Great British Menu 2016 blog by Jenna Lloyd: The Scottish Heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th August 2016

This is the first part to a blog that will build throughout the week, rounding up each heat of the Great British Menu 2016.

It's the eleventh season of Great British Menu and the emphasis this year is on Great Britons. As the Queen celebrated her ninetieth birthday this year, chefs were asked to create menus themed around the Queens honours (MBE, OBE etc). 

Adam Handling - chef - Great British Menu 2016Yesterday's first episode saw the start of the Scottish heat with Adam Handling, Michael Bremner and Ally McGrath all competing for the chance to represent Scotland at the Banquet at Westminster. A first appearance for all three chefs, they were all a little nervous, especially when judge Daniel Clifford walked through the door. Daniel (Midsummer House, Flitch of Bacon) has won GBM twice in 2012 and 2013 and he was looking for modern dishes that packed an extra punch.

First to explain his box of ingredients was the youngest chef in the competition, Adam Handling. You might remember Adam as a finalist on Masterchef: The Professionals in 2013, where he was beaten by Steven Edwards. Adam's menu throughout the show is said to be 'celebrating the achievements of British producers' and this was evident in his starter, 'Boarding Passes Ready'.

>>> Feeling inspired check out mussel recipes here


Resembling a rather gourmet packed lunch, Adam was showcasing produce from small suppliers around the UK with some tinned Scottish ham, a cheddar and gruyere tart topped with grated Wiltshire truffles, a chicken-infused butter from Northern Ireland and curried mussels from Bangor.  

He even set himself the challenge of making sourdough in an hour! Judge Daniel Clifford was doubtful about this combination to begin with - would it all be too much for one dish? Daniel Clifford and Adam agreed that his cheese tart was too salty and Daniel suggested a homemade lemonade would have been a good accompaniment. 

Adam Handling - chef - Great British Menu 2016 - starter Boarding Passes Ready

Ally McGrath - chef - Great British Menu 2016

Next to talk us through his starter was Ally McGrath, the only Scot still cooking in Scotland at his restaurant Osso in Peebles. His dish 'Guts and Glory' aimed to demonstrate how those who give their guts and give everything they've got to represent Britain, receive the glory that is the Queen's honor.

Ally used a whole wild Scottish rabbit - serving brined and seared rabbit loin, haggis from the rabbit pluck (heart and lungs) and a confit rabbit leg. He took a real risk as he used a heated blender to make a black pudding puree, 'making a f***ing mess' as he went.

He  also created a scotch egg using the rabbit and a turnip puree, pickled carrot and pickled onion crisps also went on his slate. Ally seemed quite disappointed when he tasted his turnip fondant, saying that it 'wasn't cooked enough.' Daniel said a glaze or a sauce would have brought the dish together as the rabbit was quite dry.

>>> Why not take a look at more rabbit recipes here?


Ally McGrath - chef - Great British Menu 2016 - starter Guts and Glory

Michael Bremner - chef - Great British Menu 2016Each of Michael Bremner's dishes are inspired by a different Scot who has received an honour. His starter 'Beet Grove Garden' was inspired by  Jim McColl, the presenter of gardening programme The Beechgrove Garden. Michael's dish was a contemporary take on the classic beetroot and goat's cheese salad.

 He served sous vide slices of golden and candied beetroot with apple matchsticks and crumbled oatcake.

These were smoked over a bowl of whiskey chips, douglas fir and birch leaves. In an attempt to 'make beetroot banquet-worthy', he featured a birch sap/whey reduction to give the dish a sweet and sour flavour. The reduction didn't reduce as much as Michael wanted it to and Daniel said he couldn't taste it. Fellow contestant Adam said he thought the beetroot element was 'pointless'.

>>> See more beetroot recipes


Michael Bremner - chef - Great British Menu 2016 - starter Beet Grove Garden

The second episode of this series and perhaps the most important for the Scottish contestants was the Fish course. As the home of great shellfish, all three chefs were determined to make Scotland proud and to showcase some quality produce in their dishes. Judge Daniel Clifford said that for this course: "There's no reason why they can't produce scores of nine or ten."
Adam Handling - Chef - Great British Menu - Scottish Heat

Hoping to maintain his two-point lead, Adam Handling's course featured three different kinds of Scottish shellfish: lobster, crab and scallops. He knew he was taking on a bit of a challenge as each would require a different method of cooking. The dish was called 'The Jewels in our Seas' and Adam used the whole crab, including roasting the bones for his sauce.

Adam met great Briton Captain Eric Melrose Brown CBE, DSC, AFC, Hon FRAeS, RN (1919-2016), a renowned Navy aviator who has been honored by King George and Queen Elizabeth several times. Adam served his fish course to the Captain, who called it 'superb'.

