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Category Archives: BBC

it’s chriiiiiiiiiiiiiistmaaaaaaaaas!

With some time off work, this is the time for me to catch up on some writing, you lucky people.  What better time to sit down and discuss the phenomenon of festive food and it’s televisual counterpart.

I began my journey with the legend herself, Ms Fanny Cradock.  There were two quick episodes on Good Food Channel, one focusing on mincemeat, t’other on Christmas pudding.  In episode one, our main ingredient is described as “the Cinderella of Christmas” and such delights as mincemeat pancake, galette and OMELETTE (eggs with flakes of butter, nothing else) are created, right before our eyes through a fog of icing sugar.  Icing sugar on everything and about a centimetre deep too.  The speed in which she works is pretty astonishing: no messing about.  Fanny would do very well in the omelette challenge with James Martin, I can tell you.  Eggs are mixed together, pastry unfolded and costume jewellery glistens in grease.  Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 1970′s.  The next recipe is for a tart.  Pastry is lowered into a shallow, round cake tin and filled with mincemeat.  Fanny cracks on saying “I’m not going to explain it all to the older people, you know all this stuff.”  Nice to see – basically, “you’re all old enough to know how to make bloody pastry and form it into a tart shape, now let’s get on with it”.

We move swiftly on to a Swiss roll filled with, yep the ‘meat.  The sponge is pre-prepared and handed over by Sarah (aka Poor Sarah) and various maxims are uttered such as “everything is so much better when you know how”.  Thanks.  We are advised that you need a good quality rolling pin – not one with handles though: “that’s the best kind, the professional kind.  Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get a rolling pin in your stocking”.  If I did, I might be lucky enough to hit my husband round the head with it.

Fanny and Sarah

Delia Smith is a more recent Christmas icon.  Carsmile still swears by her instructions for turkey or goose from the ‘Complete Illustrated Cookery Course‘ 1992 edition (originally published in 1978).  As is the way on speciality channels, we are served up a whole evening of her 1990 series, Delia at Christmas.  This particular episode began with the words “I don’t agree with vegetarianism…” but she humored us with a selection of recipes for cheese terrine, stuffed peppers and ‘sausage’ (cheese and herb) rolls.  An issue with the screening of classic shows is the aspect ratio as Delia invited a friend over to explain the delights of fizzy wine.  “You don’t have to stick to Champagne,” said the very wide sommelier, “there’s other fizz out there like Cava or this stuff from India!”  I’m not sure if I was more excited about the Indian wine or the amazing shoulder pads.

The following installment was the legendary “36 Hours of Christmas” and I started to wonder why programmes continue to be made on the subject of Christmas turkeys.  People moan about dry, tasteless meat but once you know the best way to do it, why bother with anything else (“everything is so much better when you know how”)?  Now we are acquainted with Delia’s technique, I don’t care about Gordon’s recipe or even Jamie’s version.  But the more shows I watched, the more I noticed the seemingly endless ways of cooking the festive bird.  Lorraine places a bag of frozen peas on the breast before it goes into the oven to slow down the time it takes that part to cook, Nigella sticks her poultry in a gigantic red bucket (to match her silky, red dressing gown) with herbs and spices to add moistness and don’t even get me started on the stuffing controversy!

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don’t be afraid of it, it’s only a biscuit!

Dear Katy Brand,

Why oh why oh WHY did you start so well, with your pasta skills and your perfect pastry and ruin everything with a plate of custard and cat poo?  Now, chocolate tortellini filled with raspberry mousse sounded perfect. The white chocolate and cardamom sauce less so but it could have been enough to get you through.  No, what am I saying – if everyone else had a good day, you were definitely on your way out.  *SIGH*  Oh well, at least my other favourite, Shane Lynch is a dead cert for the final three …

Katy Brand

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go big or go home

Having spent a lovely week in Edinburgh seeing lots of Fringey things, the lady occupying the adjacent seat on my journey home decided to catch up with Celebrity Masterchef.  Yep, seen that one – he does something with a crocodile.  Oooh, not seen that one – concentrate on your book, Fanny.  No spoilers!

