Monthly Archives: July 2010

The Great Taste Awards 2010

Last month I went to Somerset to do some judging for the Great Taste Awards, organised by The Guild of Fine Food. Described as the ‘Oscars’ of the food world, this year almost 6,000 items from over 1,000 producers have been rigorously tested by foodies such as fine food retailers, chefs and food critics. And the results have just been announced. I only did a morning session, as I needed to get back to London in the afternoon, but it was brilliant – an amazingly interesting experience and a great chance to see how something like this works.

Along with 3 others around a table, we worked our way through 17 items, as well as confirming various others when there were queries raised by any of the 3 other tables of 4 judges, or when any of the foods were awarded a 3-star Gold. A Gold comes either with 1, 2 or 3 stars – 3 stars being exceptional.

Between all 4 tables, we found 3 items which were exceptional and were awarded the coveted 3 stars. One was a divine quince liqueur – with true flavours of quince, another was a superb chorizo – bursting with gutsy flavours and a great texture, and the other was a cheese (which I didn’t taste!) And on our table we also discovered another delicious chorizo, and a beautiful raspberry and cassis preserve, filled with the tastes of summer – for both of these we awarded 2 stars.

Last year, the gluten-free products were tested separately, but this year, on the various Producers’ request, they were all integrated so that they would be judged on their merits as a fine food, rather than just a fine gluten-free food. Unfortunately none of them had come through into my slot, so I didn’t get a chance to taste any. But hey.

I was utterly impressed by the quality of judging at the Awards. The people I was working with could tell the difference between using fresh fruit or concentrate in a sorbet, for example, when frozen fruit had been used for a jam, or when a cheese wouldn’t be able to withstand enough ripening. And the judges consciously supported careful, skillful food production. When tastes exploded in your mouth, and textures were dreamy; when aromas drew you in, and mouthfuls brought rapture, it confirmed for me the passion and integrity that Producers of truly fine foods bring to their craft.

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Upside-Down Peach Cake

This is a wonderfully moist cake, with a beautiful topping of sliced peaches. I’ve added some soya milk to this recipe, which adds extra liquid and ensures the cake comes out of the oven a beautiful golden-brown colour.

gluten-free, wheat-free, yeast-free, dairy-free, seed-free

Preparation time 15 minutes     Cooking time 30–35 minutes     Makes 12–16 slices

  • 200g dairy-free margarine
  • 175g sugar, fruit sugar or xylitol
  • 6 ripe peaches, peeled, stoned and sliced
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 100g rice flour
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
  • ½ tsp xanthan gum
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 125ml soya milk
  • 2 tbsp apricot jam
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease the side of a 22½ x 7½cm loose-bottomed baking tin with dairy-free margarine.
  2. Put 50g of the margarine in a saucepan and heat over a gentle heat until melted. Stir in 100g of the sugar or xylitol and heat for 2 minutes until completely dissolved. Pour over the bottom of the tin and arrange the peach slices on top.
  3. Using a hand-held electric whisk, beat the margarine and sugar or xylitol together in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the almond extract and then the eggs, one at a time. Sift the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and xanthum gum into the bowl and carefully fold in with a metal spoon. Pour in the lemon juice and soya milk and stir in gently.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared tins, over the peaches, and spread it evenly with the back of a wooden spoon. Bake for 30–35 minutes until golden brown, risen and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5 minutes. Then remove the side of the tin and quickly turn the cake over onto a plate. Slide onto a wire rack.
  5. Heat the jam in a saucepan over a gentle heat until warm and, using a pastry brush, brush over the peach slices. Leave the cake to cool completely.

Dairy-Free Strawberry Soup

I’d read various recipes for Strawberry Soup and had always wanted to try one. So I experimented yesterday using balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, agave syrup and soya yogurt with the strawberries, and then added some mint. It was good but I thought I could get richer, sweeter tastes if I baked the strawberries and balsamic vinegar. So I remade it and here’s the result. It’s unusual but great. Serve it as a starter – and enjoy the rich, sweet/sour tastes exploding in your mouth.

gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, seed-free

Preparation time 5 minutes     Serves 4

  • 800g strawberries, hulled
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 1 small handful mint leaves
  • 250ml soya yogurt
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Put the strawberries on a baking tray and drizzle the vinegar over. Bake for 20 minutes until tender.
  2. Put in a blender or liquidiser and add the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, pour into a serving bowl and leave to chill in the fridge for 2 hours before serving.