28 March 2011

CORDEN VERT "Vegetarian Chef of the future" 2011

As a regular diner of meat and fish, I have challenged myself to create a vegetarian dish for the Cordon vert vegetarian chef competition. I came up with these dishes to show off the versatility of British vegetables that will be enhanced by modern cooking techniques. In my main-course, I have used Asian spices and flavours that have long been a part of modern British cooking. As well as bringing unique flavours to my cooking, I have researched some of the health benefits that my chosen ingredients bring to my main course.

Chilli; Contains capsaicin which can aid pain relief, prevent stomach ulcers and is good for the heart.
Cinnamon; Can help lower blood sugar levels and reduce bacterial growth.
Turmeric; Contains curcumin which is a natural anti-inflammatory.
Coriander; Contains protein, fat and minerals to help aid digestion.
Garlic; Can destroy cancer cells, good for blood circulation.
Ginger; Helps stimulate blood flow.
Lentils; Good source of dietary fibre and a source of protein in vegan diets.
Coconut milk; Contains vitamins, potassium, calcium, and chloride. Although a source of saturated fat, the main one being lauric acid, this is made up of short and medium chain fatty acids which are broken down quickly to be used for energy instead of turning to fat.
Spinach; A super food rich in calcium, folic acid, vitamins C and K, Iron and fibre.
Cauliflower; Contains vitamin C and manganese, natural anti-inflammatory.

Agenda on the day
You will be putting your culinary skills against four other finalists who have equally demonstrated they understand vegetarian cuisine. On the day of the competition you have three hours to produce your three course menu. You are required to produce four servings of each course, each serving plated individually.  One serving will remain with you and three will be judged.  Cooking starts at 11 am. At 2pm all starters will be taken from the kitchen to the judging room. You will then get another 15 minutes to plate up your main and take this to the judges. Finally, you will get another 15 minutes of final preparation for your dessert.  For our publicity we will have a photographer for the day. If you have whites please wear these on the day.     

10.00 arrival coffee and registration
10.15  orientation of kitchen and checking ingredients
No cooking, weighing out or preparation of dishes is to be undertaken before 11 am
11.00 Start cooking!
2.00 presentation of starter
2.15 presentation of main
2.30 presentation of dessert
3.30 Winner announced! Presentation and photographs.
4.00 Competition ends

The dishes will be judged on presentation, taste, flavour combinations and general wow factor. 

Strawberry and almond crumble

Honeycomb tuile 

To start:
Smoked tofu, deep fried in a hazelnut and mustard seed crumb,
Asparagus and watercress salad, fresh herbed mayonnaise.

Red lentil, spinach and coconut curry,
Fragrant basmati rice, lemongrass and cardamom,
Garlic and sesame bread,
Tempura cauliflower, sweet chilli dipping sauce.

To follow:     
Celebration of strawberries,
Strawberry and honeycomb Brule,
Strawberry and almond crumble,
Strawberry and elderflower jelly.
Strawberry cheesecake, cinnamon tuile biscuit,

For the starter, I am using seasonal British produce, served with a modern twist with my style of presentation, and am adding texture to the tofu in the cooking technique.
My main-course involves inspiration from Asian cuisine, serving a delicious curry with various side dishes.
For my dessert, I am showing variety in the English strawberry by serving it four ways as part of one dish.


Deep fried smoked tofu in hazelnut crumb.

Initial presentation.

Celebration of strawberries, (Original)

Presentation on final.

On reaching the final, I competed against four other great chefs that all produced some amazing food on the day. I was honoured to be cooking alongside each of them and to have met some great culinary talents! I give my best to the final winner and to each of us other finalists.
The competition was sponsored by The Vegetarian Society who were great hosts to us chefs on the day.


Smoked tofu, deep fried in a walnut and mustard seed crumb,
Asparagus and watercress salad, fresh herbed mayonnaise.

300 grams smoked tofudiced into 2cm cubes.
12 asparagus tips,
1 small bunch of watercress.

For the coating:
50 grams seasoned plain flour,
1 large egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard,
50 grams hazelnuts and 10 grams mustard seeds.

For the mayonnaise,
2 egg yolks, 200ml veg oil, 100ml olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice,
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard,
2 sprigs tarragon, 2 sprigs basil, 2 sprigs parsley.

