Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Nom Nom Nom 2009: Coming a close second...

I think it was the Summer Berry Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake that did it. Clinched us that coveted runners up spot that is. Crisp, butter shortbread. Smooth, citrusy cream. Uber fresh English strawberries and raspberries, bang in season. Tom Aikens said it was great. Great. A Michelin starred chef thought our dessert was great! How cool is that?

I'd like to say that I arrived at the Cookery School on Little Portland Street relaxed and in plenty of time for the finals of Nom Nom Nom 2009 - 'the Masterchef of Bloggers'. But I would be lying. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I have absolutely no sense of direction. Spin me round 3 times on the spot in my own house and my parents used to say I'd be lost. My Nom team mate - Chris Dreyfus of More Tea, Vicar? - assured me it was simple. Come out of Oxford Circus tube, head up Regent's Street and turn right. But the map on my blackberry said something else. So I followed it. I found the street alright (eventually) but how does 15b not come anywhere between 1 and 30? Well on this street it doesn't. I was about to call home for Andrew to laugh at me and guide me in when I spied the distinctive purple sign. It was only 9.30am on a Sunday morning. How am I supposed to do anything at that ungodly hour?

Nom Nom Nom is a fun competition for bloggers, writers, photographers and food enthusiasts. It’s a cooking contest that takes places over one day and sees eight teams of two shop for ingredients and cook a three-course meal that is then judged by a panel of experts.

I shall admit to being more than a little excited. I've never cooked under pressure before and I usually cook alone (the obvious exceptions being when I cook with my Mum or with Not Aunty Lisa). Yet here I was about to embark on cooking an unfamiliar menu with someone I've only known (if you can call meeting face to face about 3 times 'known') for a few weeks.

After a much needed breakfast of the most delicious freshly baked cheese scones, first stop was Marylebone High Street and the Marylebone Farmers' Market for ingredients. What a choice! But with only £40 to spend on quality produce at central London prices we had to spend wisely.

The brief was to cook a 3 course meal for 4 people that was simple, sexy, sustainable and seasonal. Oh, and if that wasn't enough, one course had to be a cold course - no cooking allowed. What better time to cook with seasonal ingredients in England than in the summer?! Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines, peas, broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, everything berries....

After hours of planning, deliberation, recipe testing, consultation and ingredient sourcing (or perhaps over a couple of email exchanges and a drunken night in my kitchen), Chris and I devised our Sensational Simple Sexy Sustainable Seasonal Summer Menu!

Starter Gazpacho with Goat's Cheese Crème fraîche

The recipe is here.

Main Course Pan Fried Sea Bass with Aubergine Caviar

The recipe is here.

Dessert Summer Berry Lemon Shortbread Cheesecake

(recipes to follow soon...)

If our escapades in my kitchen during our trial run were anything to go by it should have all gone horribly wrong... Chris tried to flood my kitchen with gazpacho and, having got the quantities mixed up in the shortbread, I ended up making enough biscuits to feed most of my colleagues the following Monday. But it was remarkably calm. In fact the whole kitchen was calm. Eight pairs of amateur cooks beavering away, stopping only to have a quick chat or take photos for our blogs, and all managing to plate up just in the nick of time before the cries of "Stop Cooking". OK, so maybe there were a couple of moments when panic nearly set in, like when the judges came down to watch and talk to us whilst we cooked. Talking intelligently to and putting the final touches to our dishes at the same time was no mean feat!

You know what? It's exhausting work. Added to all that adrenaline, it wasn't until we all sat down together to share the leftover food that we realised how tired (and if we really admitted it to ourselves, nervous) we all were. The judges seemed to take forever as we waited with bated breath...

I think Chris was quietly confident, but I was totally bowled over when we were announced as the Runners Up!!! And proud of us both! The judges are all experts in their fields and they liked our food. You can read all about it here.

Having tempted your tastebuds with all of this talk of food, there is one little thing we'd love you to do for us and that's vote for More Gingers, Vicar? - VOTE HERE!

There is a serious side to all of this and that's to raise money for Action Against Hunger, an international humanitarian organisation, working in 43 of the world’s poorest countries. Its vocation is to save lives, especially those of malnourished children and to work with vulnerable populations to preserve and restore their livelihoods with dignity. There are some fantastic prizes to be won in the Nom Nom Nom raffle in aid of Action Against Hunger. Please spare £5 or more to support this worthwhile cause.

Did I mention that Tom Aikens loved our dessert?


  1. Everything is looking goodly ginger, Naomi.

    The best of luck with the voting, and how cool is that about the dessert!

  2. Thanks Gill! I was really quite blown away by the nice comments. I don't usually have people critiquing my food (other than friends and family of course!).