On Friday evening I felt very lucky to attend the first Simon Wood event at Oldham event centre a great night for both me and the husband as I love Masterchef and he loves Oldham Athletic.
From being greeted at the entrance it was clear that this was going to be a professional event. We were given a glass of champagne on arrival and then shown to our table which I am happy to say was just for the 4 of us, not sat with people we do not know as has happened at similar events in the past.
The friendly waiting staff then came round with some canapés for us, feta and olive, a haggis and a polenta beignet. I was so hungry though that I forget to take pictures before scoffing them.
Apologies for the photo quality by the way, the room was lit nicely but that’s not the best light for taking photos and I took most of them on my phone.
Fromage et salade patrimoine (Heritage Tomato and Curd Salad with Balsamic Pancetta)
We had tried a version of this at the previous smaller event held in October but I was not prepared for such a pretty plate of food! Red, yellow and green tomatoes with crumbled curd and small cubes of sweet and crunchy pancetta. A lovely fresh start to a meal.
Harissa-glazed aubergine with Coconut, Coriander and Peanut
This was the course I was most excited about – unusual considering it’s a vegetarian dish but I love aubergines and spice, so was really looking forward to it. It did not disappoint! Spicy wedges of roasted aubergine with a lingering heat from the harrisa and the coconut which was like a thick cream went astonishingly well! I would never have thought of putting coconut with aubergine but it was sublime. With a hint of crushed peanut scattered on the plate too it really was a dream dish for me. If I can figure out how on earth you make that coconut element I will be giving this a go! ( I already made harrisa aubergine wedges for tea last night!) Before the event my aunt who dined with us said she wasn’t keen on aubergine – I think she may have been converted!
18 hour 82 Degree Slow Cooked Pork Belly with Burnt Apple and Celeriac
This was a favourite dish in our our party. When it arrived and I saw the amount of fat and I wondered how that was going to taste – the answer is.. stunning! I should have know better than to doubt it.
The celeriac was done 2 ways ( If I remember correctly, I think we were on the 3rd bottle of wine by now) There was a celeriac puree – it wouldn’t be Masterchef without one!!, roasted celeriac and pomme anna, a fried sage leave and apple.
Sorbet, we think this was melon, and it cleansed the palate ready for our fish dish.
Cod, Ugnen Rostade Torsk – Inspired by Sweden (Oven Roast Buttered Cod with Sweet and Burnt Leeks and Tar Pickled Fennel)
I am not a big fish lover so was hoping the menu wasn’t going to have any strong fish on it so I was very happy to see a cod dish. I can honestly say that I have never had cod so white and perfectly cooked in my life, the flakes just fell apart as they should do when fish is perfectly cooked. I know most people would expect this anyway but you also have to remember that there were probably about 60 people in that room all eating the same perfectly cooked dish.
The pickled fennel was fresh and crunchy and there were some crispy pieces scattered round the plate too that we think was chicken skin – one of my favourite things in the world! Can’t beat the taste of crispy chicken skin and matched with cod it is heavenly. I am not sure what the long strands are on top but they tasted like onion!
Hibiscus and Szechuan Belazu Berry Mess
To be honest, the 4th bottle of wine had been drunk by now and I can’t remember too many details! I do remember the strawberries being the nicest I’d ever had though and the hint of Szechuan making it a very interesting dish.
To execute this level of cooking for this many people really is an astounding achievement, and it was hard to believe that this food was coming from a previously amateur chef as it rivals some of the best meals I have had in renowned restaurants.
A special mention also goes to Dave the event manager who has kept us well informed about our booking as there were problems with the function room being ready last year and also to all the serving staff and of course the people behind the scenes helping Simon out in the kitchen.
It was an unforgettable night and I hope there will be more to come and I really hope that he doesn’t bugger off to London!