Showing posts with label MASTERCHEF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MASTERCHEF. Show all posts

Chocolate Fondant

With Masterchef back on the Telly ... what more appropriate time to post my chocolate fondant recipe (written for Happy Eggs) ?

Chocolate FondantServes 4

Ingredients:200g 72% cooking chocolate
200g Butter
240g Caster sugar
4 happy eggs
4 yolks
200g Plain flour


• Butter the inside of 4 ramekins, sprinkle with cocoa powder and place in the freezer for 5 minutes.

• Melt the chocolate and butter in a pan on a very low heat.
Tip: Alternatively, you could place the pan in a sink of hot water from the tap. This warms the mixture gently without direct heat.
• In a bowl whip the eggs, yolks & sugar.
• Fold in the flour and when mixed, fold in the chocolate.
• Pour the mixture into the 4 ramekins.
• Place in a preheated oven at 180°C for 7-10 minutes.

Tip: You can tell they’re cooked when they are soft to touch but are set, not liquid.

Masterchef 2011 (why I will be watching)

I will be watching Masterchef this year, I don't always watch the celeb or professionals but always the amateur series

Why ?

... as a fan of the program I've always enjoyed the honesty of the judges, John and Gregg, the aspirations of the contestants, the ones who flourish and the ones who's pomposity is burst with a truly awful dish. John and Gregg are not your friends who, at every dinner party, praise you for your 'wonderful cooking', they're direct and honest and more than a little painful at times. The 'journey' is a much copied format now but its always great to watch the huge leaps the semi-finalists take as they progress and get opportunities to learn.

... as a previous contestant and winner I have a huge debt and can share the highs and lows from a privileged perspective. I know a lot of the team behind the cameras, the directors and the brilliant and committed Series Editors Karen and David. I know the program is honest to its core, John and Gregg, the production and the contestants are kept at arms length from each other. I'm sure the production would have preferred a female finalist in the last couple of years but the judges are kept separate from influence and, I believe, only ever judge on the food placed in front of them. I know now Gregg and I are friends that I wasn't his favourite to win my series until the final day although I had no inkling when I was contestant which way either of them felt.

... finally as a restaurateur there are some wonderful new ideas and dishes, its great to see other kitchens (we cooks lead pretty insular lives)

The format changes this year, I don't know how similar to the Aussie or NZ Masterchef it will be but I do know the production team is basically the same as the previous series. I know they're a bit nervous of the new, more glamorous perhaps, format and studio losing the audience who like the grittiness of the original series but am confident there will be the underlying honesty kept which will ensure the series will continue as a success.

So good luck to the program, more importantly I wish the last few luck as they are now committed to cooking for the next few years, I hope you enjoy the journey as much as I have. I look forward to hopefully meeting you soon.

Series 7 Masterchef starts on BBC1 at 9pm this Wednesday 16 February
(I might be making a brief appearance on the 24th February)

Telegraph review

Was so delighted to get a great review from the Telegraph ... one of the best I've seen ... will address the limeness of my tart for next week !

Dorset restaurant guide: The Wild Garlic in Dorset

Jasper Gerard is delighted by The Wild Garlic restaurant in Dorset.

Dorset restaurant guide: The Wild Garlic in Dorset
The Wild Garlic: Simple, stunning and seasonal Photo: CHRISTOPHER JONES
Dusk is the time to descend on Puckden Wood. I walk to its heart, open my arms then breathe in lungful after lungful. The flowers of May cover the ground as extravagantly as had the falls of January's snow, and every year this great explosion of ransoms leaves me spellbound. My children are normally about as keen on walking as Pauline Prescott is after a fresh blow-dry but come May even they will down their Wiis and race to the woods. April's sweet sweep of bluebells had seemed beauty itself, until summer's white shroud. Early evening is when deer break cover and in their flight they trample the delicate flowers that could so easily be lily of the valley, and this fills the wood with a powerful aroma of garlic.
I realise that brand-wise, garlic has work to do. The marketing men would consider its pong a definite negative. Its image is down there with Ratners and New Labour while even the prettiest lips parted to reveal garlic breath will send most us recoiling faster than from a Greek bearing gilts.
But in the woods I can't get close enough to wild garlic. You would kiss this with gusto. If it weren't for its unsexy reputation Jennifer Aniston would have declared it a scent and bottled it as "Amorous: the Aroma" or "Whiff of the Wild – For Women".
So I'm delighted to see garlic being rehabilitated. A restaurant has been opened called Wild Garlic, and it's sensational. The chef is Mat Follas, the IT geek now reigning as Masterchef. And serendipitously his inspiration is Denmark's Noma, just declared the best restaurant in the world. Follas had a stint at Noma while filming Masterchef and impressed its chef, Rene Redzepi, as he did viewers. As I await a table there – Copenhagen's tourist board claims 100,000 people around the globe are in the queue – I'm intrigued to see how its ethos might work in Britain.
Noma goes way beyond the usual "local produce" mantra, avoiding even olive oil. When I interviewed Redzepi recently he spoke of sending his chefs foraging, garnering extraordinary ingredients: cloudberrys, wild beach roses, musk ox. He talks with near-religious solemnity about venturing out with "cold fingers" to pick "the first shoots of spring".
True, many British restaurants now decorate dishes with "foraged leaves" but these sometimes add about as much flavour as the cellophane packaging to a sandwich. Follas claims to employ three foragers. I'm not sure wild garlic is the greatest challenge to the forager's craft seeing as you can smell it several fields away but the name does symbolise Noma's attempt to re-connect with nature. If Heston Blumenthal is exploring the future, Noma is pioneering the past.
Beaminster is a small town with a big appetite. On a soaking midweek evening two food vans do a bustling trade while inside the simple, rustic restaurant every table has been snared. As soon as chefs acquire even the stringiest reputation they often desert to shoot some dire cookery show, but within minutes of us sitting before our rough-hewn table Follas enters the dining room. He is bearing a giant brill of proportions almost as generous as his own. Our eyes had wandered elsewhere on the brief but tempting menu but who could resist that brill? Redzepi also brings food to table, declaring there is nothing like facing customers out front to raise his game out back. Follas is rugby-tackled by another customer rhapsodising: "That's the best pigeon I've ever tasted".
I order a starter of spelt and nettle risotto with confit rabbit, and I'm tempted to do bunny hops of joy. Spelt grain makes this sturdier than conventional risotto, while pine nuts add crunchiness and nettle pesto round the edge lends intrigue. Like all Follas dishes it's perfectly seasoned, but it's the strong flavour of rabbit that wows. Faultless.
Diana tries crab pâté with cucumber and pickled dill, stunningly presented with nasturtiums and resting on chicory leaves which somehow escape bitterness and are instead young and juicy.
Unusually an amuse bouche arrives after the first course by which time our mouths are already laughing merrily. And rather than some frothy nonsense this is proper grub: smoked venison, so tender I long for it all over again.
And so to brill, arriving not so much on a plate as a giant flying saucer. There are no tricks, just consummate cooking of fine fresh fish, lifted powerfully by lemon and caper butter. Fillet of beef with – another seasonal touch – asparagus is another simple perfectly cooked winner, the only twist coming in wonderfully smoked mash.
Puddings don't win quite so many garlands. A lime tart has good texture on thin short-crust pastry and is well caramelised, but where's the lime? It tastes more like thick baked custard. Hot chocolate is better, with cream poured into the gooey middle lightening the richness.
But these are quibbles as trifling as a foraged Jack-by-the-hedge. If the burghers of every country town could enjoy a restaurant like the beaming folk of Beaminster's, we Britons would be happier bunnies.
Best of all there is nothing poncey about this place. A note on the menu states: "If you have had great service please leave a tip; if you haven't, don't." Just so.
Now when I amble over to Puckden Wood I will still be thinking of aromas – but they will be calling me back to Beaminster.
  • The Wild Garlic Restaurant, 4 The Square Beaminster, Dorset (01308 861 446)
  • Dinner for two: £84.50
  • 9/10

