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

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This week we are jumping across the country from Yorkshire and Leeds to visit three chefs in the North West heat of Great British Menu 2015.

Returning chef Mark Ellis,  head chef at 1851 Restaurant at Peckforton Castle, GBM’s youngest chef Matt Worswick, head chef at The Lawns, and Eve Townson, executive chef at the Eagle and Child, who lives, breathes and cooks Lancashire.

Judging this week’s trio was veteran chef Sat Bains, who expected a lot Great British Menu 2015from the chefs right from the get go. Asking for everyone’s inspiration behind the entire menu, we heard the usual “inspired by the WI’s frugality” from Mark, who probably skipped out on breakfast that morning and therefore decided to turn this year’s sponsored vegetable, Jerusalem artichokes, into scrambled eggs, although Sat wondered why Mark didn’t just “make scrambled eggs”. It’s a banquet, Sat!

Eve, who was basing her entire menu on local Lancashire produce, brought a corn fed chicken from a lady called Winnie. She confit the chicken legs in order to create croquettes, which Sat thought were nice and moist. The beetroot ketchup was more like a beetroot sand, and the Lancashire hard (otherwise known as an oatcake) was undercooked as Eve was late to the pass, which is where one of the few-and-far-between females of the competition lost points. Matt was inspired by his granny, who watched over the chefs in the kitchen throughout the week.

His dish featured the third bird of the day – partridge which we hadn’t seen much of in the show so far but Matt appeased Sat by delivering a refined bread sauce. Mark, who featured on the show last year, but left the competition after adding artificial flavours to his dishes, gave Matt some advice on how “risky it is to bring modern elements” to the competition. That didn’t faze him though, and the blackberry caviar Matt served up was received well. Great British Menu 2015No pressure on the chefs, but last year Sat judged what turned out to be the winning fish course.

With this in mind everyone packed the most enormous fish into their boxes. Turning a turbot into a mousse, Mark took a twist on a classic bread and butter pudding, using liver butter sauce as custard, and cockles for raisins. Or at least he wanted to, but after a disastrous first batch, Mark forgot to put the faux raisins in the second mousse. Thanks to GBM, I feel that I can never trust a simple cake without thinking that there might be fish or meat hidden inside.

Severely unhappy with his dish, Mark scored himself a 3. Although Sat saw potential in the dish: “If you pulled it off, it would have been a triumph”; so there was at least some credit there. Eve’s comically named ‘Twinset and Pearls’ utilised local produce once more with her Halibut fillet. Using a spherification technique, similar to Matt’s dish the day before, Eve created lemon pearls, which got lost in the creamy shellfish sauce covering the entire meal. Miscalculating her timings again, Matt offered to take his dish to the pass first with his gallantry being a possible reason for a lack of seasoning, and a cloying mint sauce.

Taking inspiration from his “Grandma’s Garden”, Liverpudlian Matt used ingredients you would find in the garden; but you’ll probably only find lobster in an Octopus’ Garden.Great British Menu 2015 The main courses saw all of the chefs produce their best dishes. Both Eve and Matt made lamb the star, while Mark dropped the ‘gimmicky’ dishes and chose to cook up a classic steak and kidney with corned beef hash and beans. Initially, there was a fear of this course coming across as two separate dishes, but thankfully for Mark, the dish all came together.

For her main course, Eve adapted an old family recipe for the banquet. Her ‘A Quintessential English Countryside’ dish was late to the pass and without the aid of Matt and Mark might not have been served hot. Cooking her own pastry for the WI was a brave decision, which cost her a point for timing, as the cooking took longer than expected. But once it was dished up, the meal was “one of the nicest things” Mark had tasted all week. Great British Menu 2015

The first ten of the week was awarded to Matt for his ‘Shall I Be Mother?’ Using his gran’s recipe, Matt stuffed a best end of lamb with minced kidney, liver, lamb shoulder and apricots and to accompany the dish, Matt whipped up a hotpot as homage to his gran. The chefs ate their meals from a miniature farm made from vegetables, which would certainly bring a smile to the WI ladies’ faces. So with Matt pretty much in the safe-zone, the dessert course was a battle between Mark and Eve.