  1. Roast the hazelnuts & mustard seed before grinding & adding to the breadcrumbs,
  2. Lightly roll the tofu in the seasoned flour.
  3. Roll the floured tofu through the egg and mustard mix.
  4. Roll the tofu in the crumb mix until completely covered
  5. Put the crumbed tofu squares in the fridge to firm up.
  6. Scatter the watercress over the plate.
  7. Sauté the asparagus spears until just cooked.
  8. Deep fry the tofu for 2 minutes in hot oil until the crumbs become crisp.
  9. Place the tofu amongst the watercress.
  10. Cut the asparagus spears lengthways and place atop the tofu.
  11. Dress with the mayonnaise.
For the mayonnaise:
  1. Whisk the egg yolks, adding a little vegetable oil at a time.
  2. Whisk in the olive oil when you have used all the veg oil.
  3. Add the lemon juice, vinegar and mustard.
  4. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the mayonnaise, seasoning to taste.
  5. Dress the salad with the mayonnaise.

Curried red lentils and spinach, Coconut milk, chilli, ginger, ground spices and fresh coriander.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds.
1 teaspoon coriander seeds.
1 teaspoon fennel seeds.
1 teaspoon mustard seeds.
1 medium onion, finely diced.
3 cloves garlic, crushed.
1 inch fresh grated ginger.
2 x red chilli, finely sliced.
1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
1 large tomato, roughly chopped.
10 curry leaves.
100 grams pre-soaked red lentils.
500 ml coconut milk.
1 teaspoon garam masala.
100 grams fresh baby spinach.
40 grams fresh coriander.
Juice of one lemon.
Walnut oil for cooking, salt and pepper to taste.

1) Toast the whole seeds (except the mustard seeds) in a pan to release the aromas
2) Add a splash of oil and sauté the garlic and ginger.
3) Add the onion, chilli, and turmeric. Sauté for a few more minutes.
4) Add the tomato. Cook for a few minutes until the tomato begins to break down.
5) Add the lentils and a little water. Cook for about ten minutes until the lentils are tender.
6) Add the coconut milk and reduce by half until the sauce has thickened.
7) Add the garam masala,
8) Add the spinach leaves and cook for a few minutes until wilted into the sauce.
9) Fry the mustard seeds with the curry leaves until the seeds are popping and add to the curry,
10) Finish with the coriander and lemon juice and adjust seasoning.
Garam masala recipe;
4 tbsp coriander seeds, 1 tbsp mustard seeds, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 1 tbsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tbsp fenugreek seeds,   2 inch piece cinnamon,   1 tsp black cardamom seeds,  1 tsp cloves,1 tsp crushed bay leaves, 3 star anise.
Toast all the seeds over a moderate heat for a few minutes until the aromas are released from the seeds. Do not over toast as they will burn and become bitter. Grind to a fine powder when cooled slightly.

Sesame and garlic bread,
400 grams self raising flour.
100 ml coconut yoghurt.
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced.
1 inch fresh ginger, grated.
Small bunch fresh chopped coriander,
Salt and pepper to taste.
2 teaspoons of sesame seeds.

Method:   (Pre heat an oven proof pan at 220 Celsius)
Mix the flour and yoghurt together to form a soft dough.
Mix in half of the other ingredients, reserving the other half to garnish.
Knead the dough for a few minutes and leave covered until ready to roll out.
Divide into 8 balls and flatten them out with your hands into tear shapes.
Brush one side with oil and divide the remaining ingredients over the breads.
Place the breads into a preheated pan, oiled side up and put in the oven.
They will take about 5 to 6 minutes.

Fragrant rice,
300 grams basmati rice, 1 stalk of lemon grass, crushed, 8 green cardamom pods, zest of 1 lemon. 1 teaspoon turmeric powder.

Put all the ingredients in a pan except the lemon zest and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 12 minutes until the rice is tender. Add the lemon zest before serving.

Cauliflower tempura, sticky sweet chilli dipping sauce.
½ a cauliflower, cut into small florets.
Tempura batter (100 grams self raising flour, 100 grams corn flour, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon garam masala, 50ml cold fizzy water)
Sweet chilli sauce, (1 red pepper, finely diced, 1 red chilli, finely diced, 1 inch grated ginger, 4 tablespoons white vinegar , 4 tablespoons brown sugar)

Mix the ingredients for the sweet chilli sauce and boil together for a few minutes until thickened.
Coat the cauliflower florets in the batter and deep fry for about 3 minutes.

Celebration of strawberries,

Strawberry and almond crumble.

Ingredients for filling,
6 large fresh English strawberries, 1 teapoon ground almonds, 1-2 tablespoons caster sugar.
Mix all together and place in the bottom of four ramekins.

Ingredients for crumble topping,
50 grams plain flour, 50 grams oats, 40 grams flaked almonds, 70 grams butter, 40 grams brown sugar.
Rub the ingredients together, being careful not to overwork the butter.
Bake for a few minutes on its own before breaking up and lightly spreading over the fruit.
Bake for a further 10 to 12 minutes.