 When plating up back in the kitchen, Adam served his pan-fried scallops in a treasure chest with dry ice for dramatic effect. The dish also had poached lobster, white crab meat, avocado puree, tempura-battered lobster with a sea herb and nasturtium leaves garnish. This was finished with squeeze of lime finger and his crab sauce was served on the side in jugs. Daniel and Adam agreed that he had overcooked the tempura lobster slightly, it was a tad chewy. They also discussed how the sauce could have been hotter. Overall however, Daniel said that the presentation was 'brilliant' and that the dish 'told a great story'.

>>> You can find other great crab recipes here 



Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Coincidentally, Ally McGrath's dish 'Best of British' also featured white and brown crab meat and scallops, but Ally opted to serve these with salmon from his town, Peebles.

Daniel advised Ally to put his personality on the plate and asked to see more modern cooking. Whilst Ally said that salmon is "not his favourite fish", he lightly poached it for the dish and served with pickled fennel & fennel puree, white & brown crab meat with herbs, scallops and mini broccoli florets. 



>>> Why not try one of these salmon recipes?


Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish heat

Finishing with sea vegetables and a radish garnish, Ally's modern accompaniment  was a salt and vinegar crispy kale. His course was then presented on a bed of pebbles with some seaweed.

All of the chefs agreed that Ally had cooked the fish to perfection, including cooking his scallops on one side which Adam was especially impressed with. Judge Daniel Clifford was not a fan of Ally's presentation and also pointed out that he had measured out too much sauce. 




Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Michael Bremner's dish was dedicated to late Scot Willie Hay CBE,  the former Scottish Fishermen's Federation president. 'A Message to the Lode Star' featured five pieces of salt-cured mackerel, each with a different topping.

Daniel jokingly called Michael "the tight Scotsman", pointing out that mackerel is a cheap fish and he wondered how Michael would make it 'banquet-worthy'.

  >>> Looking for more mackerel recipes? 

Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish HeatMichael did not disappoint him, serving his mackerel on a bisected glass bottle with a little poem in the neck. The toppings went from the more basic to the extravagent - the first with seaweed and mackerel skin, the second topped with potato and caper salad, the third with pickled vegetable Escabeche, then steamed clam wrapped in a pancetta dashi gel and finally a cooked oyster topped with an oyster emulsion. 

Daniel Clifford said that the three had served the strongest three fish dishes he'd ever seen in any of the Great British Menu. He said that Michael's dish was a testament to the coming of age of British food and then said his most poignant comment: "I knew it was a ten before I even tasted it..." Both Michael and Daniel appeared tearful as Daniel confirmed that he would be awarding 'A Message to the Lode Star' a perfect ten.

He awarded Ally and Adam eight each, bringing Adam and Michael both to sixteen and putting Ally in the bottom with a score of fourteen. 

Things were hotting up in our midweek Main course instalment of Great British Menu last night! Judge Daniel Clifford won the Banquet previously with a main so the pressure really was on for our three Scottish chefs. After a superb fish course on Tuesday, Michael Bremner and Adam Handling were on a tie and Ally McGrath was two points behind.

Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Michael Bremner received a ten for his fish course yesterday and he was looking to score the same for his main, ‘The Rose of Eskdalemuir’. As with all of Michael’s menu, this dish was a tribute to another great Scot – Ronnie Rose MBE, an esteemed gamekeeper.

In Michael’s dish, he recreated a known Scottish favourite - ‘stovies’. These are typically made with leftover potatoes, onions and such but to make them more refined, Michael added confit mallard leg. He cooked the mallard breast in a water bath, brushed it with a jus and topped it with a crumb made from the duck’s crispy skin.


Michael Bremner- Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

The game was accompanied by king oyster and girolle mushrooms, turnips topped with grated truffle and a fondant onion. An interesting added extra, Michael combined blackberries and beeswax in a purée and a pipette of clove oil was added to finish the dish.

>>> Girolles are in season! See more seasonal ingredients in the Market Report


Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Daniel said that while ‘The Rose of Eskdalemuir’ looked impressive and he liked the hidden cutlery at the bottom of the serving box, he didn’t like the mallard or Michael’s purée. He said that the berries would have been better poached and the mallard needed roasting.

Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


In a bid to boost his lower score, Ally McGrath came out ‘all guns blazing’ with his dish, ‘Backbone of Britain’. Showcasing a Scottish sirloin, Ally dedicated his main to those who do charitable work, be it fundraising, working in healthcare or social services.

He paid a visit to one such individual, Lynne McNicall OBE, who works on projects and raising money for children with cancer with her charity Its Good 2 Give.

