The Art of Plating

Adam Reid is the acclaimed chef-patron of The French in the historic Midland Hotel in Manchester. Adam is no stranger to cooking beautifully presented plates of food. He cooked the main course for the Great British Menu 2019 banquet with his winning dish ‘Comfort Food Sounds Good’. His dessert ‘Golden Empire’, also made it through to the Great British Menu banquet in 2016.

This is a seasonal dish and a classic flavour combination. Anybody who has grown up in England will know rhubarb and custard. I’ve taken a traditional dish and refined and enhanced it. The custard is baked in a tray and left to set so that it can be served cold. It’s then cut into discs and topped with a crispy puff pastry biscuit, which balances the whole dish out.
The biscuit is rolled super-fine with icing sugar so that it caramelises and is extra crispy. The rhubarb is poached in sticks and also made into a sorbet.

The dish is finished with some grated mint butter, which goes really well with the rich custard and tart rhubarb. It’s made by adding blanched mint leaves to butter, which is then rolled into a log and frozen.

Plate selection- The dish I’ve chosen to serve this is like a big white pebble or raised upturned fruit bowl. It’s slightly concave in the centre which allows the custard to sit perfectly in the middle. The elements of this dish are quite flat so this plate raises them up so that they have more impact, which is important towards the end of the meal (start low and small then build up with each course). The dish is presented on a black liner which contrasts with the white plate and, again, provides more impact.

Custard- Once the baked custard is set and cold, we use we cut out a disc (rather than use individual moulds) and place it in the centre of the plate.

Biscuit- The biscuit is placed on top of the custard and is over-sized for impact – it looks like it is floating and the custard is ‘hidden’ beneath. The shape is uneven so that it looks ‘rustic’.

Rhubarb- Next, two sticks of rhubarb are placed side by side on top of the biscuit for texture and contrast in colour. The rhubarb is in its pure form and there are no artificial colours.

Sorbet- A quenelle of rhubarb sorbet tops the sticks of rhubarb. The sorbet is lighter in colour so it softens the look of the overall dish.

Garnish- The dish is finished with some grated mint butter, which adds
colour and a subtle hint of flavour. This way, you get hints of flavour rather than a big lump so it’s not too overpowering and it literally melts on the tongue.