Battle of the Chefs - Creative Juices

By Natalie Cooper

- Last updated on GMT

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Using Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce in a menu that didn't include turkey inspired the chefs at the Baskerville Arms in Lower Shiplake. Natalie Cooper...

Using Ocean Spray Cranberry Sauce in a menu that didn't include turkey inspired the chefs at the Baskerville Arms in Lower Shiplake. Natalie Cooper reports

Cranberry sauce comes into its own on Christmas menus but is often overlooked by chefs as an ingredient at other times of the year.

This month's culinary clash challenges chefs at the Baskerville Arms, in Lower Shiplake, Oxfordshire, to devise innovative dishes using cranberry sauce, without a sniff of turkey in sight.

The battle contenders are Sean Russell, the pub's head chef, and second chef Graham Butler. The duo have worked together for two years and serve an average 400 covers a week, with 40% of the pub's turnover coming from food.

Head chef Sean believes good pub food should be about providing "quality and value with vibrant flavours and well balanced textures".

Among the best-selling main courses at the pub are rack of lamb, fillet steak, homemade beef burgers and duck breast.

The challenge

Each chef is presented with a mystery bag of ingredients, one stocked with ingredients to create a starter and main course dish, the other for a main course and dessert. Ocean Spray's Original Cranberry Sauce is the ingredient that has to be included in each dish.

Off the mark

45 minutes to go:

Graham wins the toss and his ingredients are revealed. His mission is to cook a starter and main course.

Graham's first move is to prepare his vegetables. He then decides which ones he's going to use for his starter and which for his main course.

He says: "For the starter, I'm thinking of perhaps using the Portobello mushrooms and Gorgonzola as well as wrapping the

quails eggs with pancetta. I can't place the trout yet - maybe I'll use it and the baby turnips as a side garnish."

Sean says he plans to keep the vegetables simple and is going to roast the pork through and make a sauce with the Ocean Spray and Grand Marnier. He also plans to make filo baskets with fruit filling, mascarpone and a chocolate and cranberry sauce. He starts preparing the baby fennel and the rest of the vegetables.

Sean says: "I like cranberry: it has a good flavour for using in tarts, with cheese or sauces. It is very versatile but I don't think many chefs look beyond the usual opportunity of using it at Christmas."

40 minutes to go:

Graham's nerves have started to settle a little having decided what he's going to prepare. He finely slices and chops the ginger then shaves off the orange peel. The yam is peeled and the dates prepared.

35 minutes to go:

Sean blends his chopped courgettes and pepper with the fennel and starts oiling up the pastry for the pudding baskets.

30 minutes to go:

Graham sautées the duck, along with the dates, ginger and

orange peel, covered with a little red wine and cracked black pepper.

Sean prepares the spaghetti squash, which he is going to blend with butter and coriander and serve with the pork. He

starts making a ratatouille base for the pork, which he binds together with cranberry sauce.

20 minutes to go:

"I'm pretty much there," comments a triumphant Graham,

"I've got everything under control." He then tops off the duck breasts with slices of oranges, sprinkled with sugar to


Meanwhile, Sean prepares the fruit - a selection of apples, apricots and mango- to go into the baskets for dessert. He plans to make a chocolate and cranberry sauce to accompany it. After that he starts to chargrill the pork.

10 minutes to go:

The quails' eggs have been boiled, shelled, wrapped in pancetta and placed under the grill to be cured. The Portobello mushrooms have had a thick slab of Gorgonzola spread over them, topped off with a layer of breadcrumbs

and placed under the grill.

Graham is looking a little stressed as he runs around the kitchen.

Sean appears to be calm as he mixes up the mascarpone with some double cream to make a cheesecake-style base and fills

up the filo baskets with mango, apple, apricot, cinnamon and red wine.

5 minutes to go:

Graham clears the surfaces and prepares to plate up. He's now placing the wrapped quails' eggs on one side of the dish and the Gorgonzola Portobello mushrooms on the opposite

side to create two contrasting starters, ready to be served to the judges.

Graham works off the adrenalin as he paces around the kitchen making sure everything is ready to go for the main

course. He does his final checks, glancing over at the duck to see that it's not overcooked.

Sean sweats off the mushrooms that are to go with the pork and the chocolate is melted for the pudding.

2 minutes to go:

And Graham is already serving up the main course, spooning on the bed of crushed dates, then layering out the duck and orange and drizzling the cranberry sauce around the edges of the plate.

Sean adds the Ocean Spray to the chocolate sauce, then he removes the pork from roasting in oven and plates up the ratatouille.

Both chefs finish within the allocated time.

The results

In the interests of fairness the judges had asked not to be informed which chef had created each dish before they tasted them. The judges were regulars Hugh Elphick and Bernard Smith and PubChef's deputy editor Natalie Cooper.

The judges decision was tough and deliberations were lengthy. In the end it was decided that there could only be one outcome - and a first in the history of Battle of Chefs - a draw.

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