The chefs from the Central region, Aktar Islam, Sue Ellis and Richard Bainbridge, battle it out with their main courses. Which dish will take pole position?
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It's day three on Great British Menu.
The struggle for the Central region has been a roller-coaster ride.
Richard Bainbridge, Aktar Islam and Sue Ellis
have all set their sights on cooking for the People's Banquet.
The hard fought fish course left returning chef Richard
clinging on to his lead.
I'm ready to pull out all the stops.
Yes, I'm at the top of the leaderboard
but I've got a lot to prove.
Risk-taker Aktar is now hot on his heels
having battled back from his poor start.
The eight for my fish course has given me
a great boost of confidence.
It has put me in second place.
I'd like to be in first but I'm not being too fussy. I'm happy with second place.
All three are desperate to shine
under the scrutiny of former champion Glyn Purnell.
His scores will determine which two get to cook for the judges on Friday.
All to play for. Plenty of points to be won.
This is when the chefs should start putting pressure on themselves.
Today it's the main course
and the chefs will all be pushing the boat out.
Sue, trailing in third place, knows this could be make or break.
I hit the ground running today.
New day. Two more courses. Fresh start.
This year's competition is all about producing the perfect food to share.
Platters that are a feast for the eyes.
Like the three contenders, Great British Menu veteran Glyn Purnell
knows this course is the big one and he's expecting fireworks.
I want to see some sweat, some tears. I want to see attitude.
I want to see some solid, solid main courses.
But trouble that's been simmering all week boiled over yesterday
when Aktar failed again to get his dish to the pass on time.
I don't think it's fair that people are hitting times and you're not.
This is the final warning.
-OK? Are you fair with that?
And it's not just Glyn whose frustration is starting to show.
Aktar has been late twice. Glyn told him off. Too right.
Other people have pushed their luck and have got higher scores in some things than me.
I'd be lying if I said it didn't grate a bit.
Glyn is more concerned about the practicalities of cooking for the banquet.
The dishes chefs are producing need to be achievable for the banquet.
Aktar is struggling with time now so what will he be like with 100 people?
The first chef to arrive is Michelin-starred Richard Bainbridge
from Norfolk who is known for his quirky take on British classics.
He knows he must score highly again today
or risk having his lead snatched away.
But he also has a more personal reason for wanting to do well.
The main course means a lot to me because it's inspired by my mum.
It reminds me of the way I was brought up
and to get that on the banquet would make me so proud
and it would be a little thank you and nod to my mum.
-So what have we got?
-Today, I'm going to do my beef Wellington
with my mum's cottage pie.
It's beef and brioche. It will have the beef fillet in the middle.
This is beautiful local beef.
Then that is going to have a little bit of chicken mousse
with some of the shiitake mushroom around the outside.
Then the brioche around that.
-And what have we got here? Ox cheeks?
With my cottage pie I'm going to do ox cheek.
I'll give a classier touch to a cottage pie.
Is it a show-stopper? Will it wow people at the banquet?
I seem to be going down the humble kind of quirky route,
but I think this main course
is something that I would love to sit down and eat with my friends,
my family and just really enjoy it. It is good yum-yum food.
So, a dish that means a lot to Richard,
but has his emotional attachment blinded him to its pitfalls?
Concerned about that fillet.
It's a beautiful fillet, fantastic flavour
and if he overcooks that, he might as well throw it in the bin.
The second competitor is innovative Aktar Islam from Birmingham.
Although he scored the highest mark in yesterday's fish course,
it's crucial he convinces Glyn he can deliver on time today.
I like to take my time when it comes to food.
I like to do everything to a certain extent last minute
because I really believe in fresh food.
I've got to try and adjust that and work in this kitchen in order to meet the deadlines.
-Main event today.
-Yep, got a lovely shoulder of lamb.
I'm going to smoke it with charcoal, black cardamom,
the big fat cardamom, and some cloves.
It's going to be really slowly braised.
