Some of the best Great British produce is under threat and in this campaigning series, ten of the BBC’s best-known chefs and cooks are on a mission to bring our traditional produce back from the brink.
I’m a sucker for any food show with “Great British…” at the beginning of the title, so I am predisposed to like this. Having Michel Roux Jr as one of the chefs in this episode is an almost unnecessary additional drawcard. Let’s see how it goes…
Michel Roux Jr on bread
3% of bread in Britain baked by bakers – MR(jr) wants us to eat artisan loaves. The Chorleywood process, by which industrial bread is made, entails whipping dough full of air, pumping it with carbon dioxide and adding things to make sure it goes through machines easily. Chris – a bread guy – counts off 14 ingredients in the industrial loaf. Michel goes to meet an industrial bread guy to tell him that he wants a baker on every street, which obviously this bloke won’t agree with. He’s all “we don’t want to criticise the consumer” which is the usual “we are just giving people what they want” nonsense. He points out that British bread is the cheapest in Europe.
A simple white loaf
This is made with milk, which is heated, butter and then some golden syrup. (I wonder if Michel is surrounded by Union Jacks in his kitchen for a reason). MR(Jr) adds yeast, white flour and some salt. Rest for five minutes and then start working it for ten minutes. Rest for half an hour and pose in a doorway with a hot beverage. I wonder if MR(Jr) is English enough for tea… Form into balls and put into a tin, then rest for 30 minutes. Slash with a sharp knife and put into a 200C oven. Turn down to 180C after 10 minutes and in another 20 you should have your lovely fresh bread. (The proper recipe can be found here.)
Being a perfectionist
MR(Jr) heads off to meet John Letts, a wheat farmer, to talk about heritage wheat. Unfortunately he visits at harvest time, so we don’t see the 6ft wheat in the fields, however we watch it being freshly threshed (it’s stored on the stalk and processed as it’s needed). MR(Jr) feeds the thatchers with John’s freshly made bread and they all seem happy with the bread that “tastes like it’s good for you”.
Bread charlotte with confit duck
MR(Jr) uses his first loaf – the simple white – to make a pie with confit duck. Confit duck gizzards! Wow… It looks like a savoury summer pudding, with bread soaked in duck fat instead of in berry juice. My kind of pudding. The recipe is here.
Next, we meet Ben McKinnon in his bakery in Hackney. His sourdough starter is the stuff dreams are made of, with a 200 year old culture from Lappland. MR(Jr) gets almost scarily excited by the bread – it turns him on – and he recommends viewers take bread-making courses.
This is described as a “French version of a bread and butter pudding”. MR(Jr) uses a loaf of Ben’s sourdough and some of the white loaf. This is the first recipe MR(Jr) made as an apprentice, and I’m sure I’ve seen him ask this of prospective Masterchefs in a past season. The recipe is here.
The Hairy Bikers on cauliflower
From MR(Jr)’s restrained passion, we hit the ebullient bikers, who are singing the praises of the cauli, complete with neologisms such as “caulilicious”. Sales of this veg are falling and broccoli is partly to blame. Philip Lowery from the Real Food Festival explains that people think that caulis are less nutritious than other veg, largely due to their pale colour.
The perfect cauliflower cheese
The Bikers find a yellow version of the veg for this recipe, which they promise will be “cauliflower cheese as you’ve never seen it before”. They even munch on the raw stem in their efforts to sell the versatility of this particular brassica. The “twistarooni” is the inclusion of smoky bacon, and at that suggestion, I develop a sudden craving for the Bikers’ Cauliflower Cheese. The full recipe is here.
Lincolnshire – the cauliflower capital
The Bikers pop out to visit George Read who explains some of the problems with cauliflower farming. The main issue appears to be that caulis grow quicker in summer, but demand is highest in winter. The crop also grows at different rates, so the field needs to be revisited a number of times to harvest. Phillip Effingham of the Brassica Growers Association is trying to promote different varieties, and is struggling with the romanesco. Six out of ten households don’t even buy the standard version.
Seared scallops with a cauliflower and pancetta puree
This sounds fab, but perhaps the Bikers should consider not putting pork products into all their cauliflower recipes! It looks lovely, although I’m yet to be convinced that the scallops really can take a strong cheese. Recipe here.
Taking it to the streets
The Bikers recruit chef Yotam Ottolenghi and food scientist Linda to help them convince shoppers in what looks like a bitterly cold street market to rediscover cauliflower. Ottolenghi cooks a charred cauliflower salad and Linda makes a soup out of the stems, and both dishes are a success, despite the lack of pork.
Saag aloo with roasted gobi curry
The Bikers use a standard white cauliflower and a romaneso for their last dish. This is another vegetarian-friendly dish, and it looks simple and delicious. I was surprised to see that you can get dried curry leaves in supermarket spice packets in the UK. Recipe here.
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Great British Food Revival is on Lifestyle Food on Mondays at 8.30pm, with repeats during the week.