Donal Skehan: London flavours calling

Presenting a live TV show set Donal’s nerves jangling, but it did give inspiration for some tasty dishes

A couple of weeks ago I arrived in London, a bag of nervous energy. I was set to take the helm of the BBC's food programme, Saturday Kitchen, as guest presenter. Practically an institution after 10 years in the hands of James Martin, the show has had some of the most influential names in food as guests. All of which was contributing to my waking up in a hot sweat in the nights leading up to my debut.

I have spent my fair share of time in London, making best use of my quiff to blend in with the local hipsters sipping coffee at Leila's Shop in Shoreditch while filming for Junior MasterChef. Or trudging with suitcases and Sainsbury's shopping bags to an apartment overlooking Elephant & Castle, while shooting food photography for my cookbooks. All great experiences in locations connected by the tube system, allowing me to explore the buzzing food scene.

For this trip we were in Clapham, home to The Dairy, my favourite London restaurant. Run by Irish chef Robin Gill, it serves small, perfectly-formed seasonal dishes. So for my "last supper" and a glass of wine before Saturday Kitchen, Sofie and I bagged ourselves a table.

What unfolded was a feast of clever and intriguing-tasting plates including Cornish crab with shaved Jerusalem artichokes, applewood smoked eel with kohlrabi, rhubarb and oats, saddleback pork with Grezzina courgette, olives and chickpeas and a dessert of poached rhubarb (inspiration for one of today’s recipes) with cultured custard and chamomile kombucha sorbet.

The show went off without a hitch. I was helped along the way by Theo Randall who cooked an authentic seafood spaghetti and Sabrina Gidda, who made pillowy soft ricotta gnudi with seasonal greens.

Here, I share the recipe for Sabrina’s gnudi and for a simply delicious rhubarb dessert which, although slightly tricky, is a highly impressive dinner party dish.

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