We've got a selection of vegetables going with it.
Pumpkin, which we'll serve with some lentils.
Some cauliflower which we'll saute with Nigella seeds and turmeric.
Then we will have a lovely smoked aubergine
and roasted garlic pate as well.
The dish sounds quite elaborate.
Is there is any reason why you chose this for the banquet?
I've always cooked it for friends and family.
A lovely piece of meat in the middle of the table
and everyone just picks away at the meat.
The meat is so soft you can just scoop off little bits.
For me, it just signifies a very satisfying meal
where people are getting together.
Yet another ambitious dish with lots of accompaniment from Aktar.
Can he get it to the pass on time?
Aktar seems to give himself quite a lot to do again today.
Has he bitten off more than he can chew?
He needs to get that lamb right because if it's not right and he gets distracted with other things,
he's not going to be happy and I'm not going to be happy.
Finally, it is Sue Ellis from the Midlands.
So far, her contemporary food with a twist
has failed to hit the high notes for veteran Glyn.
I am at the bottom at the moment.
I need to pull out all the stops, hit the floor running
and get the scores to get through.
What are you doing for us today?
I've got shepherd's pie, but two different kinds of meat.
I've got the neck of lamb, the lamb mince,
because that is what everyone knows and loves.
So, to use the two different textures in my shepherd's pie.
I've got the rack of lamb and then all the condiments around it.
I've got spring cabbage, shallots.
I've got, er, cucumber.
A little bit unusual, I know. It dates back years and years.
I did some researching with the lamb. Quite excited about that.
Is it suitable for a banquet? Has it got that wow factor?
I think my dish is is there for the People's Banquet.
It's home-cooked food that's got the wow factor.
Will Sue's lamb-fiend platter finally prove to Glyn
she's nailed the brief and has what it takes to stay in the contest?
Sue, the last two courses, a little bit of style over substance.
She needs to get back in the race
and get a really good, solid, tasty main course on the pass.
All three chefs know this course could seal their fate in the competition.
Glyn will be sending one of them home tomorrow.
They are all determined it won't be them.
To go home on Thursday is horrible.
I've been there, I've done it, I've got the T-shirt.
One chef going home. That makes me feel sick.
If I was to be sent home on Thursday, I would be devastated.
With so much at stake plus Glyn's warning about being on time
still ringing in their ears, the chefs get down to work.
-Everyone seems very busy this morning.
-Are you busy, Rich?
I think you're busy.
There seems to be a different Sue today.
Yeah, it is a different Sue. It's a Sue that means business today.
Sue starts by braising the lamb for her shepherd's pie,
adding stock, red wine, herbs and garlic.
She knows she must pull out all the stops
and not worry about what her opponents are up to.
The other guys' dishes - not my problem. They've got a lot to do.
I've got to concentrate on what I'VE got to do.
In it to win it. I've got to.
Richard, desperate to prove himself after leaving the competition early last year,
is making his cottage pie from braised ox cheeks but still has time to size up his competitors.
Obviously Sue today has got her head down, she seems like a different person.
She's driven. She's realised what this competition is about.
The fight is still on, by the looks of it.
But Richard knows it's Aktar who is trying to knock him off the top spot
and is not missing any chances to make a dig at his rival.
Are you having a little bonfire over there in the corner?
-What is that about?
-I thought I'd get the barbie on. Why not?
So you've got all the time in the world now? What is it for?
I'm using that to smoke the lamb.
It's a makeshift way, but it does definitely do the job.
Self-taught Aktar isn't using the fine dining techniques which are second nature for Richard.
-Do you want to come and take a look?
I've got this charcoal going now.
-This is black cardamom.
-Let me smell your hand.
-What's going on?
Once again, Glyn is concerned that Aktar's methods are too time-consuming.
-How long does that smoke for?
-You leave it for about an hour or so.
I know how tough it is to cook at a banquet. The pressure is immense.
Aktar has been struggling with time. And can we take that risk?
