Many people have their own recipes for tasty favourite dishes. Earlier this year, the Aga Khan Heath Board for the United Kingdom decided to capitalise on the cookery skills within the community and launch their first National Recipe Competition at the 2010 National Sports Festival held in April.
The competition provided a chance for cooking connoisseurs of all ages to share their culinary creations. The Health Board invited a range of original dishes – from simple salads to fancy biryanis – and they weren't disappointed.
Some 60 submissions were received, and with so many delicious dishes to choose from, the job of selecting a winner was not easy. Recipes were submitted in two categories, separated by age: Under-36 and 36-and-over. All recipes were accepted, so long as they were original and unpublished.
Nutritious recipes were encouraged, but nutrition was not the only prerequisite for a winning entry. To minimise judging bias, strict criteria were established to ensure that comparisons were fair and objective.
The submitted recipes were reviewed, and reduced to a shortlist of 12. Each shortlisted recipe was cooked as described and the cooked dish was subject to qualitative analysis. A panel of judges described the dishes they tasted using adjectives such as “excellent”, “good”, or “okay”. Each adjective corresponded to a certain number of points. In addition, if at least two judges agreed that there was either too much salt, or too much oil, or too much of something else in the dish, then the recipe would lose a point.
A number of measures were taken to reduce potential bias:
- All dishes were presented to look attractive to the eye;
- Judges were positioned so that they couldn't see each other's reactions, and were asked not to communicate with each other;
- Judges were asked to take a sip of water in between each bite or taste of food in order to reduce the influence of the flavour of a previous dish on its successor;
- Names of the cooks and chefs were kept confidential;
- Dishes were given special codes and served in no particular order.
The winning recipes
Selecting a single winner and just one runner-up for publication per category proved difficult. The 36-and-over category had so many good entries that the judges decided to have two runners-up. First-place winners in both categories received professional-quality cookware.
Winner: Nermin Bhanji with Salmon with Fennel Leaves
Runner up: Fatimah Gilani with Tomato and Roast Pepper Soup
In the coming weeks, the winning recipes will be analysed for their nutritional content and published at The Ismaili Nutrition Centre. Also watch for a feature story about the winning entries.