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  • Katie Home Cook

Britain's Best Home Cook, Fish Week

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

Stills taken from BBC's Britain's Best Home Cook on iPlayer.Episode 2, Ultimate Fish Dish: And she lives to cook another day…Fish. Prosecco. Blue cheese. Unusual together in a sentence but even more so in a recipe. Unless, of course, you are trying to feed a family of six in South Wales using Christmas leftovers. Before committing to an “ultimate” fish dish, I’d spent the better part of a day exploring the Fishmonger stalls in Swansea Market, there are plenty of them!

Before cooking my fish dish, I have to admit I was nervous with my choice of dish. This may not sound surprising, but in fact it had nothing to do with my choice of sauce. I was confident pairing fish, prosecco and blue cheese together, oblivious to the strangeness of the combination. My real worry was that the judges may think I had not included enough fish in my Ultimate fish dish. I was also thinking about the simplicity of the dish, so I decided to make my own bread and pasta.I recreated my pasta dish for my family to eat whilst watching Episode 2, with the garlic bread, I cheated a little and bought the pasta, but with a busy household I only usually make pasta for special occasions. Whilst making this dish for the second time the thought of making my own pasta as well, wore me out… 1 hr 45 mins, not sure how I did it!

Back at the BBHC house everyone was really excited about fish; I wasn’t. I don’t like eating or handling fish. When I was very young, maybe six, my mother bought a full rainbow trout for us to descale, gut and de-head, which I did. When it came to eating it, my stomach turned and I couldn’t look at the meal without feeling queasy. It is official; my mother scarred me for life!However, I was super excited to be going back into the kitchen to cook again; I’d thoroughly enjoyed cooking the first week, even with all the nerves. And as I genuinely thought I wouldn’t be cooking again and was now on borrowed time, I decided to make the most of my time in the kitchen, even if I did have to cook FISH!Tobi and Josie were my bench buddies, and as much as I love them, it is very intimidating cooking next to them. I was distracted whilst cooking my fish dish, with all the fish heads around, there were far too many eyes around for my liking!

Bench Buddies

Everyone’s Ultimate fish dishes sounded delicious and I was looking forward to sampling them ALL (you never know, might make me like fish), but Tobi’s ingenuity certainly made my mouth water. What busy mum out there doesn’t dream of a homemade KFC when faced with no time to cook, school runs, hungry children and a sink full of dirty dishes?

Whilst I was cooking, Mary Berry came to see me and I got a fantastic opportunity to plug Swansea Market and Swansea’s fantastic seafood! But whilst I was explaining my dish to her I started to get the first inkling that all may not be well. She wasn’t giving much away, but there was a look in her sparkling blue eyes that made me feel a little shaken inside. My thought “too much shellfish, not enough fish.” Even when Chris came over and said “Prosecco and blue cheese…?” I still didn’t cotton on that this was an unusual flavour combo!

Chris doesn't look convinced!

In truth I only invented the dish using prosecco and blue cheese because it was just after Christmas and I had an open bottle of prosecco that needed finishing off and some blue cheese left over from our ample cheeseboard.The smell coming from Dipa’s kitchen was alluring. I love curry and hers smelt like heaven, but I kept my head down working on my dish and to my amazement I got everything made and plated on time, and I finished first again. Just before time was up, Dan wandered over and tried my sauce, he said nothing and then completely expressionless he walked away… I labelled him the “Simon Cowell of food” from that moment on!! Hahaha….. he’s lovely really! Judging time, everyone’s food looked phenomenal, restaurant quality and I only had a bowl of pasta….

Josie's "Ultimate" Fish Dish

Josie was judged first, the judges jumped in and ate it using their hands, fab. Josie told us afterwards that in the Philippines people eat the fish with their hands so that they can feel for the bones. When we heard that her exploding fish was raw my heart sank for her. After judging I managed to eat quite a bit of Josie’s fried fish (despite the head) it was soooo… tasty, she has given instructions to make it, but I haven’t had the courage yet. Soon though…

Dipa’s Curry was mind blowing, eating Dipa’s food is like eating Indian food the first time, she makes proper authentic Indian cuisine and its so delicious.

Tobi’s plate of food looked like something out of an art gallery, as his bench buddy I was always his first taste tester… lucky me. The corn puree was a taste sensation, he packed in so much flavour, which worked with his fish, genius.

Phillip caused a bit of a stir with his dish, as Mary and Dan couldn’t agree, but I thought all three judges enjoyed it.

Q’s bisque was so full of flavour, I have no idea how she managed that in the time that we had to make the dish.

My turn, deep breath and hope and pray they like it. Dan starts off by saying, “Katie, Katie, Katie….” (it wasn’t that bad was it?) then he says “That was a wonderful dish, well done” GAG!!! Beg your pardon!?! Mary then says about the texture of my bread, she likes it enough to finish the whole slice, it’s a good thing Claudia is there to hold me up or I think I would be on the floor. Chris tells me he thought I wanted to go home because of my choice of sauce, I’m shocked and horrified, but then he said it was delicious… Phew… got away with that!

I'm so happy with the Judges' comments...