Strawberry and elderflower jelly
6 large strawberries, quartered,
Elderflower cordial,
200ml water,
2 - 3 Leaves gelatine,

  1. Bring 100 ml of water with the strawberries to the boil, dissolving the gelatine in it.
  2. Strain out the strawberries.
  3. Add the cordial to taste.
  4. Pour into your moulds,
  5. Leave to set before turning out.

Strawberry and honeycomb Brule,

2 large egg yolks, 200ml double cream, 1 vanilla pod, 35 grams caster sugar.
1)     Bring the cream to the boil,
2)     Whisk the yolks with the sugar and vanilla,
3)     Slowly add the hot cream mixture to the whisked yolks and sugar,
4)     Return to the heat, stirring continuously,
5)     Pour into the ramekins to set,
6)     Garnish with crushed honeycomb and fresh sliced strawberries.

100 grams caster sugar, 4 tablespoons golden syrup, 2 teaspoons bicarb.
Boil the sugar and syrup for a few minutes until it begins to caramelise. Add the bicarb and turn out onto some parchment to cool.

Strawberry cheesecake,

50ml cream cheese, 50ml double cream, 50 grams white chocolate, few drops vanilla extract,
40ml strawberry coulis (200 grams strawberries, 1 tablespoon castor sugar, juice of ¼ lemon)

1)       Heat the ingredients for the coulis and puree, passing through a sieve, allow to cool,
2)       Beat the cream cheese and cream with the sugar and vanilla until firm,
3)       Mix the coulis in with the cream cheese,
4)       Add a little melted white chocolate to the mix,
5)       Shape into quenelles.

Tuile biscuit,

1 egg whites, 150 grams plain flour, 160 grams caster sugar, vanilla extract, ½ teaspoon cinnamon.

  1. Mix the ingredients together to form a smooth paste.
  2. Spread thinly onto a parchment sheet.
  3. Bake at 190 for 5 minutes.
  4. When cooled, cut to desired shape and plate up, with a quenelle of cheesecake mix on top.
Plate up the strawberry desserts on the same plate.

27 March 2011


Italian themed menu    
To start;
Bruschetta with roasted red pepper and tomato salsa
Sliced Parma ham, dressed with olive oil, Parmesan shavings and blush tomatoes.
Mozzarella, black olive, tomato and red onion salad
Rocket leaves with basil pesto 
Freshly made granary bread, blush tomatoes and Parmesan.

Free range chicken breast,
Stuffed with blush tomatoes and mozzarella, wrapped in Parma ham and puff pastry.
Roasted cherry tomato and basil sauce.

Served with:
Italian style rosemary roasted potatoes,
Glazed chantenay carrots and saute baby spinach leaves with garlic.

To follow:
Trio of desserts,

Chocolate and orange Tiramisu, with coffee and Amaretto cream,

Lemon and raspberry pannacotta,

Chocolate and roasted hazelnut brownie.

My latest dinner party was for Nikki Connolly, celebrating her birthday. Her husband, Gary, had contacted me to arrange the menu a while back and wanted to have it as a surprise for Nikki's guests. The great thing for me was that Gary had contacted me through friends of his that I had previously catered for, so I was really pleased that my services were recommended.

Gary and Nikki had browsed through my website and blog to gain some inspiration for their menu choice. Once the theme of an Italian style menu was confirmed, I came up with some bespoke menus which I forwarded on. I was really pleased with the menu choices when they were finalised and I had a few weeks to plan ahead the logistics.

I planned to arrive about 6:00p.m which would give me about an hour to set up and half an hour before Nikki's guests were scheduled to arrive. I arrived in Portsmouth on schedule, which is about half an hour from my house and I was welcomed at the door and led to the kitchen. It was left very clean and tidy for me and I had a shelf reserved for me in the fridge which was great. I set up fairly quickly in the kitchen and I then laid up the table with cutlery and napkins.

It wasn't long before all the guests had arrived. They were all very friendly and They relaxed in the lounge while I continued in the kitchen with a glass of lemonade, kindly poured for me by the hostess. I laid out the starters buffet style in the middle of the table so it was a very relaxed way to begin the dinner. I was pleased that the ladies had an appetite and it wasn't long before I cleared down and started plating up the main-course. This was well received and I carried on back to the kitchen to put the finishing touches to the desserts.

After all the food had been served, I was really pleased with the way the evening had gone and welcomed the positive feed back from my diners. I really love to cook and take a lot of pride in all my dinner parties and this was no exception as I had a great evening cooking for some really fun and friendly people.

Granary bread, blushed tomato, parmesan and fresh basil.

Ciabatta bruschetta with roasted pepper salsa.

Mozzarella, red onion, tomato and black olive salad.

Parma ham, dressed with blush tomatoes and olive oil.

