes to baking in general!  It tastes absolutely great, but wouldn’t get a top score on Great British  Menu.  Perhaps we can give it a delicious frosting of icing.  Or fill the centre with fruit & cream?  Maybe this is a case for cutting it into pieces and turning it into a trifle or another pudding?

    Do you have any kitchen disaster stories you’d like to share? How about some handy tips you’ve discovered to fix kitchen failures? Any suggestions on what we should do with a sunken but otherwise wonderful apple and honey cake? Let us know over on Great British Chefs Facebook page.

  3. Simon Rogan’s L’Enclume by Foodographic

    The North West Heat of the Great British Menu is shaping up to be fantastic viewing. Newcomer to the contest, Simon Rogan’s dishes are already wowing judge Marcus Wareing.  Those in London may have sampled his gastronimic delights at the “pop up” Roganic, but what about Simon’s original stomping ground in Cartmel, the North West of England,  L’Enclume?  We sent Great British Chefs guest blogger Deanna Thomas along to find out….

    Photography & Review by Deanna Thomas

    To be honest, I was apprehensive about reviewing this one. L’Enclume has consistently wowed diners and critics with its molecular gastronomy and is currently rated at number 2 ‘Top 50 restaurants’ in the Good Food Guide. Like opera is to pop music, the style of food produced here is on another level and would be virtually impossible to replicate at home. It treads a delicate balance between a real affinity with nature, and scientific boundary-pushing.

    Every dish is put together using several involved components, each in turn with a mind-blowing array of individual processes. The restaurant has its own development kitchen/science laboratory, full of chefs’ toys and contraptions which can deconstruct all manner of vegetable matter and refashion it into different forms. My worry was that during all this gastro-processing and ever-so-clever reconstituting, had they forgotten the basic objective of feeding hungry customers with actual food? Would we be served several platefuls of clouds, spumes and foams? Flavoured and powdered air and things that look like soil but aren’t?

    L'Enclume 5

    Cartmel is a beautiful village full of pretty, painted Lakeland stone houses, independently owned shops and old fashioned English pubs. L’Enclume overlooks the gardens and the babbling brook to the ancient church beyond. Many ingredients come from their own six acre farm which provides them with a level of almost total control from field to fork. Each dish features lesser known herbs and leaves which are so fresh they’re picked only a few hours before each service.

    The format is simple; there is no ‘a la carte’ menu as such. Diners choose from two set eight-course menu’s (one vegetarian) for £69, or a 12 course menu for £89, and are asked to declare any special dietary requirements at the point of booking. If you prefer to choose your own three course meal, try Simon Rogan’s brasserie round the corner ‘Rogan & Company’ 

    L'Enclume 10

    We contemplated the view and the menu over a cucumber scented gin and tonic, duck skin scratchings and lightly puffed tapioca crackers. The menu is a bit of a tease. There’s no way anyone could guess what a dish could possibly be by its description alone - that’s part of the adventure.

    The first items to arrive were simply described as ‘onion cheese wafers’ and were thin, translucent crisps topped with shavings of frozen cheese, intense onion marmalade and slightly sweet biscuit crumbs. What a great way to get the taste buds woken up and tingling.

    P1000491

    This was closely followed by ‘Oysters pebbles’ – soft, savoury, grey meringue and oyster leaves nestled in camouflage amongst a bowl of real pebbles. The fleshy leaves combined with the aerated squid ink infusion giving a real wave of sea-salty tanginess.

    L'Enclume 7

    Soon after appeared ‘carrot sacks’. I wasn’t sure which part of the carrot was it’s ‘sack’ but it turned out to describe the little ceramic serving pots containing emulsified carrot mousse hiding chunks of lobster, and topped with carrot cake crumbs.

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    A trio of warm bread rolls were brought over at this point – dark and nutty pumpernickel, spelt and barley, and white organic flour, with whipped, salted butter.

