Make Great British Menu judge Richard Bainbridge’s signature Caesar salad

Make Richard Bainbridge's signature Caesar salad. Picture: Katja Bainbridge.

Make Richard Bainbridge's signature Caesar salad. Picture: Katja Bainbridge. - Credit: Archant

Great British Menu judge and owner of Benedicts Restaurant, Norwich, Richard Bainbridge shares a recipe that has been on the menu since he opened two years ago.

Richard and Katja started Benedicts Restaurant with almost nothing but today boast 22 staff and signature recipes to be proud of.

It's now coming up to our two year anniversary of running and owning our own restaurant in the heart of Norwich.

At the time my wife was getting ready to go back to work after maternity leave and said to me 'if you want to open your own restaurant, it's now or never'. I've spoken about it since the age of 13. I've wanted to be a chef-owner my whole life!

We found Benedicts in the middle of the Norwich Lanes and fell in love with it. It was almost like a French style bistro in the heart of the city. It's the city I grew up in and I always wanted to come back and show what I've learnt and what I've become.

Six weeks later we had the keys but had no budget, no bank loan. There were no investors. We managed to borrow a small amount of money from my mum Jil and from Jurgen, Katja's father. The funny thing was, I'd never cooked for my father in law in my life. He invested in the restaurant because he could see our love and passion for what we wanted to do, and he had this sit down with my mum and had to talk her into lending us some money in his broken English, which was a bit surreal.

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We slept on the restaurant floor the night we got the keys after Champagne and fish and chips.

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We woke up the next day and realised what a daunting time we had ahead of us. Within six weeks we managed to get the place ready for opening. We had four members of staff, including Katja and myself and Maddy Johnson and Ashley Williamson from Morston Hall. They took a complete leap of faith into the idea I had to open a restaurant. Deep down we had no real idea whether we could pay anyone or suppliers. We'd never owned a business, run a business or had employees!

I tell people this story, which sounds like I'm making it up for an American film. We had f5 to £10 in our account before we went into overdraft before we opened. Luckily enough the veg supplier and builder didn't ask for money up front.

The first three months we opened the doors we were lucky to be semi-busy at weekends but during the week we weren't busy and I was like 'what have we done?'

In the back of our minds we knew we'd won Great British Menu with Nanny Bush's Trifle but nobody was coming for lunch. We lasted three months until Great British Menu came on and managed to get through it.

It's been an amazing experience. Great British Menu put us out on a national level. Even now we have people come from Derby, Edinburgh, Southport. They are coming to stay in Norwich for their big weekend and choosing Benedicts for lunch or dinner. We are bringing people into the city to show what an amazing place it is. If we keep working together we can become that destination place.

Benedicts Caesar salad

(serves four)

This was on our first ever menu. It was one of the first dishes where I was like 'this is me'. I'll never for get the first time we did a taster of it my sous chef said 'this will be on the menu for year to come' and I was like 'yeah whatever'. But people love it.

Ingredients

2 whole small baby gems sliced in half, washed and seasoned lightly with salt then coloured with a blowtorch on the 'flesh' side

50g grated Parmesan

50g seasoned breadcrumbs

For the gentlemens relish mayo: 1 small tub gentlemens relish, 2 duck egg yolks, 1tsp Dijon mustard, 1tsp cider vinegar, juice 1 lemon, 250ml rapeseed oil, salt, cayenne pepper

Lemon puree: 1 whole lemon stabbed with a knife all over, 300g sugar, 100ml water

Garlic puree: 1 bulb garlic

Cured egg yolk: 2 fresh eggs, 100g table salt

Method

Make the cured eggs first. Place half the salt in a bowl, add the egg yolks and cover completely with the rest of the salt. Leave in a cool dark place for 24 hours. Carefully remove the yolks and brush off excess salt. Place on a cooling rack in the oven on pilot light or the electric oven's lowest setting and dry out between four to six hours until they resemble dried apricot.

Make the mayo. Whisk the egg yolks, mustard, vinegar and lemon juice well then slowly add the oil a little at a time until you have a thick, rich mayo. Fold in the relish, season with salt and cayenne. Place in a piping bag.

For the lemon puree boil the lemon in a pan of clean water. Drain then repeat to help remove the bitterness. Drain again and add the sugar and 100ml water. Bring to the boil. Drain and repeat twice more, reserving the water from the third boil. Blend in a blender until very smooth and place in a piping bag.

For the garlic, roast the bulb in the oven at 180C on a bed of salt for one hour. Remove the skin, blend to a puree and place in a piping bag.

To dress place half a baby gem on a plate and pipe dots of the garlic, lemon and relish mayo all over it. To finish grate the Parmesan and cured egg yolk over and complete with breadcrumbs. Enjoy!

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