New Orleans, Louisiana and Texas Roadtrip

It's been such a fantastic year at the restaurant, and I have loved every minute of it. The beginning of this month saw me pass on my Masterchef title to Dhruv Baker; such a worthy winner of the competition that changed my life. I wish him at least as much success and fun from his win as I have and still enjoy. 

We have been open for a year I have seen the menu change each season, sometimes daily, according to what is growing and what is available. You can be sure that whatever's on our menu is fresh and locally sourced, if possible, even if it does cause me a bit of a headache sometimes!

The staff I now have in the restaurant are great, and as a team we are continuously creating food and an eating atmosphere that we enjoy giving to our customers, and hopefully also they enjoy. I am always trying to push myself to keep the best standards, but still strive to improve and explore new ideas. One thing I have always wanted to do is open a cafe, the kind of cafe I talked about on Masterchef. I now have that chance and have put in an offer at a site in Beaminster, just opposite the restaurant.  Fingers crossed, if it all goes through, when it opens I want to give everyone who comes in a great cup of coffee and also something fun and yummy to eat, without necessarily having a three course meal. A more tapas approach to food so I can do dishes that are inspired from other cultures, that everyone can mix and match - ending with a combination on their plate they wouldn't really have thought of having before.

So in order to get some inspiration, (and also a bit of a break and fun !) I am off to do a Motel 6 road trip in America. 

As of Monday I will be in New Orleans and riding a Harley Davidson through to Lafayette, then on to visit the Tabasco factory and staying in Lake Charles. A quick cooking demo on a local TV station and then off along the coast to San Antonio, through to Houston for a couple of days and then off to Dallas, before a stop in Alexandria takes me in a loop to New Orleans again.  En route I am going to be chatting with anyone I can about local wild foods that can be found, and of course getting inspiration for my cafe dishes to bring back home. I am hoping bloggers and twitterers will give me suggestions of where they think I should eat.....and if you have advice on any wild foods I can find as well. Whatever I do find I will be taking pictures of and posting on this blog.  

I planned the trip with Motel 6, they have an online trip planner at where I put in each stop I wanted and they figured out the journey route. Great for me and I know that I have a bed waiting for me at the end of every day's riding. 
I know the restaurant will be in the safest of hands while I'm traveling USA, which isn't for long anyway. A quick break so I can come back refreshed and ready to step up a gear as the restaurant moves into the summer months. Get in touch with me please and let me know where you think I should eat, and what to look out for in the countryside. The trip is only a couple of days away, and I can't wait!


Restaurant review: The Wild Garlic, Beaminster, Dorset

Our Score was 9.5/10 (including 0.25 taken off for a wobbly table) ... not bad ! Here's the online version of the review:

Restaurant review: The Wild Garlic, Beaminster, Dorset

Mat Follas, 2009 MasterChef winner, has opened a restaurant. Has he bitten off more than he can chew? Far from it
Wild Garlic
The Wild Garlic, Beaminster: What a difference a year makes – Mat Follas has gone from winning a TV cooking competition to setting up this little beauty of a restaurant. Photograph: David Partner

