Nice Glass!

>> Friday, 2 September 2011

On 17th July, rather brutally early for a Sunday morning, Team: Nice Glass! trudged over to Little Portland Street, buzzing with espresso, to take part in the Nom Nom Noms 2011. We were greeted with smiling faces and enormous breakfasts from the excellent Rosalind's Kitchen, which we greedily scoffed during the briefing on the rules of the day (namely, don't double dip!). Before the cook off commenced, it was on your marks, get set, go! to Marylebone market and the surrounding posh nosh shops. 
Marylebone market 
When at last we arrived, Victoria hobbled over to The Ginger Pig (literally. A wedding + several pints of fizzy pop and a Ceilidh = a sprained knee.) where she picked up a delicious piece of fillet steak. In the meantime, Miriam whizzed around the market at lightning speed on her two working legs, grabbing goodies galore. Once we'd exhausted the market's wares, we made our way over to the ever reliable Waitrose, which, for one day only, seemed to have been transformed into a supermarket-sweep-come-trolley-dodgems for food bloggers. The Nom Nom Nommers stampeded in as soon as the shop doors opened, pausing only to phone up lost team mates left stranded in the maze of aisles. Our total respect and admiration went out to the Domestic Sluttery team when we spied Sian Meades with an armful of G&T cans. Good work, girls!

The journey back was a far more civilised affair as we shared a cab back to cookery school with Team Tete-a-Tea just in time for the countdown! Lovely Mecca let us stay in the top kitchen (no stairs. Thank you!) and Miriam got out her spreadsheets. Yes, that's right. Spreadsheets. It turns out that Miriam Nice is an admin wizard and something of an Excel expert. But all her carefully considered A4 pages were left oil and vinegar stained, peaking sadly and redundantly out from underneath our chopping boards. 
Victoria feigning organisation skills (the smirk gives her away!)
Having to ask for every piece of equipment we needed as we needed it took a bit of getting used to, but the Cookery School staff made the exchange of dirty chopping boards for clean as effortless as possible.  They produced sieves, whisks and knives with impressive efficiency and their kindness continued when they leapt into action to resolve one of our biggest crises of the day: our tray of meringue pies didn't fit in the preheated and allocated oven! With a little shelf swapping and dial twiddling they had us back on track in a jiffy.
What a mess!
When designing our dishes, we both agreed that it was absolutely vital that everything should work together as a complete menu, while at the same time ensuring that each dish could stand up on its own. The brief was for one soup, two salads, a main and a sweet treat and, in between gossiping over red wine, Team: Nice Glass! created a menu we were both excited by. With a strong Japanese influence running throughout, we still retained flavour combinations of recognisably classic British fare. 

Our wild mushroom broth with garlic and ginger was a big hit with the judges, who enjoyed its depth and umami richness. We cranked up the flavour punches for our salads with a wasabi and yoghurt dressed Jersey Royal and pea shoot salad alongside a beautifully colourful rainbow slaw - essentially a composium of crunchy British, seasonal vegetables, julienned and tossed in a tangy sesame, soy, ginger, mirin and chilli dressing. Our main was seared steak sashimi served on a bed of watercress and lime and black pepper dressed courgette ribbons. Our thinking here was a British Sunday roast come cold Japanese Summer's lunch - beef, spuds and horseradish with a face lift. In the panic of clearing the decks, all the extra spring onion Victoria had chopped to garnish the soup and sashimi got chucked away, but despite the last minute hitches, it was all pretty tasty in the end.

Our sweet treat wrapped up our theme with a blackcurrant and matcha meringue pie. We were very keen to use the much maligned blackcurrant in our menu and felt sure their sharpness and velvety tang would make a delicious change from the usual lemons. Lemons weren't totally neglected though, as we flavoured the shortcrust with lemon zest before rolling out the pastry as thinly as possible. A blob of matcha meringue was added on top of the blackcurrant curd and a swirl of white meringue was piped over the top - hiding the green tea treat in the middle. Once out of the oven, a quick sprinkle of matcha powder over the top was all they needed before being plonked on a plate.
Our plated up grub.
We thought we'd have bags of time, but, unfortunately, we had 15 minutes' less than we'd expected, as the staff needed us to dish up and pack up in time for the judges' entrance. In the panic of losing those valuable last few minutes, a few garnishes were left unchopped and unscattered.

Once the dishes were plated up for the judges, we scurried (and hobbled) down the stairs where the fun really began: namely, eating and drinking everything we could reach. Thanks to Top 100 IGP Wines our glasses were never empty and thanks to the delicious combined efforts of all the teams, we had a banquet fit for a king. A tipsy quiz and raffle followed and, just when we'd relaxed enough to forget we had been competing against each other, the judges made their entrance. They gave honest and thorough feedback before the winners of the cook off were announced. Huge congratulations to the delightful Tete-a-Tea who whipped up some lovely meatballs with lentils and a cheeky raspberry and Amaretto chocolate tart.

We were disappointed not to win the judges hearts completely but it will only make us more determined for next year's NomNomNoms. Pub-bound with full bellies and wine breath, we left Cookery School with several tonnes of goodies in hand. As well as walking away with an incredible knife from  Wüsthof, we were thoroughly spoilt by , Total Greek Yoghurt, SchwartzRude Health to name but a few.
Miriam, editor of Cakes and Canapes, sporting an excellent moustache badge by Emma Bosanko from Thread or Dead.
Adrenaline from the competition was quickly replaced by strawberry Margaritas and a long day turned into a long night, as all the teams got to know each other properly over cocktails. We swapped stories of our successes and failures at the competition, while admiring the fabulous new app from Great British Chefs. We left promising to meet up for another session soon. We haven't so far, but Team: Nice Glass! is raring to go. Clearly food bloggers make excellent drinking companions as the conversation flowed well into the night. Nom Nom Nom 2011 was brilliant fun and the staff at the Cookery School worked tirelessly on our behalf. And let's not forget what an excellent cause this amazing event supports: Action Against Hunger. Please check out their fantastic work and get yourselves a raffle ticket or two before you come back and cast a vote for Nice Glass! 


Victoria and Miriam xx 

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