>> Friday, 23 July 2010
Nom! Everyone's food on one table
2.5 hours to make a 3-course meal for 4 with a budget of £40. Oh, and you have to use seasonal produce and one course can’t be cooked or baked. And did they mention there are judges – proper foodies who actually knew what they were talking about? Scaaary. Add a team who hadn't met, much less cooked together, and you could have a recipe for disaster.
Since Ben and I each joined separately without a partner, it made sense for us to work together. We communicated entirely through email, planning our menu and deciding on our all-important team name (we called ourselves Summer Stew).
We didn’t meet until 2 days before the competition for a practice run to iron out the details in our dishes. Pretty crazy, considering we were up against people who had joined the competition before, or actually knew each other in real life. But hey-ho, all this was all for fun, and hey, it’s for charity. It’s not about winning. Well, just as long as we don’t come in last.
A word about le menoo
Here’s what we planned for our menu:
- Squid salad with salsa
- Summer roast lamb
- Strawberry cheesecake
Summer’s all about light food, and we didn’t want to throw in lots of stodgy food that would make you feel full. Ben had the brilliant idea of doing a Sunday roast, but since it was summer, we decided to re-do it in a light version.
The big day
Ros and Claudine laying down the law
We were up early at 9.30am on Sunday at Cookery School, venue for the grand competition, for breakfast and briefing. After going through the rulez, we were given a map, a couple of shopping bags and pointed in the direction of Marylebone High Street, where there was a farmers market, Waitrose, posh butcher (The Ginger Pig) and for the budget conscious, Tesco.
We only had an hour to shop, so we were super-organised and made up a list of ingredients to buy everything we needed. Lists. Mmmm.
First stop: The Ginger Pig for lamb. The place is lovely, but it is expensive! We got about 1 kg of lamb loin, and it cost about £21. Ouch! During our practice run, our meat (ok, at about 0.5kg) only cost about £6. Marylebone really is posh.
All that meat for £20? That had better taste good.
Next: the farmers market. Honestly, the fruit and veg didn’t look fantastic, and price-wise, they certainly weren’t cheaper than the supermarket. The only things we got from the market were tomatoes and fennel. Oh, and crab and shrimp. We were on the hunt for squid, but couldn’t find anything suitable, so we decided to change our menu at the last minute and use crab and shrimp instead.
Yummy looking seafood.
The rest of our ingredients were bought from Waitrose and Tesco. With our list fulfilled and bulging bags, we headed back for the big cook-off.
Ready, steady, cook!
Ingredients nicely laid out
You know what, from the time we started cooking, I didn’t feel stressed or nervous at all. Maybe our practice run really helped. Ben and I split the duties, with him doing the starter, me the dessert, and both of us working on the mains together.
Anyhoo, no more talking, on to the pictures!
Starter prep - dice dice dice
Starting the marinade for the lamb (Photo from Tiki Chris)
Ben prepping the lamb ready for skewering
Marinade – work your magic!
Starting on the shortbread for the dessert - creaming butter and sugar.
Shortbread ready to go in the oven
Grating lemon into the mascarpone for the cheese bit of the cheesecake
Lamb ready for the oven (Photo from TikiChris)
Plating up the first course (Photo from Tiki Chris)
Dishing out the roast veggies for the main course (Photo from Tiki Chris)
Crab & shrimp salad – the power of food rings making food look pretty
Summer roast lamb, served with mint sauce and roasted baby potatoes, peaches, carrots and watercress (Photo from Tiki Chris)
Deconstructed strawberry cheesecake: lemony mascarpone, shortbread and macerated strawberries. (Photo from Tiki Chris)
Time to eat! (Photo from Tiki Chris)
After all the hard work, all the food we made was put on a giant table, and we sat down and had a feast while the judges had the hard task of tasting and scoring 30 dishes.
So how did we do? We didn’t win any prizes, but we were so chuffed to get a special shout-out from the judges as the team who came in third. That’s a prize in itself. Besides, all of us got to carry home 2 goodie bags chock full of wonderful things like bread flour, sugar, granola, herbs and vitamin water.