At this point, I’m feeling pretty good, looking forward to going back to the house, having a G&T and a hot bubble bath, it’s been a long day… all that’s left is for the judges to announce their favourites, I’m sure it will be Pippa or Cyrus or maybe Dipa (I mean the curry!!)… then the unthinkable happens. Mary says her choice is the dish she “fell in love with”, “what she wants for her lunch”!!! It’s only my bloody dish she’s talking about… Mary Berry has just chosen me as her FAVOURITE!! Well this is going to be a close second to her loving my Swiss roll (come on it’s a cake, that’s got to be top). Chris chooses Cyrus which I was expecting, then Dan only goes and chooses me as well…. Jaw on floor moment!! I’m so excited I almost run up to the front!!!

Cyrus & I are chosen as favourites by the judges...

The choice is squash or rice… well there was no way I was choosing rice, I hate cooking with rice it is so unpredictable to cook with. The only thing I could think of was rice pudding, not exactly exciting. We all headed home, I got to facetime with the kids and Alan (a treat as I was missing them), Bradley thought I had won… so sweet!! The kids are only shown for a couple of seconds, but in reality it took about 30 minutes to get them to calm down enough to get any sense out of them. Alan was dealing with a mad house whilst I was away, he is simply the best husband ever.

While we were waiting for dinner to cook, Cyrus very kindly popped open a bottle of Prosecco and we started to relax. Trevor then appears out of nowhere with that children’s cooking book, I still don’t know where he found it, but it was soooo… funny, living with Trevor you know you are on for at least one good belly laugh every hour or so, no matter what! After dinner most people had started drifting off to bed, citing an early night to deal with squash, when to my horror, my false eyelashes started falling out in random clumps!! Q tried to come to my rescue, but she went all nurse on me and started trying to pull out all the remaining ones… ouch… but it was no good. My lashes were weird and tufty, I had a mini meltdown, Trevor couldn’t stop laughing and I think the other contestants just thought I was nuts!! Luckily I had a spare glue on set, I managed… normally it wouldn’t be such a big deal but come on, it is national television!!

The next morning I was up bright and early around 4.30am I was always the first up, and it occurred to me that given the drama the night before I hadn’t really given much thought to the squash dish I was going to be making in a few short hours, I was always like this with my homework.

I had two options, one more than before the nut challenge. I love Thai food and cooking, so if the ingredients were available I planning on making a Thai soup and if not I felt sure there would be ingredients to make my Halloween soup. A pumpkin soup I make every year for my friends and family when we get back home from Trick or Treating, “Was soup to simple?”

"Should I make soup?"

An hour was too short for bread and a few contestants had mentioned flat breads. My Nanna, Shirley, always made cheese scones with soup when I was a little girl, in truth my Nanna’s scones were always dreadful, more like hard rock cakes, but I treasure the recipe and over time I have adapted it so it’s now a favourite in our house… it was a massive risk to replace the milk with squash, but I needed something to go with my soup.Back in the kitchen and oh no I find out it’s going to be Swiss Roll battle all over again… only this time there are five soups!! Tobi told me that he was planning to make a butternut squash Tarte Tatin and I smiled and nodded but inside I was thinking “gross” and “Tobi’s going to be cooking again!”

Q and Trevor have got a lot to answer for next time I see them, talking about me when I wasn’t looking…. “200 year old recipe”… indeed, it’s a good thing we’re all besties or they would be in trouble!

My soup came out as I wanted, colour and texture were good and it was very tasty, but I wasn’t sure if the scone was fully cooked, was it going to be gloopy inside? I couldn’t even cut into it to check.

Cick here for my Squash & Cheese Scone Recipe...

Big gulp, I’m the first to be judged…. Mary breaks open the scone and it is cooked, they like the soup! Woohoo… there’s a debate around the pronunciation of scone but in truth I think I tend to say it both ways, if you watch it back I did on the show.

Cyrus made vanilla and blue cheese butternut squash tart.

Dipa made a soup with flatbreads and a side of roasted butternut squash skin, which was a very clever use of something that would normally be thrown away.

I thought Q’s soup smelt delicious, but the judges didn’t like it.

Tobi's Butternut Squash Tarte Tatin...

The judges absolutely loved Tobi’s tart, it’s labelled “Britain’s next dessert” and “10/10”, and I’m so pleased for him.

We go for a cuppa and take Tobi’s tart with us, it’s everything the judges said and more, I mean it’s one of the best desserts I have ever tried. I make pumpkin pie every year for Halloween but this year I’ll be swapping for Tobi’s tart, no comparison, such creativity, I was so wrong to doubt him!

Only 4 stools?

Whilst waiting I’m quietly confident I’m going to get a stool, a strange feeling. There are only four stools, there will be five people cooking again!! FIVE!!! And I’m safe!! I think it’s a pretty tough challenge to make a meringue roulade in only 45 mins.

The judges retire to decide who will be going home, and we get to eat… I mean taste the roulades, if you thought they looked good it’s nothing on the taste, I found the biggest spoon I could and almost made myself sick eating way too much roulade!!!

Dan announces Q is going home, I feel myself going… not Q! Q is my confidant, I like to think I supported the other contestants but when I needed someone it was always Q.

We’d only spent a short time together, but we were kindred spirits and friends for life. It seems so silly but when she walked out it felt like I would never see her again!!

In fact, since filming we have met up several times, and we remain very close! Our nickname for Q in the BBHC house was the “Fabulous Diva Q” and she sure did live up to that name, the house would never feel the same after we lost her.

The Fabulous Diva Q... "Now that is how you be an amazing woman!"

Britain’s Best Home Cook continues Thursday, 8pm, BBC One

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