I managed to reach the comfort of my sofa not knowing the outcome so cracked on with some catching up of my own.

Phillips & friend

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shake your salad maker

Bucks Fizz once said “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”.  I have detested the weather in London this summer but two things have put a smile on my red, sweaty face; return trips to the Olympic stadium for the Anniversary Games (get over it, move on!) and having Celebrity Masterchef back on my telly – right from the start I could tell we were in for a good ‘un.

John: “COOKING DOESN’T GET TOUGHER THAN THIS!”
Gregg: “OI!  THAT’S MY LINE :)

Heidi, Gregg, Janet, John?

Heidi, Gregg, Janet, John?

Excellent.  Our first contestants strut towards the camera.  Who have we got?  Professional grump, Janet Street-Porter.  All round sweetheart, Heidi Range.  Funny lady and champion Beyonce impersonator, Katy Brand.  Business woman and ex-Rolling Stone wife Jo Wood completes the first week’s line-up.

CHEESE!

CHEESE!

The eighth series is under way.  Has it really been that many?  I’m seeing clips of this year’s cooks and it’s all feeling a bit samey.  I’m sure I’ve seen Heidi and Katy wrestle with a mixing bowl before.  I know I’ve seen Janet yell at bessie mate Gordon Ramsay and discuss the best way to slaughter animals on Channel 4.  Clearly the show and the celebrities are upping their game.  It’s gonna be hard to top the last series, but you knew that already.

This year’s first week favourite is Katy.  She seems quite awesome and likes to fly by the seat of her cheffy pants.  Ravioli AND puff pastry?  Yep.  She pulls it off too, pretty much.  Heidi is lovely and smiley and her hands shake when holding a knife.  Jo ‘on tour’ Wood tells us how she learned how to cook while travelling the globe with a bunch of old fogies.  Jo could be classed as the ‘experimental’ one.  Crisps with prawn curry, sweet potato in the shepherd’s pie and coconut oil on something or other.  Janet is, well, Janet.

I’m struggling to work out Ms Street-Porter.  Yes, she has a shtick and she does it perfectly but would she continue to yell at those in authority when in a professional kitchen?  Apparently so.  John and Gregg may well giggle as they are told to ‘do one’ or ‘get stuffed’ by the former Independent on Sunday editor but huffing and tutting at a head chef in his own restaurant?  I would have loved to see Marcus Wareing deal with her.

Tales are told of service station pasties, eating at top restaurants and adapting a flight case into a camping stove.  Yes, Jo spent 30 years feeding her family on tour.  Did she mention that?

So, what about the cooking?  Largely it was impressive albeit with the obligatory ‘is it duck or pork?’ moment and the ‘are they really putting alcohol in the pudding when they’re about to fly on a trapeze?’ incident.  There was also a lot of non-cooking.  Possibly more salads in week one than I’ve seen in an entire previous series.  “This is Masterchef, not Master Salad Maker!”  Quite.

Gregg may be the face of Weight Watchers and two stones lighter but some things never change.  “I could much the living daylights out of that dish!”  Easy tiger.  What goes on tour …

 

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in BBC, Celebrity Masterchef

 

whose Roux is who’s?

“Oooh!  Wotsthat??!” I exclaimed as the 476 bus whizzed through North London just the other day.  A poster advertising what looked like a cookery telly show, thatswot.  But Roux Jr’s lovely, smiley, dark-eyed face was strangely replaced by a frown, a glare – rather scary.  He was joined by a terrifying looking Rick Stein and Angela Hartnett seemed grumpy as heck.  What could this mean?  All these amazing chefs judging one show together – gonna be a-MAZING, amirite?

Nope.

