Served Up in Peter Hall & Son Style
The Great British Menu was back not once but twice during 2020 and we were absolutely thrilled to be a part of both competitions.
Earlier in the year, it was announced the Great British Menu 2020 would be themed around Children’s Literature to mark 150 years since the death of Charles Dickens who wrote the first book to feature a child in the starring role with Oliver Twist. Each regional area had four chefs competing for a place in the final and ultimately a dish at the final banquet.
Competing in the North West, we had two Michelin starred chefs based in Cumbria. Hrishikesh Desai, Executive Chef at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House and Cumbrian-born Tom Barnes, Executive Chef for Simon Rogan at L’enclume and Rogan & Co.
Both chefs chose to celebrate some of the finest children’s authors from the Lake District with some of the region’s produce in amazing ways.
If you haven’t seen the Great British Menu you may or may not know that the presentation for each dish is almost as important as the food itself. Each way a dish is presented should tell a clear story and create excitement!
The bowl may surprise some of you who think of walnut as always being a dark wood.
We were obviously over the moon to be asked by both chefs to create presentation pieces for a number of their dishes. We felt very flattered as local artisan makers to showcase our craftsmanship for something that celebrates Cumbria and children’s literature.
For Tom Barnes’ starter, he created a take on Oliver Twist being served gruel with his dish named ‘ Please sir I want some more’.
We wanted the bowls made for this dish to evoke the rustic nature of the culinary story. When paired with the copper pot, filled with what is most likely to be the best gruel you will ever have tasted, you have a charming scene from Charles Dickens.
The bowl is made from Walnut, which may surprise some of you who think of walnut as always being a dark wood. You can see the contrasting colours in the bowl distinctly. The pale areas are the outer sapwood and the darker areas are from the heartwood.
The Fish Course
You wouldn’t get through a whole children’s literature themed meal without Beatrix Potter making an appearance. Especially from our chefs in Cumbria.
Hrishikesh Desai created a dish around one of the authors most beloved stories Jeremy Fisher. This dish was named ‘Jeremy Fishers Trout Incident’. It’s playful and charming with lots of detail.
We were tasked with creating a smooth and tactile board in fumed oak, which would hold the pond-like ceramic bowl. A water shaped recess was carved into the board for his Jeremy Fisher figurine. We even went so far as to create small lily pads, little pond reeds and sourced a miniature picnic hamper.
The dish was trout loin on smoked butter spätzle, a type of pasta made with fresh eggs that Hrishikesh had made to look like worms. Perfect for helping Jeremy Fisher catch those fish! This is served alongside trout and crab mousse, smoked butter emulsion and caviar designed to look like bubbles.
Looks and sounds absolutely beautiful!
Vegetables were placed inside one of our handmade Mr McGregor’s garden.
The Main Course
The Main course from Tom Barnes was also attributed to Beatrix Potter with the name ‘Beatrix Potter’s Herdwick Lamb’. The dish comprised of lamb mousse, crumpets topped with fennel pollen, lamb sauce, consommé and vegetable hot pot. Sounds tasty right? Well, it was so good it eventually took him straight to the banquet.
Each Herdwick Lamb dish was served with baby carrots, baby leeks and baby turnips covered in charcoal breadcrumbs to look like soil and placed inside one of our handmade Mr McGregor’s garden. Rectangular oak troughs, each with their own small sign saying McGregors Garden on it.
With a huge congratulations to Tom Barnes for making it through to the banquet, it also meant lots more gardens to make! But we didn’t mind.
Chef Tom Barnes was back using more of our wooden creations for his enchanting dessert dish with another Beatrix Potter-inspired dessert, ‘The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin’. The idea came from a passage where the squirrels steal honey from the bees.
This particular dish is a homage to everything local. The ingredients, the honey, the wooden bowls and, of course, the beehives are all sourced ten miles from his restaurant.
For this dish, we made tiny Ash beehives which were filled with honey ice cream. The Yew bowls with a rough undulating edge perfectly portray a natural woodland feel. Each bowl was filled with an almond cake, topped with poached pear, chopped almonds and a foraged herb-infused cream. Mouthwatering!
Great British Menu Christmas
At Christmas time 2020, The Great British Menu was back with a festive version. The Great British Menu, Christmas is a festive take on the original show. As always, each chef competes to have their dishes served at a prestigious banquet. This special series was paying tribute to the NHS and keyworker heroes of this year’s Covid-19 pandemic. We are so incredibly grateful to have been apart of it. We hope you watched it and loved the creations being displayed on the show.
This time Finalist and Cumbrian Chef Tom Barnes was back to compete and asked us to get creating again for more spectacular dishes.
For his starter called ‘ Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,’ Chef Tom Barnes used two bowls. One larger and a smaller one to be placed in the centre. Notice the woods actually differ. The large smooth-grained bowl is made from maple, which is complemented with the smaller textured bowl made from oak. We actually made these for the restaurant back in the summer so we were delighted to see them being used for a Christmas dish. In the smaller bowl went a lightly set chestnut cream, topped with roasted chestnut, prune puree, roasted pickled mushrooms topped with a garnish of wood sorrel and truffle. Delicious!
For a bit of festive theatre, the dish was served in the larger bowl, surrounded by chestnuts smoking in dry ice. Both bowls are made from Oak and hand-turned in our workshop.
The final dish we made for the Great British Menu was by far the most elaborate and took many hours to make. This was Chef Tom Barnes’ fish course ‘Salmon Smoked over Pine.’
Firstly, large oak boxes were turned with lids and later fumed to make them darker. Here is a video clip of our Woodturner, Sarah, making them.
For all the trimmings, the boxes were wrapped in silver birch bark to create a natural textured finish. On the lid were individually made Christmas trees, candy canes and present boxes filled with garnishes.
We enjoyed experimenting with contrasting woods for the ribbons on the presents. If you know some of our bestselling pieces, like our rolling pins and bud vases, then you will know we love a contrast stripe.
This was also an opportunity to showcase the amazing natural colours you find in different kinds of wood. Using Padauk for its reddish colour and Sycamore for its pale colour worked excellently on the candy cane.
We have thoroughly enjoyed being part of BBC’s Great British Menu in this way. The magic, creativity and hard work that goes into each dish are so important. Just look at Kerry Godliman’s face in this amazing picture. Absolutely worth it!