    Simon Rogan loves the purity of earthy vegetables and native leaves, elevating them out of the background and into the spotlight they deserve. His dishes strive to capture the essence of an English pastoral landscape - silky golden turnip dumplings drizzled with a strong cheesy dressing of Westcombe cheddar, crispy Alexander leaf tempura and rock samphire.

    L'Enclume 3

    Next, tartare of valley venison on a smear of darkly-fried onions, dots of English mustard, crisp celery, shallots and two tiny, intensely flavoured fennel sweets which quite unexpectedly burst their liquid-centre into our mouths under only the slightest pressure.

    P1000514

    The pace of service, like everything, is closely controlled by the kitchen and at this point they allowed for a little break before presenting ‘Dublin bay prawn in pig skin, beetroot and sea beet’. The pig skin added a contrasting crunch to the prawn in the form of a coating of the lightest crackling. Beetroot appeared in triplicate - a golden puree, pale yellow shavings and their green oceanic cousin, sea beet. The dish was drizzled with warm concentrated seafood bisque.

    L'Enclume

    Sole fillet, cockles, crow’s garlic, celeriac and chestnut puree was a delicious combination of flavours and textures topped with fried winter cabbage leaves. I imagined the head chef standing at the pass holding his checklist to ensure it was perfectly balanced – hot, cold, rich, light, nutty, sweet, fresh, soft, crunchy. Yes, all those boxes of adjectives ticked, ‘service!’

    L'Enclume 13

    Lightly cooked Dexter beef appeared next, with tiny squares of tripe braised in a slightly fishy concentrate (oyster sauce?) Bold colours came from a syrupy reduction of red cabbage juice, watercress puree and crispy marrowbone. Like a good cast in a West-End play, each element absolutely supported the beef without letting it dominate.

    The marrowbone was smoked before being used to infuse balls of bechamel coated in breadcrumbs. This put us in mind of Findus Crispy pancakes of all things. Ever since my husband commented that Wagyu beef reminded him of the burger in a big Mac, I’ve realised that the mind reaches for comparative flavour memories to bring an element of comfort and familiarity. Now we’re being honest, the stuff they used to stick the pork skin to the prawn reminded me of the squeezy flavour sachet you get with a Pot Noodle. See? This has a lot to do with personal nostalgic taste references.

    That was the end of the savoury wave, which made way for desserts – but, being in L’Enclume, not as we know them. Enter the most dramatic dish of the day, ‘sea buckthorn, anise hyssop, liquorice and butternut’, a riot of aerated textures, the eating of which was not unpleasantly like fighting with a cloud. Butternut squash was dehydrated and its dried natural fibres morphed into something resembling a sea sponge.

    L'Enclume 9

    The bright orange was mirrored in a sharp sherbet tangerine sorbet, and offset by warm liquorice custard.  I’m not sure in what form the sea buckthorn came (though I promise I was listening) but, as it’s also bright orange, could have been the powdery sprinkles. Anise hyssop leaves were dotted around the plate. Further research told me they are related to sea buckthorn which shows Simon Rogan to be a man who studies botany and uses families of plants and vegetables to inspire his dishes.

    L'Enclume 4

    The final dish was a pretty riot of colour and texture - a witty play on cheese and biscuits. Smooth, frozen cheese ice cream and bright green sorrel granita, bright pink rhubarb syrup, poached pear and short, crunchy hazelnuts biscuits.

    To cook this style of food successfully you need to be obsessed with detail, have natural ability and an intimate knowledge of ingredients. I also think it’s imperative to back it all up with a sense of fun – which really appeals to our British eccentricity.

    It’s almost impossible to communicate how any creative experience makes you feel, which is why I was so apprehensive about writing this review. To report that I ate sea buckthorn and anise hyssop is unlikely to inspire anyone to visit - no more than my attempt at singing a libretto would get you all fired up for a night at the opera. However, we had fun, it wasn’t at all pretentious or intimidating, and we never did have to stop for a burger on the way back.

    Deanna Thomas reviewed Simon Rogan's L’Enclume for Great British Chefs.