In order to stay in the competition Eve needed to plate up a meal on time and Mark had to score a perfect ten. Overly confident, Matt kicked back and treated himself to some apples during his preparation of ‘Grandma’s Humble Apple Crumble’ which he felt was his strongest dish. Sat noticed the lack of enthusiasm though, telling him that trying to elevate one of Britain’s simplest desserts didn’t work.

He was disappointed by the sight and the taste of his crumble, which lacked in the ‘stewed apple’ taste, and his soda bread crumble was ‘no match for the usual buttery top’.Great British Menu 2015 Inspired by the cotton mills in Lancashire – you guessed it – Eve created a bobbin from discs of feuilletine and hazelnut praline, layered with white chocolate mousse, before spraying to look like wood.

Sat loved the mousse and thought her toasted cereal and caramel pieces complimented the dish. However, the tempered chocolate scissors didn’t quite cut it. Mark received better feedback for his ‘Save the Bees’, which was by far the best presented dish of his this week.

Decorating a lemon spotted dick, milk and honey ice cream and honeycomb mousse with edible flowers added vibrant colour to the dish. Topping it all off with a model beehive, Sat was impressed by the flavours, but the dish was too heavy and the mousse had split. Meaning that Mark was the one to leave this year’s competition again at the last hurdle.
Helping the judges to make their decision this week was self-taught cook Sabrina Ghayour, an award winning food writer and member of the WI. Upon entering the kitchen, both newcomers didn’t know what to expect from the judges.

Great British Menu 2015So I’m sure that Matthew’s words of assurance “If you thought last week was tough, this is tougher” really helped to calm their nerves. Eve kicked off the day with her chicken starter from Winnie’s farm, who coincidentally was a friend of Matthew Fort.

Altering the beetroot ketchup to smooth out the lumps elevated the dish from the five it was scored in the week, to “an absolute winner” in Oliver’s eyes. Matt’s starter caused some offence, referring to the calendar girls as “Game Old Birds” didn’t go down well and the dish didn’t perform greatly either.

The bread sauce or “grey sludge” as Matthew described it, wasn’t lumpy enough, which totally contradicted Sat’s opinion earlier in the week. Eve’s ‘Twinset and Pearls’ dish didn’t really impress any of the judges. Prue failed to see what the ‘twinset’ was, and Sabrina thought that the lemon pearls weren’t flavoursome enough. Matt re-worked a lot of his dish, replacing the Nasturtium in his oil with mint, which Oliver thought worked brilliantly with the peas.Great British Menu 2015

The main course that scored ten in the week was also very well received in the judges’ chamber. The countryside scene put a smile on everyone’s faces, but the “spectacular hotpot” and the best end of lamb stole the show. Using his favourite catchphrase “it’s nice, but nice isn’t good enough” to describe Eve’s main course, I can only assume Matthew wasn’t a fan.

The overall consensus for her dish was the champ knocked back the impressive shepherd’s pie. Until dessert, Eve hadn’t been late for any course! The dish all went downhill after Eve tried to alter her chocolate scissors, which broke before she was able to plate them up. Only able to offer the mousse bobbin and sorbet, the judges noted how much effort had gone into the dish, however they could only judge what was before them.

Going back to basics with his apple crumble didn’t really work well for Matt. The judges compared it to eating breakfast for dessert…imagine what they would have thought about Mark’s starter then! Great British Menu 2015Guest judge Sabrina thought the chefs were “neck and neck”, but after Eve’s dessert it was swaying in Matt’s favour to win the North West. And thanks to his “faultless” lobster dish, he was able to make his gran proud by going through to the nationals.

If you've missed any Great British Menu 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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Editor 21st September 2015

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