The Roux Scholarship 2013 is a mish-mash of a programme.  After the series opener it seems to be two parts Masterchef: The Professionals and one part The Apprentice.  We return from each commercial break to meet our hosts, Roux Jr and his near incomprehensible uncle.  For some reason they are at the top of the gherkin tower muttering “WHO will be the winner of the Scholarship for 2013?” and “only ONE can be declared our winner!”

Roux Scholarship 2013

I could talk at length about this but, as usual, Mr Danny Baker sums up correctly:   Read the rest of this entry »

 

“there’s no drama like wrestling”

OK, OK, I had to shoe horn a wrestling angle in there somehow (all will become clear later)… that or a Marx Brothers quote.

There are always trends running through a Masterchef series and this year it seems to be duck, duck, duck (but no duck soup).  The current run continues apace with another trend – women!  Lots of them!  Quarter finals, semi finals.  Brilliant.  About bloody time.  There also seem to be a lot more curries than there have been in previous years or at least of the fiiiine diiiining caliber.

There have been some memorable moments already (the uber posh brothers, the ‘young grandmother’ who was a personal favourite, the dish that made Torode’s heart go thump) but my ultimate moment has to be the trip to Brasserie Joel for a lunch shift with Walter Ishizuka.  Anyone familiar with American culture or comedy will hopefully be aware of the genius (and I don’t use that word lightly) that is Mr Andy Kaufman.  He was a man of many characters and one of the funniest was Foreign Man with his accent and squeaky voice.  FM became known as Latka Gravas in the hit show Taxi.  I have no doubt in my mind that Chef Ishizuka is a serious, focused and talented man it just so happens that he speaks exactly like Foreign Man.  Walter, I’m so sorry.  I could not stifle my giggles and I am so glad that I was not part of that brigade – I would have been thrown out in no time and rightly so.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

disaster class?

On a wintry Saturday lunchtime, after wolfing down scrambled eggs, bacon and toast (with brown sauce) I happened to spot a triple bill on BBC2.  Country Show Cook Off.  Never heard of it.  Loved it.  The title sequence tells you all you need to know; a pair of top quality, celebrity chefs travel the country in a gorgeous Citroen van (H type, apparently) trying their luck at winning a rosette at a country show.  And it’s as difficult as it sounds.  As suspected, this show runs weekdays with a new set of chefs each week.  These catch up episodes featured Galton Backiston and Jun Tanaka with the smirky voice over talents of Ainsley Harriott.

Jun & Galton & that lovely van

Jun & Galton & that lovely van

I was immediately struck by the beauty of the vehicle (I’m almost tempted to learn how to drive just so I can have one) and, hold on, the curtain material!  I have that very same fabric for my kitchen cushions.  My kitchen that is an almost exact replica of Dot Cotton’s, I kid you not.  Not intentional either.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

is it safe?

Aaaand, we’re back.  Masterchef UK is on our telly boxes once again.  It only feels like yesterday that Shelina, Tom and Andrew sweated buckets in Thailand and thoroughly educated us in the way of the mango.  It’s early days but I think, ladies and gentlemen, that we’re in for a real treat!

First of all, the producers have decided to go old skool.  No X Factor style auditions this year.  Initially this made me sad as it’s clear any attempt at modernisation of MC has been shelved.  Of course, I am a fan of OZ MC and think our version became neither here nor there – the audition process didn’t sit that well as everything else about the show remained the same.  All or nothing people, all or nothing.

Could Dale be crowned champion?

Could Dale be crowned champion?

While the show remains safe, our contestants seem quite adventurous.  The standouts from day one were Dale and Emily.  Dale produced restaurant standard plates with not much in the way of mistakes (or nothing that couldn’t be ironed out easily) and Emily was good but had the potential to throw it all away (almost literally).   Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in BBC, Gregg Wallace, John Torode, Masterchef UK

 

to eat, and to drink, and to be merry

I was a little surprised upon hearing of the return of the classic BBC series ‘Food & Drink’.  Surprised yet pleased.  I was a little ‘meh’ about it being hosted by Chef Michel Roux Jr.  I know, I know.  He’s a legend and I love him dearly but this was a great opportunity to launch a new face on the cookery telly universe.  Or is it better to be guided through this culinary journey with a familiar and lovely face like his?