Adducing a corpse as a witness for anything is a cheap and distasteful gambit, so let me begin by suggesting that Keith Floyd, who died after lunching elsewhere in Dorset a few days after our visit, would have adored Mat Follas's first restaurant and might even have identified him as the fruit of his culinary loins. Although familiar to many of you as this year's MasterChef winner, Follas was a new face to me due to the Grossmanophobia that makes watching that show impossible even now, years after that stoic sufferer from irritable vowel syndrome departed. Follas's career is the mirror image of Floyd's, the latter becoming a telly character off the back of being a chef-proprietor and the former achieving the trick in reverse, but otherwise they are as one. The vibrant passion for food – the sourcing and foraging for it, as well as the cooking of it – with which Floyd laid the populist ground for programmes such as MasterChef shines through at the Wild Garlic in the pretty town of Beaminster.
  • Open lunch, Tues-Sun, noon-2pm (11am-2pm Sun brunch); dinner, Thurs-Sat, 7-11pm. Price per head for three courses, wine, coffee and service, £40-45.
There is so much else to admire that the traditional Hazgush warning must be issued. The twin traps of fierce lighting and lousy acoustics that often ruin otherwise impressive restaurants are nimbly avoided. The light green walls are unencumbered by hideous paintings, the furniture is farmhousy solid, and the room resounds with the appetite- stimulating buzz of relaxed people relishing their grub.
The short printed menu, meanwhile, bolstered by a wide range of blackboarded daily specials, is perfectly judged and resists the temptation to impress with technical wizardry that afflicts many gifted amateurs when they turn pro. Follas understands that encouraging first-rate ingredients to taste of themselves has the edge over poncery and ostentation. He also has unusual mastery of presentation, adorning the starters with an exquisite little salad dotted with edible flowers. Pan-fried garlic scallops (three plump beauties for £7; the pricing of both food and wine is without chutzpah) came alluringly browned, and with absurdly delicious miso-infused seaweed. My wife was lukewarm about her caramelised goat's cheese ("Nice enough, but a bit pointless"), but my smooth, subtle chicken liver pâté was great, while ceviche of brill was spectacularly fresh and zingy, and had a limey kick to keep a fleet of Tudor galleons scurvy-free for a year.
There then followed a moment that had me cooing at Follas's business sense. The inter-course hiatus was plugged by an amuse-bouche of a dozen clams garnished with capers and garlic mayonnaise, one of those cute touches that costs a restaurant thruppence but leaves punters purring at what seems a lavish freebie. Two of us then went for the lemon sole, a vast and blameless fish served whole and on the bone, and laden with more capers and garlic butter. My wife thought her ribeye steak of water buffalo well seasoned and cooked to the ideal medium rarity, but lacking the depth of flavour of beef, and for what the marital ledger reveals to be the ninth time in 18 years of holy wedlock, we were in full agreement there. However, she was wild about the "smoked mash" – a mound of fluffy, creamy potato suffused with a hickory, mesquitish twang – that also came with my five ruby-red slices of sensationally tender and flavoursome sika venison.
Fresh berry mess was magnificent, and chocolate brownies with cream, chocolate twizzle and berries was "absolutely the best I've had outside the Popeseye," said my wife of a beloved west London steak house.
All in all, this was one of the most pleasing meals I've eaten in years, served with warmth and expertise by a dramatically mustachioed manager and a droll waitress in pole position to do something about it, since her day job is running the old-fashioned barber's bang opposite. Follas is an exceedingly rare talent. Nothing the programme could ever accomplish could compensate for unleashing Loyd Grossman on this island, but MasterChef should be very proud of itself indeed.

Festivals, recipes and update

The restaurant continues to absorb most of my time, we are having a great time and rapidly improving in most areas, front of house, food and decor. Sorry for lack of posts but will write some soon, hopefully this weekend when I'm away at a lovely food festival in county Durham ... do come if you live anywhere nearby and say hi.

I also plan to be at Hatfield House in a couple of weeks, just north of London, on the Saturday

The other festival that is coming (and slightly scary !) are the Good Food Birmingham and London where Masterchef will be featured hugely with a new re branding by the beeb, very few details of what is expected of me at this stage but will be great to meet up with some of the other winners and have some fun, both festivals details are here

Thanks everyone for comments on the restaurant, most have been positive and constructive and these do get a lot of attention and thought. I think we are addressing most of the areas where we agree with your concerns and, yes,  there are some things which we won't change, the type of food, the style of the restaurant and our commitment to creating a customer experience. Apologies to those who haven't been able to get in yet for dinner but we have space lunchtimes with a few days notice and will have more space in the winter months and look forward to seeing you then, there are many other great places to eat if you are down our way for holidays, hopefully you can stop in for lunch at least while you are down in lovely West Dorset.

So a longer more detailed post on opening and several recipes to come ... soon I hope !

We've got the phone on at last !

We've got the phone on at last, (it will also have a BT Openzone). I've plugged an answer machine in so please do feel free to start calling. I'm confident we'll be open on time, lots of work still to do but we'll get there.

All nights have some space at the moment. Opening night for dinner will be 25th June and for lunch from 23rd June. For more details see our website The Wild Garlic, there's an email link and phone number.

(Yes we will also be open for coffee and a glass or two during the daytime, Lunch Tues-Sat and Dinner Thurs-Sat ... more details on website ... Mat)

Phone number: 01308 861446

Please see our draft menu :

Exeter Food and Drink festival

I'm there all day Friday. There's a 'cook off' with James Nathan on Friday night which will be great fun.
I'll mostly be wandering around talking to suppliers ... and hopefully be able to make an announcement regarding restaurant plans too !

Crab Thermidor

OK ... its a simple dish to make but its all in the tasting like so many of my dishes. I don't put amounts in many recipes as I cook by taste the best way is to start with the basics and try for yourself. Different cheeses, stocks, crabs etc will have different tastes so the only way to make a dish you love is to taste as you cook.

A brown crab is not expensive, should be about £4. Ingredients for the stock should also be free from a decent fishmonger when you buy your crab.

First make a really good seafood stock with flatfish bones, scallop frill and a few prawn shells. Read about making stocks in a previous post here .

