Food review by Steve Liebeskind

Today was a wine tasting lunch and while the wines were the focus of the day, the Chef of the Royal Exchange excelled with food worthy of the quality of wines presented.


Stracciatella and heirloom tomato tart 

Stracciatella is an Italian cheese curd (cow) made from pulled mozzarella curds mixed with heavy cream. This cheese was served in a puff pastry tart and topped with chopped heirloom tomato. To finish a deep-fried curry leaf topped the tart for colour, flavour and decoration. This canape was delicious and for so many reasons.

Duck fat potato, veal tartare and caviar

Who doesn’t like potatoes cooked with duck fat??? Potatoes were finely cut via a mandolin, layered in a tray with duck fat. Then baked and put into the fridge with a weight on top. The potatoes were cut into cubes and finished by going into the deep fry. Beef tartare was made by the tail from the fillet used in the main. To finish black caviar was placed on top.

Picture perfect one mouthful canape with great flavour from all three ingredients. The presentation and flavour were terrific, although I thought the caviar gave the canape a slightly fish flavour focus.

Parmesan gougères 

This was a savoury cheese puff made from choux pastry. The cheese filling was a parmesan custard (made from parmesan cream and egg yolks gently cooked via a Theromix and when cooled injected into the puffs. This was a light satisfying savoury puff that was easily consumed by all.

Beef Wellington, smoked potato mash and cabbage with red wine sauce 

What looks simple on the plate is rarely created with the same simplicity. The Wellington looked perfect and evenly cooked for all serves on the table. The beef colour was great, and the pastry was wonderful. The flavour came from the ingredients in the making of the dish. Accompanying the protein was a beautiful smoked potato mash and a lightly cooked shredded cabbage with a subtle hint of caraway seeds. The meal was topped off with a very smart and classic reduced red wine and port jus.

Beef Wellington – eye beef fillet was seared, tied, refrigerated, and before going on the pastry English mustard was spread over the meat. Crepes were made using various herbs and some mushrooms were placed on puff pastry. The beef was added, rolled and placed in the oven for 20 minutes or so. The variation from traditional Beef Wellingtons was that pate and cooked mushrooms were not in this dish – some missed these two ingredients, but it didn’t distract from an enjoyable dish.

The chef smoked cream fraiche, butter and some milk. Then added this to potatoes and turned into a slightly thicker Paris mash. Finished with sea salt the final product was a very flavoursome accompaniment to the Wellington.

Cabbage was shredded and cooked for 4 to 5 minutes in a pan with some butter and caraway seeds for extra flavour. Simple and very effective.


Manchego DOP 12 month 3kg (review from supplier, Calendar Cheese Company)

Manchega sheep are native to the arid but fertile La Mancha Plateau in central Spain. For centuries, shepherds have raised these sheep for their milk and maintained a remarkably pure lineage which, amongst other things, has resulted in milk quality that has changed little in hundreds of years.

Perhaps the best-known product from La Mancha is Manchego cheese; the pressed, matured cheese made exclusively from Manchega milk to strict rules governed by the DOP that protects it. The zig-zag pattern on the rind was traditionally imprinted by a hand-woven grass belt, but today is typically the result of a modern basket used to mould the cheese.

Made famous in the 17th-century novel, Don Quixote, and commonly featured in tapas, Manchego DOP is matured from 30 days to 2 years. As it matures, it develops tiny holes or ‘eyes’ throughout the ivory-coloured paste and flavour that ranges from fruity with a milky finish when young, to a grassy flavour and sharp finish when long-aged.

This cheese is selected by Consorcio de los Quesos and is branded under their Merco label. They select it for its dense texture, buttery aroma and full flavour that has hints of toasted nuts and grass. Aged for a minimum of 9 months and arriving to us at 12 months, each wheel retains a supple texture and milky character that is difficult to find in long-aged Manchego.