Sue, badly in need of points, knows Glyn wants her to raise
her game today and show she's a real contender for the banquet.
-What are you doing there?
-I've got cucumber and I'm going to compress it now.
Are you going to serve the cucumbers cold?
No, warm, like a veg almost.
But is this the kind of quirky touch he is looking for?
Sue's vac-packed cucumber.
This apparently Sue said was from history, they used to have it with lamb.
But I've got to question it - did it go out of fashion for a reason?
Aktar knows he is within reach of Richard's lead on the scoreboard
so he wants to see how he's cooking his beef.
My experience of beef Wellington is especially when its sitting, all the juices collect.
You do the puff pastries, so it starts to go slightly soggy, whereas with the brioche,
it gets a really nice hard crust on the outside, nice and moist, then it sucks up all those juices.
It's one of my favourite dishes. I had it for Christmas Day.
I made it on Christmas Day for the lads so I'm really looking forward to this.
Maybe next year this might be the recipe!
You ain't having my recipe!
Behind the banter, all three chefs are locked into the battle to win.
Glyn, what's it like when you finally make it to the banquet?
It's so exciting. When you're on the pass and you send your dish
which has come all the way from the regions to the banquet,
it's an amazing feeling. It's just a special day.
Rich, want to be at the banquet?
I'd love to be at the banquet. To me, this year,
this year really hit home with me.
I really want to be there for all the right reasons,
not to just big myself up, be Mr Look I Am, I'm Here, I want to be there for the people.
Who would you invite if you get through?
I'd invite my mum, for definite.
I don't want start weeping because she did a lot for me
and I respect her and to give it a little pat on the back and say you did all right with me to be fair.
Richard's mum brought him up single-handed
and if he wins a place at the banquet this year
he hopes to recognise the tough job done by lone parents everywhere.
He headed to his home town, Hellesden,
to visit Single Parents in Norfolk, a group which gets together every month.
It's run by a mother of four, Justine Davenport.
This is cool.
The group plans day trips and holidays as well as picnics
and barbecues where the mums and dads chip in with dishes to share.
Look at all this food you've brought!
Can I put this down? Brilliant. Cool!
So do you do this every week, or month?
About three times a year we do a bring and share.
It's good for the kids, too. They're not stuck in four walls, the same house.
I think that's amazing because I grew up in exactly the same sort of situation with my mum
and she'd take us to single parent clubs
and when I started to try and think of ideas and food I wanted to do
I went straight back to my childhood, the sharing of food, big platters of food,
my mum's cottage pie and other people's lasagnes.
That's why I've brought my cottage pie. It's a bit humble compared to all this other amazing food.
With such personal experience of the value of these groups, Richard is keen to get everyone involved.
Give it a break. You might need to hit it one more time.
Whoa! CHILDREN LAUGH
Joshua, you whisk.
What they're doing is amazing.
Everybody has got smiling faces.
Perfect. That's how you make a Yorkshire pudding.
It takes me back to my childhood. I'm really happy.
To make the day complete, Richard's biggest influence, his mum Gill, has joined the party.
-How are you?
-Good, thank you.
-Have you seen what's been happening out there?
-It's a lovely group.
All the girls together, all supporting each other.
I'm pleased for them, they're getting the same support I got.
It means so much.
Would anyone else like any more cottage pie? Would you like some more? People are asking for more.
-There you go, Oliver.
Do you find the group like a massive support?
It is a good support, yeah. Especially in holidays.
We have organised trips out and the children know each other,
-they're all friends, they can go and play. We can have a chat.
-What do you think of the dish?
You can tell it was real mash because there was no lumps in it.
-It was the best ever cottage pie I ever tasted.
Rave reviews all round.
And touched by the experience, Richard has a surprise for Justine.
Looking at what my mum went through, I had so much respect for you and I really believe in what you do.
-I really appreciate that and I know how much hard work you put into it.
-I'm going to start crying.
