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.


  1. I have been selected to produce my full three course menu for the final of the vegetarian chef of the future competition. I am really proud to have been selected and am looking forwards to the event on May 10th!!


  2. That's excellent news Gary! Good luck to you for Tuesday.