'I don't really want to eat this'
And the winner is
HAVING INHALED AND digested my library at home of some 70 cook books, I found myself standing in the magnificent kitchens at Cooks Academy and the nerves were setting in. Nick Munier outlined what was required: “Cook a single dish worthy of being eaten in a restaurant. You may now open the box in front of you.”
Whoever chose the ingredients in front of me did so in a supermarket with the lights off, at random, with an utterly evil streak. A celeriac looked up at me: “watcha gonna do?”. Some plums and figs cowered in the corner alongside some filo pastry. Hiding under the curl kale was a pigeon. A bag of port (to steady the nerves I wonder?), some goat’s milk, leaf gelatin and ricotta cheese completed the ensemble.
Very quickly I decided on my dish: pan-fried pigeon breasts with a port reduction served with celeriac purée and steamed curly kale.
Filleting knife in hand, two hours on the clock, I set about preparing the pigeon. Setting the breasts aside with the legs, seasoned with salt and pepper, I needed a stock. The remaining carcass was chopped up, fried in a little oil and covered in water. A chopped onion and carrot followed into the pot: a classic stock preparation. Skimming and keeping a left eye on it, I moved on to the celeriac. The jury is still out on the brother of celery. In hindsight, I would have added a lot more butter and some roasted garlic to my effort as it was judged to be lacking seasoning: then again I reckon I could make polystyrene taste pretty good with lashings of butter. The curly kale was just steamed, not much else I could have done. By searing the pigeon in some oil and butter, flipping it over a few times and then leaving it to rest on a board, I could finish the port reduction.
With the clocks stopped, knives put down and the food plated, it was judging time. It’s very humbling when a Michelin-stared chef and a restaurateur pass very positive comments about something you have just cooked. I love cooking, eating and spending time with those who enjoy the same pursuit and I doff my chef hat to my fellow MasterChefs for the day. It was a great experience, one that I thoroughly enjoyed.