Saturday, 14 November 2009

Masterchef Live - The Invention Test

Date: Friday 13Th November 2009

Time: 10.15am

Place: Kensington Olympia London

Me: Scared

Everyone loves Masterchef with Gregg and John, especially me, so when I heard the Good Food show in London was running the scary invention test, I had to enter. Thirty people cooking from a mystery bag of ingredients in 30 minutes! The top three then have their dish tasted by no less than Gregg and John and also Sir Terry Wogan.

We all waited back stage and to say we were nervous was an understatement. Why do it, some ask, others just stare blankly. We walk out and take our places. In front of me is a carrier bag. It contains half a chicken, pasta, rice, bacon, mint, parsley, risotto rice, carrots, onions, garlic,potatoes, biscuits, cheese, wine and stock cubes. You also had butter, cream,oils and store cupboard ingredients. I had thought on the way what the bag might contain and dismissed chicken as surly it was too risky for panel tasters?

So how to come up with something in just 30 minutes that was different enough to make the top three. The cooking began and the nerves disappeared. Andi Peters, previous Masterchef Celebrity was walking round chatting to people whilst an audience of what seemed like hundreds watched on tv screens no doubt thinking to themselves, they could do better,like we all do when watching at home. I had decided to firstly pan fry my chicken and then poach this in some stock. I was also making a potato and bacon pancake, caramelised carrots and shallots with broccoli and a parsley sauce. Ambitious I know, but hey this is Masterchef and cooking doesn't get tougher than this. So now panicking, four pans going, thinking not only do I need to cook my potatoes quickly so I can make them into pancakes, I just need the bloody water to boil first. You don't have a kettle or oven , just a hob with cold water. yes no oven!

I could hear Andi chatting to some of the contestants, some are doing risotto, others pasta and I also hear someone announce there are doing a cheesecake. Brave.

The time is up before you know it and my dish is complete and I am pleased with it. It tastes great. The announcement is made which three dishes will go before the scary two and would you believe it, mine is called up out of 30! My chicken was cooked perfectly and the comments are good. The other dishes have a Moroccan twist and look good. Sir Terry announces the dish next to mine has something extra and it wins. I am pleased to get that far and what an experience.

I will never sit at home again and pass comment on those brave contestants again. Would I do it again. Yes every year.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

My Visit to The F word

November 2009

Had a call out of the blue asking if I would like to be one of the blind tasters on Gordon Ramsey's the F Word. The answer was a resounding yes. So off I trot on a fairly bleak Wednesday Morning to a studio come disused factory in North London. I am met by the nice people at Optotem Television and made very welcome. Boy is this place busy, production staff, food deliveries and celebrities galore. On the day of my visit, they are filming both the F word and market Kitchen, another favourite show of mine. The F Word is a fun full packed food show and has a slot where Gordon cooks the same dish against a celebrity and a panel of 5 then blind taste the dish to see which is the best. Simple I hear you say, not on this occasion.

Myself and my fellow tasters have our mics installed in various interesting places and then take our seats at the tasters table of the restaurant. If you have seen the show, the restaurant is very modern looking and large. In the cold light of day, it's tiny and filled with cameras and production staff. We then find out that Peter Andre is the celebrity this week cooking against Gordon and all we are told that they will both be making a steak dish!

The dishes are bought up and whilst three cameras pan in inches from our faces, we then taste. taste again and try and give constructive comments, feedback on presentation, flavours etc. Not easy to think of something to say for whats seems like five minutes and for such simple dishes.I must say that both dishes were truly great, but Alas one stood out and won me over.

At the end of the results both Gordon and Peter then came over to see what we felt about their dishes what feed back we had for them. It's an unsual situation when you are asked by a Michelin starred chef what I thought of his dish!

Monday, 2 November 2009

Unearthed food

Whilst attempting to clear the many thousand of leaves that had accumulated on my lawn this weekend, I "Unearthed" some really great food. No, not mushrooms or truffles, but olives, Feta cheese and salami! Seriously, I was sent some fantastic produces to try which I also saw was available to buy in my local waitrose.

I took these with me to a family gathering this weekend and they were tested by no less than 24 of us with ages varying from 15 to 75. I am pleased to say. they were well received and we were all impressed with both the quality and taste. The stuffed Olives with hot chilli peppers we decided were more of a "boys" dish as the girls found these just too hot, but strangely, the men really preferred them over the other olives provided. We loved the name and packaging which clearly had been given plenty of thought. You can either serve the olives in the nice containers they arrive in or tip them out in to your own bowls. The Feta cheese was some of the best we had ever tasted and the salami just perfect. So overall we were impressed and I am sure a trip to waitrose for some more will be certain for our next family gathering.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Matthew Walkers Christmas Pudding

The kind people at Matthew Walker's sent me some of their puddings with a challenge to create a great recipe. Well after much deliberation, I thought maybe a fantastic baked Alaska using the pudding! It was great fun to make and looked brilliant on the dining table. The family scoffed it in seconds and I am now going to make it for Christmas day. I hope you like my recipe, which has a slight twist.

Baking Xmas Pudding Alaska,

1 100g Matthew Walker Christmas Pudding or simply use a 100grams from their larger 454g pudding.

1 good scoop of some vanilla ice cream

1 teaspoon of Baileys

Orange zest for half an orange

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon of Lemon juice

9Oz's of caster sugar

First, place the orange zest and baileys in a bowl with the scoop of ice cream and mix well. Now return this to the freezer for 15 Min's. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until stiff. Now add the sugar in 3 to 4 stages, again whisking as you go. Finally fold in the lemon juice.

Place your Christmas pudding on a baking tray. Take the ice cream and spoon on top. Now using a piping bag, pipe the egg whites around the pudding and ice cream to completely encase it. Put in a oven at 180c for around 4-5 Min's until it has just started to brown.

Remove from oven and serve immediately. You can pour a small amount of brandy over it and set it alight for that extra touch.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Simply Home cooking

My blog starts with a mission. Quite simply to bring back those forgotten kitchen skills our parents and grandparents had, such as bread making, filleting fish, butchery etc. We all inspire to create fine dining, but quite often forget the basics. I was amazed quite recently to hear that a radio station had available a hotline so any one cooking Christmas dinner could call and find out how to cook it!

Home made bread is one of the nicest things ever and so easy to make, but for some reason we do not feel it should be made at home?