Monday 7 June 2010

Food, Food, Glorious Food ... What could possibly go wrong ...?

Twenty four of our finest up and coming chefs, from eight regions of the UK have battled it out to cook at a celebratory feast for one hundred people at the Assembly Rooms in Bath, sourcing their ingredients from local producers near to other National Trust estates.

The chosen four were selected for their expertise, standard of cooking, their selection and use of locally sourced produce that truly reflected a magnificent feast fit for our future King. The heats began, winners were selected from each region, then pitted against each other in a cook off – with the judges holding sway over the ultimate choice of menu & thus chef selection. Nothing could be left to chance .. or could it .. it is 2010 ...
Kenny Atkinson(North West), Tom Kerridge(London and South East), Lisa Allen (North East) and Niall McKenna(Northern Ireland).
The Banqueting Hall, Assembly Rooms, Bath

National Trust properties ... castles, estates, halls and houses .. were selected as the ‘home base’ for respective chefs to find new producers and source local ingredients from the grounds, or the vicinity. A daunting task – finding new first class suppliers .. but to the chefs’ surprise there are lots of wonderful farmers, vegetable, herb and fruit suppliers, game keepers, fishermen - all determined to keep our food heritage alive.

The Prince of Wales was going to preside as President of the National Trust, but more importantly as the nation’s long-time advocate of local and seasonal food, over the banquet. A hundred of the nation’s men and women who toil to put the finest local British produce on the map were to be the guests of honour, intermingled with veteran chefs and dignitaries.
HRH The Prince of Wales has spent 30 years transforming the grounds of Highgrove into what have been acknowledged as some of the most inspired and innovative gardens in the UK. His Royal Highness’s strict adherence to organic and sustainable methods has helped create gardens which are both magical and intriguing while being environmentally sound; encouraging both plants and wildlife to thrive.

Would we have asparagus crowns, crayfish scotch eggs, wild brown trout with wood scented wild sorrel, crowns of lamb roast, wild trout, roast beef, rose scented cheesecake with crystallised rose petals .. or to to cheer the cockles of your heart .. haslet (pig’s ear & other ogans – an old fashioned recipe not wasting anything!) and – and – and wonders of wonders lamb’s testicles .. these scored first place, but the chef did not get through – phew?! Apparently they tasted wonderful.

The Prince of Wales was briefed on who the chefs would be with their chosen dishes, remarking on the huge renaissance in British local produce and the desire not to lose any of our native breeds, or precious resources to be found in the hedgerows, in ancient orchards and woodlands, which the BBC with this programme is encouraging us all to use local ingredients and support our suppliers.

The Prince was very interested in the resulting menu commenting on the fact that the rabbit was wild, mackerel and gooseberries were a traditional ancient mix and he remembers as a child going fishing for them, Aylesbury duck an interesting choice, and finally that honey was being used in the dessert – remembering that Barbara Cartland used to say ‘a spoonful of honey a day keeps you warm and loveable’!

The Assembly Rooms in Bath with its imposing Banqueting Hall were chosen to host the event. Built in 1771 they were at the heart of fashionable Georgian Society and described as ‘the most noble and elegant of any in the kingdom’, which still applies to today, as the perfect venue fit for a Royal Banquet.

Cooking in a new kitchen, as the chefs had encountered in the heats, with different equipment, no control over temperatures of the fridges, freezers and ovens – mix ups occurring – meant on occasions frozen foods rather than chilled, burnt pans, or ovens too low ... the joys of being a chef!

Tom had only ever cooked one or two banquets .. so suddenly cooking for one hundred was a little daunting ... the size of the kitchens and spoon bemused him ... had arrived first on preparation day as his dish was the most complicated. His ducks arrived at the same time .. so he was happy.

Later in the day the other chefs arrived ... where were the rabbits, the mackerels and the strawberries? The rabbit loins arrived .. and to Lisa’s delight they were the right size. Kenny was onto the fish supplier – the North Sea was still extremely cold, so the mackerel were still in southern waters keeping warm ... however the fish supplier had decided he had to drive down to Cornwall to source the mackerel .. but they were still elusive. The clock was ticking.

