Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: The North East Heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th September 2015

I really hoped that we wouldn’t also be seeing the same old picnic and tea party inspired dishes this week on Great British Menu 2015, or I was at risk of never touching a scotch egg again.


It was almost as if my dream of something different came true when outrageous Michael O’Hare, pulled open the kitchen door carrying a cane, topped with a silver snake’s head.

Great British Menu 2015Joined by Michelin star chef Tim Allen and Mini Patel, all three were fresh faces; pleasant newcomers to the competition. The judge this week was on par with Scotland’s mentor, Michael Smith. Both have an immense ability to make you feel slightly unsettled, neither shows any expression other than deadpan, and they both know how to dish out a harsh mark.

The only difference is Marcus Wearing has a great beard. As the competition kicked off, we saw yet another allotment. Mini’s ‘Rabbits in the Allotment’ dish unfortunately, his pickled vegetables and edible soil saw him drearily emulating previous chefs. Tim took a different approach and actually researched the WI beyond jam and Jerusalem; something we haven’t seen much of this series.

Taking inspiration from Adelaide Hoodless, the original founder of the WI, Tim presented his ham and egg starter inside her book ‘Public School Domestic Science’. It was refreshing to see one of the chefs doing real research rather than tweaking one of their mum’s recipes. Eccentric Michael didn’t disappoint when he presented his dish in a giant space egg. He even Great British Menu 2015managed to get a compliment from Marcus on his home made apron.

Maybe if the whole cooking career goes to pot, he could have a business in customised aprons. Marcus gave Michael’s ‘disappointing langoustine’ a big slap-in-the-face four, commenting that ‘it was style over substance’. Tim, however ‘took a tomato to a completely new place’ which made him rise to the top with an eight.

Mini’s dish, which was nicely presented but not particularly flavoursome, left him stranded between a rock (star) and a hardboiled egg, with a score of six. Diving head first into the fish course, Michael really had to up his game. Taking inspiration from his North East hometown, and the equal rights of women, he created “Emancipation”. Taking a dashi sauce, he amused the other chefs by using a spray can to dress his dish.

Marcus loved it though, saying that he would wake up in the middle of the night and remember it. Mini, who always looks like he’s on the brink of tears, dared to make a prawn cocktail, substituting the prawns for langoustines, which was met with uncertainty as Marcus reminded us all that he knows how to make a ‘perfect prawn cocktail’. After explaining his ingredients, Marcus was shocked about the absence of brandy. From that moment on, I’m sure Mini rang every person he knew to get a bottle of the stuff, one shot in the sauce and the rest for Mini! Great British Menu 2015

Tim re-created a dish originally cooked for the head of the WI, the Queen. ‘Sole Jubilee’ contained luxury ingredients, such as leeks cooked in champagne and sole covered in grated truffle. Marcus whipped out the measuring tape to check the preciseness of Tim’s pastry, surely a major concern for a man juggling around 3000 elements in his dish.

The cutaway showed Tim visiting Yvonne Brown, the chair of the Queen’s local Sandringham WI, who spilled the beans on Her Maj - telling the nation that Liz regularly pops down for a visit. The main course saw our first 10 and despite a low scoring start it was for Michael’s dish - who had really stepped it up. Either that, or Marcus really wanted to date his mum. The dish titled ‘My Mother is Single and Looking for a Well Dressed Man’ embraced the WI’s ethos of thrifty cooking, as the star of the plate was pork connective tissue.

Also trying his hand at comedy, Mini named his dish ‘Showing You a Bit of Breast and a Little Leg’ taking inspiration from the calendar girls, which, coincidentally, Tim had done too. Tim had spoken to Tricia Stewart, aka Miss October, and found that her favourite meal was roast chicken, but I can’t imagine her preference is overcooked roast chicken. It certainly wasn’t Marcus’. Mini one upped Tim and spoke to almost all of the girls to find that an overruling favourite wasGreat British Menu 2015 pheasant. Mincing the legs, he chose to make a scotch egg.

This was his both his saviour and downfall though, as Mini must have left his watch at home and got the timings completely wrong, meaning that he was late to the pass, however Marcus’ score relied on whether the egg had a runny yolk, which (accompanied by some dramatic music) we found that it was cooked to perfection.

The desserts saw all of the chefs crank it up a notch. Taking a big risk by cooking mini Victoria sponges, Mini combined the WI classic with a rhubarb sorbet and liquorice ice cream baked Alaska. As he finished his meringue, Marcus half-jokingly and more-seriously told Mini to lift it above his head. Unfortunately, it was whipped enough not to coat the nervous chef. Showing off his Michelin-starred talent, Tim delicately topped his ‘Frugal Flowers’ cheesecake with green apple roses, pink meringue petals, and honey tuile wings for his honey ice cream bee dusted with black meringue.

Without a doubt, the WI ladies would swoon over this dish and Tim really nailed the brief. Which saw an emotional Tim go forward to cook for the judges. Great British Menu 2015‘Centenary Cookbook in 4D’ gave Michael an opportunity to feature in one of the WI famous Marguerite Patten’s cookbooks. Making a pine and pear soufflé, to then tear up, wasn’t Marcus’ favourite part of the dish, nor the extremely salty popcorn and caramel ice cream.

It was his use of candied Jerusalem artichokes (yes, artichokes in a dessert) that sealed the deal for Michael and sent him through to join Tim in the final round. Joined by guest judge Kirsty Bowen, the president of Sheffield’s WI group, the judges weren’t prepared for what the first course would bring. They were all smiling when presented their first starter, a 3ft egg is probably a first and last for the GBM veterans – it definitely provoked debate among the four. Michael had pretty much refused to make any changes to his dishes, adamant that he would stay true to himself and cook how he wanted to.

Tim, however, took on every word Marcus had said, which included making a sauce for his starter, which Kirsty thought had “taken WI home cooking to another level”. The fish dish turned the first impressions around, as Tim’s dish was nothing more than “nice” whereas Michael’s was almost faultless, with perfectly cooked cod.Great British Menu 2015 Tim lost points for serving dry chicken to Marcus Wareing, a mistake he kicked himself for so this time he cooked it to perfection and whipped up a beurre noisette sauce which caused some sparks in the judges chamber.

Prue was voicing her dislike for the gravy, which Kirsty strongly disagreed with (which was met by an angry glare from Prue). Michaels dish also caused some disagreement. As the judges quibbled over what they liked and disliked, Matthew wondered aloud why his mum doesn’t have an admirer. She will after this show I’m sure! By the dessert, I was sure that Tim had it in the bag.

The judges thought that Michaels toned down salted ice cream was still too salty, and, contrastingly, Tim’s cheesecake was so good that he managed to convert Oliver into a ‘cheesecake liker’. Great British Menu 2015This week’s winner was the first one of the series that I didn’t predict. The judges had conflicting opinions on every dish, Matt and Prue hated Michael’s presentation of his starter, whereas the guest judge fought for her right to gravy on Tim’s main course.

So, when the two chefs who both worked together and honed their skills under John Burton-Race at two Michelin-starred the Landmark but who served food that was at opposite ends of the spectrum, entered the judge’s chamber, I honestly thought the crown would be given to Tim. But it turned out that the judges love a bit of ‘rock and roll’ and Michael's left field approach paid off.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 14th September 2015

Great British Menu 2015 blog by Katie Pathiaki: The North East Heat