Great British Menu 2018 blog by Cameron Huck – Scotland heat

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st August 2018

The Great British Menu is back and the contestants this week are from Scotland. The chefs have begun the battle to get the chance to cook at a banquet honouring 70 years of the NHS.

Entering the kitchen this week were Lorna McNee, junior sous chef at Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles; Benedict Reade of Edinburgh Food Studio and Ross Bryans who has previously worked at Pollen Street Social and Corrigan's Mayfair.

Week 3 of the Great British Menu had the chefs from Scotland come into the kitchen for their chance to be in the banquet celebrating 70 years of the NHS.

The three chefs, Benedict Reade, Lorna McNee and Ross Bryans, were all new to the competition and had a lot of experience behind each of them.

Ross Bryans, who has worked under an array of well-renowned chefs, including the three-time winner of the Great British Menu Richard Corrigan and Gordon Ramsay came into the competition with a lot of previous experience.

Lorna McNee has already received a number of awards before coming onto the Great British Menu. As Game Chef of the year in 2016 and former Scottish Chef of the Year in 2017, she already had a wealth of experience coming into the competition.
Ben Reade, of the Edinburgh Food Studio, is a very conceptual chef with experience as Head of Research and Development at the Nordic Food Lab in Copenhagen.

Judging them this week was Phil Howard who has achieved 2 Michelin-stars with his restaurant, The Square, Mayfair. This meant the chefs would have to really create something remarkable to impress him.

First to plate up was Ross. His dish, ‘No Bones About It’ was inspired by having bone broths when he was poorly in his youth. It involved a chicken feet broth, pickled turnips and a rolled oat skirlie dumpling. In addition to this, he added baby pearl onions and carrot diamonds.


>>> recipes from Ross Bryans here

Second up was Lorna, she made a layered dish titled ‘Celebrating the Best With the Best’. A luxurious dish served in a caviar tin its layers were made up of a fennel mousse, yuzu jelly and steamed crab claw with a decadent layer of caviar on the top. She made rosemary focaccia crackers to be served on the side.


>>> recipes from Lorna McNee here 

Last up to the pass was Ben. His highly conceptual dish ‘A Bouquet of Thanks’ had three types of vegetables all pickled in different flavours arranged to look like flower petals. These were next to buckwheat crackers and on top of a goats cheese and horseradish mousse.


Veteran chef Phil Howard began the week by giving Lorna and Ben an 8 for each of their dishes while Ross fell behind with a 6. Phil found Ross’ broth exceptional but thought that more could have been done with the garnish. In contrast, Lorna’s dish was labelled as luxurious and Ben was told he smashed it despite the goat's cheese not being special enough.

The fish course

It was time for the Scottish chefs to create their fish courses and all three chefs opted to showcase Scottish lobster in their dishes. Judge Phil Howard pointed out that a lobster dish has never got a place at the Banquet before, but stressed that there’s a first time for everything!

Lorna McNee was taking a much simpler approach. Her dish ‘Live Well, Live Very Well’ was a nod to how well the NHS look after us. She poached lobster in smoked butter and used the head to make a lobster bisque, with three different alcohols – white wine, brandy and aniseed liqueur. Her fish course was served with flash fried vegetables. With just three components to the dish, the pressure was on for Lorna to get her flavour balance just right, and for her lobster to be cooked perfectly.

She was first to plate up and served her dish in a glass cloche with whiskey smoke for dramatic effect. Phil said that the dish was 'beautifully executed' and commended her cooking of the lobster. He thought that the cloche tied in well with the smoked butter flavours and gave a bit of theatre to the dish. He did, however, add that the stir-fried vegetables lacked some aromatics, and the sauce was a bit thin - he would have liked it to have coated the lobster.

Lorna McNee Scotland Great British Menu 2018

>>> See recipes from Lorna McNee here 

Ben Reade was taking a huge risk with his dish, ‘The Multicultural Lobster’. A nod to the culturally diverse backgrounds of NHS staff, he was cooking several complicated elements for his dish. The lobster tails were cooked with kalamansi lime, a Filipino ingredient, then the claws were stuffed inside spring green leaves - a take on polish golabki.  His biggest challenge was to make all of the ingredients work together in harmony.

The other chefs were worried that the lobster was undercooked. Phil was impressed with how Ben brought all of his ingredients to come together, but he thought that the rice wasn't very elegant and called it 'a low point on the plate'. He also didn't think that the clams added anything to Ben's dish and agreed that the lobster was undercooked.

Benedict Reade, Scotland Great British Menu

After a disappointing start to the week, Ross Bryans was hoping to close the points gap with his dish dedicated to his cousin, who works in the NHS. A charity runner, she often opts for a big plate of lobster pasta before a race so Ross’ dish ‘Lobster Aid’ was a tribute to that. He was poaching lobster and serving the tail and the claw with a carrot puree made with anise. He was also making a sauce with dulse seaweed, pickled pink peppercorns and dill.

