Laughs at lunch with Little Water

Setting out to launch my first pop up was always going to be a daunting task.

There were so many questions running through my mind. What do I serve? Will people like my food? Most importantly, would people who enjoyed watching me on MasterChef pay to eat my food?

I decided to have my first outing serve as a bridge between the show and the present, giving guests something they were familiar with. Any future efforts would give me greater freedom to experiment.

I have had great feedback from so many people who all said that they really wanted to try the food they had seen me cooking on television so that is what I decided I would serve  Also, Little Water is not only a great burger restaurant, it is also known for its vodkas, so I paired each course with a different infused vodka.

The starter was beetroot, dill and vodka-cured salmon with pickled cucumber, horseradish mayonnaise and homemade rye crisp bread. This dish took me back to the beginning of the MasterChef process and beyond. I have been serving salmon three ways as a starter at dinner parties for a few years and the cured salmon formed part of my audition dish. I paired this with a garlic and dill vodka. The aroma is stong, but it goes well with the other strong flavours on the plate.

This salmon dish has become quite personal, so I was quite nervous looking at all the plates lined up, waiting to be taken out to diners. However, once a few plates had left the kitchen and the unmistakable sounds of laughter were bouncing back into the kitchen, I relaxed, knowing that people were enjoying themselves.

The main was based on the dish for which John Torode gave me ‘dish of the day’ in my heat. I served a chicken ballotine, stuffed with mushrooms and spinach and wrapped in Parma ham. This was served with a potato mille feuille, braised leeks and butter-roasted heritage carrots. This was paired with with tarragon vodka.

The vegetarian option was potato mille feuille, cauliflower purée, roasted cauliflower, roasted walnuts, samphire and a caper and sultana dressing. This was paired with a lemon vodka.

I stressed over this course.  I didn’t want anyone choosing this option to feel that it was a lesser choice.  This dish went through about ten different versions before I settled on the one I served. By the time I published the menu,  I felt that I would be happy to choose this dish.

There was no such stress at all over what to choose for dessert.

Chocolate fondants aplentyI cannot remember a time in over 15 years when I have had people over to eat and not been asked if I am making a chocolate fondant. Sometimes, I will even make a dessert that I think goes well with the rest of the menu and also prepare fondants so people can choose a dessert. Or have both. When I have guests, the most important things are that they are at ease and are well-fed.

Food service ran like clockwork. Working with Alex and Chris in the kitchen was so easy. I had done some prep ahead of time, but we motored through what was left and were ready in good time for 12:30.


It would not have been a success without all the people who were willing to make the leap from viewer to paying customer. I am particularly proud of my vegetarian dish which had neighbouring meat eaters envious. That, to me, is success.


Bring on the next pop up event!


Mother and son The whole team Little Water kitchen team Diners having fun