Hot Dinners popped on over to Somerset House last night for a tasting of Tom Aikens new cheesy recipes for Long Clawson Dairy. The Michelin-starred chef has just published Cooking Creatively With Cheese for the dairy's centenary. As Aikens explained to us; 'The idea was to look back over a hundred years and pinpoint a year to each decade and so I came up with 11 recipes altogether.'
Sounds like the research period was fun. 'Over the space of a couple of months I had between five and ten kilos of cheeses to do all the recipes, so my staff were eating cheese for at least six weeks,' Aikens remembers. 'Cheese every day!'
The biggest thing up next for the chef is his participation as one of the candidates for the South East in this year's Great British Menu on the BBC (he'll be competing against Tom Kerridge from Marlow's Hand and Flowers). 'It's the first time I've done it,' he said. 'I've been asked to do it for a number of years, but I've always said no.'
So what made Aikens finally cave in? 'They've been so kind asking me every year and I thought I'd do it at some point. I know all the judges very well and a lot of the chefs that have done it, so I thought it's time I gave it a whirl.'
'We've already done a little bit of filming,' Aikens told us. 'We start in the studio on the 15th March.'
This year's theme sounds very Big Society. 'It's based on a banquet again, as always and it's all to do with the community. So people who've worked helping the elderly, youngsters or handicapped or anyone involved in community care. It's all about rewarding them and doing a community feast.'
That's not the only change according to Tom. 'Normally they make the focus on the suppliers and the provenance, and that's still an important part of it, but the actual preparation and presentation is more difficult this time around.'
You can buy Tom's Cooking Creatively With Cheese cookbook for Long Clawson Dairy on Amazon for £7.95.
There's no transmission date as yet for Great British Menu 2011, but a BBC spokesperson says it's likely to be early April.