Week five of Great British Menu was not only the battle of the South West chefs, it was also the battle of the newcomers, and an extremely close battle at that. Having said goodbye to Chris Eden on Thursday, it was left to Peter Sanchez-Iglesias and Emily Watkins to duke it out under the not-so-easily amused eyes of Matthew Fort, Prue Leith, Oliver Peyton and guest judge Simon Day. But amused they’d need to be for whichever chef would be chosen for the finals. This is all about Comic Relief, after all, and both Emily and Peter had some serious new kid jitters to overcome in order to successful plate up the laughs - and the good food - to the judges.
Emily was first to the pass with her “eggs and ham” starter featuring a fried egg with green yolk. Simon approved of the Dr. Suess reference, but unfortunately the judges didn’t approve of the gastronomy. “This is a fair old disaster,” said Prue. Simon agreed, “it takes a lot more than a green egg to make me laugh.” Only Oliver seemed to find some merit in it: “it’s fun.”
Peter’s “picnic” was slightly more successful, featuring potato & truffle salad, scotch eggs, quiche lorraine mousse and coronation chicken terrines served in a picnic basket with fake turf and outdoorsy sound effects. The judges seemed to enjoy the initial presentation of the turf and picnic basket, but upon opening the basket, Mathew said, ”I feel an overwhelming sense of disappointment” and argued that all of the components were “bog standard”. But not all judges agreed. “It’s performance on a plate,” said Prue, “It’s gastronomy…it’s got everything.”
Onto the fish course, Emily’s “high tea” with cured brown trout, potato toast and deconstructed hollandaise was underwhelming to the judges. They liked the dish, but it wasn’t special. “It’s nice, good, plain cooking,” said Matthew. “Do you mean airplane food?” asked Oliver.
Peter’s “fish & chips” was slightly more successful, and may have been more so if he had served it with the correct puree. Unfortunately, the pea puree he thought he’d put on the plate was actually the broccoli puree for his main course (those pesky shades of green), and the flavour didn’t fit, leaving the judges perplexed. Still, the fish itself was “beautifully cooked” according to Oliver and Simon liked the vinegar spray.
Peter’s main course was a “roast dinner” inspired by memories from his childhood, served with all the fixings including lamb, potato, heritage carrots and the infamous broccoli puree. The comic effect was in the presentation, with plenty of nods to the 1950’s, from chinaware to music. But at the end of the day, was it anything more than a roast lunch? ”If this came in front of us and there wasn’t the decor, we’d say this is Sunday lunch - so what?” said Prue. Simon agreed, “it’s more for a Jubilee than Comic Relief.”