Cook Books News

I’m not joshin’ – Rogan gets top marks from Good Food Guide

Okay – as the name suggests, for anyone who’s not been here before, we do cookery courses. But every now and then, you just have to sit back, pull up a chair and let the professionals get on with it.

One chef who’s been steadily emerging over the last few years, under the radar for anyone who’s not an avid follower of the UK cookery industry, is Simon Rogan. Name ring a bell?
Well, if you watched this year’s Great British Menu, he was the guy who could have seriously won three out of the four courses for the grand meal for the stars of athletics, past and present, ahead of this year’s Olympics.

In the end, it was his dessert course that not only won him plaudits from the glittering cast of British athletic hopefuls and legends alike, but left Oliver, Matthew and Pru speechless during the qualifying rounds and the final. So if that didn’t shout his intention to the cookery world enough, his latest accolade screams it at the world of cuisine at a decibel-bustin’ pitch.

Top marks for Rogan in the year’s Good Food Guide.

It’s not very often that a restaurant scores ten out of ten from The Good Food Guide. In fact, it is so rare an award that in the fifteen years of the tome’s publication, only seven chefs have ever managed to achieve it.

Rogan’s restaurant, L’Enclume, features second in this year’s guide to the only other restaurant in the last six years to win the award, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck in Berkshire. Many, many experts are predicting that next year, duck will be on the second course with L’Enclume taking the prime podium spot, dethroning Blumenthal for the first time in six years in the process.

The secret of Rogan’s success is his deep faith in locally-sourced, Cumbrian produce. The extent he went to in order to source the rosehips that would end up as a delicate syrup for his Great British Menu winning dessert was unlike any venture undertaken on the show to date. He even hired a local trekker to keep his eye out for the likely spot where the plumpest rosehips would grow that would be cultivated for the final offering. They even sat down and boiled them up on the hillside where they grew to get the essence of what they’d taste like if the local scenery could be emulated on a plate.

And that was not just a publicity-hype for the show, either. Simon has leased a local farm and intensified production upon it to deliver the amazing locally foraged and cultivated ingredients at the heart of his dishes to guarantee continuity – now that’s taking cooking seriously!

And that determination and faith in the ingredients (almost) on his doorstep has been justly repaid, with interest.

And there’s more. All of Simon’s recipes are put through the mill at his experimental kitchen before they even make it to L’Enclume. Do you remember the ingenious technique of making the ‘snow’ for his dessert in the Great British Menu? Well Simon invests in new technology, new thinking and mixing up tradition to deliver the freshest – in every sense of the word – meals you could find in the UK today.

Simon Rogan – remember the name. Along with Blumaenthal, Ramsay and Pierre-White, whom he trained under, Rogan has joined an elite class of chefs to be awarded ten out of ten by the Good Food Guide. At the tender age of forty-four, there’s a lot more Rogan can bring to the table, and no doubt he surely will.

Food and Ingredients News

Food and Farming Awards so important to local communities

There are many different types of cookery courses – from independent cookery schools out in the sticks to inner-city restaurants that open up their kitchens for their professional chefs to pass on their culinary expertise.

Likewise, there are many different outlets for the food we learn to cook; the afore-mentioned restaurant, pub grub, take away food and fine dining around the table at home, impressing friends and family ourselves being probably the main reason many of us attend cookery courses.

With so many chefs awards, The Good Food Guide praising eateries up and down the country and EatOut ezine keeping tabs on the hospitality trade from a front of house perspective, there is very little that makes the headlines in the way of the food producers and the actual quality of the raw ingredients themselves. This week sees the thirteenth Food and Farming Awards begin, with nominations being invited for the best local and national produce suppliers to, for once, step into the limelight and gain the recognition that often gets overlooked when the spotlight falls on crisp kitchen whites or brass-polished hostelries.