As for Niall, from Northern Ireland, the strawberries had hardly started pollinating .. so he had to ring round and find strawberries in the Bath area ... and then leave the kitchen to make sure the flavour matched up. I really felt for Kenny and Niall .. not an easy thing to have to deal with – as their reputations were on the line & the feast had to be fit for a future King.
Richard Waller's Aylesbury Duck Farm

Kenny only got his mackerel the day of the banquet .. and they were smaller, which meant he needed to rethink his cooking method. So those northerly winds bringing us that volcanic ash, which I’ve been complaining about as it’s been bitterly cold, meant that Mother Nature was ruling the waves and the strawberries!

For the first time one of our winners was a woman – so that is excellent news, and Lisa (north west England) was first up with her “wild rabbit and leek turnover, with piccalilli”; – wild rabbits caught by the gamekeeper from one of the National Trust’s estates, the salad and herb suppliers seeing their produce from the north served up;

Kenny (north east region) had found an old recipe for “line caught mackerel with gooseberries” – something I remember from my childhood; that enterprising fisherman who saved Kenny’s bacon (mackerel really!), the gooseberry supplier who said she didn’t like gooseberries but relished Kenny’s old fashioned recipe, which also had gooseberry jelly;

then we had Tom (London and south east) serving “Aylesbury Duckling in two ways” .. slow cooked sliced breasts, potted leg, with thrice-cooked duck-fat chips, served with a jug of gravy, topped off with peas, little gems, and pea shoots; the Aylesbury Ducks are reared in an apple orchard, surrounded by bluebells and hawthorn, in amongst an ancient beech wood: a family owned business since 1775

followed by Niall from Northern Ireland presenting “Poached rhubarb with strawberry jelly, yellow man and lavender ice cream” – yellow man is a traditional sponge toffee (above) (‘honeycomb’ or ‘sea foam’ in the US .. funny name?), ... which that delicious rich delicate lavender ice cream, having been coated with the crushed yellow man, was then placed inside cylindrical caramel tuiles.

The whole event represented the pillars of British cooking – but neither the Prince, suppliers nor producers knew of or could have imagined the challenges the chefs had in the kitchens .. all appeared to go smoothly and everyone waxed lyrical over their dishes .. as I would – my mouth waters with eager anticipation .. but only a cup of coffee is about due!
Montisfont Priory(1201) has beautiful kitchen gardens

The suppliers had all really stretched themselves to provide the produce ... against the odds in 2010 ... the chefs had worked wonders with local ingredients, and after competing against each other had worked together as a team to honour the guests with this scintillating dinner.

Celebrations were complete with a few glasses of English sparkling wine and the satisfaction of knowing that our British way of life is striving to retain its food culture through sustainability and deliverability, by our budding chefs being so creative with the seasonal and local produce available.

The recipes from all the series can be found here ... enjoy! Pictures are elusive!

Dear Mr Postman .. I enjoyed seeing our traditional recipes brought to life with new twists and my mother, who was an excellent cook, would have loved to talk about this too – but we cannot as her hearing is still not back. We were practically self-sufficient from the garden when I was growing up .. so this series brought back lots of memories.

We did watch the two Paris Open tennis finals .. which gave her something different to focus on & on Sunday she knew what was happening – her brain is ‘complete’ .. just challenging she can’t hear & she won’t repeat what she’s said .. in fact wanted to write! – but it’s one word at a time ... but I can’t read that either .. and she won’t say the word ... an “impossibly frustrating” situation ... I just laugh it away... best thing to do ...

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


T. Powell Coltrin said...

I don't really like to cook and yet I love to watch cooking shows. The contestants must have been in foodie heaven to stay in a castle and do the very thing they love...cook.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. these are all highly talented chefs in their own right - so this win against other Michelin starred chefs (some of them) .. was a huge boost to their morale - let alone the publicity their restaurants would be getting from being on the show, and especially the winners.

