Food News

Great British Menu: Central week recap

Central week of this year’s Great British Menu had promised to be a great event, with two returning chefs, Jason Hodnett and Richard Bainbridge, and newcomer Pip Lacey (who was following on in the tradition of Angela Hartnett, a Great British Menu veteran) all ready to offer some inspiring dishes.

This week’s guest judge was Richard Corrigan, and it was clear that the pressure was on to impress the most successful chef in Great British Menu history.

Pip started strongly with a good starter, Richard again (this being his fourth time on the show!) failed to start well, and Jason struggled to get to grips with combining some interesting and unusual flavours with this year’s brief. It seemed that Pip would end up running away with this week’s show initially, but Richard quickly hit back with a solid fish course, amazing main course and stunning dessert that saw him end the week as the undisputed champion.

Pip and Jason then had to battle it out for second. Jason was not able to convince judge Richard that he could deliver a menu that hit the brief to a level that would represent the traditions of the WI and offer some flavour sensations.

In the end, Pip triumphed (in part due to her main course getting a 10).

Richard

We All Stand For Jerusalem

With Jerusalem artichoke being cooked three ways, this dish had previously been seen as too rich by veteran judge Richard Corrigan. Despite this, the entrance music of the WI anthem Jerusalem was a great idea for how to present the dish and the judges were fans of the Jerusalem artichoke microwaved sponge! A good start for Richard.

For Home and Country

Honouring the WI tradition of waste not, want not, this dish included smoked trout, plum and pickled cucumber. Using discarded plum stones to add flavour to the smoked fish and plating the dish in fishing tins, this was designed to create a big wow factor in its presentation. Sadly for Richard, the fish itself was overcooked, so the dish was never going to be a winner.

Betty in the Hen House

Inspired by the WI’s belief of raising your own poultry, Richard used poussin to showcase his poultry cooking skills. For me, the hen house design was a bit so-so but the judges loved it and started with a smile on their faces. The stuffing and relish were highlights and, after a 10 from Richard, it seemed that this dish hadn’t quite hit the same heights in the finals, but it was certainly impressive.

Inspiring Women

Scoring another 10 in the week, this dish was clearly going to be a success given the amount of effort that went into the props, the sentiment behind the dish and the high level of cooking on offer. With the playful element coming from the fact that the judges had to mix their own cocktails, the whole dish was seen as a huge triumph. The trifle (the star of the dish) was deemed to be perfect and the dish received the ultimate compliment from the judges for this year: the dish was perfect for the WI.

Pip

Wine Deer?

A risky dish that featured venison carpaccio, venison liver sausages, and a range of pickled veg. This dish had scored highly in the heat but it was clearly far trickier to replicate on a larger scale. Parsnip wine seemed a risky idea as well but the presentation was lovely and impressed the judges. Sadly for Pip, the judges didn’t find the dish packed with enough flavour and left Pip trailing Richard in the early stages.

Grandma

Pip tried to use smoked haddock and deep fried potato hot pot. The dish had been inspired by her Grandma and clearly she had a lot of faith in it. Using her Grandma’s traditional plates, Pip had issues with her potato hot pot but did manage to rescue them at the last minute. While the story and idea was great, the sad truth was that the dish looked like a throwback to the past in an outdated way. It was not banquet-worthy in appearance, but the dish did at least deliver well on flavour.

Can Cook

Scoring a 10 in the week, this dish was one Pip hoped would steady the ship after an unspectacular start. With the dish itself needing the diners to heat it up themselves, the dish was designed to play on the fun factor. Would the judges be forgiving of waiting 3 minutes to cook their own food? I would have loved to have tried this dish, but the judges didn’t seem to think that this was a resounding success. With the dishes actually cooking (success!) the judges did decide that they had been won over by the high level of cooking here and Pip looked to have scored a high mark.

Chiboust

A dessert that we wish to banish from the Great British Menu regional finals memory… Pip is one of our favourite chefs this year but it just didn’t work for her here. The judges didn’t like the scones, the tea was slated by the judges and the whole thing wasn’t a moment to celebrate but instead to cringe over. The ice cream at least went down well! In all fairness, the dish did look lovely and the judges did at least get some fun out of arguing about the pronunciation of scone.

Conclusion

With the judges in a good mood, would Richard make it fourth time lucky? Clearly he would! Sadly for Pip, her excellent debut had been ended by her dessert course and the fact that as she had faltered, Richard had excelled in producing a banquet-worthy dessert. All in all, the judges felt that they had been well fed and that the standard from the Central heat had been excellent.

Dishes for the banquet?

While the judges loved Richard’s starter, main and dessert, I feel that his dessert might well be nailed on for a place at this year’s banquet. Offering fun, playing on the WI theme, and also packing a flavour punch, this was a pudding that will take some beating not to go the whole way.

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