Sheff’s Kitchen semi-final heads to the farm
Pickled Pair wends her way to Whirlow to judge the semi-final of the city’s charity cook-off Sheff’s Kitchen.
If you haven’t come across Sheff’s Kitchen yet, make sure you’re fed and watered and then read on. It’s a cooking competition for the cream of Sheff’s chefs hell-bent on carving their niche on the farmyard post.
Yes, it’s a play on Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen, but don’t let that put you off – the food is real showstopper stuff, and all the chefs and restaurants involved give their time freely so that funds raised go directly to Whirlow Hall Farm Trust.
I was invited to judge the semi-final and joined by Exposed’s very own Phil Turner. He’s a good dining companion and came suitably kitted out for an evening on the farm – tweed jacket replete with elbow patches – I didn’t.
We kicked off with a glass of bubbly in the farmyard before heading inside the atmospheric cruck barn for dinner. It’s so lovely, and given it’s proximity to the city centre (four miles west) it did make me wonder why Whirlow doesn’t hold more foodie evenings on the farm. We townies would love it.
Lee Mangles from Silversmiths was in the Red Kitchen and Charlie Curran of Peppercorn in the Black. Both chefs are well known in Sheffield for creating interesting menus and championing local produce. The theme for the evening was ‘Around the World in 80 days’. Charlie took us on a family tour from Sheffield to Hong Kong to Oz. Lee decided to follow in the footsteps of Michael Palin, Patron of Whirlow, with a distinct Pythonesque flavour.
We weren’t disappointed.
Using local produce from the farm, herbs and veg from the garden, foraged fruit, and locally and independently supplied fish and game, the fellas in the kitchen sent out some belters.
As judges we rated each and every course for creativity, taste, technical skill and delivery to the brief.
After some lovely breads and Hendo’s butter, I waited in trepidation for our first course to arrive – Charlie was serving Jellied Eel! He’s a cheeky monkey, that one – out came an elegant and very precise fish mousse held in aspic. Lee served a savoury Black Forest gateaux – pigeon and black pudding with bitter chocolate sorbet and salted caramel cherries.
Phil and I shared all plates, agreeing on most things but for main we divided – Phil because he loves street food so Charlie’s Hong Kong belly was right up his postcode, and me because I had a pea pannacotta and I do like my veg interesting.
Showstopper puds would have melted even Paul Hollywood’s heart – the chaps really went to town on presentation with a hot-air balloon from Lee complete with strawberry ropes, and an Ashes finale from Charlie came with a clever chocolate cricket ball.
In the end, the win was down to a one-point difference – it was a real nail-chomper for the chaps. However, a winner there had to be and it’s Charlie who will be going knife to knife with Simon Ayres at the grand showdown in October.
Congratulations Charlie and great effort Lee!
The final will be held at the Genting Club Sheffield on Friday 23rd October 2015. To book a place or a table contact the Trust fundraising team on 0114 2352678 or email firstname.lastname@example.org tickets are £45 each.