Rocket leaves, dressed with basil pesto and parmesan shavings.

Stuffed chicken breast

Trio of desserts.

"Nikki had a great night and would like to say thanks again. We will definitely have you back for another event"  Quote from Gary Connolly

Private Dinner Parties
ChefGary Weddings

24 March 2011


Served with egg fried rice, saute spinach and garlic, wasabi and soy.

I love cooking with fish and often try new ideas out at home for my wife and I. I make an extra effort to use sustainably sourced fish and for this dish I used pangasius which is a farmed catfish from Asia. Also known as river cobbler or white catfish, it is of a good texture but fairly bland in flavour. However, this makes it great to take on other stronger flavours.Cutting them into the nations favourite "fish finger" shape, I coated them in sesame seeds and pan fried them for a few minutes on each side. I did some fragrant egg fried rice which I boiled first with some cinnamon, star anise, cloves and green cardamom pods, then finished in a pan with free range duck eggs. I saute some spinach too with a little black pepper and nutmeg. I had a good helping of good quality naturally brewed light soy sauce and wasabi on the side which was a delight to dip the fish in. I added a little red chilli to mine as I love a little kick with my food and also like to utilise the chilli pepper for all its natural health benefits.

Pangasius fish fingers in sesame with wasabi.
See Health benifits from Chillis at TheChilliKing.com


13 March 2011


My wife Karen and I first met Julian and Sue when they were recommended as our wedding photographers back in 2007. We had a fantastic wedding and it really made the difference to have an enthusiastic and friendly couple doing our photography. They were really relaxed and supportive, which reflected in our moods on the day and this was captured in all our photos. We now have a great album to store all our wedding memories. Because of Jules' and Sue's friendly ambiance, we have stayed in contact and always recommended them to other friends of ours for their weddings.

Last weekend, we were invited to Jules' and Sue's for dinner and I was to be doing the cooking with a little help from my sous chef, Jules. As Karen and I were to be dining with them, I planned a menu that would be great to eat whilst not keeping me chained to the kitchen. I know that Jules is a great fan of curries, so I used this to theme the menu. Curries are great dishes that can offer versatility in flavours and texture. They hold well when keeping hot so timing can be more relaxed, especially if you are preparing a dinner party. They are also great dishes to be served in the middle of the table for people to help themselves to, so are ideal for all appetites.

For a pre-dinner snack, I made some fresh pitta bread and a lemon and coriander hummus to go in the middle of the table for us to munch on while I made the curries with Jules. Jules made up a great champagne cocktail to start the drinking off which was amazing! He has a great repertoire of cocktails and it was quite impressive seeing his collection of spirits and liquors!

I made some vegetable bhajis from grated cauliflower, carrot, onion, garlic, ginger and mixed spices, which I served with a sweet chilli dip and a sweet and spicy yoghurt with fresh coriander. Again, these were served in the middle of the table and we sat around the kitchen table to eat our starter. They were really delicious, with a delicate balance of spices and a great crisp texture. The dips went really well with them and we finished them off pretty quickly!

We then moved into the dining room to eat the main courses, which I set in the middle of the table for us to help ourselves.

We were so full after the main-course that we moved onto the lounge sofa to digest before dessert. It was great chatting and catching up and we enjoyed a few more of Jules' cocktails!

For dessert I made a lemongrass and honeycomb creme brulee, accompanied with a chocolate, chilli and brandy pot. I also made some crisp cinnamon tuille biscuits to add some texture to the dish. We moved back to the table to enjoy it and it went down really well.

Freshly made pitta bread, chilli, lime and coriander hummus
Vegetable Bhaji

Natural yoghurt, coriander, chilli  and mint

Sweet chiili dipping sauce
South Indian inspired curry, lentils, coconut, chilli, garam masala and fresh coriander

North Indian inspired curry, diced beef, garlic, ginger, chilli, ground spices, tomato. 
Finished with natural yoghurt and fresh coriander.

Fragrant basmati rice, lemongrass and cardamom.

Freshly made garlic and sesame naan bread.

Curry Banquet.

Lemon grass and cardamom brulee, chocolate and lime cappuccino.

The whole evening was really enjoyable and it was great to see Jules and Sue and we will be doing it again soon. 

Thanks to Jules for the hosting and for taking the amazing pictures! I will keep practising on my photography but my main talent remains in the kitchen.

7 March 2011

Experience fantastic quality food in the comfort of your own home, 
Prepared, cooked and served by ChefGary 
For more information on ChefGary's Private Dinner Parties, Visit Here 

Gallery from previous Dinner Parties.

For more information on ChefGary's Private Dinner Parties, Visit Here

For further enquiries, please contact me via email or telephone.
Tel: 07775560126   Email: Chef@Chefgary.co.uk