One good crab, spider tastes best but brown can be used for everyday
Seafood stock (about 300ml per crab)
Gruyere cheese
Parmesan cheese
English Mustard powder

Clean the crab, extract the meat and clean the shell ready for use as a bowl.
Make a veloute with the stock, by making a roux with some butter and plain flour then adding heated stock slowly mixing till the consistency of double cream.
Season then add some gruyere and parmesan to taste ... should be a nice balance of cheese and sea flavour.
Add tabasco and some english mustard to bring in a nice heat to the dish.
Add the meat to the shell then pour the sauce over.
Add a little extra cheese on top then bake for 20min or so.
It should be cooked through and slightly browned on top.

Serve in the shell, use some green veg to balance the shell or some foil.

enjoy !

Newspapers and events

I know I promised Thermidor recipe but thought I'd post a few links today ... I will get the thermidor written up and posted soon !

The Independent ran a great article today ... including a whole page picture of me ... very flattering ! Independant Article

May 3rd (not 2nd as I previously said ! sorry) I'm helping at the Dorset knob throwing event in my local village Dorset Knob lots of fun, not to be taken seriously ! and loads of local foodie stalls (I'm doing a BBQ with a mate ... spare ribs, Spatchcock chickens and other yummy things)

May Bank Holiday 23-25th May ... big festival at Hampton Court Foodies so and very excited and should be able to announce restaurant details there !

More to come soon ... watch this space ... Mat

When we went down to the woods !

On Sunday we took the kids and went down to a friends woodland to see what is growing ... great fun but probably a little too early still for most foraged food due to the late spring.

We also had John Wright with us ... better known locally as 'Mushroom John' for his River Cottage mushroom book here and his TV work with HFW. John is just finishing a seashore foraging book due out May (I think) which will be a great reference. We had long discussions over seaweeds and umame flavours in the pub afterwards !

He has given us some great pointers on alternate local sourced seaweeds that I'll be trying as an alternate to the Japanese dried seaweeds I love to cook with ... watch this space !

John was tapping some birch trees for sap to try and make a reduction syrup ... to be honest the sap tasted like water but it was fun trying and hopefully, once reduced, the end product will be good.

We did find some wood sorrel which we were all very excited about, it will be a key ingredient when the restaurant gets started and watchers of Masterchef will have seen me use it at Noma making chef's signature dish. It has a great woody citrus flavour that goes well with meat dishes, its still early for the wood sorrel so we only picked a few samples but looking forward to going back and gathering in decent quantities.

Will post recipes over the next few days, filmed a spot on Market Kitchen last night ... more details to follow.

What next ?

Just a brief update as the week has been mad. A flurry of press interviews and a few TV shows. BBC Breakfast went well with John T taking the p*** the followed by This Morning with Eamon Holmes and his wife Ruth ... they were lovely ... really nice and supportive on and off screen. We saw Eamonn again briefly the next morning on his radio 5 show which was great fun ... my final pudding was compared to a McFlurry Chrunchie ! lol.

Off to London to meet agents next ... I'm a little skeptical of getting much TV work but publicity is all good if we can get the restaurant going this year ... several offers of investment and premises so far so looking at them over the next few weeks.

The comments and emails ... and cards have been amazing ... it really is incredibly flattering so thank you.

I'll try and get back to publishing some recipes here next week !

Masterchef finals - Diary

This is the diary my wife kept during the finals weeks ... these were her notes and impressions from our chats each night ... please read in this context

Final challenges

  • The filming for the final is made-up of groups of days … 3 days, 5 days, 1 day (filming at home), 1 day, 2 days (Copenhagen) and 2 days

Monday 25th August:

Location: Outside London Event: Travel day / overnight (They flew to Inverness … they’re with the Black Watch regiment).

Mat is thrilled because his Great Grandad was with the Black Watch. So, while Mat was in the stores being kitted-out for tomorrows filming, he rather cheekily asked whether they had a spare set of red feathers for his Great-Grandad’s hat (edit Mat - its a Tam O Shanter and the feathers are called Red Hackles) , and they gave him some! That alone has made the trip to Scotland worthwhile, Mat feels really honoured and humbled to get the feathers. We’re planning to ask a friend to make a frame that’ll fit the hat, and its new feathers.

The contestants and the Production team all went out for dinner together this evening. We’re guessing that tomorrow will consist of a Mass catering exercise feeding the Black Watch troops, followed by cooking a posh dinner for the officers in the evening.

Tuesday 26th August:

Location: Outside London Event: Film day / overnight

They were filming at a gorgeous location this morning; it was by a Loch. As we suspected, they were cooking for the troops; They had set-up three tents, each with a BBQ made out of a steel drum, and the contestants had to make two main courses and a pudding out of ration packs. Mat made Chilli, pasta with steak and tomatoes followed by sponge pudding with chocolate custard. As always happens, there was a mad rush at the end as the time was suddenly cut short. For Mat, it went well and he really enjoyed it;

He paced himself though, knowing that that was only the first of todays tasks. By 4pm they’d finished the morning task and were on their way to another location … the Officer’s Mess.

This evening the contestants were cooking for a Regimental Dinner. Andy made the starter (fish), Christopher made the main course (Duck with mash ) and vegetables) and Mat made the pudding (Chocolate Pot with Strawberries, Chantilly cream and shortbread). The diners said that Andy’s dish was the best on balance and that Mat’s needed more strawberries and Chantilly cream.The officers said Mat’s shortbread was some of the best they’d ever had, quite a complement from a Scottish regiment !.

Will John and Gregg think Mat was too busy helping Christopher making his mash for him, when he should have been concentrating on making his own pudding as good as it could be, this is a cooking competition after all. Will they think Mat should have taken more ownership of plating-up his pudding especially when PRESENTATION is his key issue ? Is Mat enjoying it too much, being too distracted by the fun of the occasion, to take making his food seriously enough? Maybe they’ll think Mat doesn’t want this as much as Andy !