If I get through to the banquet at the end I want to invite you
as one of my guests to say thank you and show you that all your hard work is really worth it.
-That will be lovely, thank you.
-Thank you for today,
-it's been brilliant.
-Thank you so much. Give me a hug.
Richard's more determined than ever to get a dish on the banquet menu.
In the kitchen all three chefs are working hard to produce the best main course
for the people's banquet.
Now is the time for the chefs to cook their hearts out and show Glyn exactly what they're made of.
I'm looking for some strong flavours, big flavours and some really solid cooking.
Aktar is on his final warning for timekeeping, but as he preps
his three vegetable dishes, has he over-complicated things again today?
How are we getting on for time?
I'm on it. I think we're going to be right on the money. We're going to be...
The thing is, with, obviously, the judges, they're going
to want to see a dish that is practical for the banquet as well.
Obviously Richard's got his beef wellington, which is
coming out of the oven after you take the lamb out, so...
I know. At the end of the day, when I'm late I have a knock-on effect
on everyone else, I totally appreciate that.
-I'll leave you to it.
-Aktar may have a lot to achieve,
but are Sue's methods for making mashed potato any more banquet friendly?
Sue, you seem to be doing your potatoes for your mash a bit different than mine?
-Yeah, I've put them in the water bath for half an hour, just to release the starch.
Once they have released the starch, wash the starch off
and then boil them up,
drain them and dry them out.
With so much riding on his dish both emotionally and professionally,
usually cool Richard is starting to get rattled.
That looks nice, Richard.
It's only a beef fillet wrapped in spinach, yeah?
Yeah, it looks good at the moment.
If you want to put yourself down, that's fine. I was just trying to be nice.
I don't like to... I never like to put myself up for a fall.
With tension rising, Aktar has been scheduled to the pass first today
and Richard is seriously worried any delay could affect his own chances.
-Right, Aktar, you're going to be on time, yeah?
If you're late, you're messing me up, yeah?
-Are you going to be ready if I go in now?
-Get in, go in now, yeah.
And just to ram it home, Sue also pushes Aktar on his timing, as she needs her dish to be perfect today.
Aktar, I'm not being funny, will you be on time?
-It makes a big difference to me now. I'm not being funny, cut the
Yep. No, no, as you can see, I'm plating up, so...
But as he finishes off his lamb and vegetables,
Aktar has a last-minute panic over his cashew nut and caramelised onion gravy.
Have I got a second to thicken that up a bit more, or am I over?
-I just wanted to make it a little thicker, the gravy.
-It's the flavours, are you happy with it?
-I just want to make it a bit thicker. It will take 10 seconds.
For the first time this week, Aktar makes it to the pass virtually on time,
but has he compromised his standards to get the job done?
-Do you want a little bit of everything?
-Yeah, just a little.
It's like thali-style dining, you get that little selection of vegetables
that you have on the middle of the table?
-So if we're at the banquet, everyone's passing the dishes?
-That's the idea.
-Bit of sauce.
-Onto the meat?
OK, let's go, guys.
Cheers. After you, mate.
Left alone, Richard and Sue are able to suss out their rival's main course.
So do you think it's a feast for the eyes for the banquet?
Yeah, I do. To be fair, this is beautiful, this looks like
it's custom-made just for the shoulder of lamb, it all fits well, it's grand, it looks good.
-So you think it's fit for the banquet?
-It's the sort of food that you'd see at any
maharajah's banquet, so why not the people's banquet?
-Beautifully cooked. Just falls off the bone.
-To be honest, I'd probably cook the lamb a bit longer.
-A little longer?
So it would be softer than this?
I think we could get it softer, Chef.
Is that meant to be cold? Or is that...?
-Yeah, I think so. I think so, yeah.
I'm extremely happy with the spicing of the lamb. You don't want to lose your core product.
It spicier than I thought it was going to be.
Are you happy with the marriage of all the other components and spices?
Yeah, because the vegetables are all very lightly spiced.