But wait, there’s more! All this wasn’t done just for fun. Here’s the serious part of it all – NomNomNom is in aid of Action Against Hunger, a charity that does wonderful work in helping undernourished children all over the world. I know what you’re thinking - how does cooking up a feast help starving children in Africa? You can donate to the raffle, of course. Just put in a minimum £10 donation, and you could get a chance to win some really fantastic prizes.
In case you want to try any of these at home, here are the recipes. All portions serve 4.
Fresh crab, flaked
Fresh baby shrimp
1 small red onion
1 bulb fennel
1 punnet cherry tomatoes (ideally some red and some yellow)
bunch of chives
bunch of parsley (flat leaf)
bunch of coriander
1 red chilli
- Finely chop the red onion and place in a bowl with the juice from 2 limes. Leave this to sit for about 30 mins and the lime juce will ‘cook’ the onion slightly.
- Finely chop the fennel and add to the onion.
- Finely chop the red chilli and add to the bowl to taste.
- Stir in the crab meat and shrimp.
- Halve the cherry tomatoes and add.
- Roughly chop all the herbs and add just before serving along with the zest and a squeeze of juice from the final lime.
Meat & marinade
0.75 kg lamb loin (get your butcher to trim the fat and slice it thinly for you)
Rosemary, preferably on long, strong stalks
1 bulb garlic
Red and yellow cherry tomatoes (optional)
Put all the meat in a big bowl, throw in some good big lugs of olive oil, smush the garlic and throw that in, sprinkle as much rosemary as you want, and let sit for as long as possible.
To make the skewers:
- Preheat oven to 180 deg C.
- Tear off the leaves from the rosemary stalks and set aside. You’ll use the stalks as the skewers. If not, just use regular bbq skewers.
- Place a couple of rosemary leaves in the middle of the lamb piece, and roll up tightly.
- Pierce through the middle with the skewer.
- Alternate the lamb with tomato on each skewer. We found portion-wise, 2 pieces of lamb on each skewer was about right. But if you’re hungry, go ahead and add more.
- Roast for about 10 min, until flesh is nicely pink.
12 new potatoes
4 firm peaches
- Preheat oven to 200 deg C.
- Chop the carrots and peaches into fat chunks.
- Parboil the potatoes (no need to skin) in salted water for a few minutes before placing them in a tray with the carrots.
- Season with olive oil, salt and black pepper.
- Roast for about 40 min before adding the peaches in, and at the same time, giving everything a nice big toss.
- Roast for a further 15 min and take them out to rest.
- When about to serve, tear the watercress up, making sure to remove the bitter stalks and toss in the roast veg to let is cook slightly.
(Adapted from Delicious)
Large bunch of mint
1 small red chilli, chopped
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- Pick and chop up the mint until it’s really fine.
- Stir in the caster sugar
- Pour in some boiling water, then add the red wine vinegar and chilli.
- Leave to cool and infuse.
- Just before serving, chop up more mint and add that in.
- Halve the strawberries.
- Mix everything to taste and leave to sit in a bowl for at least an hour. The longer the better.
(Recipe from James Martin)
2 lemons, finely grated zest and juice
1 tbsp icing sugar
- Stir the lemon zest, juice and sugar into the cheese. This will require quite a bit of tasting until you’re happy with the
- Refrigerate until time to serve.
(Adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum)
142g unsalted butter
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
- Preheat oven to 160 deg C.
- Cut the butter into cubes.
- Whisk the sugars together.
- Cream the butter with the sugars in a large bowl until light and fluffy.
- Mix in the flour until incorporated. I like to finish off using my hands.
- Pat the dough into a prepared pan (8x8x2 inches).
- Prick with a fork and bake for 30-40 min or until golden brown.
- Leave it out to cool for a bit, and then with a sharp knife, cut into slices.
Well, that was a lot of fun. Thanks to Tiki Chris for the fab photos and for his help in tying up my apron strings. I’d also really like to thank everyone at Cookery School for lending us their fantastic venue, time and super sous chef support. We definitely couldn’t have done it without an assistant getting us knives, chopping boards and other random utensils. Oh, also for washing up. We are forever grateful to anyone who does the washing up.
Vote for us, pretty please!