    You can see Simon Rogan on series 7 Great British Menu competing for the North West this week.  Which are your favourite dishes from Deanna’s meal. We’ll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  4. Great British Menu 2012 - Northern Ireland Heat Finals

    Week 4 of Great British Menu had final judging on Friday 4th May 2012.  During the week we saw chefs from Northern Ireland competing to impress veteran judge Richard Corrigan (who recently joined Great British Chefs site)Monica Shaw guest blogger at Great British Chefs watched the finals. All contestants had been on Great British Menu before, but who would take the Northern Ireland title? 

    Clay Pigeon Shoot by Chris Fearon - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Blog post by Monica Shaw

    This week was the turn of the Northern Ireland region of Great British Menu, in which contenders Chris Bell, Chris Fearon and Niall McKenna faced off under the discriminating eye of judge Richard Corrigan. Throughout the week, Chris Bell was in his element, leaving the real drama between Chris Fearon and Niall, neither of whom seemed to be hitting the right marks with Richard. But someone had to go, and on Thursday we said goodbye to Niall, leaving the two Chrisses to prepare their four-course menus for judging panel Oliver Peyton, Prue Leith and Matthew Fort.

    Chris Fearon had a lot to prove in the finals, as during the heats he seemed perpetually struck by nerves. For all of his clever presentations, he made silly mistakes that compromised the food. But tonight he was on his game.

     

    Clay Pigeon Shoot by Chris Fearon - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    To start, his “Clay Pigeon Shoot” not only made the judges laugh, it also made them mmm and aah between mouthfuls of pigeon and pastilla, which had a “lovely squidgy meaty centre” according to Matthew. And when Prue questioned its remarkableness, both Matthew and Oliver agreed she was being a “killjoy”. “This is perfect for the Olympic banquet,” said Oliver, “Happiness.”

     

    Rabbit, black pudding and rhubarb salad with ‘tea and dumplings’ by Chris Bell - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Chris Bell also struck a win with his starter. His rabbit, black pudding and rhubarb salad with ‘tea and dumplings’ left the judges aghast with delight.

    Often dishes this complicated don’t go well together,” said Oliver, “but this is really really nice.”

     

    Skate Rings by Chris Fearon - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Going into the fish course, Chris Fearon continued his Olympic-themed displays with “Skate Rings”. But unlike his starter, this dish did not live up to the presentation. “This is visually a stunner,” said Oliver, “but the delivery is a colossal problem.”

     

    Red wine poached turbot by Chris Bell - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Chris Bell didn’t do much better with his red wine poached turbot and bourguignon of snails. “It’s horrible …tastes disgusting,” said Prue. “This pushes the boundaries of decency rather than gastronomy,” said Matthew.

     

    Corn-fed Lissara duck and Bakewell garnish by Chris Bell - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Chris Bell’s main course of corn-fed Lissara duck, Bakewell garnish, cocoa and basil didn’t help his case. All of the judges agreed it was too sweet, and his bakewell tart left much to be desired. “He’s obviously not a pastry chef,” said Prue.

     

    Spring Jump Lamb by Chris Fearon - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    In contrast, Chris Fearon’s “spring jump lamb” was called “Plastic fantastic” by Oliver, and that’s a good thing: “That lamb is absolutely delicious – I am in the field with that lamb.” However, no one cared much for his experimental molecular basil foam. Said Prue: “The green stuff… it’s slightly horrible… disgusting.”

     

    Summer salad of apricots, jasmine and pistachio by Chris Bell - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    In the critical final stage – dessert – Chris Bell wooed Prue and Matthew with his summer salad of apricots, jasmine and pistachio. “Very pretty,” said Prue, “I’d like an outfit in those colours.” Only Oliver wasn’t convinced: “How you can see that at an Olympic banquet is beyond me … he’s thrown the kitchen sink at it.” (Following this, Prue and Matthew stole Oliver’s plate to finish it themselves.)