It was great to watch .. and they love to cook even under pressure!

Enjoy your watching .. some of us love to cook, others hate it! Me .. I'm the first! Have a good week .. Hilary

Paul C said...

I would have enjoyed sampling those dishes. Interesting how they tried to use native foods. The picture of the gooseberries brings back memories of the pies my mother would bake. Such a distinctive flavour.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Paul .. yes - that was the brief .. so the chefs had to source their ingredients from the local produce .. the native products. We had gooseberry bushes at home and made gooseberry fool .. loved it .. & pies .. and crumbles .. love them! So glad they brought back some memories ..

Happy times - Hilary

Chase March said...

I so need to learn how to cook. I'm amazed at the chefs that can create food like it was a work of art. But then again, I'm really no visual artist either.

Wilma Ham said...

Oh my, I would never ever want to be a cook of that caliber, the challenges they faced!
I love what Prince Charles does with his sustainable gardening. We have gooseberries in the garden, they are pretty but the taste is something you have to acquire. What weird and wonderful dishes they made, nothing like me kale and potato dish we are eating tonight.
It must be hard not being able to communicate with your mother, frustrating and yes, seeing the humor in things is a good strategy. As always much love to you both, xox Wilma

Davina said...

the title of this post says it all; "Food, food, glorious food." I love to cook but haven't taken the time lately to really settle into cooking a special meal. Most meals are thrown together quickly. Shame on me!

Those dishes you named that placed first sound wonderful... especially the rose scented cheesecake with crystallised rose petals. Oh, yes. :-)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Chase .. it’s good therapy .. but I suspect you’d be dancing around the kitchen at a rate of knots .. you’ve so much energy .. and your artistic talents are there .. a creative process ahead? Give it a go – go on a course .. & meet new people? idea?

Thanks for coming over .. it’s an interesting programme – seeing the National Trust properties, their gardens, and the produce in the locality. Have a good week .. Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Wilma .. it was an ‘exciting’ time that’s for sure! The large estates are great now in realising their heritage – both in the books they hold, the walled gardens, their estates with the wild herbs and plants etc .. – so we saw some of these and some actual new products that we might not have known about ..

Prince Charles is certainly making the most of his estates .. through his brand “Duchy Originals”, which other organisations have followed. I love gooseberries .. but I too love what we used to call “bubble and squeak” (cabbage and potato .. fried up with corned beef – was one of our favourites.. in the 50s and 60s!!) .. and this week I’ll be joining you .. but with some bacon. Simple but delicious.

It is – poor Mum .. and I do find it very tricky .. I hope her hearing comes back .. but it’s been a while – the weather’s not really helping, with its ups and downs .. now it’s raining! Thanks for your thoughts and interest – always appreciated .. and hugs and love back to you both – xo Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Davina .. – great – glad the title caught your attention .. me too ... I love cooking and entertaining for friends – recently I certainly haven’t had much time to do any – but when I get the chance I take that opportunity. Like you – I do things the simple way for myself .. still good fresh veggie.

The rose scented cheesecake was one of the ones I particularly liked the sound of .. but in fact they selected the strawberry and elderflower jelly, with the lavender ice-cream rolled in the honeycomb and surrounded by the tuile .. – the Duchess of Cornwall said the ice-cream was delicious! Good food made with fine ingredients .. is delicious & to be savoured .. the meal goes too quickly!

Have a good week .. with some cooking perhaps? Hilary

Liara Covert said...

Nothing quite like the wide appeal of food and how its prepared. I understand there is a current mainstream program in Australia in its second season called Master Chef. Its a reality show where men and women are put under pressure to create and cook up creative dishes in record time. Their emotions are highlighted as well as foibles, trials and tribulations in the tv kitchen. Of course, celebrity chefs taste dishes and render their verdicts. Audiences often find it entertaining. Cookbooks, magazines and kitchenware are commercially promoted as part of the whole thing. All of this reminds us that we can choose to be complicated or simple in the kitchen. Love how you integrate the British culinary story into all the lovely images and dry wit that is your style.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. yes .. we had/ve Master Chef over here - where they are allowing non-chefs to see if they have talent to cope with the rigours of high profile cooking.

