The Head Chef's Competition: Rate My Plate
Every year for the past 40 years or so, my team and I have had a great privilege and an enormous pleasure to prepare a Reunion Dinner for you and your guests. This has always been a special occasion for us here in the Kitchens. Reunion Dinner is the highlight in the calendar of the College annual events, as you would come back to Robinson College with your guest to celebrate the anniversaries of your matriculation. Some of you are regular visitors to Robinson, but some of you have not been back since your graduation day. That is why my team and I have always made sure that you are welcomed back to your Cambridge red-bricked home to a dinner of most delicious and flavoursome food.
Last year it was a great surprise and pleasure for me to actually come out into the Dining Hall and say hello to some of Robinson Alumni with whom I spent a many hours kicking football at the friendly matches between undergrads and the staff.
This year for the first time in the history of Reunion Dinners at Robinson College, I will not be able to cook for you and your guests. This is a very disappointing development, but one that cannot be helped. Instead I have created a menu for your virtual Reunion Dinner, which you can find below. My team and I have cooked the entire menu and have invited a few members of the College for a tasting session. The feedback I have received from the brave tasters is very flattering and makes me proud to have such a fantastic team of chefs working with me and producing such greatly appreciated food.
I would like to invite you to take part in a competition 'Rate My Plate' of cooking my menu and sending in photographs with the final dishes of your choice from the Reunion 2020 Dinner: a starter, a main course, or a dessert. I have prepared some detailed notes on each of the dishes that make up this year’s menu. You will find all the ingredients that you will need to recreate each dish, as well as methods and tips how to cook them. I hope you will take up this challenge and my colleagues and I will have a chance to judge your fantastic cooking efforts. We shall not be able to taste your dishes, so we will solely have to rely on the visual results. You will also find some suggestions regarding a choice of wine for each dish. Let us raise glasses in this virtual toast to you and to all those of your friends celebrating their matriculation anniversaries (1980, 1985, 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005 and 2010) with wines of either our or your choice.
The Development Office have agreed to award three prizes for the winners of this competition:
First Prize: A bottle of the College port
Second Prize: Robinson College Teddy
Third Prize: Robinson College Book
Good luck and we look forward to receiving your submissions by means of a very short submission form which you can find here. If you have any questions, please email Development Office Team to
. The competition will close on 12th October 2020. The winners will be contacted by email individually.
Reunion 2020 Dinner menu notes
*** Starter ***
For the salmon
4 x 100g skinless salmon fillet
1½ tsp salt
1½ tsp sugar
1 tsp chopped dill
1 tsp lemon zest (finely chopped)
500ml extra virgin olive oil to confit the salmon
For the cucumber salad and baby watercress salad
1 cucumber, peeled and de-seeded
1 tsp salt
1 sliced red onion
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp non-scented oil
1 tbsp chopped dill
1 pinch fresh ground pepper
For the horseradish Greek yogurt
30g creamed horseradish relish
125g Greek yogurt
salt, to taste
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 drops lemon juice
1 tsp fresh grated horseradish (optional)
1 tbsp chopped chives
For the quail egg gribiche
6 Quail eggs
1 tsp chopped gherkin
1 tsp chopped capers
1 tsp grain mustard
1 tsp chopped parsley, chervil and tarragon
#Starter - cooking instructions
1. To cure the salmon: Put the 4 fillets of salmon into a small bowl and mix with the salt, pepper, dill and lemon zest. Marinade for 30 minutes. Wash under running water, and pat dry the fish.
2. To confit the salmon: Preheat the olive oil in a pan to 55 °C: drop in the four pieces of salmon and cook or approximately 16-18 minutes at 45°C. Probe temperature of oil. The aim here is not to cook the salmon but to change its texture and taste. Once you put the 4 fillets into the oil, the oil temperature will drop to approx. 45°C. It must be kept at this temperature so use a probe to check. Once done remove from oil with a slotted spoon and put aside to rest
3. Make the cucumber salad: finely slice the cucumber. Place in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and leave and marinade for 30 minutes. Rinse under cold water, pat dry. Add vinegar, sunflower oil, dill, pepper and the washed watercress.
4. Place the quail eggs into boiling water and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and run under cold water. Then peel. Cut the quails eggs in half and remove the yolk. Chop the hard-boiled yolks and mix with the rest of the ingredients. Then fill the quail egg white with the mix. Any leftover mix can be used as garnish.
5. To serve, arrange the cucumber mix in the centre of the plates; place on the confit salmon pieces. Spoon 3 pools of the horseradish mix around the plate, alternating with the halved quail eggs.
To finish drizzle a little rapeseed oil and chopped dill.
*** Main course ***
For the beef dish
4 x 170g/6oz pieces beef fillet, ideally cut from the centre of the fillet
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x bunch asparagus spears, peeled stalk end
2 x bunches baby carrots
For the caramelised red onion chutney
2 red onions, sliced
1 tsp chilli strips
1 tbsp olive oil
50g brown sugar
40 ml balsamic vinegar
40 ml red wine vinegar
Cut your onions and chilli into short, thin slices and put them into a pan with oil. Cook gently over a low heat for about 20 minutes. Once the onions are dark and sticky, add the sugar and the vinegars and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the chutney is thick and dark.