To me, a pint of lager with that, my mates, sitting around a big table eating it.
-Nice Saturday night out.
Aktar may have heeded his final warning, but did he do enough to earn him more top marks?
I'm happy with the way it came out. I just hope Glyn understands
I'm trying to keep the spicing light so we can appreciate the core ingredients.
Next up is Sue.
She is under pressure to prove her worth today, but Richard can't resist distracting her.
-How are you cooking the lamb?
-I've cooked it in a bath,
it's been in that bath for an hour and a half.
That's just for...
I believe you should roast lamb off, I'm a big believer in some things aren't always for the bath.
Really? That puts me off completely.
Right, Aktar, you've done a good main course. Has it made you nervous?
Not yet, Richard. Not yet.
-The only thing is...
-Do you want me to shut up?
That would be great if you would.
Sue quickly places her shepherd's pie at the centre of her platter, surrounds it with the crown of lamb,
then add the cabbage and bacon and warm cucumber.
Happy with that, Sue?
-Yeah? Do you want me to dress, Sue, or do you want to dress?
No, no, you dress, Glyn.
-The lamb's cooked beautifully.
-Shall we go generous with two cutlets?
If you would, please.
So you say this cucumber was from old recipe book?
An ancient recipe book, actually, one of my mum's.
Allow me, Glyn, shall I just...?
Rocking all the way!
-So we'll leave them with the lads and we'll take this one, Sue.
-Come on, then.
-Has Sue shown enough flair to get her back in the race?
Obviously the shepherd's pie is the centrepiece.
-Do you think it's good enough?
It's a lovely pie, but is it the one that everyone will work their way up to and say, "You know what, wow"?
-Happy with the cooking of the lamb?
-Yeah, I am.
I don't like it when lamb's too rare.
If that got sat down at a banquet,
would my mum be put off by that?
I think she probably would, myself.
Cucumber and lamb, you could say, was a bit risky.
I like it, and it's held nicely.
I think it does do what it's meant to do, cleanse the palate.
I think it's a nice, delicate flavour, I don't think it overpowers at all and it does the job intended.
You think after tasting that, I mean, I can probably understand
why it's historical and it's not in use now! I don't know...
It doesn't need it.
Do you think shepherd's pie is grand enough for the banquet?
Yeah. I think... I think it's a crowd-pleaser, and with the crown of lamb, I think that then
is the banquet part of it, and then all the little copper condiments that go around it, I think,
just make it fun, and that's the interaction and the moving of it.
It's all good food, but is it an amazing meal?
-Me, I personally won't say it's one that people will talk about in time to come.
-I didn't taste that gravy.
To me, it reminds me of a really burned pan that's just been deglazed, and that's what it is.
It wasn't pleasant at all.
It was really tough in the kitchen today, there was a different...
vibe in there, a different feel of emotions in there.
I was a woman on a mission and I was getting there today,
and it felt good, and from the start I felt good.
Last to the pass today is Richard.
He glazes his vegetables then pipes his buttery mash
onto his cottage pie and puts his beef Wellington onto a platter.
But there's an extra surprise in store.
I've got the beef Wellington, which is wrapped in brioche instead of puff pastry, my mum's cottage pie.
What are you doing? Yeah? The idea is when people sit down, obviously
I've got this sign here that says, you know, "Who wants to be mother?"
And the idea is whoever gets to carve it, saying, "Where's the chef's hat, where's the apron?"
-Could have washed it first!
-The idea is people are having fun whilst getting ready,
and then you put the chef's hat on.
Being Mum, I'll delegate. Susan, would you start dressing vegetables?
I like the idea of the fun of someone putting on the chef's hat with the apron, the carving.
As you can see, I'm having loads of fun!
Are you nearly finished, Sue?
I can't contain myself.
Oh, I'm shaking with the gravy!
So will the taste be equally exciting?
Is it elaborate enough, visually?