Again - you're right the whole media frenzy that arises from these contestants is enormous and no doubt brings in the pennies for various companies and organisations .. as well as giving one or two their start in the food business - certainly a few have made it happen after they've reached the final or won.

This particular series is for chefs who are already celebrated locally, in charge of their own restaurants, but perhaps not known to the general public and this gives us the opportunity to meet them, see the regions and the foods on offer in different parts, and in this episode bring in some of our hereditary breeds that are being saved, as well as showcasing historic properties, and traditional foods and recipes.

Many thanks for your last comment .. I'd have loved to have been able put the pictures of the winning dishes in .. one day! At least the recipes are there .. if anyone wants to look.

Good to see you & hope all's well down south .. Hilary

Mandy Allen said...

Hi Hilary, I was a chef for a while, it is very challenging, but very rewarding, and I delight in preparing great dishes for any guests. I was interested in the honey comment - another great honey comment is that if you take a spoonful of LOCAL honey every day it helps immensely in preventing hayfever. It has to be local though, not shop bought. I guess it's something to do with the bees and the pollen locally. I only discovered that recently when I was suffering from hayfever and a friend said it had helped him enormously, having suffered greatly since a child. I must remember to inlcude that in my new household tips book...

Tennis season - love it.

Enjoy the journey.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Mandy .. gosh that too .. I am sure cheffing is very worthwhile and rewarding .. that I can believe – I quite often cooked for my mother’s care home .. 28 + staff & sometimes meals on wheels .. and I coped .. but it was pretty full on .. especially all the funnies – soft foods etc .. not as interesting as you – we gave them the good old recipes – but they always enjoyed them.

I do love cooking and preparing different foods .. – you’re right about the local honey for hayfever .. I’ve read that too .. and my mother keeps telling me I should take a spoonful everyday for my back – as someone else had done that & her back had improved .. perhaps I’ll give it a go now – something’s out .. but I’ll get it sorted soon.

Tennis .. as you say – good times – as long as it’s not overrun by football .. then I’ll scream & you might hear me up there .. & by the way – I book a meal with you sometime!?

Good to see you and hear some more of your past and thoughts .. enjoy the next few weeks .. they’re down here next week?! But sadly I won’t be able to go this year .. still another year .. have fun - Hilary

Theresa said...

My mom was a great cook and me not so much. I don't enjoy it at all. I do love to eat:) Please pass the lavender ice cream!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Theresa .. great to see you .. well at least you had good food growing up .. perhaps not so much now?! I agree the lavender icecream does sound rather delicious doesn't it - in fact the whole lot does .. the duck especially .. and the dare I say it chips!!

Thank you for dropping in .. Hilary

J.D. Meier said...

I'm actually curious how they figured out how much to make to cook for 100. I think whenever you multiply something, it dramatically changes how you have to think about it.

It sounds like there was a lot of stuff I never had: gooseberries, haslet, crayfish scotch eggs,etc.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi JD .. they're pretty accomplished chef's in their own rights .. and one has a Michelin star to his name .. so I guess over the years they work it out .. there were some few close calls at times in the heats and on the day of the banquet itself!

Fortunately not everything I mentioned wasn't served up .. just each dish per chef set out at the end .. so the haslet & crayfish scotch eggs didn't make it to feast day .. sounds good to me though!

Most of the chefs had tested and tested their recipes .. and when they hadn't it was a disaster & that chef was one of the 24 left behind!

Good to see you here - have a great week Hilary

Sara said...

Hilary -- This sounds like it was a very interesting and wonderful feast. It also sounds like it was challenging for all the chefs.