     

    Olympic Torch by Chris Fearon - from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Chris Fearon unleashed yet another gimmicky dish for his pudding: an “Olympic torch” with Greek yogurt ice cream and white chocolate shards. But this gimmick actually worked. All of the chefs agreed it wasn’t perfect, but they clearly saw the potential. “This could be fabulous,” said Oliver.” “More punch from the liquorice would be the wild card element,” said Matthew.

     

    After a disastrous week in the heats for Chris Fearon and an inconsistent performance for Chris Bell during the judging round, there was no obvious winner – and not in the judges’ eyes, either, as two chose “Menu B” and one “Menu A”. But it’s majority rules in Great British Menu, and ultimately “Menu B” belonged to Chris Fearon, who after his tumultuous week must be feeling, well, as he said: “Gobsmacked”.

    Well done, Chris Fearon, for winning the Northern Ireland heat! If you’re in the UK you can watch this episode on BBC’s iPlayer for the next few days.

    Next week, it’s the battle of the North West chefs with contenders Simon Rogan, Johnnie Mountain and Aiden Byrne.  You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here.

    What did you think of the results of the Northern Ireland finals? Which dish was your favourite? 

  5. Great British Menu 2012 - North East Heat Preview

    It’s Week Three of the seventh series of The Great British Menu. Not surprisingly this year’s theme is an Olympic one.  Twenty four of the finest chefs in the country including many chefs from Great British Chefs site are competing in eight regional heats for the opportunity to create a four course menu at a prestigious event, hosted by sporting legend Sir Steve Redgrave with a guest list of British sporting greats.  This week (starting 23rd April 2012) it’s the turn of the North East region.

    Charlie Lakin, Colin McGurran, Nigel Haworth and Stephanie Moon - BBC2 Great British Menu North East Contestants

    North East chefs battling it out for a place in the final are returning contender Stephanie Moon and new faces to the contest, Colin McGurran and Charlie Lakin. 

    On Monday they’ll be presenting their starters. Stephanie is making ‘get set’ goat’s cheese, Charlie is cooking wild rabbit with carrot and Douglas fir needles, and  Colin an intriguing ‘quail in the woods’.

    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 Nigel Haworth who recently joined Great British Chefs site before going through to Friday’s final.

    Chef and restauranteur Nigel Haworth is best known for his Michelin starred restaurant Northcote Manor where he was offered the position of Head Chef in 1984.  (Lisa Allen, a previous Great British Menu competitor is currently Head Chef there). Ten years on and Nigel was celebrating an Egon Ronay Chef of the Year Award, one year later a Michelin star followed - which has been retained ever since. 

    In recent years, Nigel Haworth has appeared regularly on television shows such as Saturday Kitchen and Market Kitchen, also making a winning appearance himself on Great British Menu in 2009. In addition to Nigel Haworth also co-owns a catering company, Northcote Offsite, who supply local clients (such as his beloved Blackburn Rovers) with immaculate dishes.

    Lonk Lamb Lancashire Hotpot by Nigel Haworth

    The dish pictured above was cooked by Nigel Haworth on Great British Menu, winning him a spot in the final banquet menu in 2009.  Nigel uses Lonk lamb when making this hotpot but if you can’t get hold of the prized Lonk lamb, use the lamb from your best local butcher. 

    On Friday the two chefs who received the most points from Nigel for the week will cook their dishes again for restaurateur and businessman, Oliver Peyton, fellow restaurateur and cookery writer, Prue Leith 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 and Daniel Clifford who won the Central 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 Central Heat Final Great British Menu judging on our blog.

  6. Great British Menu 2012 - Central Heat Finals

    Friday 21st April 2012 saw the finals of the Central heat of Great British Menu where Great British Chefs’ Daniel Clifford and contest newcomer Paul Foster  cooked their Olympic Menus for judges Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton. The winner would go on to compete in the finals at the end of the series. Monica Shaw guest blogger at Great British Chefs watched the finals. Could Daniel complete his excellent scores of the week & take the Central title?

