Great British Menu 2014 blog by Danny Kingston: The North East heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th May 2014

This is the sixth in our series of weekly blogs by food blogger Danny Kingston aka @FoodUrchin looking back on each heat of Great British Menu 2014. 

So, we are well and truly over the hump now folks. We have just completed week six of the Great British Menu, with only the Celtic regions Scotland and Wales left to go, and thus our journey is finally nearing its triumphant end. And if that opening sentence sounds weary and tired, I have to put my hands up and say that the Groundhog Day element of the competition is starting to get to me.

Paul WelburnDon’t get me wrong, some of the dishes that have been created throughout the series so far have been amazing and the chefs have tackled the brief of recreating war time inspired menus head on. I mean, who knew there were so many different varieties of Spam? No, what is starting to unhinge me ever so slightly is the voiceover commentary.

Because if she says one particular thing about a chef, you can be certain that she’ll repeat it a THOUSAND TIMES. For instance, Paul Welburn, a strapping young fella from Yorkshire, did you know that this is his first time in the competition? Did you? Oh yes, it’s his first time.

Then there is Frances Atkins. Well she’s the Michelin-starred, experienced heavyweight this week. Yes, Michelin stars, with loads of experience. And dainty Frances is a heavyweight too. Whodathunk? And as for Colin McGurran, did you know that he just missed out getting his dish into the final last time around? Yes. He missed out. Just by an inch. And we know this because in each episode they kept showing the same montage of Colin, rubbing his face, just missing out getting his dish into the final.

By an inch. missing……just a bit..…final….inches…….arrrrggggh. Seriously, the repetition has been getting on my nerves so Frances Atkinsmuch that it’s causing me to hyperventilate in front of the screen and as such, I’ve resorted to watching the show whilst wearing a gas mask. Because it’s much more effective than blowing into a paper bag. But enough hot air from me, let’s see what the guys and gal from the North East produced last week, for mentor Philip Howard, the thinking chef’s chef.

Well the opening starters round saw Frances Atkins, co-owner and Head chef of The Yorke Arms,  prowl into the kitchen like a pussy cat with Dame Edna Everage glasses and proclaim that the boys better watch out because there was a female about; which was impressive fighting talk. But then Frances set about making a naff-looking toasted sandwich with jellied beer that wobbled almost as much as her bottom lip as she sort of fell to pieces, which was a shame. Ambitious Paul Welburn created a dish called ‘Duck and Soldiers’, a mishmash of duck cooked in a variety of ways and served up the thinnest looking sourdough soldiers with it.

Eggy soldiers should be not that thin. PhillipHowardAnd Colin went all on an all-out attack with his ‘Modern Ration Pack’ that included corned beef hash in mustard, a teabag containing bouillon and an exploding cherry chocolate bomb, which all amounted to rather bizarre starters to serve in my opinion but nevertheless Phil was impressed with Colin’s efforts and gave him an eight.

The fish round was no less straightforward as the competing chefs strived to push boundaries whilst still keeping to the theme. A much more composed Frances, who was using her Father’s wartime experiences as inspiration, delivered a very pretty-looking plate called ‘On the boat’ using Dover sole, squid and sea dumplings but her sharp buckthorn was a step too far for Philip’s palate. Paul’s ‘Preservation of British Waters’ showed real promise too, using cured salmon and crab cooked two ways but he scuppered his chances by forgetting to dress his bowl with brown crab butter.

Colin’s take on the brief with his ‘Barbecue on the beach’ really perplexed Barbecue on the beachme. It was clever and witty perhaps to serve up a mini charcoal barbecue where guests could grill their own langoustines but what it had to do with the D-Day invasions was slightly missed on me. Still, at least it gave Colin the chance to say “you gotta have shrimp on the barbie” in the dodgiest of Australian accents.

As usual everyone stepped up for the main’s round, although Mr Howard did have reservations about Colin’s ‘Grandad’s Posh Pie’. In his words, for a banquet this would have to be a “showstopper of a pie”. However, Colin’s cutesy pithivier, with Italian ingredients creeping in, didn’t hit the mark this time around. Frances’ ‘Seeking Sanctuary’ on the other hand did make a splash with her waste-not want-not approach to duck. Using duck breast, leg and liver, her mains was all the more poignant for the story that came with it. Phil may have even wiped away a tear after hearing it.

Blackout beefAmbitious newcomer Paul struck gold with his ‘Blackout Beef’. Consisting of beef rib, heart, carrot and bone marrow, this was a sticky, moist, sumptuous dish (Phil’s words, not mine) and evidently the most pleasing to eat. Even Colin and Frances doffed their caps to this one and Paul got his first ten. With not much in it points wise, the deciding puddings round was a high pressured one that had scope for catastrophe and was the one that had Philip gleefully rubbing his hands the most. It was almost like he wanted a huge cock up to happen and it very nearly did for Colin as he struggled to make his tuiles for his parsnip ice-cream.

He endured failure after failure and it looked like failing Colin might fail again, according to the voice-over. But thankfully, with a nifty bit of jumping up and down, Colin rescued the day. In turn, Paul’s deconstructed Normandy pear tart, though understated, saw him go through on points, leaving Frances to rue her decision to keep things ColinMcGurransimple at the end. Her humble ‘Thoughts of Home’ with Camembert, apple and walnut just didn’t tick enough boxes.

The final judging round loomed and helping Prue, Matt and Oliver to make their minds up this time was Molly Rose, who used to fly Spitfires for gawds’ sakes; a brave and feisty woman indeed. In terms of what they thought of the dishes that Colin and Paul had conjured up for them, there really was a mixed bag of responses this time around with split decisions and some tough criticism, especially from Molly. Top scores went to Paul and Colin for their respective dishes of ‘Blackout Beef’ and ‘From War to Peace’.

The former dish sang for the likes of Oliver Peyton who loved the introduction of offal whilst everyone agreed on the fun aspect of the latter, without actually making any connection to the brief. With everything hanging in the balance, it was Colin’s chocolate dessert inspired by messenger pigeons (of all things) that saw him through to yet another final. Let’s hope that he gets a dish on the banquet menu this time around. I am sure he doesn’t want to see yet another montage of himself distraught and wiping his face. I know I don’t.  
 

>>> Everything you need to know about Great British Menu here 

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2014 here

Danny is a food adventurer, enthusiastic allotmenteer, supper club host and writer Danny Kingston (Food Urchin)of the entertaining and quirky epicurian blog, Food Urchin. He also writes for Great British Chefs and past credits also include writing for Delicious Magazine online and MSN Food and he is an absolute sucker for East End pie and mash (with loads of liquor and vinegar).

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 20th May 2014

Great British Menu 2014 blog by Danny Kingston: The North East heat