Week three of Great British Menu 2014 finished with the South West of England finals. On Thursday we said goodbye to Dominic Chapman, leaving new contestant Josh Eggleton and returning contender Emily Watkins to compete for a chance to serve veterans at a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
This week, our usual cast of judges - Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton - were joined by war veteran Ken Sturdy who was at the D-Day landings and offered his special perspective on the dishes.
At the start, Josh seemed favoured as he performed better than Emily during the heats, but Emily was determined to win: both of her grandfathers were in the Navy in WWII so the event held special importance to her. But she had a lot of work to do as both her and Josh had strikingly similar menus and she’d have to work extra hard to make hers stand out.
Beging with the starter, both offered their takes on tinned luncheon meat. Josh was up first with his "Rations on the Home Front”, deep fried pigs head fritters and chilled pea soup topped with pork crackling and crispy pancetta, served with little jars of pickled vegetables in a wartime ration box with enamel serving plates. The presentation certainly hit the mark for Ken who said, “I’m looking forward to this.” But the food itself, while enjoyed by all, wasn’t exactly a masterpiece to some. “This is the most delicious fritter, said Prue. “I love the contrast of flavours,” said Oliver. But Ken was non-plussed by the soup: “Pea soup should at least be warm - this is quite cold, otherwise all the other items are delicious,” said Ken. Mathew argued there was nothing special about the food itself: “It’s pub food."
This gave Emily a chance to shine with her "Luncheon Meat in Jelly”, which was called “underwhelming” during the heats and scored only a 5. But this time she made some changes, serving pork belly topped with pork jelly and ground pork crackling plus whole pieces of crackling, dollops of mustard, potato bread, homemade butter, and finally toffee crab apples. All of the judges agreed that the toffee apples were “beautiful”, and tasty too: “Yummy - how can you not love a toffee apple?, ” said Mathew. The accolades continued with the rest of the dish: “This potato bread is as good a potato bread as I’ve ever had,” said Oliver. And Ken agreed, comparing the outcome favourably to Josh’s.
Moving on to the fish course, Josh’s "Operation Overlord”, an homage to the allied invasion in Europe, fared better than his starter. The dish comprised grilled brill, breaded mussels, cauliflower puree and seaweed butter sauce. Criticised earlier for not “telling a story”, he made changes to make the plate look more like a beach, and the changes seemed to work: “I doff my hat to this one,” said Ken. Prue enjoyed the fish: “Really nice fat piece of brill - this is lovely.” But Oliver wasn’t overwhelmingly impressed: “I think it’s good - but I don’t see it as gastronomic."