Wednesday 27th August:

Location: Outside London Event: Travel day

Mat stayed up until 2am chatting to Gregg, John, the Production team and the other contestants. Then up at 6am’ish to travel back to London and then home; he was a bit tired when he got in !

Friday 29th August:

No filming on this day

We went foraging for Elderberries and Rowan berries today: The children had a great time learning which tree was which and discovering what fun ‘helicopters’ from Sycamore trees are to play with. (Mat would like to make a berry jelly to go with his rabbit dish for the starter in his final menu).

Saturday 30th August:

No filming on this day

We went foraging for seashore vegetables on the beach at West Bexington. We found Sea Kale, Sea Beet, Chamomile, Mallow and Sea Campion. I love the pink coloured pebbles on Chesil Beach and managed to amass quite a collection while we sat recovering from our plant hunt.

Sunday 31st August:

No filming on this day

Lamb roast dinner with the family and then Mat travelled back up to London, ready for tomorrow’s filming. Mat was feeling very down leaving the family behind as he thinks he’s going to struggle this week with the fine dining challenges and is worrying about his repertoire of food being up to the standard.

Monday 1st September:

Location: London Event: Film day (Cooking two salmon dishes in 1 hour)

They had to cook two dishes. Mat made Thai fish cakes with a sweet chilli dipping sauce and then a broth with vegetables (leeks, celeriac and pak choi) and mushrooms with a piece of salmon (poached in stock) placed on top. John and Gregg loved the Thai fish cakes, Gregg said that the fishcakes should be more flaky, so John corrected him, saying that Thai fish cakes should be exactly like Mat had made them. The presentation was great. However, John and Gregg didn’t like the salmon with vegetable broth as much. They said that the broth washed-out the other flavours, but the salmon was cooked perfectly.

Christopher made salmon carbonara, then a piece of salmon with celeriac mash and vegetables.

Andy made Ravioli, then an asian flavoured piece of salmon.

Tuesday 2nd September:

Location: London Event: Film day (60 Canapes in 1 hour 15 minutes)

They have to cook 20 Hot canapés, 20 Cold canapés and 20 sweet canapés. Mat’s going to cook hot mini jacket potatoes with goats cheese and chopped chives dressed with a chive flower, cold clams with caper mayonnaise and a thyme flower, and Burnt Creams for the sweet.

Arghhhhh Beth can’t get thyme or chive flowers, so there goes the presentation ! Bugger !

Beth then spent the morning trying to find flowers for Mat, and she did, she found beautiful pink mint flowers for the clam canapés which looked absolutely great.

The good news is that all three contestants completed 60 canapés each. Mat’s mini jacket potatoes, they hated. John said “you should have done something expensive with them like fois gras or truffles”. Of course ! It seems obvious now ! They liked the Burnt Cream canapés, they thought it was ‘very Mat’. Best of all, they absolutely loved the Clam canapés; even Beth said that she was going to steal the recipe for her wedding next year. Mat made the best and possibly the worst canapés today, but John and Gregg applauded him for taking a risk and said that you have to get things wrong sometimes to enable you to produce something great.

Apparently, Christopher’s canapés looked like dinner party canapés which just isn’t good enough for MasterChef. He made Strawberries dipped in chocolate, Ricotta cheese with toasted pine nuts, wrapped in courgette (which tasted good), and Choux buns with ham. Unfortunately he finished 15 minutes before the task ended;

Andy made Rye bread with smoked eel and horseradish, Onion bhajis and he also made Strawberries dipped in chocolate but presented them on cream.

Wednesday 3rd September:

Location: London Event: Film day (Buckingham Palace) / travel & overnight

It’s my birthday and the first day back at school for the children after the summer holidays.

Mat phoned at 07:30 to say happy birthday, oh and by the way, I’m at Buckingham Palace. My jaw dropped and I felt very sick with excitement and nerves for about 3 hours.

They were Cooking lunch for the queen’s household, about 550 people. They each made a main course and a pudding. Chris and Mat needed to make 100 portions each of their main course (Christopher ended up doing 200), Andy needed to make 200. They were all supposed to make 70 puddings each. The production team put Mat in charge.

Mat made Thai Green vegetable curry (which turned out really well and chef liked it) followed by a Cheesecake. Andy made Roast lamb (which all three contestants spent the first half an hour preparing) with dauphinoise potatoes and vegetables, followed by a fruit salad (which John and Gregg stepped-in to make)

Christopher made fish on a ratatouie with new potatoes, followed by apple crumble

This afternoon they traveled to Rutland, The Barnsdale Hotel Just across the water from their hotel is Hambleton Hall, with the award winning Restaurant of Michelin star Chef, Aaron Patterson. Aaron produced a trio of Rabbit for his heat of The Great British Menu. Mat’s starter for his final menu is a trio of Rabbit (we know Aaron did a trio of rabbit but can’t find out what cuts of meat he used or how he did it, or presented it, or anything about it !Mat remembers there being a rack). They could also be going to the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials which starts tomorrow or pie making in Melton Mowbray.

Thursday 4th September:

Location: Outside London Event: Film day (Burghley Horse Trials) / Travel back to London

They were up at 6am and off at 7am. When they arrived at Burghley House, The Lady of the house (Miranda Rock) was busy bundling her children into a car to get them off for their first day at school. Rather poignantly, John and Gregg were both missing one of their children’s first day at school.

It was going to be a long day, 18-20 hours or so until home-time.

The contestants each had to produce 200 plates of beautiful food. Mat’s was a plate with 3 individual creations on it; a crab meat quenelle on green beans, Gravadlax with celeriac salad and a tiny portion of mackerel marinated in sweet chilli sauce. Greg came over and gave Mat a cuddle at the end of the day, so it must have been obvious to everyone just how hard it had been. Andy made Chocolate tarts and Panna Cotta. Chris had the same sort of day as Mat. The contestants all went out into the restaurant and got a big round of applause from the diners – the Olympic horse team, Zara Phillips and Capt. Mark Phillips, amongst others.