I really glad you shared this story. I will pass on this to my daughter as she greatly enjoys anything dealing with cooking.

My mouth was watering for the "Aylesbury Duckling in two ways”...that sounded yummy:~)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sara .. I should have known with your chef connections - but didn't know your daughter has those too - she's here isn't she .. so she probably saw it?!

I know - just occasionally I go meat 'desperate' .. and that Ayelsbury Duckling everytime I saw it - four times I think - was mouth wateringly tantalising behind a tv screen!

Good to see you - & hope all is well .. thanks for calling in .. Hilary

Jannie Funster said...

Inagine such work over mackerel, strawberries, gooseberries, thrice prepared duck bits and wild rabbits.

And why wasn't I inveted to the banquet hall? Or at least allowed to trip through the Prince Of Wale's gardens?? Don't they know I am game for most any new food?? Pity. I have such good table manners -- they'd welcome me in with open arms and salad tongs.

I used to watch Top Chefs here -- wonderful program. All the challenges they were put under. Such pressure. Makes for great telly.

and off I goes to bet BB some din-din. He fancies wood sorrel with aroma of kiwi crisps tonight!!


Blue Bunny said...

I not so happee wit them eeting rabits!

But is still loves YOO my frend, hilree


vered | blogger for hire said...

"We were practically self-sufficient from the garden when I was growing up" - this is wonderful. I grew up in a city... very dependent on the supermarket!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Jannie .. yes picking out every tiny little bone from the mackerel! .. checking each fillet over for bones, let alone the other work involved .. topping and tailing gooseberries .. going out and ‘finding’ the strawberries .. etc and Tom’s duck – was amazing

Me too – we could have been happily accompanied by BB – he wouldn’t have been happy with the first course .. but he’d have enjoyed the rest I’m sure, & he would have looked very proud joining his smart ladies!

Top Chefs sounds interesting .. and we learn the odd tip and trick .. and we get loads of ideas .. lovely to see the visual results!

What did BB get for dinner .. did you find wood sorrel .. and did you make your own kiwi crisps?! - Bye .. have a fun day today .. xoxo Hils

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi BB .. – I know I did think of you .. but the other courses were pretty delicious looking. Just so pleased to hear you still loves me .. and we’re still eggcelnt frends ... with a big hug to U ..xx Hilreeee

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Vered .. I know .. we were very lucky as kids .. with absolutely fresh food straight from the garden, hens and pigs too .. I’m not that enthusiastic about supermarkets now – but they make life easy .. not necessarily for our good though .. I still buy fresh and don’t eat much meat.

Thanks for being here – lovely seeing you .. Hilary

Karen Lange said...

What a wonderful event - feast for all the senses! Now I am hungry. Congrats to you on the award from Stephen's blog! Thanks also for stopping by my blog, commenting, and becoming a follower. Nice to meet you:)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Karen .. yes me too! I was chuffed. The contest was interesting to follow and see the processes and as you so rightly say a feast for the senses!

Delighted to meet you too & thanks for recipricoating re the following .. and hopefully see more of you .. Hilary

Blue Bunny said...

deer hilree again.

hi i bak -- as maybee yoo is notising?

oh yes, i always be frends wit yoo.

and i joking sometimes. hee hee, i be puling yor legg mutch ovir the yeers of bloging.

and hey -- my jannie lieks shampains.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hey BB .. u'r baks .. oh dat's gud to know u vil be frends wiv me .. forevers .. I knows zee joketh ..

If Jannie haz a glas of dat shampains .. pls keeps me a glas or two or three .. end we vils hav it wiv some Parma ham .. too delicioza .. end a gud sleeps after ..

Bye fur now .. xoxo Hils .... luvs to Funsterland ..

Southpaw said...

What a menu! I would love to visit the gardens as well.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Southpaw .. good to see you here and thanks for the follow .. just glad you enjoyed the post - yes delicious isn't it .. and I agree the gardens are wonderfully interesting & soothing, let alone the buildings too .. so much to see and enjoy ..