For the Dauphinoise potatoes
250ml double cream
2 garlic cloves pureed
4 large potatoes
50g grated gruyere cheese
Heat the oven to 190C/375F fan/gas 5.
Put the double cream milk and garlic into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer
Slice the potatoes very finely, about 3-4mm, add them to the cream and simmer for 3 mins until just cooked.
Remove the potatoes with a slotted spoon and place in a wide shallow ovenproof dish layering with the chutney so that they are about 5cm in depth.
Pour over the garlic infused cream just enough to seep through the layers and leave a little moisture on the surface.
Scatter over the grated gruyère cheese, and then bake for 30 mins until the potatoes are soft and browned – increase the heat for 5 mins if not brown enough.
For the celeriac and chive puree:
1 x diced and peeled celeriac
2 tbsps butter
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 tbsp chives
1. Cook the celeriac in boiling water for approx. 15 minutes, until tender
2. Drain water and add the butter to the celeriac. Blend with a hand mixer or crush with potato masher. Mix in chives, salt, and pepper. You can add a touch of double cream or soured cream as optional
To cook the beef: Griddle or seal the beef in a pan for a couple of minutes on both sides in a touch of olive oil. Cook in a pre-heated oven 190C/375F fan/gas 5. For 6-7 minutes
Served with the celeriac puree, baby carrots, peeled asparagus and a red wine sauce
For the béarnaise sauce
4 tbsps white wine vinegar
4 shallots, finely diced
3 tbsps chopped fresh tarragon and chervil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 free-range egg yolks
1. Clarify the butter by melting it in a small, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat. When the butter is foaming, remove the pan from the heat and leave it to stand for a few minutes so that the white solids sink to the bottom of the pan. Sieve the butter through a fine sieve and discard the solids.
2. Pour the vinegar into a non-reactive saucepan. Add the shallots, chopped tarragon and salt, to taste. Heat gently over a medium heat until the volume of liquid has reduced by more than half. Strain and set aside until completely cooled.
3. Lightly beat egg yolks with one teaspoon of water. Stir the egg yolk mixture into the cooled vinegar
4. Pour the mixture into a bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water (do not allow base of the bowl to touch the water). Whisk constantly until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon and has increased in volume.
5. Remove the bowl from the heat and slowly pour in the clarified butter in a steady stream, whisking continuously, until the mixture is thick and smooth. Fold in the herbs and season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
*** Main course - Vegetarian ***
Artichoke, garden pea and tomato arancini
1 x tbsp. olive oil
100g Arborio rice
1 x small onion, finely chopped
40g frozen peas
40g diced sun dried tomato
Zest of lemon
350ml vegetable stock
50g grated parmesan
2 x preserved globe artichokes, drained, finely sliced *Note (We used whole globe artichokes but for this recipe, the above would be easier to manage)
2 x tbsp. chopped parsley and sage
2 x beaten eggs
120g panko breadcrumbs
1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.
2. Turn up the heat, add the rice, and stir for a couple of minutes until translucent. Pour in the hot stock in small amounts, stirring continuously over a low heat until the rice is almost cooked.
3. Add the peas and cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the artichokes and tomatoes.
4. Turn off the heat and stir in the butter and lemon zest. Finely grate in the Parmesan, pick, chop and add the herbs
5. Take small handfuls and shape into 8 round cakes. Beat the eggs in a shallow bowl, then place the breadcrumbs on a plate alongside it.
6. Dip the cakes in the egg, shaking off any excess, then coat in the breadcrumbs
7. Heat enough oil to fill a frying pan to about half the depth of the cakes. Fry the arancini for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until golden, then drain on kitchen paper.
*** Dessert ***
Double chocolate brownie cheesecake
Salted caramel walnuts
For the brownie base
100g Melted butter
150g Dark chocolate chips
50g granulated sugar
100g light brown sugar
¼ tsp vanilla essence
¼ tsp baking powder
100g Plain flour
Whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla essence, salt. Meanwhile sift the flour, baking powder and cocoa and melt the chocolate and the butter. Fold the cooled chocolate and butter into the egg mix and fold in the flour mix. Pour into a 20cm diameter spring form cake tin lined with baking parchment. Bake for approximately 15 minutes at 165 degrees Centigrade. Take out of oven and gentle compress the base to make it slightly thinner. Cool completely.
For the Cheesecake topping
400g half-fat soft cheese
500ml lightly whipped double cream
300g dark chocolate buttons
150g Castor sugar
Whisk the cream cheese and sugar lightly, add the melted, cooled dark chocolate and fold in the cream. Spoon on top of the base and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours to set.
For the vanilla cream
100ml semi skimmed milk
100ml double cream
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
3 egg yolks
1 ½ tbsps sugar
1 tsp cornflour
Bring the milk, vanilla and cream to gentle boil. Pour on to the egg yolks whisked with the cornflour and sugar. Bring back to heat and let thicken. Cool.
For salted caramel walnuts
8 walnut halves
2 tbsps of clear runny honey
A pinch of sea salt flakes
Roll 8 walnut halves in honey, lift out of the honey and roll in castor sugar with a pinch of sea salt flakes. Lift on to baking parchment and cook for approximately 10 minutes on 165 degrees Centigrade until golden and caramelised, lift on to clean tray and leave to cool.