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Great British Menu 2018: Wales recap

Great British Menu 2018: Wales recap

by Howard Middleton 15 September 2018

See what happened when the best and brightest culinary talent of beautiful Wales stepped into the Great British Menu kitchen, as Howard Middleton takes a look at the goings-on.

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Battling over the bain-maries this week are two Welsh wonders – Andrew Sheridan from Carmarthenshire’s Sosban Restaurant and Chris Harrod from The Whitebrook in Monmouthshire. We’ve already seen a number of culinary tributes to the NHS’s Welsh founder, Aneurin Bevan, but the judging chamber presents the ultimate tribute in the form of a delightful guest judge. A mental health nurse for twenty-seven years, Aneira (or Nye) Thomas was the first baby born under the NHS and she takes her unusual name from its founder.

Andrew’s starter ‘Mum’s Flu-Fighting Soup’ is inspired by childhood memories of his mother’s comfort food, though he says she’s not one of the best cooks in the world.Tension mounts in the Sheridan household. Earlier in the week Andrew struggled to plate his confit egg yolks intact, so he’s now replaced them with an egg yolk gel, which he pipes into bowls, along with mushroom ketchup and soy sauce gel.Chicken breast rolled in herbs and mushroom powder, a chicken lollipop, enoki mushrooms and garlic flowers join the bowl, accompanied with the chicken oyster he forgot on Monday, a generous grating of truffle and a jug of creamy chicken soup on the side.Andi says it’s ‘delicious –really chickeny’ and Nye, experiencing her first taste of truffle, lilts that it’s ‘beautiful’.

Chris has tweaked his starter, ‘A Sensory Garden’, taking off pickled shallots and adding yarrow tips and snail flowers to his dish of mugwort-smoked beetroot.Dots of caramelised onion puree are covered with a ‘soil’ of black pudding crumb on which he arranges red, candy and golden baby beetroot, foraged herbs and flowers, pickled pine buds, yarrow tips and wild chervil.Seed packets of toasted coriander, pumpkin and parsnip seeds are there for the scattering.Andi decides she’s ‘not really enjoying this – it feels a bit bland’ and Oliver thinks the flavours are strong but ‘not working in harmony’. Nye disagrees, saying ‘this is doing it for me’.

Entitled ‘Gran Was Right About Cod Liver Oil’, Andrew pays homage to its health benefits with his fish course.Dots of smoked cod’s roe emulsion are topped with pickled radishes, shiso leaf, pureed avocado and mango, dressed with an elderflower vinaigrette and garnished with violets, nasturtiums and sorrel leaf.Andrew cooks his cod in a beurre noisette butter instead of the miso he used on Tuesday.Crunchy sushi rice crackers complete the dish and he places his bowls on glass stands that are crammed with the familiar golden glow of cod liver oil capsules.A daily dose never looked so pretty.Matthew likes the ‘unexpected flavour’ of the cod roe mayonnaise but Oliver complains the cod is ‘not cooked to perfection’. Nye thinks it’s ‘a bit messy’.

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Missing out on a trip to the judges’ chamber this week was Jason Hughes from Chateau Rhianfa in Anglesey. His fish course had scored highest of the three with guest chef, Paul Ainsworth, making his Great British Menu debut as a ‘veteran’. Jason’s seafood tribute to NHS support staff, called ‘A Lot Behind the Scenes’ had a winning combination of sweet potato puree in scallop shells, crispy chicken skin and crunchy seed and honey granola to complement pan-fried scallops in spicy Café de Paris butter. Sadly Jason mistimed (and misjudged) his other courses, delivering them late to the pass. By the time he reached his dessert, his luck really was running out and his chances failed to take off (as did his uninflated edible green apple helium balloon).

Chris presents a crate of crisp, scallop-stuffed apples for his fish course. With the somewhat inflated title of ‘It’s Not an Aspirin, It’s an Apple a Day that Keeps the Doctor Away’, he packs the apples with cubes of scallop marinated in meadowsweet vinegar, cauliflower puree, crab apple and rosehip jelly and caviar, decorates with yarrow leaf and serves with edible cracker-dough and rice-paper prescriptions.

Unfortunately the dish’s curative properties fail to revive the judges – ‘This scallop died in vain’ Oliver bemoans, and Andi adds ‘in its little apple tomb’. Matthew dismisses it as ‘smush’.

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Hoping to be restored by Chris’s main course, the judges tuck into a veritable pork-fest called ‘Everything but the Squeal’. Pork shoulder, belly, saddle, cutlets and fried pork croquettes pile onto a smear of caramelised celeriac puree. Pork faggots made from the leg, liver and kidney provide a tasty sharing dish, along with a salt-baked celeriac, blackened to resemble coal in another nod to Nye Bevan’s heritage. It scored a perfect ten with Paul Ainsworth and the judges seem to agree. Matthew calls it ‘a dish of gentle pleasures’ and guest judge Nye says ‘I’m enjoying this too much to talk’. She reflects on her introduction to truffles and charred celeriac and blissfully claims that she’s ‘ruined for life’.

For his main course, Andrew presents ‘Aneurin Bevan for Better Steak’. I’m sure this is a witty pun; perhaps adapted from a speech by the great man, possibly a campaign to improve hospital food, or maybe it’s just Bevan’s butchers’ order. Anyway I don’t get it, and sadly the judges don’t either. Oliver doesn’t think the sous-vide rib eye is well cooked and he dismisses the hay-cooked ox cheek as ‘terrible’. Nye says it’s ‘very tough’ and Matthew suggests ‘you need National Health dentures’.

Chris struggled to set his woodruff mousse on Thursday but it looks like he’s all set today. It sits firmly on layers of nettle and honey sponge and blackberry jelly and is topped with bramble compote and fresh viola flowers. Serving his ‘Tea and Cake’ dessert with pots of refreshing gingery green tea, he places tiny blocks of quince jelly on the saucers to look like golden sugar cubes. The judges agree the sponge needs a little work but Matthew thinks the woodruff custard is ‘delicious’ and Andi calls it ‘fantastic’. Nye’s culinary education continues and she admits ‘a Jaffa Cake will never taste the same to me after this’.

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Andrew’s great grandmother, Nurse Onions, is the inspiration for his dessert. Andrew serves a chilled apple rice pudding with apple mousse, topped with apple butter puree and cubes of fermented apple. He grates frozen apple and blackberry over apple blossom and serves it with hay ice cream and ingenious shards of caramelised milk to imitate the skin of a rice pudding. What a pity Andrew’s great granny wasn’t called Nurse Apples… or Granny Smith.

Anyway, Oliver praises the pud’s originality and Andi calls it ‘a thing of beauty’. Nye concludes ‘this is special’.

So it looks like Andrew has saved the best to last and is going through… but no – foraging Chris has just unearthed enough points to beat him.

Behind the scenes, charming Nye is pleading with the producers to come back again. Matthew looks worried she’d be more popular than him. Frankly, there’s no competition.

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