Cooking Adam Reid’s Great British Menu At Home
It’s been a while now since i’ve updated you on how I’ve been coping during lockdown. There has not been much to report to be honest. I’ve been keeping my head down, putting countless hours in on my static bike, clocking up miles and miles on Zwift, then using the rest of the time to cook up lots of tasty food to refuel for the next day of training. There was one evening Neil and I tried to further our knowledge of Japanese culture by participating in an online sake tasting session. It was interesting to a point, but the biggest thing we learned was that we really don’t like sake. As we are spending so much time training and not much else, we have been keeping our spirits high with some tasty treats on Deliveroo and trying to support local independent food companies by buying things through the online Makers Market. I have been keeping my eyes peeled on social media for interesting things to participate in, so that we don’t get bored during lockdown and something exciting came up a couple of weeks ago.
Last year we watched the Great British Menu for the first time. We were hooked, especially as the theme was British music, something both Neil and I enjoy. We watched as a local Manchester chef, Adam Reid, cooked a delicious sounding menu, all inspired by local Manchester rock music, to get him through to the final. His main course, called ‘Comfort Food Sounds Good’, went on to win a place at the banquet. Roast chicken, served with a barley, sweetcorn, leek and turnip stew sounded right up my street and I really wanted to try it. Fortunately I discovered that he was cooking the full menu he put forward in the competition at his restaurant, the French, at the Midland hotel in Manchester. We decided to celebrate our wedding anniversary there. It was quite possibly one of the best meals I have ever eaten. Adam certainly knows how to pack flavour in, his sauces are incredible and that chicken dish…if only all roast chicken tasted that good. We actually got to meet him on the night, which was a very nice touch and I asked him to show me how to cook chicken like that. He laughed and told me it was very simple. He didn’t end up quite showing me how to do it but during lockdown he has done the next best thing.
A few weeks ago I saw on twitter that Adam was putting together ‘cook at home’ boxes of his Great British Menu. He would do all the preparation and we would just need to finish it off at home. This sounded like a really tasty way of getting to eat the menu again, while also possibly learning a couple of things on the way. The first week it went live we weren’t quick enough to buy one as they sold out in something like 8 minutes. The second week, thanks to a prompt from my teammate Sophie, we did get lucky and secured a delivery for the following Friday. Date night sorted.
As it was a 4 course meal that included roasting a chicken, I knew there would be a few tricky steps involved in finishing off the meal. It wouldn’t just be like ordering something on Deliveroo. Recognising that it would help to be able to read the instructions myself, I contacted Adam over twitter and asked if he could email me the instructions so I could access them through my phone. He was more than happy to help and while at it made sure I would be able to identify everything when it was all sent out. In the TV programme he came across really friendly and down to earth, he seems like a genuinely nice guy.
When reading through the instructions, I discovered one of the steps involved deep frying some fish fritters. This is not something i’m comfortable with. Being totally blind and dealing with a pan of extremely hot oil is definitely a danger zone and not something I recommend. I explained my problem to Adam and understanding my predicament, he suggested I leave the batter for the fritters a little thicker and just pan fry it. This sounded a lot safer and something I was more comfortable with. It did mean that the end fritter was not quite as light and crisp as the one at the restaurant, but it still worked and tasted good, which is the important part.
The other most tricky part of the meal was to roast a chicken. I am ashamed to admit that up until now I still haven’t ever cooked meat on the bone. For some reason its just something I’m a bit apprehensive about. I can’t even use being visually impaired as a reason because both my brothers and mum regularly do it with considerable success. Knowing I had never done this before, and having the memory of the fantastic chicken from the restaurant, clearly imprinted in my mind I was nervous. I really didn’t want to mess up the star of the show. Turns out I needn’t have worried as incredibly it came out near perfect. Perhaps beginners luck, but the experience has inspired me to consider doing my own roast dinner soon. At the beginning of the year I set myself the challenge of cooking a roast dinner myself from scratch, so this was a helpful step along the way.
The successful roasting of the chicken was definitely helped by Adam‘s preparation and careful, clear instructions. All the instructions were clearly laid out in an easy to understand and fun format. There were the odd jokey comments along the way, like not setting fire to the house and not carrying your tea towel over your shoulder, as this does not make you a professional chef. Everything was broken down in to a running order and thankfully, not like our Cooking at Home with Wood experience, we didn’t get confused once.
Although each separate element was not labelled, each course came grouped together in its own box. The majority of the elements were easy to identify through touch alone. I did get a little confused with all the elements for the chicken course, but through process of elimination, and a little bit of tasting, I got there in the end. It did definitely help though to have a background knowledge and understanding of the ingredients.
I don’t think I could have put together all 4 courses on my own. I did need the assistance of Neil at times. It did take me out of my comfort zone, especially when for the fish course, I had 4 pans on the go, one warming the sauce, one sautéing the leeks, one poaching the fish and the other frying the fritter. This is definitely not something I recommend when cooking without sight, but we got there in the end, after only dropping one pan. Nothing was burned, everything was salvageable, it might not have looked how it should but it sure did taste bloody good. I think this was helped by the delicious sauce that everything was smothered in. Adam definitely knows how to make a tasty sauce. In a way it was better than the restaurant, as I could use my finger to wipe up any remnants and completely clear my plate.
Both the starter and dessert were really easy to prepare. One of my highlights from the restaurant is the beef butter, which you get to spread on a slice of bread by the bucket load. Words don’t do justice to how delicious this beef butter is, you simply have to try it to understand. Its safe to say that the at home experience was just as good. The dessert is a treacle tart. I would never choose this on a menu, however both times I’ve had it now, once in the restaurant and then again last weekend, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. When plating up the dessert, you had to grate over some flavoured butters to finish it. Unfortunately, even though I, as instructed, froze the butter before grating, it didn’t really work very well and I struggled, creating a buttery mess. Fortunately it didn’t detract from the flavour and the dish still tasted great.
Cooking the whole meal took pretty much all evening and for the majority of the time it was very enjoyable. The course I enjoyed to eat the most was the fish course, although this was the least enjoyable to cook. The course I enjoyed cooking the most was the chicken. I was so proud of that roasted bird. I fully intended on taking a photo for evidence, but I got so excited that I forgot. Thank you Adam for putting together a fantastic meal. Thank you for pushing me and teaching me new skills. Thank you for enabling me to relive a fantastic anniversary celebration at home. I think it cheered both myself and Neil right up, although that might have just been the glass of wine we remembered to pour just before the main course. It’s definitely not a cheap experience, coming in at £90 for the 2 of us, but its worth every penny and more.
At the start of the instructions, Adam writes “please remember that my food is all about the flavour, and the perfection of each element on the plate. So don’t stress, just do your best. After all, food is for eating, not just looking at.” This really rings true with me, It made me smile and put me at ease. I can definitely vouch for the fact that although it might not have looked the prettiest, it sure was a tasty 4 course meal. Yes it probably wasn’t quite as good as if we had been eating at The French, but I can’t quite remember, so I think I will have to go again just to check once lockdown has eased.
I’m back to researching my next lockdown cooking experience. Does anyone have any recommendations? I’m aware that 2 other of my favourite Manchester restaurants, Six by Nico and Northern Soul Grilled Cheese are doing cook at home experiences, but unfortunately we are out of the delivery zones for either of these, so I can’t give them a try. Please leave any suggestions in the box below.
Thank you for reading and speak soon.