Food & Drink launched in 1982 thus I was too distracted by Adam Ant and Shakin’ Stevens to notice Simon Bates and Jilly Goolden.  I did discover the series in later years but memories have become faded and blended with those of early Delia and Rhodes.

Chris & Jilly & Oz & Michael

Chris & Jilly & Oz & Michael

Anyway, it’s back, back, BACK!  And not in some studio set up a la Saturday Kitchen, oh no, they’ve stolen Lorraine’s stark kitchen diner from which to create some yummy food and discuss the latest consumer issues (they’ll be a bit busy if it’s been filmed in the last few weeks!).  F&D II, or F&D Babies (y’know, like Muppet Babies but with chefs?), does introduce one new face however.  The resident drinker is Kate Goodman, a wine merchant from Manchester and pretty good she is, too.  It must be thing – all wine types have that extra bit of enthusiasm, don’t they?  Think of Olly Smith and Susy Atkins.  Enthusiastic.  Kate selected three drinks to accompany a pork and apple recipe created by Michel and Tom Kerridge: a cider, a non alcoholic spiced apple drink and some wine.  Being a West Country boy, Tom was quite taken by the alcoholic apple juice but there was no beer selected much to the chagrin of Carsmile.  There have been guarantees that real ale will make an appearance at some point which will please the growing army of beer connoisseurs.  Even as someone who does not partake in beer drinking I agree that discussing the option of beer matching with your meal is becoming a ‘thing’ and someone should definitely bring this to the fore.  Pete Brown?  Sophie Atherton?

OMNOMNOM!

OMNOMNOM!

Back to the matter at hand.  Do we actually need F&D in 2013?  There are more cookery shows than you can shake a whisk at (I know, I’ve bloody watched enough), Stefan Gates as well as Jimmy Doherty explain where your food comes from and chefs tell us at any opportunity that ingredients must be LOCAL and SEASONAL.  Still, we got to see our F&D hosts chow down on mealworms and have a real, highbrow debate on finding alternatives to eating meat which was basically, “YUCK!  That’s minging, that is!”  Next week: Gizzi discusses foie gras.

 
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Posted by on February 17, 2013 in BBC, Michel Roux Jr

 

masterchef: the cop out?

So, I’ve given everyone time to watch and digest the final of Masterchef: The Professionals.  How crazy was that?

The semi-final pitting Keri against Anton was, in hindsight, an indicator of what could follow.  Both were put through to finals week and a few days later, both were crowned champions 2012.

 

Poor Oli, he fell apart a little bit and in any other year it might not have hurt his chances but this series was special and he finished third.  His back story (which always fills the first 20 minutes of a final) focused on his current location of Camden,  Would love to find out where he works – poor @oliboon1612 has no idea!  He’s been thoroughly confused as hundreds of people tweet their congratulations: “why do people keep saying this to me Dave I can’t cook for shit ha!”  I also loved Keri’s story.  She had her hair down!  She wore a lovely dress!

Right, finals week.  There was the standard, cook-for-a-room-of-Michelin-starred-chefs round along with a day at Fat Duck.  Nowhere as good as previous trips to Noma or Arzak but, there you go.  It would have been nice to go elsewhere.  There were a few chefs at the grand dinner that I wasn’t familiar with – could’ve gone to theirs.

MC Professionals winners

As it hadn’t occurred to me that there could be TWO winners, I thought Anton would win by a very slim margin.  I was half right!

Well done Masterchef.  While I do think there should be one winner, I guess they couldn’t decide.  Next season will have to go a long way to top that.

 
 
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