     

    Blog post by Monica Shaw

    This week was the turn of the Central region of Great British Menu, in which contenders Aktar Islam, Great British Chefs’ Daniel Clifford and contest newcomer Paul Foster faced off under the discriminating eye of judge Glyn Purnell. Last night we said goodbye to Aktar, leaving Daniel and Paul to prepare their four-course menus for judging panel.


    Going into the match, things were looking up for Daniel, whose dishes received high praises from Glyn Purnell, including a perfect 10 on his main course. But different judges equal different tastes, leaving the winning menu open to anyone. “Each dish should have us gasping in admiration” said Matthew Fort. Gasp they did, though it wasn’t always with admiration.

     

    Daniel Clifford’s Veal tartare, caramelised sweetbread and burnt onions from BBC’s Great British Menu

    Daniel kicked off with his starter of veal tartare, caramelised sweetbread and burnt onion, a dish that scored 9 out of 10 during the heats, but it “lacked that sense of going for gold,” said Matthew Fort. Oliver Peyton too was “expecting something far more rock & roll” and said “It’s a beautiful dish but the imagination is completely lacking”.

    Paul didn’t improve matters with his pork neck carpacchio, ribwort plantains and pork scratchings. Paul’s use of wild plantain may be new, but as Matthew Fort said, ribwort plantains are “not often used for very good reasons.”

    You’d be ashamed to put that in front of top athletes – it just isn’t world class,” said Prue. Ouch.

    Daniel Clifford’s - Stuffed red mullet, Roast artichoke and Parmesan Puree from BBC’s Great British Menu

    But as Matthew said, “Things can only get better.” And they did – slightly – with Daniel’s fish course of stuffed red mullet, roast artichoke and parmesan puree. Another dish that scored 9 during the heats, and which Prue loved, but Oliver felt it was “clumsy”: “there’s so much going on here it’s a headache.”

    The prescription? Paul’s poached ray wing, crispy chicken skin and foraged sea vegetables. “Happiness is here,” said Oliver, “This is in a completely different league…this is the first dish of the competition to me.” And Prue agreed that the dish was “near Olympian food because it’s strange, unusual, looks wonderful and tastes delicious.”

    But could Paul follow through with his main dish of Goosenargh duck breast and hearts, potatoes cooked in pine and broccoli. Although Oliver admitted that the duck was one of the finest he’d ever tasted, Prue pointed out that this was essential “meat and two veg.” “It’s too boring for words,” concluded Matthew.

    That’s too bad, because Daniel’s money shot was up next: his slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg and chicken spray scored a perfect 10 during the heats. The judges agreed the sweetcorn egg was proclaimed by Matthew as a “jolly nice mouthful”. Prue was equally impressed: “this guy is incredibly skilled…this could end up at the banquet”. On Daniel’s intriguing crispy chicken skin with popcorn Matthew said  “it’s worth having this plate just for that alone”.

    In the critical final stage – dessert – Paul took another stumble with his whipped sea buckthorn, meringue, rhubarb and crispy rice. Prue echoed my own impressions of the puffed rice: “this has got little maggots crawling all over it.” Oliver was more direct: “It’s absolutely awful, it’s a tragedy…these dishes are supposed to surprise us; the surprise is how horrible it is.”

     

    Daniel Clifford’s Raspberry and tarragon, cookie dough and tarragon oil from BBC’s Great British Menu

    But was Daniel’s raspberry and tarragon roulade, cookie dough and tarragon oil any better? It just wasn’t Oliver’s day for puddings: “the roulade thing is really quite horrible…completely style over content.”

    Fortunately for Daniel, his other dishes made up for the roulade: the judges voted his Olympic menu the winner over Paul’s, quite an accomplishment given Daniel’s heavy use of chicken, an ingredient that isn’t usually associated with innovation or novelty.