Wednesday 10th September:

No filming on this day

Tidying and cleaning the house ready for the crew to arrive tomorrow

Thursday 11th September:

Location: Dorset Event: Film day (Filming at our house)

We kept all three children off school for the day, so that they could share the experience with us and it’s great for them to see how a television programme is made. We had four crew, Director, Cameraman, Soundman and runner. They were all lovely; completely professional and really great company for the day.

They started by interviewing Mat in the garden for an hour or so, then the family walked out of the front door three times, trying not to look at the camera, then down the road twice, before walking along by the river at the end of the road and playing pooh sticks over the bridge with helicopters from the Sycamore tree. Next, they filmed scenes around Beaminster because it’s so beautiful and then people we know, like Charlie at the butchers. And that was the morning finished. So we all decamped to the Hive Beach Café for lunch. Yummy food but a howling gale, still, who cares when you’re by the sea.

So, on to the afternoons filming. We, the family, walked along Chesil Beach and back twice, then across the beach and back twice, and along the beach silhouetted by the bright sun, and back again, twice, or was it three times. We’d reached a point where we were all a bit tired and had achey calves, so they sat the children and I on a rock and asked a few questions.

Meadow was climbing on the rock and trying to reach the guinea pig (it’s what we told her the soundman’s boom was) which was positioned just above my head, and giggling uncontrollably every time it moved out of her reach just as she grabbed for it. All this encouraged Jack (who was standing in front of me and whom I was desperately gripping between my knees so that he couldn’t move very much) to join in too. So, whilst Meadow mountaineered up my back and Jack waved his arms in front of my face, I tried to answer Ed’s questions. It didn’t go well. I remember thinking at the time, why are you talking so fast? why are you rambling? why can’t you say a sentence without sounding like you didn’t finish school? They quickly tired of me. I exclaimed that my mouth was really dry and apologized for my complete inability to talk on camera. The Director was generous and reassured me that the same thing even happens to heads of industry when a camera is pointed in their faces; it was very kind of him, what a nice chap. I’ll be very surprised if any of that footage is aired.

Next, it was time to go back to the house and the children and I were done. I put them in their rooms for a bit of quiet time and made a cup of tea.

Mat and the crew loaded up his diving gear into their van and after filming him leave the street on his Harley Davidson a couple of times, they all left for West Bay. They filmed Mat in his dive gear on the boat for a while holding some huge spider crabs, then they were finished.

When they got back to the house, they all looked absolutely shattered; like they’d had alot of sea air and were going to sleep like babies tonight.

I’m so glad that’s over; it was fun, a great experience and the TV people are really lovely but I wouldn’t choose to do it again. That was the second time, the first crew came down to see us in June at the start of the semi-finals … twice is enough for any camera shy wife who doesn’t like to scrutinize herself too closely.

Monday 15th September:

Location: London Event: Film day (Cooking for 8 Michelin starred chefs – they have 16 stars between them). They were Michel Roux jr.

Eric Chavot

Michael Caines

Shane Osborn

Helene Darozze

John Campbell

Tom Kitchin

Christopher is making the starter, scallops amongst lots of other lovely stuff; Andy is making the main course, rib of lamb etc. etc.; and Mat is making the pudding, Chocolate mousse etc. etc.

Mat phoned briefly at 5pm to say good night to the children. He’d escaped for half an hour because the chef’s didn’t feel he was under enough pressure, so they’d sent him out while they devised a plan to make life more difficult for him.

Mat’s having a wonderful time, he’s having a great masterclass.

The chef who’s looking after him and over his shoulder today, is Elisha Carter (, who was in the South-West heats of the Great British menu. Mat say’s he’s very cool and has been a really big help.

When the meal was served, the Michelin Starred Chefs all said good things, Mat received no criticism at all; they said they were amazed that such a large bloke could make something so delicate and precise. How wonderful !

As Trigger (production crew) was escorting the Chefs to their cars Eric Chavot was singing Mat’s praises to the other Chefs … brill … we love Eric !!!

Tuesday 16th September:

No filming on this day

Mat has a day off in London. He’s going to a Kiwi Coffee Shop for a ‘real’ cup of coffee, Fortnum & Masons food hall, a Japanese supermarket, a pro cook shop etc. etc. He’s relaxing and ruminating about the details of his final menu … which he’s submitting at the end of the day. He’s particularly interested in changing his pudding after the amazing things he learnt yesterday.

Thursday 18th September:

Location: Outside London Event: Film day (Copenhagen) / travel

Very early start … Mat flew to Copenhagen with the crew. He’s going to be working at Noma in Copenhagen, the 10th best restaurant in the world. Apparently, the restaurant is all about foraging, hooray! Chris went to France, Andy went to Spain, both at 3 Michelin Star restaurants which they worked in today. Mat is working at Noma tomorrow because Chef was in New York and has just arrived back. He’ll be doing lunch service and then preparing Chef’s signature dish for him to critique.

The crew with Mat are Ed (Director), Fiona (production), Mike (soundman who came to our house), Craig (Kiwi cameraman) and Suzi (Floor manager)

Mike, the soundman said that John and Greg judge purely on the food whether they like the contestant or not, and that he never knows who they are going to choose.

Ed asked Mat who he thought is going to win. Mat said he thought it was between Andy and himself . Both Andy and Mat have both had up-days and low-days, Scotland was an up-day for Mat, and Burghley was a low-day. Mat said he thought it would come down to the final menu; he’s going to do something quite different and really put himself on the line and if he executes it really well, he feels he may just win.

