Great British Menu 2014, North East Heat Final

Great British Menu 2014, North East Heat Final

by Monica Shaw 16 May 2014

Week six of Great British Menu 2014 finished with the North East finals, an episode where both chefs drew from extraordinary personal experiences in order to fulfil the brief. On Thursday we said goodbye to Frances Atkins, leaving three-time GBM veteran Colin McGurran and newcomer Paul Welburn to compete for a chance to serve veterans at a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.

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Monica Shaw's mission is to enable people to feel awesome, through food, life, work and play.

Monica Shaw's mission is to enable people to feel awesome, through food, life, work and play.

This week, our judges, Prue Leith, Matthew Fort and Oliver Peyton, were joined by fourth guest judge, Molly Rose, who flew spitfires for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War.

The finals began with Paul’s celebratory breakfast starter dedicated to his soldier grandfather. The dish, called “Duck & Soldiers”, consisted of duck spam, duck liver parfait, duck egg and sourdough soldiers. Upon first impressions, Prue said it “smells really good.” Matthew appreciated the textures, commenting on the various elements of the dish. But does it work as a banquet dish? “It does - it’s absolutely delicious,” said Molly. “Lovely flavours but it’s very rich which is a bit of a mistake for a first course,” argued Prue. Molly, however, insisted “it’s a lovely homage."

Colin’s “Modern Ration Pack” starter of corned beef hash in mustard pannacotta, teabag of soup bouillon, smoked bacon croquette, parmesan cigarette and controversial cherry chocolate explosion received mixed reviews. “That is just what you need in a starter,” said Oliver of the chocolate. However, two of the four judges’ chocolate exploded all over their plates. “I’m not enthusiastic about it,” said Molly.

Onto the fish course, Paul went first again with his “Preservation of British Waters”, a dish which showcased typical preserving methods during the war: cured salmon, pickled clams, white crab meat and yogurt, brown crab butter, sea herbs and watercress and oyster puree, served on miniature sandbags. “The salmon is absolutely delicious,” said Matthew. But grand enough for the banquet? “Not totally sure about the special banquet,” said Molly. “This is a dish of quiet and civilised pleasures but what we need is a dish of explosive pleasures,” said Matthew.

Colin’s barbecue-your-own “From War to Peace” fish course delivered in spades. The dish, featuring delicate shellfish mousse hidden in squid ink pasta with raw langoustines, ready for the BBQ, showcased how the Normandy beaches are now a place of peace. “I think this would be great fun for the banquet,” said Oliver. “My langoustine is perfectly cooked,” said Matthew. Prue loved the squid ink pasta. The judges weren’t sure what the connection was to D-Day, but they didn’t mind. “I’m not sure but I like it,” said Oliver. “I think this is absolutely delicious and the presentation is extremely clever - I can’t fault it in any way,” said Molly.

Colin McGurran's 'From war to peace'
Colin's 'From war to peace'
Paul Welburn's 'Blackout beef'
Paul's 'Blackout beef'

Onto the main, it was Colin’s turn to go first with his "Grandad’s Posh Pie”, his weakest course during the heats. The dish - beef fillet with baby vegetables, a smear of polenta served alongside his ox cheek pie - wasn’t a massive hit with the judges either. “A lovely looking thing,” said Matthew, “but I don’t think it’s been seasoned enough.” “The fillet’s a bit bland… I think it’s half an idea,” said Oliver, “polenta just doesn’t seem appropriate to me.” “It really as though we have two meals here,” said Molly.

Paul’s main course, “Blackout Beef”, inspired by the blitz and which scored 10 during the heats, did well again with its carrot puree, caramelised ribeye, deep-fried bone marrow, an injection of smoke. “The rib is absolutely fantastic,” said Oliver. “I love the flavour of heart - you never get heart,” said Prue. “The carrot puree is spot on,” said Oliver (though Molly argued that carrots didn’t need pureeing because they were delicious as is).

Onto the dessert course and the last chance to impress, Colin wowed the judges with his “Homage to the Dickin Medal”, an honour awarded to outstanding animals who served during the war: piped parsnip ice cream, edible chocolate medal and raspberries. “I think it’s brilliantly clever,” said Molly. “I’m a bit worried - poppies make me feel sad,” said Prue, to which Molly replied: “I don’t think I’d feel sad for long.”

Paul’s dessert, “Normandy Victory”, was a deconstructed Normandy pear tart comprised of a bed of crumble, pear puree, compressed pears, camomile syrup, toasted almond ice cream and almond tuile. “Yummy,” said Matthew. “This eats very well,” said Oliver. “This is a gentle, mild, appealing end of the meal,” said Matthew. “You can’t fail if you put these ingredients together,” said Prue, arguing that the dish wasn’t terribly inventive. Molly thought it was “disappointing”, the sort of dish you’d serve to children.

Decision time and both of the North East chefs had their strengths and weaknesses throughout the finals. In the end, it was the pudding that stole the show, with Colin being crowned victor for the third time in his GBM career. “Your chocolate pudding won the day, it was oozing with pleasure,” said Oliver. Molly agreed: “it was sheer magic. Congratulations Colin! We look forward to seeing you in the National Final!