To finish the dish, Ross was making a squid ink and tapioca cracker, but he was concerned that the mix wouldn’t dehydrate fully in time for service. Phil called it 'absolutely delicious' and said that he had nailed the cooking of the lobster. He thought that the crackers added 'a beneficial crunch' but he wasn't sure if the dish had enough theatre for the Banquet.

Ross Bryans Scotland Great British Menu

>>> See recipes from Ross Bryans here

When it came to the scores, Phil awarded Ben a 6, Lorna another 8 and Ross a very high 9. Lorna is now in the lead with 16, Ross is second with 15 and Ben is behind on 14. That means that it is still everything to play for as the chefs head into the main course.

The main course

Last night saw a double helping of Great British Menu as the chefs from Scotland tackled the main and dessert courses. All eyes were on Lorna McNee, who previously won the Game Chef of the Year competition, but her competitors Ross Bryans and Benedict Reade were ready to put up a fight. There was only one point between each of the chefs, so there was a lot to play for.

Ben was once again hoping to impress with his experimental food style. His duck dish, ‘Disruption of Ward Two 1951’ was based on a menu served at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh back in the fifties.

The star of his dish was Saxony duck – a popular post-war meat. He cooked the duck in stages – first smoking it with juniper, then glazing with apple before roasting it in duck fat. The accompaniments on the original menu were very typical of the time – applesauce, duchess potatoes and cauliflower. He was hoping to modernise it with Duke of York potatoes, cauliflower puree, roast Hokkaido squash, a smoked blueberry jus and wild mushrooms. When serving, Ben added a glass cloche with smoke for added theatre.

Ben main

Following his high score in the fish course, Ross was hoping for another with his dish - a tribute to a great Scot Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin in 1928. He was also opting to use roe deer in a venison wellington with mushroom duxelle and chicken mousse inside. Judge Phil Howard pointed out that doing a Wellington is always risky because you can’t tell how well the meat is cooked inside the pastry. He was also making a roasted yeast sauce to finish the dish, tying in with the theme.
To be served alongside the Wellington, Ross also made some sweet potato wedges and braised red cabbage.

Ross main

>>> See recipes from Ross Bryans here

Lorna’s dish was a refined take on classic comfort food using modern techniques. She was cooking venison three ways, including a venison mince shepherd’s pie, a roasted venison fillet and venison ‘bon bons’. To accompany the meat elements of her dish, Lorna was making a celeriac puree and a truffle and port sauce, as well as wilted cabbage and roast parsnips. She originally planned to include pickled pears to bring some acidity to the dish, but once she’d made them, she didn’t like the flavour so decided to remove them from the dish altogether.

Lorna main

>>> See recipes from Lorna McNee here 

First to plate up was Ross. He was happy with the way that the venison was cooked and felt that the yeast sauce added something to the dish.

Ben was second to the pass. Phil commented on the fact that there was a lack of colour on the plate, but Ben said, ‘It’s fifties food’. The other chefs said that the duck was a bit overdone and Ben agreed.

When it came time for Lorna to plate up, she had a lot of complex meat cookery to do last minute and so she asked Ross and Ben to lend a helping hand, chopping heather for her presentation bowl. A self-confessed perfectionist, Lorna wasn’t 100% happy with the final dish and said that her venison was cooked ‘too hard and heavy’.

When it came to the feedback, Phil said that Ben’s dish was well-researched and thought that the duck was cooked well. He said it was flavoursome but added that the smoke of the cloche masked the glaze on the duck and called it ‘too simple’ for the Banquet.

Phil said that Ross’ Wellington was ‘beautifully tender’ but the venison could have been cooked less and left to rest for longer. He liked the savoury element of the yeast sauce. Phil wasn’t so keen however on the chicken mousse layer in the Wellington and said it was too thick.

Phil was impressed with Lorna’s connection to the brief and said that the dish was ‘a real showstopper’. He complimented how she had managed to elevate the humble shepherd’s pie, but he said that the bon bons should have had a condiment with it. He said that the pickled pear – had it been present – would have helped to lift those earthy flavours.

When it came to the scores – Phil awarded Ross an 8, Lorna a 9 and Ben another 6, which meant that Lorna maintained her lead with 25 points, Ross is on second with 23 and Ben is behind with 20.

The dessert course

Going into the dessert round, the chefs were fighting for a place in the judges’ chamber. Phil Howard said that it was ‘a make or break situation’ and wanted desserts to impress and show pastry skills and precision.

Ben was hoping to catch up with Lorna and Ross with his dish, inspired by the teamwork of honey bees as an analogy for the teamwork of the NHS. The basis for the dish was a tarte tatin with damsons and quince, but Ben was also adding freeze-dried honey to make caramel crisps, spraying them with bee propolis. He also wanted to make a honey and beeswax ice cream to go with the dessert, but he had some trouble using the churner. After trying a different machine with not much luck, Ben put his ice cream in the blast chiller and hoped that it would set.