Friday 19th September:

Location: Outside London Event: Film day (Noma) / travel back to London

First, lunch service. Mat did really well; he was responsible for part of a dish and was working with a sous called James (who has worked for Rick Stein …). Chef (Renee, an incredibly charismatic man) and the sous in the kitchen, said that they were really surprised by Mat’s skill level and his natural ability to achieve results that even they had only managed after several practice attempts.

Then, it was time for Mat to make Chef’s signature dish. Having seen Mat’s abilities at cooking fish, Chef decided the dish was too simple, so he changed it to make it more of a challenge. The dish was all about presentation and precision in plating-up. Mat did it perfectly and Chef said he had no criticism at all; everyone was amazed by how well he did it. Afterwards, Mat spent some time discussing his food career plans with Chef.

Noma is in epitome of everything Mat could aspire to, a two Michelin starred Restaurant that produces local, seasonal, foraged, un-messed-with, exquisitely presented, delicious food. Today was probably the most important day of the competition so far for Mat, because it showed him just how far he can take his style of food.

I imagine that Andy also did extremely well at the Michelin star restaurant he was at in Spain, so it really is going to come down to that final menu.

The flight from Copenhagen landed at Stansted at 10pm, and then Mat drove home, arriving at 2am.

Saturday 20th September:

No filming on this day

Mat at home. We did the timed run-through of Mat’s final menu. It took 2 hours, 30 minutes, He’ll have just 2 hours on Tuesday, plus he’ll need to allow extra time for chats with John and Greg and the inevitable stress and confusion of the day. Having said that, the plates looked absolutely amazing! I wrote-up the overall method for the 3 courses, so we’ll see how much time we can save on tomorrow’s run-through.

We went to ‘Little Groves’, our local garden centre, to pick-up some edible plants to go with the main course. We bought Pineapple Sage (the flowers are incredibly sweet and scarlet red), Salad Burnet (the leaves are the most exotic shape), Cinammon Basil (the tiny flowers are pale lilac and very beautiful) and Lemon Thyme (with pale lilac flowers).

Sunday 21st September:

No filming on this day

Mat at home. We did the second run-through of Mat’s final menu. Everything came out beautifully. Mat’s really delighted with the final menu; he thinks that if he executes it perfectly on Tuesday, he’ll win; and he really wants to win. I hope he does.

This afternoon, Mat went to West Bay to pick-up some Spider Crabs for his final menu and the children and I went hunting for fresh, young nettles. Then we all sat around the table and enjoyed a roast lamb dinner together; it was like ‘The Last Supper’ before the MasterChef final, and Jack, our 5 year old, said “I think my Dad will win”. That may seem extreme (and I’m sure it will when I read this again in the future) but the competition has been going on for so long, it really has assumed biblical proportions in our minds.

Monday 22nd September:

Location: London (St. Pancras and Studio) Event: Film day

Mat left at 5am to ride up to London on his motor bike. He took the live Spider Crabs, herbs, flowers, nettles, wild garlic puree etc. for his final menu, all stuffed in his roll bag. After breakfast at Kings Cross, he went to St. Pancras Station for filming.

Mat then delivered his cargo of fresh ingredients to Beth so that she can take care of them until tomorrow’s Final Menu challenge.

This afternoon they were back in the studio doing an invention test. Andy made a Prawn bisque with a piece of filleted fish in the centre. Christopher made a Sweet potato ravioli with chicken wrapped in pancetta. Mat made Venison on wild mushrooms, with a tiny drizzle of a dark plum/raspberry sauce (to make the meat look glossy), sliced roasted baby beetroots, and a sprinkle of crushed roasted cob nut/roasted almonds (with salt, sugar, and slices of chilli).

John and Greg were very complimentary about all the contestants dishes, but they absolutely raved about Mats dish.

Tuesday 23rd September:

Location: London Event: Film Day (The Final Menu)

John and Greg were nice about Chris’ dishes but their hearts weren’t in it, Chris was really upset knowing he’d overcooked some of his food.

Andy made an Asian 3 course meal. A starter of Crab salad, followed by Duck with layers of things on it, and then a Mango icecream with coconut and passion fruit juice for pudding.

Mat cooked his dishes even better than he had over the weekend, but he’d used every last second doing it, blimey, how stressful. They were stunned by his presentation. John said the lavender mousse was like going back to his childhood, and Greg just couldn’t stop eating it. Mat stressed to John and Greg that he’d tried to make a menu that was original and not out of any cook book.

At 7:50pm Mat phoned, “I’m on camera … I’m holding a trophy!” I remember crying a lot, then he said “OK, I’ll talk to you later” and he was gone. There was a sudden deafening silence. “What did he say”, I said to myself. “He didn’t say he’d won did he? what did he say? Did he just phone or did I imagine that?” Then Jack came thundering downstairs, “Why did you scream Mum?” “Did I scream?” I said. Crumbs, I don’t remember screaming … he must have phoned then. Oh my god, HE WON!

Masterchef pictures

See we can all smile !
Yes its me with the trophy ... I will post some diaries soon ! Thank you again for all the lovely messages !
Trio of Rabbit Starter

Crab Thermidor Main
Lavender Mousse dessert

Masterchef semi finals - diary

This is a diary my wife kept after we talked each night. I won't comment more until the show is over but for anyone following the show it may be of interest, the diary is my thoughts on the day ... its very personal and my opinions at the time ... don't read anything too much into it !

2nd Semi final challenges

Wednesday 13th August:

Knife skills masterclass with Eric Chavot the 2 star Michelin Chef at The Capital

Eric said Mats knife skills were great. He said Mat could be a Fishmonger or a pretty good Butcher.