Lynne McNicoll eating Ally McGrath's dish - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat



His sirloin was served with shredded beef skin and lightly smoked bone marrow, presented in a bone. His ‘something extra’ on the board was a rather interesting mushroom ketchup! Would this bring the modern edge to his cooking that Daniel Clifford was looking for?



>>> It's not mushroom ketchup, but why not try these mushroom recipes?


Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

A ‘hearty’ portion size, Daniel Clifford critiqued Ally’s presentation once again and said that the sirloin needed resting for longer as it bled ‘all over the plate’. He also commented that the bone marrow seemed slightly over-smoked but he did like the mushroom ketchup after all!

Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Adam Handling was looking to take back his lead with a twist on a British classic. A roast dinner with an Asian-inspired twist, his ‘Great British Dinner’ was to celebrate the diversity that has influenced modern British cuisine. Adam would also serve beef – a roast Scottish wagyu that he had to battle with a small oven for!



>>> There's plenty of delicious beef recipes here...


Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Also on Adam’s plate were courgette flowers, stuffed with a ginger, spring onion and langoustine mousse. These were joined by poached langoustines with a bronze fennel and nasturtium leaf garnish, charred savoy cabbage and roasted courgette. Adam made a garlic and parsley volute and served this in a jug on the side.


Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Daniel said that while Adam’s cooking and respect for the ingredients was great, his mousse was slightly watery and the dish would need ‘a bit of work for a dinner menu’. While the other chefs called his wagyu amazing,  Adam agreed that it didn’t necessarily hit the brief.

Scores on the doors were sevens all round, which didn’t change the totals too much as it meant that Michael and Adam were still neck and neck (with twenty three each) and Ally was two points behind. 

I’m cheering Ally McGrath on – I love an underdog and that beef looked incredible!  


In possibly the tensest episode so far this week, last night was the Desserts course on Great British Menu. You may remember judge Daniel Clifford brought his own dessert to the Banquet back in 2013 for 'Great British Menu Does Comic Relief'.

Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Having criticised Adam Handling on Wednesday for his Asian-inspired main, Daniel was surprised to hear that he was incorporating Japanese yuzu into his dish, ‘Raise Your Glass’. A toast to the Great Britons, he was hoping that his dessert was more in fitting with the brief than his main. Serving a reinvention of the classic lemon meringue pie, he would ‘raise’ the standards even higher with a whisky granita cooked using liquid nitrogen.





The pie was deconstructed, with piped meringue (toasted with a blowtorch), yuzu curd and a raspberry sauce hidden inside. Adam then topped the pie with aerated white chocolate pieces, crumbled peanut butter shortbread and a garnish of confit lemon peel and lemon verbena. He served the dessert in a miniature whiskey barrel.



>>> Have you seen our Pastry Chef feature? 


Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

Michael said that he couldn’t taste the whiskey in Adam’s dish and Daniel added that he would have liked to have seen the raspberries, not have them hidden. He did like the yuzu twist, but he said the dish was a bit sweet and needed sharpening.

Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Ally McGrath, who was sitting two points behind the other two chefs needed a higher score for his dessert to stay in the competition. His dessert ‘No One Harms Me With Impunity’ was themed around Scotland’s highest order of chivalry, ‘The Order of the Thistle’. He too would be making aerated chocolate and he joked that Adam was a ‘copycat’!




Ally set himself another real challenge - making replica medals from tempered chocolate. Before the show, he had sought a masterclass from an award-winning chocolatier. However after a first attempt overheated, things weren’t looking too good for Ally. He persisted with the chocolate nonetheless, prayer to the chocolate gods! First served in his bowl were a pistachio mousse and sponge, followed by cherry sorbet and cherry syrup. Next the aerated dark chocolate and finally, to garnish, freeze dried sour cherries, pistachios and pink pralines.


>>> Need a chocolate masterclass? Check out Callebaut's tips and tricks


Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


All of the chefs agreed that Ally had really pushed himself with this course. Adam called it ‘patriotic’. Michael said that it was very modern and that it might send one of them home. Judge Daniel liked the idea but said that Ally’s chocolate was too heavy and his sponge wasn’t crisp. He did add that the cherry sorbet helped to balance the dish and said ‘…with a few tweaks, this is your strongest dish’.



Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Michael Bremner was disappointed with a score of seven for his main, having got a ten for his fish course earlier in the week. For the dessert course, he wanted to recreate his favourite childhood puddings but make them more contemporary and refined. The great Scot that inspired ‘Home Sweet Home’ was Maitland Mackie CBE, an award winning dairy farmer and late chairman of Mackie’s ice cream. Michael even went to Mackie's and met his son and daughter. To honour him, Michael made whiskey ice cream covered with a whiskey gel – jelly and ice cream for grown ups!

