EXPLORER Scouts from Les Pugh's Own unit continued their packed program of challenges with a cooking contest.

The previous week they had been split into groups and given the challenge to plan a menu for six people to include a starter, main course and dessert, and then to prepare, cook, present and consume the meal.

Once the likes and dislikes of participants were considered and their menus finalised, they produced their shopping lists and duly purchased their requirements, prior to the evening.

At the start of the evening it soon became apparent that some ambitious cooking was to be undertaken. They were only given a double ring gas burner each, when Jon announced he needed an oven to cook his chocolate brownie dessert. No need to panic though, as a rummage through the store room produced a fold down tin box that once assembled and placed over the gas ring magically became an oven. Cries of 'oh great' suddenly arose as Martyn and Calum claimed they needed ovens too.

As they got into the hurly burly of kitchen life, knifes swishing, pans sizzling in-depth discussions on methods, it was suddenly noticed that the main stay of Scout cooking was missing. Was this a serious error of judgement or a deliberate ploy? On double checking with the participants it was confirmed there were NO tinned beans in use.

Instead we had fresh peppers, tomatoes, herbs, meat and veg being cleaned, sliced and quartered. With Dan being particularly adept keeping his tomato and mushroom slices even. With the room filing with the aromas from stuffed chicken pieces, garlic and herb risotto and melting chocolate, there was a complete lack of another standard associated with Scout cooking event, that of burning food.

No tears were shed either as the onions were prepared for the handmade burgers.

Each group had to present their completed meal ready to eat at a laid table, so knives, forks and spoons had to be laid, and it looked like some were fans of Downton Abbey.

The final spreads were impressive, from hot Ciabatta bread and herb starters, Chorizo risotto and an array of chocolate desserts including a very rich chocolate and marshmallow mouse. It was good to see the food eaten with gusto at the end.

The contest was a close run affair but the ambition and execution of chocolate brownie cooking in the tin oven just scraped it in the end.