Thursday 14th August:

Studio test (The Breakfast Test – 10 plates the same) - in London & then travelling to and overnight at the first challenge location

Mat was partnered with Chris. Mat and Chris cooked scrambled egg with flat crispy bacon cooked in maple syrup and mushrooms, on toast. The other pair, Andy and Christopher cooked Kedgeree. John and Greg didn’t personally like the bacon cooked in maple Syrup.

Friday 15th August:

Location challenge (South Wales Steel works) (The Mass Catering test – for 950 people). Travelling back to and overnight in London

Mat and Chris were partnered again. Mat made Madras curry, Chris made a Stir-fry. The other pair made Fish (it’s Friday) and Stew. All the dishes sold well, there were no dramas, they just got on with it, the curry sold the most. Mat took charge of his pair Chris was really down in the mouth and did not enjoy the day but he did work hard and do his share. It was the biggest mass-catering exercise that MasterChef have ever done, and it went fine. The biggest mistake was that the Stew, the other pair made, was too watery and delayed service while they thickened it up, Mat’s curry was judged to be too hot so he took some heat out by adding yogurt.

Saturday 16th August:

Studio test (The Classic Test – Beef Wellington)

Mat’s Wellington was a little undercooked, there was not enough spinach on the plate and he burnt his sauce so he didn’t serve it; but his potatoes were good. The others had mistakes too, like under-cooked and under-seasoned potatoes, collapsed pastry, red wine sauce covering the entire dish so it looked like a blood bath.

Sunday 17th August:

No filming on this day

Mat was full of cold and slept till lunchtime … thankfully no challenges today, he spent his days budget on a great Chinese lunch in Soho then spent £15 on a movie !

Monday 18th August:

Location challenge (in London) (High-end dinner party for eight high profile guests)

It was at the Institute of Directors. The guests were Tim Campbell (who won the first series of 'The Apprentice', the manager of the IOD, Simon Woodroffe (Yo! Sushi), a lady who has been on The Secret Millionaire and a brewery owner and others Mat didn’t know.

Christopher made the starter, Ravioli. Chris made the fish course, Sole fillet with a chutney. Mat cooked the main course, lamb. Andy made the pudding, Peach soup with wild strawberries.

John said to Mat, “That’s the first elegant plate of food that you’ve cooked!” He said it was hot but he liked it. (The Salsa Verde had a kick and the Lamb was rolled in white pepper, so it was quite hot).

Tuesday 19th August:

No filming on this day

Mat needs to do his laundry ! He spent the afternoon practicing his critics dishes and is worried about cooking tarts and getting them out of their tins.

Wednesday 20th August:

Location challenge (in London) (Learning and improving key skills in a Restaurant)

Mat was sent to The Kyashii Restaurant in The Kingly Club in St Martin’s Lane ( Andrew Lassetter is the Executive Chef. The food is a Japanese / British fusion. The lesson that John and Greg feel mat has to learn is PRESENTATION. Mat was responsible for the lamb dish (which you can see on the website) and he did lots of plating-up at the pass, including plating-up the Sea Bass. Tomorrow, back at the studio, Mat will be cooking a scallop dish, designed by the Kyashii Restaurant. He saw one of the sous chefs making it today, so he even knows how to present it (it is also on the website).

The lamb dish that Mat did today was Japanese. A loin of lamb, marinated in a miso paste, on top of samphire; beside it was Japanese seaweed, reduced down so that it tasted really meaty/umame, with a dumpling on top of it, made from Japanese paste and the inside was lamb, leeks and potatoes; with a lamb sauce (reduced lamb jous mixed with miso (fermented soya)). Mat really enjoyed today. Chef was a really nice guy and so was Alexander, the aussie head chef, who was very supportive and ‘held’ Mats hand all day. The Restaurant was so amazing, it’s almost beyond words to describe today’s experience.

Thursday 21st August:

Studio test (Plate of food to demonstrate the key skills you learnt in the Restaurant)

Today went really well. Mat made the Scallop and Prawn dish from the Kyashii Restaurant and it turned out superbly, it’s presentation was fantastic. John and Gregg were both very pleased with Mat. Gregg said, “It’s one of those dishes that’ll stick in your memory; I bet you didn’t think you could make something like that with those fat fingers”.

Christopher had been to an Indian Restaurant so he made a curry, Andy had been to a French Restaurant so he made veal and Chris made Hallibut with sea vegetables (samphire and seaweed). All the contestants had a good day today.

Friday 22nd August:


Mat cooked Steak & Oysters on parmesan mash with Samphire, followed by Lime Tart with Mascarpone and a glass of chilled Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon.


The design and presentation of the dish was lovely and Mat even used an Oyster shell to put the sauce in, inspired! Mat felt that the steak was too big and it was definitely undercooked, it was blue. Mat’s kicking himself that he didn’t just apologise to the Critics and say that he’d be 10 minutes late with the main course. As it happens, he had to tell the Critics he’d be late with the pudding because it hadn’t had long enough to cook in the oven; and in the panic he forgot to put sugar in the lime filling … I wonder whether they noticed?

John and Gregg told the contestants that the Critics had said it was the best semi-final they’d had, the quality of the food had exceeded their expectations. Mat approached John for some feedback on his dishes; Mat said “I wasn’t happy with the flavours, I was in a flap with the timings … it wasn’t my best dish flavour-wise”, John agreed. John said “you focused too much on the presentation and not enough on getting flavour into the dish”.





So Mat needs to produce dishes that are un-fussy, but beautifully presented, using natural/local/british products like Elderberries, Elderflower, Blackberries, wild strawberries, seaweed, samphire, seakale, dandelion, chervil, feijoa, mushrooms … using the 3 golden rules above. Food that makes you salivate when you see it.

Dishes that are really good examples of what Mat needs to be producing more of:

  • Rhubard Crumble with Whiskey

  • Baby squid and clam soup
  • Lavender Ice cream and Hokey Pokey
  • Smoked scallops in wild garlic butter