I like the fun factor of it. And then the food's lovely,
and yum-yum at the end of it. So you have fun and then you get to eat.
Definitely street party, having a good laugh, having fun,
and that'll get the ball rolling, and people will be relaxed.
The potatoes I used were fantastic.
They're just starchy enough, they're sweet enough and they just make a lovely mashed potato.
The potato is quite sandy, isn't it?
It's not as creamy as it could be.
You've glazed the vegetables off and took the butter right down so we've got that nuttiness?
Yeah, they're just simple, light, and I think they finish off the dish perfectly.
I, personally, don't like my asparagus peeled.
So interesting that you did a cottage pie and Sue did a shepherd's pie.
-How do they compare?
-I don't think they should even be compared, because they are so different.
Yeah, it's nice. It's rich, it's quite irony.
Mine is a little bit more luxurious, and mine suits my dish.
Richard has poured his heart and soul into this platter,
but is it good enough to keep him at the top of the scoreboard?
If I was asked if my main course have the wow factor,
it did to me, because it was fun, it was enjoyable, and I imagine sitting
at a big table, big glass of red wine, talking away, my mum going, "Ooh, look at my cottage pie!"
And that, to me, would be brilliant.
Tastings over, all three chefs must now wait to see whether they will move up or down the scoreboard.
The way the main course was executed and the way it was delivered,
I feel I'm in a very good position to be cooking for the judges on Friday.
Fingers crossed, I have to get a good score today because it could
result in me going home otherwise, so I need those numbers today.
It still won't ever become reality to me that I'm anywhere near the top or near winning until I'm cooking
for the judges on Friday, so that's my main goal at the minute.
Aktar, first, I thought it was a nice idea to have the small pots that you could pass around.
I thought the flavour of the daal was lovely with the aubergine,
but at one stage I thought there may have been one too many elements.
And I thought that sort of almost slightly clouded
the main event, which was the lamb.
Sue, I thought the lamb was cooked well. It looked pinker than it was, but I think once you cut into it...
I thought it was cooked nice.
But I was a bit concerned on the size of the pie. I think maybe you could have given less cutlets and more pie,
because I thought that was the hub of the dish but it was slightly mean with that.
Richard, what I really liked was the brioche.
It was very technical, and the brioche was really
crunchy on the outside, I was really impressed.
The only thing is that I thought the mash was really nice,
but I think a bit more ox cheek and a bit more gravy in there to make it
more of a cottage pie, because it just needed to be a bit more meaty.
So we'll go through the scoring.
For your roast crown of lamb... I'm going to give you...
..7 out of 10.
Richard, for your beef Wellington and Mum's cottage pie...
I'm going to give you...
..an 8 out of 10.
Now Aktar, for your slow-roast shoulder of lamb with a caramelised onion gravy and cashew nuts...
I'm going to give you...
..a 9 out of 10.
After an intensely fought main course,
Richard continues to lead the scoreboard with 23 points,
Aktar edges ever closer to him with 22 points,
and Sue is trailing on 18 points.
When I heard the number nine spoken by Glyn, I felt very confident at that point,
like, "Yeah, OK, I'm not at the banquet yet, but I'm one step closer."
Now Aktar's won two, I've won one.
I'm still in the lead,
but anything can now happen.
Obviously a better score, still last. So a bit gutted.
The battle continues tomorrow with the dessert course.
Will Sue be able to turn it around?
-It's her last chance, and she knows it.
-It's so tense in there.
-Shall we stop talking?
They're throwing everything at it, you can see the passion, the emotion.
They're just absolutely going for it.
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Series in which top chefs are challenged to cook for the ultimate street party. The chefs from the Central region battle it out with their main courses.
Aktar Islam, Sue Ellis and Richard Bainbridge are determined to win but which dish will take pole position? Will it be beef Wellington with mum's cottage pie, roasted crown of lamb with shepherd's pie, spring cabbage and bacon, or slow-roasted shoulder of lamb with cashew nut and caramelised onion gravy?