    Well done, Daniel, for winning the Central heat! You can find more of Daniel Clifford’s recipes (including his stuffed red mullet dish) on Great British Chefs website.  If you’re in the UK you can watch this episode on BBC’s iPlayer for the next few days.

    Next week, it’s the battle of the North East chefs with contenders Stephanie Moon, Colin McGurran and Charlie Lakin. During the week they will be judged by Nigel Haworth.  You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here.

    What did you think of the results of the Central finals? We’ll be discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page

  7. Great British Menu 2012 - Central Heat Preview

    Last week The Great British Menu returned for its seventh series. This year the theme is an Olympic one.  Twenty four of the finest chefs in the country including many chefs from Great British Chefs site will compete in eight regional heats for the opportunity to create a four course menu at a prestigious event, hosted by sporting legend Sir Steve Redgrave with a guest list of British sporting greats.  This week (starting 16th April 2012) it’s the turn of the Central region.

    This week returning Great British Menu chefs contenders Aktar Islam and Great British Chefs’ Daniel Clifford, will be joined by contest newcomer Paul Foster. Will their starters be enough to impress veteran judge Glyn Purnell?  On the menu is pork neck with ribwort plantain and pork scratchings, veal tartare with caramelised sweetbread and burnt onions, and breast of squab with confit leg and chilli and sweetcorn shoots.  On Tuesday, the chefs will cook a fish course, on Wednesday main course and on Thursday it’s desserts.

    Cointreau Orange Chocolates by Daniel Clifford

    On Friday the two chefs with the most points for the week will cook their dishes again for restaurateur and businessman, Oliver Peyton, fellow restaurateur and cookery writer, Prue Leith and food journalist and author, Matthew Fort.  Matthew is Great British Chefs strategic advisor who also blogs for us and write the introductions for a number of our ingredient collections.  The winner will go into the finals (joining Alan Murchison who won the Scottish round).

    Cheese Scones by Daniel Clifford

    We hope you’ll be watching the show when it starts at 7.30pm each weekday night on BBC2.  At Great British Chefs we’ll be cheering on Daniel Clifford of Midsummer House - you can see more about his cooking style in our video below.  

    It’s Daniel’s third appearance on Great British Menu, previously he appeared in the 2009 and 2010 series.

    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 Scottish Final Great British Menu judging on our blog.

  8. Great British Menu 2012 Scottish Heat Finals

    Friday 13th April 2012 marked the culmination of the Scottish heat of Great British Menu in which chefs Alan Murchison and Colin Buchan cooked their Olympic Menus for judges Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton. The winner would go on to compete in the finals at the end of the series. Monica Shaw guest blogger at Great British Chefs watched the finals. Discover who Friday the 13th was most unlucky for….

    Alan Murchison's Going for Gold Dessert

    Blog post by Monica Shaw

    This year, the premise of Great British Menu is for chefs to create a menu celebrating the Olympic Games that showcases British cooking at its best. And in Friday’s episode, the judges really got to the heart of what this is all about: “Olympians stop at nothing…these guys have got to do the same.” That meant ingredients, techniques and technologies that would surprise the judges and create phenomenal dishes.

    To that end, if you’ve been watching Great British Menu this week, then you may already be tired of hearing the words “innovative” and “pushing boundaries”. But that’s what the show is all about, and to that end both Alan and Colin put up a pretty good fight from start to finish. With Alan’s steely competitiveness and Colin’s jolly easy-come-easy-go approach, the two made for great television.

    The drama began with the starter, in which Alan’s duck terrine with five different textures of pineapple wowed all of the judges.

    Meanwhile, Colin’s smoked pigeon breast and heart with nettle foam lacked the “wiz bangery” Mathew Fort would expect of an Olympic dish (at least Prue thought it was “lovely”).

    Both chefs’ fish courses were remarkable. Alan’s grilled mackerel with beetroot meringues and horseradish ice cream was stunning, called “art on a plate” by Prue and “original, clever cooking” by Matthew. Colin’s bowl of poached halibut with squid ink, seaweed and celeriac consommé also received high praise for its use of original ingredients: “this fulfills the brief almost to perfection”, said Matthew.

