Cookoff Gang do Vegetarian Cookoff

I’m very lucky to have some friends who are amazing cooks. Some of us formed the Cookoff Gang about 2 years ago and we meet up around every 6-8 weeks and cook a 3 (or more) course meal, based around a chosen theme

It’s an opportunity to go all out and have fun with new techniques, new ingredients, fancy presentations and play with new gadgets. As I’ve said at these cookoffs, I would pay real money to eat all the dishes I’ve had at the cookoffs

We’re also lucky to have as one of the Cookoff Gang the bar manager for one of London’s top restaurant/bar venues and he pairs our dishes with bespoke cocktails and wines. Although I’m teetotal, he gets me to try a bit of the matched alcohol and explains why he chose it. I’m learning some interesting things

I remember vegetarian cookoff well as I suspect that the gang chose it to tease me as I’m a well known carnivore within the group! Added to that, I was allocated the main course and it took me a very long time before I got inspired. Emma and I were dining at Sushi Samba in the Heron Tower in London and we were having a deconstructed cheesecake for dessert when the idea of serving a deconstructed savoury cheesecake as a main course started to take shape

It’s always great to see the gang arrive and see/smell what’s in all the little boxes and tupperwares that they bring out. Usually, a little taste of a component may be allowed, otherwise a sharp slap to the wrist will remove a hand which is overeager!

The meal kicked off with wild mushroom tarts topped with a whole fresh yolk cooked by Pam and Sharon. They looked stunning before going into oven and looked and smelt even better on coming out and were finished with Parmesan shavings. The cheese crust, creamy earthy mushroom filling and runny yolk was a heavenly match and the portion size was just right


Tarts before cooking


Wild mushroom tart with egg yolk


The main course was a dish created from scratch other than the twice risen cheese soufflés, where Emma and I borrowed Delia Smith’s recipe. The cheese crumb was made from an adapted sweet cheesecake base recipe. We made beetroot and carrot jellies by adding gelatin to fresh juices. The last components were a red pepper sauce and a fresh basil pesto for freshness. With so many components, I was grateful for the help with plating and yes, we had bought black slate just for this dish!


Deconstructed savoury cheesecake

To finish, Andrew, Becky and Max
gave us ‘Carrot’, which was a carrot cake topped with cinnamon frosting accompanied by separate carrot and  cinnamon ice creams and finished with carrot caviar, made with the molecular gastronomy technique of spherification, where the carrot juice was enveloped with a thin skin


A couple of extra courses turned up too – avocado ice cream with raspberry and some shop bought brownie


Avocado ice cream and raspberry

I always look forward to our cookoffs. If you love to cook and have similar friends, I encourage you to get together and form your own cookoff gang

Wishing everyone a happy and blessed Christmas!

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