A Fife farmer has pulled off his wellies to don chef’s whites and take part in a UK-wide quest to find “Britain’s Best Dish”.
George Milne (44) has in recent weeks been busy lambing his 260 ewes at Kinaldy Farm, near St Andrews as well as finding himself unexpectedly propelled into the limelight and facing the nerve-wracking prospect of preparing his treasured Scotch Lamb dish in front of the cameras.
The weeks of practicing in his farmhouse kitchen - observed at a safe distance by constant companions and canine food critics, sheepdogs Kip and Flea – have proved worthwhile.
After wowing the selection panel at the Glasgow auditions, George was whisked to the London studios of ITV for the regional round of the UK-wide competition which is set to be screened on ITV 1 on May 16.
The springboard to George’s new-found culinary celebrity status was taking part in a Scotch Lamb cooking competition at a farming event, the Royal Highland Winter Fair.
However, it was his bachelor farmer lifestyle which inspired George to take a keen interest in cooking and in particular cooking with Scotch Lamb.
“When I moved into the farmhouse here ten years ago I had to start cooking for myself. I had no choice but to learn and now I’m willing to give anything a go!” said George.
A farming friend suggested he should enter ITV’s Britain’s Best Dish and he decided to go for it.
George, who is also Scottish Development Officer for the National Sheep Association, admitted that compared to cooking in his kitchen at home preparing his dish in front of the cameras and judges Jilly Goolden, Ed Baines and John Burton Race was “seriously nerve-wracking.”
The contest, hosted by Mary Nightingale, sees Britain’s most talented amateur cooks battle it out for a £10,000 prize and chance to see their dish on the menu of London’s Savoy hotel.
The dish George prepared for the judges is Scotch Lamb drizzled in red wine jus, shedded lamb shank in a cabbage leaf bowl served with a Dauphinoise potato pot, fresh vegetables and mint sauce.
“I’ve always really loved cooking lamb and what a lot of people don’t realise is that you don’t have to cook lamb shank for as long as you might think,” said George.
“In the competition you have just one hour and thirty minutes to cook your entire dish and, with a fan-assisted oven, the shank is cooked just right after one hour 10 minutes. The trick is to make sure the shank is not too dry and the loin of lamb not over-cooked.”
The lamb George used in the competition was North Country Cheviot breed, sourced from his local butcher, JB Penman in Crail. He emphasised that the high quality of this locally-sourced Scotch Lamb, which had been well prepared, made it easy for him to cook a really tasty dish.
While George has to remain tight-lipped about the result of the regional round until after it is screened, he did give a hint that he was more than pleased with the judges’ reaction to his lamb dish.
Quality Meat Scotland’s Head of Marketing, Laurent Vernet, wished George every success in the competition.
“George’s passion for cooking with Scotch Lamb is fantastic. As a cook he knows how versatile and delicious Scotch Lamb is and as a farmer he well aware of the importance of the world-leading quality assurance schemes behind our lamb and the high welfare standards involved in its production. Our very best wishes to George for success in this high-profile national competition,” said Mr Vernet.