Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: London and South East Heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th September 2015

Nearing the end of our journey, we begin our seventh week of Great British Menu 2015 with three chefs from London and the South East.

Returning chef Matt Gillan received quite a shock as Daniel Clifford, who he worked as a sous chef for many years ago, entered the kitchen as this week’s mentor. The two new faces, Lee Westcott of the Typing Room and Marcus Wearing’s protégé Mark Froydenlund, were probably worried about any bias in the kitchen, after Daniel described Matt as “the most creative person I had in the kitchen”.

Great British Menu 2015Starting at the beginning of the WI timeline, Matt’s starter saw an onion cooked five different ways. Filling miniature vegetable boxes with an onion puree base, onion vinegar pearls, silverskins in butter all topped with an onion skin stock. Matt was probably trying to dull Daniel’s taste buds before he could get a chance to taste any other dishes.

This season’s potty mouth, Lee, took inspiration from the WI’s “Mission Milk” when creating his raw beef starter. Initially, the thought of eating raw beef sends shivers up my spine, but the smooth texture of the beef, coated in breadcrumbs cooked in beef dripping, and covered with pickled disks of mooli did look appetising. However, Daniel commented on the lack of seasoning, but thought the dish had legs in the competition. Mark, who works for Marcus Wearing (didn’t you know?) cooked up a savoury jam tart.

His savoury frangipane creation, “Not Such a Tart” looked like a jam tart on the outside, but concealed veal sweetbreads and chicken liver parfait inside. During the cutaway we saw the silver fox himself, Marcus Wearing, tasting the tart and giving advice to Mark, which I’m sure verges on cheating. With Lee taking the lead, the pressure was on for the others. For his next pit stop in WI history, Matt Great British Menu 2015took a spin on traditional fruit jams by creating a bacon jam, which sounded incredible to someone who hadn’t had dinner yet (a mistake I routinely make and never learn by).

Accompanying salmon poached in duck fat, Matt took inspiration from an old WI preservation technique to cook his salted runner beans, which Daniel applauded as the best he had ever had. Paying tribute to the crafts and causes of the WI, “A Modern Bouquet” was a risk for lee, as Daniel revealed he often cooks a similar dish. The pan fried mackerel was perfectly cooked and the passion fruit jam worked with the dish which was presented in a smoking bowl, surrounded by flowers. Daniel had nothing bad to say about Lee’s dish, but more so about his poor organisation skills in the kitchen. When you think of a dressed salmon, you can probably see a pretty fillet of fish coated in cucumbers.

Well, Mark thought he would turn that comforting image on its head… literally, by using the skeleton of the fish as a weird and wonderful presentation prop. Trying to make his mum proud, who served a dressed salmon at every celebration, Mark cured, poached and pickled various parts of the salmon, before finding out that his mum never cooked a salmon at all, but picked it up from the local fishmonger.

Great British Menu 2015To make up for the lack of protein in his starter, Matt dropped an entire goat onto the counter to use in his main course. Inspired by the minimal waste ethos held by the WI, “Teaching and Preaching” attempted to show how to get the most out of a goat. The legs were salt baked, the shoulder BBQ cooked with ras el hanout spices, the loin was pan fried, the fat used to make dumplings, and the fillet and kidneys were turned into a boudin.

Props to him, though, as he got the dish to the pass in time, which I thought deserved a 10 for effort. Also taking on the “waste not want not” belief, Lee chose to cook a slightly smaller animal; pigeon. From the wings and legs for a crispy feuille de brick to using the crown and bones to make a sauce. Lee also attempted to use every part of his cauliflower, cooking it in several ways before covering with mint oil, which Daniel was very apprehensive about, but in the end ‘taught him to think outside the box’ by combining flavours that don’t normally go together.

The presentation was quirky, serving the pigeon inside a miniature hay box to demonstrate the inspiration from a classic WI way of cooking, but Daniel had concerns about the practicality of serving the dish on a large scale. Mark’s “Jerusalamb” dish was the star of the week in Daniel’s eyes. A lamb tail pie, with handmade Great British Menu 2015pastry (which is rare on this show), shank rissoles and glazed lamb tongue. Mark walked away with the highest score during this round for a pie that looked moist, and for his pastry that would “give the WI a lesson”.

Big, big words, as cooking pastry for the WI seems as risky as jumping from an aeroplane without a parachute. Going into the dessert course, Lee seemed quietly confident about his punny “Honey, Where Would I Bee Without You?” which was inspired by the WI’s most recent campaign to save the bees. Adding a savoury element, Lee introduced cep mushrooms into his ingredients box, much to the dismay of Daniel, who was certain it wouldn’t work. He was soon eating his words as the cep flavour melted in the mouth and gave the yoghurt and honey dish a great depth of flavour; “that dish completely blew me away”. Similarly, Matt’s dish was predominantly honey based. Using three types of honey, he made a white chocolate honeycomb mousse, a honey cake and a honey mead curd.

Also bringing vegetables into the sweet round, Matt’s fennel sorbet was a clean and refreshing element to the sickly dish. The dessert “Back to Black (and Yellow)” saw him snatch the second place spot in the judges’ chamber, beating Mark, who served a rice pudding ice cream which didn’t taste like rice pudding, and dry rice pudding sponge which the WI ladies would not approve of. Great British Menu 2015Lee, who was consistently at the top of the score board all week, seemed like a sure-win.

Guest judge Mary Gwynn, author of the WI centenary cookbook, stood up for Lee’s starter after Oliver called it ‘soulless’. Matt’s onion starter, with an addition of shallot rings, had Matthew screaming ‘overkill!’ and Oliver wishing there was a ‘dirty big beef burger’ hidden beneath the lot. Neither of the fish dishes roused any excitement, Lee’s “A Modern Bouquet” was pleasing on the eyes, but nothing more than a restaurant dish. By altering the plate, Matt possibly scored an extra point or two for his dish, but Prue felt that the salmon was so over-salted enough to call it ‘horrible’! Scoring 10 points across the board, the judges were cooing over the tender slices of goat meat within Matt’s main course.

Also bang on, Mary recognised the hay box technique straight away when Lee’s dish was presented, with Matthew calling it a “compendium of modern cooking techniques”. Even after what I can only imagine to be 100 attempts at cooking honeycomb, Lee still couldn’t get Great British Menu 2015the texture right, and left out what Prue and Matthew thought to be “the one potentially interesting element” of his dessert. As the chefs entered the judges’ chamber, they were told that only one point stood between them.

Taking me completely by surprise, Matt was chosen to represent London and the South East, even though Lee’s scoring had been higher in the week. Well I suppose that shows that you can never tell what way the judges will sway, even after a tough week in the kitchen, Matt took on all of ex-boss Daniel’s advice and elevated his dishes to another level.

If you've missed any GBM this series then catch up with our insights into the chefs and previous blogs here

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2015 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 28th September 2015

Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: London and South East Heat