In our most recent Masterclass, in partnership with Great British Chefs, Master Chef Colin Westal teamed up with Chef Pascal Aussignac to bring in autumn in style. The chefs’ spectacular dishes embraced the change in seasons with their seasonal ingredients and also celebrated the unique qualities of the finest Norwegian Cod.
Our lucky guests had the opportunity to cook along with these amazing chefs and learn how to professionally execute the dishes that they had created exclusively for our Masterclass. And to get the ball rolling our guests were tasked with making a quick and easy amuse bouche with grapes, sugar and mixed seeds. They had to heat the sugar, add the grapes into the sticky liquid and then coat with the assorted seeds. The challenge was to not burn the seeds or the sugar and Chef Pascal’s top tip in avoiding this, was to keep the pan moving over the heat. This seemed to save some, but not all, of these bite-sized hors d’oeuvres!
After this practice round, it was time to start on the main extravaganza. Master Chef Colin, who teaches our Cuisine courses and Chef Pascal Aussignac, who won Restaurant Chef of the Year in 2013, were always on hand to help the guests prepare and execute the beautiful dish - Confit Norwegian Cod, Butternut Squash, Black Garlic, Verjus and Juniper. What made the recipe so special was the intensity of both flavour and colour. The butternut squash purée was like a vibrant shock on the plate whilst the juniper and black garlic set the taste buds alight.
There were two very tricky parts of the dish. The first was when the time arose for our guests to confit their cod. They were warned not to let the oil rise above 56°C which proved to be quite difficult. If the heat was too high it would overcook the delicate fish, so they all had to keep a look out, and be cautious, with their thermometers close to hand. The other difficult stage was when making the verjus sabayon. Our guests had to combine the verjus and egg yolks in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Due to the heat, it was all too easy for the eggs to turn into a scrambled mess, as some of our poor guests found out! Chef Pascal’s top tip for avoiding this mini-disaster was to whisk continuously in a figure of 8 and continue to do so even after removing the bowl from the simmering water.
In order to compliment the amazing food, our Wine Development Manager, Matthieu Longuère, MS paired the dish with the perfect wine - Circle of Life, Waterkloof, Stellenbosch, South Africa, 2012. Here is what Matthieu had to say about the pairing:
“This blend of biodynamically grown Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon and Semillon is silky and honeyed, with baked apples and a mouth-watering freshness. The acidity will cut through the unctuous texture of the fish and the butternut squash while the candied fruit flavour will contrast with the verjus and the juniper."
After our guests had completed their dishes and drunk their wine, Master Chef Colin demonstrated how to make his culinary creation; Norwegian Cod with Cabbage, Lingonberries and Dill Pickled Cucumbers. This particular demonstration was where Master Chef Colin could really show his expertise as he used to manage a fishmongers, travelling to Billingsgate Market daily to find the best available fish. After his trips he used to return to the shop to cook up daily specials and pass on advice and tips to his customers.
Master Chef Colin’s recipe was all about Nordic flavours and techniques. With the cod being at its most seductive when pan-fried, the accompanying vegetables embraced the distinctive flavour of the dill. The pickled cucumbers and lingonberries brought some gentle acidity to the dish, with the salt and the warmth of the bacon seeping through the braised cabbage.
Master Chef Colin’s dish was definitely a fantastic end to a very inspiring evening, and we eagerly await the next Masterclass!