Sheffield Food Festival takes over the city centre this bank holiday weekend with a veritable smörgåsbord of delights.
Taking centre stage in the Peace Gardens is the demonstration marquee, where some of Sheffield’s top chefs will be showing off their skills – and among them, James Mellor, head chef at West 10 wine bar, Ranmoor.
James will be going head to head against Russ Caines of the Devonshire Arms at Middle Handley in Sunday’s round of the BBC Radio Sheffield Ready, Steady, Cook! competition.
It’s a daunting prospect, admits James, who is also lined up to take part in this summer’s Sheff’s Kitchen cookery competition at Whirlow Hall Farm.
But he’s looking forward to the challenge: “I haven’t been involved with the festival before, so I’m chuffed to be doing it this year.
“It’s a great opportunity for Sheffield foodies to see what us chefs are up to.
“It’s also a chance for people to discover new things and see what independent restaurants have to offer.
“Sheffield is often overlooked when it comes to food, so the festival is a great occasion that really puts the city on the map.”
James may be unused to the limelight, but he’s no stranger to celebrity. His training included four years at the prestigious Langans Coq D’Or in London.
On graduating, he was taken to Le Gavroche to celebrate – where the Langans’ head chef had arranged a special dinner, including a chance to meet the chef.
“In the middle of the meal, to our astonishment and that of every other customer in the restaurant, Michel Roux Jr came and sat at our table!
“As a 19-year-old newly qualified chef it was a dream to meet such an inspiration in my line of work,” he says.
James built on that experience, honing his skills first at Storm fish restaurant in Bournemouth. Here he developed a love of sea food – and established valuable contacts – they still supply his sea food orders today.
In 2008 he moved north to Sheffield, to work for master chef Richard Smith at Artisan in Crosspool, and three years ago he became head chef at West 10.
He has since put his mark on the menu with a whole range of dishes that demonstrate the breadth of his skills – from a signature dish of pan-fried turbot, reflecting his love of sea food, to this simple beetroot risotto.
“I like this dish because it’s colourful and has exciting flavours,” he says.
“It moves away from all the dark, heavy winter food and opens the spring with something bright and different.”
Recipe by James Mellor
Beetroot Risotto with horseradish creme fraiche, candied walnuts and goat’s cheese
250g arborio rice
1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
200ml white wine
2 medium-sized beetroot, cooked & peeled
1 clove garlic
1 banana shallot, finely diced
1 sprig thyme, chopped
10 walnuts, toasted
1 egg white
200g icing sugar
1 tsp horseradish
1tblsp creme fraiche
1 egg yolk
2tblsp SR flour
2 tblsp breadcrumps
2 small pieces goats cheese
Place stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
Take half the beetroot and blitz in a food processor until smooth; set aside.
Place goat’s cheese into the flour, then dip in egg and finally breadcrumb; set aside.
Put walnuts on a tray in a pre-heated oven at 160C . Whip egg white to a foam, spread over walnuts and return to oven for a few minutes until egg has coated the nuts. Stir, then add icing sugar and place back in oven for a further 5 mins until walnuts have taken on the sugar and are shiny and crisp. (Alternatively just use toasted walnuts.) Set aside.
Take the shallot, a little oil, garlic and thyme and sweat in a pan until tender. Add the rice and stir until rice has taken some of the oil. Add the white wine, reduce slightly, then add the stock ladle by ladle, stirring constantly and making sure the rice has absorbed the stock. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed. Once rice has reached the right texture, stir in the beetroot, parmesan and butter.
Heat some oil in a pan and fry the goat’s cheese until golden brown in colour on each side. (Or use a deep fat fryer if you have one.)
Serve risotto into bowls, add walnuts, goats cheese and beetroot, mix the creme fraiche and horseradish together and spoon over.