>>> For more ice cream recipes, click here


Like Adam, Michael made Scottish shortbread but using a slightly different recipe. He served these on sticks stuck into a board, alongside sticks of chocolate ganache covered in meringue – reminiscent of his favourite teacakes.  The ‘jelly and ice cream’ and salted caramel were served on the side.

When tasting the dish, Michael showed Daniel that he should toast the meringue ‘teacakes’ using the small camping stove and then spread the softened mixture on the shortbread. While the judge felt that this was fun and did evoke childhood memories, he said that the whisky was not prominent in Michael’s ice cream and his shortbread needed cooking for longer.

Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Daniel Clifford awarded Ally and Adam eight points each and Michael a six. This meant that Adam had the highest score of the three with thirty one and Ally and Michael were now tied on twenty nine. Daniel put Michael through to the Banquet based on his stronger dishes earlier in the week.


Michael Bremner Adam Handling Ally McGrath - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat

We’ll be sad to see Ally go but we’ll be following his work back in Scotland and we think he did really well!


The Scottish judging was always going to be tough. Adam Handling had consistently scored high, maintaining some sort of lead all week. Michael Bremner had not been so lucky - his low-scoring dessert 'Home Sweet Home' knocked him down to second. Could he perfect his menu enough to take the title, or would Adam remain victorious and go through to the Banquet?


The judging panel - if you're new to the show - is made up of restaurant critic Matthew Fort; doyenne of British cookery, Prue Leith; and acclaimed restaurateur Oliver Peyton. Joining them this week was three-time Food Journalist of the Year, Tim Hayward.

Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish heat

First to plate the starter was Michael, who had made some chances after Daniel said the dish ‘lacked impact’. Michael added compressed apple slices to the  bottom bowl to represent a more modern twist and he added goats cheese to the salad too. Prue Leith said that she couldn't taste the birch sap - something that Daniel Clifford had called Michael up for before. 



Adam Handling's starter was at risk when the pressure cooker he was using for his ham hock broke. He had to swap the ham into a new one. Following Daniel's advice, Adam served a drink on the side of gin and fresh lemonade in individual bottles. Oliver Peyton 'hated' Adam's dish and Tim and Matthew both had negative comments about his sourdough rolls.

Michael Bremner - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


The only ten of the this heat, there was a lot of pressure on Michael's 'The Rose of Eskdalemuir' to be perfect. Michael was nervous and at one point he dropped his seaweed! Oliver said that Michael's mackerel tasted 'outstanding' and Matthew said that the dish showed 'clever, understated technique'. All of the judges agreed that the fish was faultless.




For Adam's fish course, he was sure to give a lobster a quick flash in the oven to make sure it was piping hot. His crab sauce, which Daniel Clifford said was tepid, was poured at the table. Matthew said it was beautiful but that it overpowered the dish slightly. Prue was doubtful that the dish fit the brief.



Off to a difficult start with the judging, it was looking doubtful for Adam Handling. His main, the 'Great British Dinner' was criticised by Daniel for incorporating seafood. He decided to replace the shellfish with more traditional elements and so his roast waygu beef was instead served with saltbaked vegetables, mashed potato in mini saucepans, a lamb, black pudding and oyster hotpot and modern 'popcorn' sweetbreads. Oliver said that in terms of flavour, Adam was "going for the jugular". 

Michael too changed his main course, roasting half of his mallard for a different flavour. He also chose to kept his confit blackberries whole and added roasted hispi cabbage. Matthew said that the blackberry balanced the mallard. Tim called the dish "a pallet of caramelisation". Oliver however, was not impressed and said that Michael's mallard and stovie were too dry.


Adam Handling - Great British Menu 2016 - Scottish Heat


Adam attempted to reduce the sweetness of his dessert, adding lemon to the  meringue and using raw raspberries. Tim said that the raspberries were still too sweet. Continuing the harsh criticisms, Oliver called the dessert "impossible to eat".




Daniel Clifford said that you couldn't taste the whiskey in Michael's ice cream but he didn't want to add too much in case it didn't freeze. He opted to add a chocolate whiskey sauce and made a couple more new additions with honeycomb and chocolate orange crumble. Tim Hayward said that he didn't see the point in the interactive fire element of the dish but Matthew said it's "supposed to be fun!"



While the judges agreed that both chefs demonstrated a lot of skill, passion and creativity, Michael Bremner came out on top. He was awarded tens across the board for his fish course! Michael will go on to represent Scotland at the Banquet but we know we haven't seen the last of Adam Handling and we wish them both the best.


>>> Read our interviews with the Scottish GBM contestants!

>>> Read more about Great British Menu 2016 here

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 30th August 2016

Great British Menu 2016 blog by Jenna Lloyd: The Scottish Heat