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Chefs at 11 of Castle Rock Brewery's Nottingham pubs have done battle to cook, show and taste each others favourite vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The competition, judged by Evening Post columnist and nutrition coach, Susan Hart, and lifelong vegetarian, Alice Hewkin, took place at the Embankment pub at Trent Bridge.

The winner was Tom Smeed, head chef at West Bridgford’s Stratford Haven, with joint runners up Vanessa McGuire from the Poppy and Pint in Lady Bay and Darren Maffucci who cooks at the Kean’s Head in the Lace Market.

All 11 cooks were invited to present the judges with their favourite veggie and vegan food which were then assessed on appearance, nutrition, and flavour.

“The Strat’s peppercorn ‘steak’ was outstanding,” says Susan Hart.  “It looked lovely and just like any other everyday meal with no clue to its vegetarian origins.  It was surrounded by the right amount of ‘things on the side’ and the peppercorn sauce and mushrooms were perfect.  We both liked the texture of the tofu and chickpea flour base to the steak.

“This was a healthy sized portion and overcame the common problem we vegetarians often have of finishing our meals first.  Often we’re left waiting while our dining companions polish off their meat dishes,” she says.  “For this dish, I recommended that Tom could consider making a vegan option by removing the cheese and cream and adding onion rings.  It would rival any beef steak dish.   Some vegetarians might take umbrage with a dish that replicates a meat version but personally I haven’t a problem with that because it’s tasty, looks good and was nutritionally sound.”

(l-r)  Tom Smeed, Susan Hart, Alice Hewkin, Darren Maffucci, and Vanessa McGuire

(l-r) Tom Smeed, Susan Hart, Alice Hewkin, Darren Maffucci, and Vanessa McGuire

For joint second place, Vanessa McGuire produced a vegetable bourguignon while a courgetti of roasted halloumi, confit tomatoes, aubergine and pesto was Darren Maffucci’s offering.

Susan Hart who has been advising on vegetarian and vegan cuisine and creating special diets for clients with health issues for over 15 years, was keen to point out the vital need for balance.  “Too often restaurants opt for the simple and straightforward.  None of these could be described as that, and I’m delighted that all the chefs were able to take on board the need to maintain a high nutritional value as well as the obvious requirements of taste and appearance in what they create.”

“Well done to them all,” she said.

Others taking part were the Bread and Bitter, Canalhouse, the Embankment, Horse and Plough, Swan in the Rushes, Vat and Fiddle, the Lincolnshire Poacher and the Willowbrook.