The popular TV show Great British Menu not only recommends that the qualifying chefs choose produce from their local suppliers but that aspect is a huge weighting factor in the overall marks that the chefs attain en route to whatever national or royal event it is chosen as the theme for the annual cookery demonstration visual feast.

Angela Hartnett, a judge for the Food and Farming Awards and a Michelin-star chef in her own rite rates this competition as one of the more ‘credible’ appraisals of British food, given the way that the whole process of farming and how is brought to market from its very roots to the locale in its given region is at the heart of the competition and the communities the farms serve.

Food – like many a good ale – tastes better if it doesn’t have to travel

The general consensus is that food that doesn’t have to travel, i.e. unlike supermarket-stacked produce, tastes better, has a more direct and swift route to market and benefits the community from which it is grown, picked and prepared for sale.  And nothing perhaps exemplifies what the competition is all about better than the winner of one of  last year’s awards.

The ‘Small Retailer’ award at the twelfth outing of the competition went to a village shop in Wales in a project tagged The Brockweir & Hewelsfield Village Shop (funnily enough).

The shop as it was was closing down as a viable business concern, leaving the only alternative a trip to the supermarket. In the face of produce being grown all around the villages, the villagers themselves were having none of it, as the manager, Alison Macklin, explained.

The staff is made up of volunteers who keep the shop ticking over, the only pricing concern being that the profit is enough to pay the bills and buy more stock. There is even a volunteer allotment on the back doorstep, tilled and kept by the villagers, from which produce is picked and literally carried yards before it is on the shelf ready for sale. And the independence, according to Macklin, is contagious. The more food they sell, the more suppliers want their produce to be on the shelf next to the other locally grown produce.

It is at events like the Food and Farming Awards that projects such as this one and smaller suppliers get to showcase their business. In these hard times, a good event can be the difference between make or break – not just for the owners but for whole communities, too.

So, if you’re running a cookery school, looking for suppliers who would be interested in supplying smaller volumes than perhaps the local supermarket, get involved with this year’s awards. Full details about the competition and how to nominate businesses are on the website at:

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Cookery Courses News

Back to nature for foraged ingredients

In the fast-paced world in which we live, the tendency is to resort to pre-packed ready-meals available off the supermarket shelf as a matter of convenience.  Even when we buy ingredients off the shelf, there is a question hanging over their nutritional value.

Depending upon where you live in the UK, there could be a multitude of ingredients on your doorstep that you could literally pick from their natural habitat and, after a quick swill, pop straight into the pot.

Foraging for your ingredients

Even the judges for TV shows, like The Great British Menu, place a huge emphasis on the sourcing of local ingredients.

The onus is on the chefs to go out to their local region, find suppliers for the ingredients of their four-course competition dishes who are then invited to the prestigious event, for whichever worthy cause is deigned for that year – even to the extent of celebrating the indigenous British ingredients, themselves.

Why the sudden interest?

There has been a sweep across Europe with the top chefs looking to promote their home-grown ingredients.

Two-Michelin starred chef Rene Redzepi has incorporated his native Danish wild plants as the basis for the Noma menu in his Copenhagen contemporary restaurant.

What are we talking about when we refer to foraged foods?

If you want to learn to cook as these top chefs – other contemporaries utilising this en vogue method are British chefs Mark Hix and Simon Rogan – you need to have an inkling about what you’re looking for to put on the plate.

There is no exact ‘list of ingredients‘, it is very much down to what you can pick out of the ground, scoop from the hives or pick from trees and bushes.

Honey is a great traditional local ingredient – the bees collect pollen from plants nurtured in nearby grounds, plants that grow only in certain regions and variants of fruits and berries that change their flavour as they suit the geography of the land.

Many of the chefs who propogate this method do offer cookery courses that will inherently incorporate foraged foods. Not only through their own restaurants and websites but by their registration with the Great British Chefs association.

It is worth contemplating, if you’re looking to add more unprocessed supermarket to your diet and cook freshly on a more regular basis.

Just look to the ground, tress and bushes around you for your inspiration.