Thursday, 9 September 2010

The British National Oyster Opening Championships

Wracked with nerves and trepidation I head off with my trusty oyster knives to Piccadilly, London, where Bentley's are hosting the Tabasco British Oyster Opening Championships 2010. The prize up for grabs - prestige, and the chance to represent Gow's and Britain at the world championships in Galway.

On arrival, I decided that a cold glass of Prosecco would calm one's nerves. 6 glasses later I was more than overconfident looking at the other contestants - oyster geeks from all over Britain.

Amongst the 'celebrities' were the likes of Ainsley Harriott, Brian Turner, Tom Parker-Bowles, Richard Corrigan and most impressively, the Hamilton's! Brian Turner being the MC called the first 3 contestants. Up on stage I quickly gave my knives one last polish and prepared to open 30 new season native oysters in the fastest time possible.

                                         Richard Corrigan and mystery blonde.....

The world record is 2 minutes 19 seconds - could I get close?

Now regretting having drunk those 6 glasses of prosecco, the nerves kicked in, Brian Turner gave the off, and away we went. Each contestant having to ring a bell when finished - it's not just about speed, it's about presentation as well. And blow me down, in what seems like seconds, the first bell rang, then the second, and then there was just me.

I carried manfully on, Brian Turner giving me all the encouragement I needed by cajoling the crowd to support 'David from Gow's' in his soothing Northern accent.

I finally shucked and presented my last oyster to the loud applause of the audience. At which I was so relieved I threw my hands up in the air like a cyclist at the top of Alpe d'Huex in the Tour de France, knocking over a large display bottle of Tabasco sauce at the same time, just to draw a bit more attention to oneself.

But one of my food heroes, Tom Parker-Bowles patted me on the back and congratulated me for my Great British spirit.

A great day out, fifth place (possibly), a few more glasses of Prosecco, and looking forward to next year when I'm definitely going to kick some ass.....


The Lionheart

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Is there a grouse in the house? Yes there is...

Back from sunny Spain, invigorated and full of inspiration, sangria and cerveza.

Topic of the moment - grouse. Especially in The City. Bringing part of the countryside into a London restaurant.

Grouse is shot on or after the Glorious Twelth, allowing the birds to reach maturity. The City, for centuries has been partaking in the mastication of this bird every August.

After being hung for at least a week to ripen and mature the flavours (my tip - never eat Grouse on 12th August as this would have been last year's bird, thrown in the freezer for 6 months), these birds are ready to eat after the 18th.

The best way to cook the grouse is to extract all entrails, hearts, lungs, guts etc. to make a nice pate. And believe you me these stink! Traditionally, the accompaniments to grouse would be game chips, bread sauce, bacon and gravy made from the pan juices, otherwise known as 'jus'.

However, the Lionheart way has to be what the bird likes to eat and what more seasonal than fresh, ripe elderberriers straight from the bush.

With these I make a lovely elderberry jam to accompany the bird. I confit the legs (slowly cook in olive oil, garlic and rosemary for 3 hours) and make a buttery savoy cabbage parcel stuffed with new season carrots and a pinch of caraway.

After roasting the bird on the crown for 8 minutes in a hot oven, it's important to leave them to rest before I de-breast them (nudge, nudge, say no more) and plate up, finishing off with the pan juices de-glazed with a splash of double cream.

To start the season we did a lunch table yesterday with 9 toffs and big-wigs from the City who chose Krug champagne, Puligny Montrachet 2005 and magnums of Chateau Durfort Vivens claret to complement.

The current trend in the City (see the Daily Telegraph) is which restaurant can do the cheapest grouse? I do believe we're currently in the lead by charging £25 per head - a bargain.


The Lionheart

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

I love it when some great food goes with a great service surprise. What goes with mackerel I thought to myself this morning, other than horseradish, lemon or wasabi. We are an English restaurant after all.

Before I got on my bike to ride the 45 miles up to London from my ranch in the country, I went into the garden to see what I could use - elderberries, raspberries, rose petals. Anf then I saw a beautiful array of fresh lavender with bumble bees a-buzzing.

'Watch out little bumble bees' I cried as I grabbed a handful of lavender and stuffed it into my rucksack.

After the god awful journey up the motorway through the Blackwall Tunnel, I roared into the kitchen (after parking my bike) full of my usual joie de vive and derring do.

A muggy and warm day calls for ice-cream. Not your Heston Blumenthal 'Egg & Bacon Ice Cream', but your Lionheart Jordan 'Vine Cherry Tomato & Lavender Ice Cream'

The girls on the floor decided to play a game with the customers - they described the special and just said there was a secret ingredient that they weren't going to divulge until the dish appeared. I chose toasted oats to pane the mackerel (floor, egg and breadcrumb), then pan fried the fish in frothy brown butter served up with a cherry tomato salad, buttered new potatoes and our secret ingredient - a ball of our ice-cream on the side.

Great reaction - the girls sold loads, the customers talked about it and loved the combination. That's what I love about every new day.

The only thing - I now have to write the recipe out and send it out to a group of customers. And do I have the time? Not when the Guvnor wants menus for next January, and all the boring paperwork - the only down side to running a busy London restaurant kitchen (hey ho).

Time to move on. Another day awaits, and we're off to the new Framer's Market at Broadgate early in the monring to see what we will see.

The Lionheart