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NICK BARNES: Jack Ross needs to perfect his Sunderland recipe - but there’s plenty time for that

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Jack Ross’ Sunderland side have looked good so far in League One, but not so impressive where we can say comfortably that perfection is close. We mustn’t panic, though - this season is going to be a long one.

Danny Roberts

‘Killing Eve’, ‘The Bodyguard’, ‘The Cry’ - all are undoubtedly gripping TV shows, but my own personaly penchant for drama comes when watching ‘The Great British Menu’.

The rationale of the programme is for top chefs to get their dishes to a banquet, and to do so they have to concoct some fancy food worthy of the big meal. This year’s banquet honours the NHS. I thought I’d rethink the format and apply it to Sunderland and their bid to get to their very own end of season banquet - promotion.

The chef’s dishes are marked out of ten, and I’ll consider Jack Ross our chef. His main dish is his Haggis Wellington - a magical mix of Scottish and English ingredients, peppered with a few exotic spices and some storage cupboard dependables.

Jack Ross has had to start his dish from scratch, sourcing his ingredients from both sides of the border but also in the knowledge that he has at his disposal a few richer ingredients that could elevate his meal above the competition. Refinement seems to be at the heart of Ross’ dish, with some elegant additions in his Baldwin béarnaise and McGeoch mayo - which does, I fear, have a tendency to split.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

However if Ross can get some consistency there, he’ll be onto a winner. Maguire mustard is an inspired addition. Always a gamble to add such a potent flavour to the pot but get it right and it can add a piquancy and heat that makes the taste buds explode. Topped with a magical Maja short pastry, shying away from flaky pastry and certainly not puff.

Add to the mix the robust flavours of a Cattermole casserole sauce and give it all a good Power mix to blend the flavours together, and I see the potential for a solid hearty main.

How has it all come together? Well. Let’s taste it.

Ummm... on first impressions it leaves a good taste in the mouth. The zing of the Maja and the majesty of that Maguire isn’t lost in the gravy, but that gravy mix of Honeyman and Gooch does at times lack that bite that would lend the dish greater potency.

A sprinkling of Sinclair? I’m not sure. I fear that at times that is lost in the mix but does have the potential to give the dish a lift. Then there’s the McGeady Masala. It needs to be used carefully but get it right it can be inspired and there’s certainly been a hint of it. I’d recommend working with it to give the dish more consistency with its attacking flavours, which unquestionably need some spicing up.

Then we come to the base flavours and here there are clearly some issues. The dish lacks a strong base layer and too often allows unwanted flavours to seep through. That pastry wrap isn’t as firm as I’d like and needs work. Pastry cracks quite easily in heated conditions and this seems to be a weakness Ross needs to resolve.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images

SO (bear with me here...) - how would I judge the dish overall?

This dish is clearly a work in progress and it is still early in the competition.

Ross’ rivals are on the whole more experienced in this domain and have had longer to finesse their recipes. For a new chef the overall taste is largely good but I would like to see it take on a more robust flavour - a ruthlessness in the kitchen often doesn’t go amiss.

If Jack Ross can blend his cornucopia of spice and herb then there is a brilliant dish waiting to explode on the palate, but at the moment it still requires some hard work and additional ingredients. I’m sure a rummage in the larder for a few of those missing additions in the coming months will prove fruitful.

To the mark out of ten... I’m going to give Jack Ross and this dish a mark of... seven.

It’s a good dish but needs elevating.

Fine tune the spicing and it undoubtedly has the potential to score a ten.

Sunderland AFC via Getty Images