    But things took a turn for the worst with the mains – Alan’s barbecued veal with macaroni cheese, spinach and watercress was too dry, served with sweetbreads that were like a “cone of dryness” according to Oliver Peyton. Similarly, Colin’s loin of lamb with sweetbreads was “conventional to the point of boring.” Oh dear.

    Going into the desserts it seemed like anyone’s game. Oliver Peyton was visibly confused by Colin’s beetroot cake with chocolate mousse and fennel ice cream. “I don’t get it.”

    At least Alan’s “Going for Gold” with chocolate, caramel, olives and coffee inspired a few laughs, a pudding in the shape of an Olympic gold medal presented on pillows (and by servers in kilts no less).

    Alan Murchison's Grilled mackerel, beetroot and horseradish ice-cream

    But in the end, it was a great day for Alan Murchinson – and for Great British Chefs – as his Olympic menu won over Colin’s, two votes to one. And we can’t say we’re surprised – Alan’s Grilled mackerel, beetroot and horseradish ice-cream dish alone was an Olympic medal waiting to happen (“precise, beautiful cooking” said Oliver).

    There’s something quirky and crazy about Alan,” said Prue, and we think this works to his advantage. Well done, Alan for winning the Scottish heat!  You can find more of Alan Murchison’s recipes on Great British Chefs website.  If you’re in the UK you can watch this episode on BBC’s iPlayer for the next few days.

    Next week, it’s the battle of the Central chefs with contenders Aktar Islam, Paul Foster and Great British Chefs’ Daniel Clifford You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here.

    What did you think of the results of the Scottish finals?  What would your Olympian dessert have been?  We’re discussing this over on Great British Chefs Facebook Page.

  9. Great British Menu Series 7 starts 9th April 2012

    The Great British Menu returns for its seventh series, this year taking an Olympic theme.  Twenty four of the finest chefs in the country including many chefs from Great British Chefs site will compete in eight regional heats for the opportunity to create a four course menu at a prestigious event at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, hosted by sporting legend Sir Steve Redgrave with a guest list of British sporting greats.

    Judging the chefs are restaurateur and businessman, Oliver Peyton, fellow restaurateur and cookery writer, Prue Leith and food journalist and author, Matthew Fort.  Matthew is Great British Chefs strategic advisor who also blogs for us and write the introductions for a number of our ingredient collections.

    As with previous years, the show follows the familiar format with three chefs from each region cooking a starter, fish course, main course and dessert for a veteran judge who will select two chefs to cook their menu again on Friday’s show for the three judges above.

    The winners of each heat will then go on to compete against each other in the finals at the end of the series, attempting to earn their dishes a place on the table at The Olympic Feast.  ”The chefs’ task is to create a menu that captures the Olympic spirit - food that is breathtaking and awe-inspiring. Every great Olympian pushes their discipline on to new levels of excellence and that is the challenge for the 2012 Great British Menu chefs - can they create world class, groundbreaking food that will celebrate the Olympic ideal?" said the BBC

    Moroccan lamb with harissa-spiced couscous and chickpea salsa by Alan Murchison

    The first week starts in Scotland and the Monday’s episode leads with starters. Returning contender Alan Murchison and newcomers Colin Buchan and Mark Greenaway will be battling against each other.  Whose starter will win? Will it be duck terrine and pineapple, braised pork cheek with sea buckthorn and hot apple jelly or smoked pigeon breast and heart?  Great British Menu veteran Jeremy Lee is the veteran judge deciding who will go through to Friday’s show.

    Sea Bream with galangal broth by Alan Murchison

    We hope you’ll be watching the show when it starts at 7.30pm each weekday night on BBC2.  For now Great British Chefs would like to wish best of luck to Alan for the week ahead.

    You can see the full line up of chefs and judges for the Great British Menu 2012 here.