Thanks for the visit - Hilary

Patricia said...

wow, I was sure that I had written on this post, because I just drooled when I read it and all the wonderful comments, then again I was also interrupted a few times when thinking about my visit to Bath and all the good food I ate on my trip...
Fascinating. Thank you for this grand post
Love watching tennis - I can always relax at a match particularly when my youngest is playing

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Patricia .. thanks for making time before you dashed off for your weekend .. have a lovely time at the Graduation .. and watching some local tennis when your youngest is playing.

Great to see you .. and glad it brought back memories of your trip last year .. and all the good food you had.

It was a fun series .. love seeing the results .. and drooling over the thought of having such a dinner sometime?! Enjoy yourself .. good to see you .. Hilary

Sharon K. Mayhew said...

Thanks for popping by my blog...I was born in England and moved to the States when I was 8. I am currently writing a picture book and a mid grade novel about the children in England that were evacuated to the countryside during WWII.

Back to your post. Wow, what a lot of information! I love cooking shows. I'm working on a manuscript for a picture book about baking a cake. :)

Liara Covert said...

Hilary, always great to raise awareness of local chefs and their scrumptious creations. For those people who do not have a tv and/or choose not to watch, it is always possible to live vicariously through local chefs in their restaurants or put on your own chef's hat and have a play in the kitchen. To move beyond competition is to savor food for what it is and appreciate every creation. Love the comments here.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Sharon .. good to see you & congratulations on your award. An English lady too .. your picture book sounds lovely and it’s important those countryside evacuees are remembered – not necessarily to safe areas either ..

Great – just glad you enjoyed the information. There was a carrot dessert – with 7 variations of carrots .. one of which was carrot cake .. it’ll be on that list I think .. can’t say I fancied that myself – especially at a summer banquet?!

Thanks so much for visiting .. and have a lovely weekend .. sounds like cake days! Have fun - Hilary

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liara .. thanks for your second comment! As you so rightly say we can all go out into the countryside and forage, and celebrate trying recipes we had locally or via the plethora of cookery books .. I have rather a lot!

I love produce .. and seeing what can be created. Savouring the good tastes is so important – fresh ingredients, and the melding of different foods .. giving us luscious flavours. Many thanks – yes everyone’s been great with their comments and I have such fun replying .. Lovely seeing you .. Hilary

Will Burke said...

What an interesting look at traditional English cuisine! Didn't miss a detail, did ya! Thanks for stopping by my Blog, always appreciated!
Cheers, from Will in The Colonies :)

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Will - good to see you .. that's a pleasure to drop by your blog .. I'll see you there more often ..

I did miss out a few details .. just a few merry episodes but I obviously kept enough in to tickle a laugh! Glad you enjoyed it ..

& bye to you from the Mother Country?! - have a lovely weekend .. Hilary

Barb Hartsook said...

Ahh -- I used to love to cook. Inventively. Not so much any more. Love good food though, and the veggies and fruits straight from the garden still have all the flavor they're supposed to have. (Loses something in the transport to the grocery store, I think. You know it's been treated with something other than nutrients when the expiration date is a couple weeks out.)

Your poor mom must be as frustrated as you are with her lack of hearing. Maybe more so, since she cannot walk away from herself. Bless you both.

Love the photos and the link to the gardens. Beautiful!!!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Barb .. yes .. I guess you did .. me too .. cooking differently all the time. It’s sad that fresh fruit and vegetables have to sit in the store .. where’s the freshness? Oh well – let’s support the farm shops, grow our own and forage as appropriate!

I’m afraid she is .. it is very difficult and sad .. but we cope – and she still smiles and we can spend time together .. I actually don’t know how she’s coped all these years .. but she has amazingly with out griping or moaning .. she does amaze me & I’m extremely grateful. Thanks for your blessings – really appreciated ..

Glad you like the photos and garden links .. fun – here’s to some good food over the weekend .. enjoy it .. Hilary