Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Food Glorious Food - ITV food judge

Back in 2012 my friend Liz and I were invited to be part of ITV's new food programme 'Food Glorious Food' as WI food judges. We attended the recording of the semi-final at the beautiful Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire on a lazy Sunday with (rare) glorious British weather. 

The Show

The programme is the brain-child of Simon Cowell and is a cookery competition for the great British public - looking for a dish that is suitable for being made and sold en-masse in Marks and Spencer. The entries were initially judged by globe-trotting gastronome Lloyd Grossman, food writer and Historian Tom Parker Bowles, self-taught baker extrordinaire Stacie Stewart and WI top brass Anne Harrison. Each judge handed out rosettes to the dishes they felt most delighted their senses and captured their imaginations, and then chose one dish from each show as a regional winner. 

The show then moves into semi-final stages where the dishes are judged by large groups rather than the celebrity judges. The first of those shows was aired tonight on ITV at 8pm, and you could catch a few glimpses of Liz and I! :-) 

THE JUDGES AND PRESENTER, CAROL VORDERMAN

The Filming

Liz and I were majorly impressed with the beautiful Ashridge House and estate - such a beautiful environment for a days filming.

ASHRIDGE ESTATE, HERTS

ASHRIDGE HOUSE

THE ENTRANCE HALL

FILMING OUR WALK AROUND THE GROUNDS

WALKING IN THE GROUNDS WITH THE 150 WI LADIES

We were part of a judging panel of 150 Women's Institute members, and we were excited to find out what we would be tasting. 

MENU: Cornish Pasty / Smoked Salmon Cheesecake / Pimms Jelly 

I must say we were very well looked after by the production team - and while we were waiting around for filming to start, and for props to be set etc we were provided with an endless supply of tea, coffee, cakes, biscuits and scones! They certainly knew how to keep us WI ladies happy! 

LOVELY LIZ ENJOYING TEA & CAKE WHILE WE WAITED FOR FILMING TO START

LIZ AND I ON THE DAY

It was interesting as a 'young' member of the WI to spend the day with mostly 'mature' ladies who had been members of the WI for many years. Most of the ladies were very encouraging of us 'youngsters' starting up new-generation groups, and chatted away to us about what we get up to at our Scone Roses group. There were a few younger ladies who we got chatting to as well - it was such a great way to meet WI ladies from all over the country. What a fun way to all share in our love of good high-quality food. 

During the afternoon we all descended into the huge 150 seat dining hall ready for tasting...the atmosphere was great, and we were all eagerly anticipating the arrival of the food. 

THE DINING HALL

THE BEAUTIFUL DINING HALL

During the tasting it was important that I kept in mind that the winning dish was destined for the M&S shelves, and as a regular customer of M&S and advocate of their wonderful food, I had high expectations. I wanted the dish I voted for to be full of flavour, have a 'special' or 'luxury' vibe, and be suitable for packaging on a supermarket shelf, as well as being portionable. 

Before tasting I was skeptical about both the Cornish pasty, and smoked salmon cheesecake. I was unsure how a Cornish pasty would rival ones already sold at M&S, and due to my dislike on the whole of seafood, I was worried that I would hate the cheesecake. 

The tasting began and out came 150 portions of each dish. The food was all served on stunning mismatched vintage china, which I (of course!) loved. And all foods came out quickly and efficiently. 

THE CORNISH PASTY

I was underwhelmed by the Cornish pasty, for me it didn't have enough salt or pepper, and I think pepper is an especially important part of seasoning a good Cornish pasty. I have tasted pasties already on the shelf at M&S, and I think they are better in taste and seasoning than this entry. 

THE SMOKED SALMON CHEESECAKE

I was pleasantly surprised by the smoked salmon cheesecake. I expected to completely hate this dish, but it was much nicer than anticipated. The base was made of oat crackers/biscuits, and the filling was full of mascarpone, cream cheese, lemon juice and of course, smoked salmon. The filling was rich, creamy and lightly fishy with very good levels of seasoning. The whole dish was topped with a wonderfully tangy lemon jelly, slice of lemon, twist of fresh smoked salmon and a king prawn. It oozed luxury and I could definitely imagine it flying off the shelves for summer garden parties and sophisticated dinner parties all over Britain. I think I enjoyed the dish because it was only mildly fishy, and very lemony - and I love citrus flavours. I can however imagine that fish lovers would be disappointed with the lack of fishiness and intense citrus hit it gave. 

THE STAR PIMMS JELLY

What a dish! The Star Pimms Jelly was a really impressive dish. It looked really stunning, and smelt insanely good as it was handed out. I'm a sucker for pretty girlie things, and this dish ticked all my boxes. It was sooooo boozy (which can only be a good thing, right?) and full of such intense flavours. It really made me think of long summer evenings, and garden parties - and I know this dish would appeal to a great many people. The thick sticky syrup served with the jelly was intensely spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg and orange zest and complemented the jelly perfectly. And coming from someone who considers herself a fairly competent baker - the star-shaped tuille biscuit was exquisite - perfectly cooked, crispy, and almost transparent - I know just how hard these biscuits are to make, so I was very impressed. 

No surprise which dish I voted for.... (jelly!)

STUNNING CEILING AT ASHRIDGE HOUSE

THE JUDGE WHO REPRESENTED MY FAVOURITE DISH: STACIE STEWART

THE PRESENTER CAROL VORDERMAN,  DURING FILMING 

The end of day saw us WI-judges being presented with the people behind the dishes, and finding out who had received the most of our votes. The Cornish pasty entry was from 92 year old Eunice Woolcock, from Cornwall. The Smoked Salmon Cheesecake was the entry of Donny and Nora Howcroft aged 81 and 73. The final entry, Star Pimms Jelly was made by the students of The National Star College,  a provider of specialist further education for young people aged 16 to 25 with complex physical disabilities, brain injuries and sensory, learning and behavioural difficulties in Gloucestershire. The students work in a social-enterprise restaurant called Star Bistro, and these students are the brains behind the amazing jelly dish! 

It was a great day, and a very fun experience. It was interesting to watch the final cut of the show tonight after having been a part of it in the flesh. You could see the odd few glimpses of Liz and I, which was fun, and it was interesting to see the 'behind the scenes' footage of the cooks working hard in the professional kitchen. 

I can't say I was overly impressed with how they portrayed the women of the WI - we aren't all miserable, stern and harsh-tongued elderly women - some of us are much fairer, light hearted, and enthusiastic about food and cooking. However, as a group we made the right decision and put the best dish through. I am glad that my favourite dish made the final cut. I will watch the rest of the series hoping that the young people from Star Bistro will go all the way! 

For more information please visit the following websites:




That's all for now! :-)

Mrs B

xxx


No comments:

Post a Comment