Lorna’s dessert was inspired by her own personal NHS hero, haematologist Dr Culligan, who has been treating Lorna for some time since she was diagnosed with a rare blood abnormality. To say thanks, she was making a layered chocolate dessert with a chocolate génoise sponge, then a tonka bean and vanilla custard, then a chocolate and yuzu mousse, and finally a piece of tempered chocolate on top with a drizzle of white chocolate. There was a lot to do and she had to make sure that each layer set perfectly.

Because of the heat of the kitchen, Lorna struggled to temper her chocolate for the top layer. Starting again and going into another room, she managed to get the chocolate to set in time.

Ross was using classic flavours for his dessert but hoping to elevate them. He was making bite-size chocolate brownies with caramelised bananas and salted caramel. He was also making a traditional Scottish tablet – a hard confectionery made from sugar, condensed milk and butter, similar to toffee. To finish the dish, he was serving a heather honey custard. Phil was worried that the dish might be too sickly, and the other chefs commented that brownies might be too simple.

Ross was first to the pass and called his dish 'Helps the Medicine go down' -  ‘a fancy looking brownie in a fancy looking box’. He was pleased with the gooey chunks and said that he didn’t think it was too sweet. The other chefs thought it was a bit too much all on one plate. Phil said that the tablet was the right texture with a sandy and gritty feel but commented that there were a lot of small elements, suggesting that maybe the brownie should be bigger to make it the focal point of the plate. He also thought that it was a bit too sweet.

Ross dessert

>>> See recipes from Ross Bryans here

Next to plate was Lorna, serving her layered dessert in a chocolate box. Pouring sauce over the top of the desert, the top layer started to melt away to reveal the other layers. This impressed Ross and Ben, who called it ‘stunning’.

Phil praised Lorna’s dessert and said that all four layers had come together really well. He loved the theatrics of the hot berry sauce and called it a ‘fitting thank you’ for the NHS staff.

Lorna dessert

>>> See recipes from Lorna McNee here 

Last to plate up was Ben, who had made his own pastry and the tarte tatin had puffed up a bit! He too needed a hand from the other chefs, who helped remove his tuiles from the sheet for him. The dessert was accompanied by a Scotch, ginger and lemon cocktail. Phil had never tried beeswax ice cream before and said that it was delicious.

Ben dessert

Phil liked how Ben had interpreted the brief and said that the freeze-dried honey crisps were a nice touch. However, he thought that the damson coulis was too tart and jarring and said that the tarte tatin was ‘too rustic’.

When it came to scoring, Phil gave Lorna a perfect 10 which put her straight through to the regional final tomorrow. He gave Ross a score of 6 and Ben a score of 7, which unfortunately wasn’t enough to close the gap and so Ben was sent home.

The Scotland regional final

On regional finals day of the Great British Menu, the remaining two Scottish chefs, Lorna McNee and Ross Bryans battled for a place in the National finals. Returning judges Andi Oliver, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton were joined by Dr Sara Kayat, a GP and media personality. The chefs had the opportunity to alter their dishes before they presented them to the judges, following Phil Howard’s feedback.

Great British Menu 2018 - Scotland regional final - judges

Ross was up first - his starter had been criticised for not having an exciting enough garnish. Taking heed of what Phil had said, he altered the dish by adding more skirlie. Lorna sent up her luxurious dish ‘Celebrating the Best with the Best’. She had struggled to make sure both of the layers involving gelatine set in time, so this time made the logical decision to add more gelatine. When it came to the judges verdicts on the dishes, they liked Ross’ starter but said that it was not exciting enough. Lorna’s dish struggled because the layers seemed to blend together, leading Andi to call it a ‘weird fish trifle’.

Up next was the fish course. Ross had almost scored a perfect 10 earlier in the week but was let down by the fact he had added too many peppercorns. Lorna also was criticised for a flavour component of her dish during the week, with Phil finding the julienne vegetables a bit plain. Ross received glowing praise for his ‘perfect dish’ from all of the judges and once again Lorna struggled as the Oliver Peyton said her dish was ‘clumsy’.

Onto the mains and both the chefs had scored very well in the week so had high expectations of themselves. Lorna was up first and upon slicing into her venison was distraught to find it, in her opinion, to be overcooked. Ross must have felt a lot of apprehension before cutting into his wellington following that! Lorna need not have worried though, the judges thought the venison was perfectly cooked and they liked the homemade brown sauce she made to accompany the bon bons. In contrast, the judges just didn’t feel excited by Ross’ dish.

Last up were the desserts. Lorna had scored a perfect 10 earlier in the week with her dessert ‘Thank You’. Ross had not received quite the same level of praise as Phil criticised his dish for being too sweet. The judges agreed with Phil and found it overly sweet and unsuitable for the banquet. Lorna once again struggled with the layers involved in her dish with the judges found it muddled.

Great British Menu 2018 - Scotland regional final - chefs Ross Bryans and Lorna McNee

After all the courses had been served it was time for the judges to put them out of their misery. Lorna was victorious and as a result will be in the National finals. This meant the unfortunately Ross was eliminated, despite his fish course being dubbed the dish of the day.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 31st August 2018

Great British Menu 2018 blog by Cameron Huck – Scotland heat