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Category Archives: Nigella Lawson

a spoonful of sugar

Hello everyone!  Fanny is back.  Miss me?

Fanny

Oh, OK.

So, after a brief period of hibernation, I decided the time had come to get back into the swing of things – I admit, I’d been sidetracked by Tom Kerridge and Masterchefs Australia and Professional but the triple whammy of Bourdain, Lawson and Lefebvre was too much to resist.  Yes, The Taste has come to town.

Originally created for American TV Channel 4 ditched the four judge idea and the slimmed down panel are the aforementioned Anthony Bourdain (now known as Tony), Nigella Lawson (now known as Poor Nigella) and Ludo Lefebvre (widely known as WHO?).  Having worked together on two seasons for the ABC channel there is clear familiarity between the three with much eye-rolling and banter which, I think, work well.

Nigella

“all I needs is a spoon and the right pot”

The show’s premise is all about simplicity and back to basics; you can learn all the techniques you want or create a five course menu but The Taste is all about ONE SPOONFUL OF FOOD.  So, it’s a shame that the show itself seems a little confusing.  Don’t let that put you off.  Episode one in summary:

  • 25 contestants
  • professional or home cooks
  • one hour to create your food
  • judges taste with their backs to a glass wall
  • contestant can hear the comments then enter the room
  • feedback and verdicts given
  • if more than one judge says yes, contestant chooses which mentor to follow
  • each judge is looking for four contestants
  • successful contestants are given an apron

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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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making plans for nigel

I admit to not being the biggest Nigel Slater fan.  I will certainly look at his tasty recipes in the Guardian or Observer but have avoided his writing and previous television programmes.  It’s the Nigel/Nigella problem; flowery, over-the-top language that I try to steer clear of.  Just tell me what ingredients to buy and how to make it taste bloody nice.  That’s all I need.  I am a simple creature.  Do I really need to know that the bananas displayed in your huge kitchen/diner are ambrosial or the folding in of the lavender scented sugar takes you back to a time you fell asleep in your nanna’s airing cupboard?  I am certainly not a fan of Gordon’s method: “ADD CHEESE.  MIX.  WHACK IT IN THE OVEN. DONE!” … just somewhere in between would be perfect.  In my head, this means Jamie Oliver (without the ‘bruv’s or ‘pucker’s, innit?) but I know many who disagree.

I have warmed to Nigel with his recent programmes that focus on different themes (citrus or classic comfort food for example) or give advice on what main meal to cook on day one and magically use the leftovers for days two to five.  A homely Sunday roast chicken can go a long way!  This particular episode dealt with the topic of abundance.  A glut, if you will.  Mmmmmm, glut. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in BBC, Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson

 

NIGELI$$IMA

Image

After reading John Crace’s glorious kickabout this morning, I was keen to watch another episode of this hugely successful, slightly bizarre ‘Italianate’ show. But not much had changed. This isn’t cooking. This is advertorial.

‘Her’ kitchen (at least they aren’t pretending) is grand beyond the imaginings of emperors, but even that’s nothing special these days, so the producers have decided to shoot almost the entire show at the magic hour; with sunlight (actually mega-lights, probs) streaming in and making a series shot in Bristol look a bit more Tuscan-porny.

After that, things get a bit confusing. The music shunts between daytime TV jazz, Meters funk, 40s Dixie and folky tinkling. The banter shifts between the phone-sex innuendo satirised years ago by Ronni Ancona and slightly forced gags and filler-guff about markets. “Sooooo easy, it makes itself…” well yeah, apart from the bit where you have to individually shell each broad bean by hand. The pitch of the cooking veers between oh-really-you-must-it’s-so-authentic and sod-it-do-whatever-you-like…like-me! She breezes things like: “Polenta, which we’re all familiar with…” – but many other bog-standard Italian ingredients are gushingly explained to the proles. Even the cameraman can’t choose between the lens smeared with Vaseline and the one that isn’t, so he just mixes and matches as he sees fit. At least she’s not claiming it’s ‘real’ Italian. The food? Oh, whatever. It’s all good easy fun.

So many things they can’t seem to decide on, but one thing that stays rock-like is Nigella-as-brand. She’s flogging herself and her heaving bits and her effortlessness and her bussed-in, gruesomely smug ‘lifestyle’ friends as well as ever, and Christmas is coming, and there’s a bit of the gleam for sale. It’s just entertainment, I know, but she doesn’t seem quite as joyful or silly or self-aware as previous series. There’s a slightly workaday feel to the golden glow. Back to business.

 

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KHOO 2

Rachel, Rachel, Rachel, with your glossy lippy and your saturated Hipstamatic kitchen and your cheery everywoman accent and your multiple costume changes (where is that woman’s storage?) and your Global knives and your crowd-pleasing K-Tel cookery classics and and and. Who wouldn’t fall for your carefully stage managed Nigella’s-hot-baby-sisterish charms?

The second episode gives us more of the same: Parisporn, that hoary standby “cheery banter with market traders”, more nice-and-easy looking recipes (I must do fish in paper more often), flylady Fifties action, piping bags (she doesn’t ‘choux till it pops’ though), vintage enamel, and a whole raft of c’est touts and et voilas (does she actually speak any more French than I do?). And why does she have her salt in an annoying, finger-inaccessible jamjar though? That would drive me insane. Her beef bourguignion was waaay too liquid for me, but the salted caramel puds were genius though, an fairly easy hit as long as you know your oven pretty well.

The boulangeries of Paris are as fucking amazing as they are pictured, by the way. I once got up on three hours sleep to go to Gosselin in Les Halles purely because Jeffrey Steingarten recommended it in passing as selling one of the best baguettes in Paris, but that’s because I’m a tragic food-addled knob. I spent a fortune and ran for the Eurostar looking like some kind of mobile bakery. Good times.

 

a maid in the living room, chef in the kitchen …

Having just watched David Rocco’s Dolce Vita, it made me consider what the average viewer wants from their presenter.

David is Canadian Italian and a handsome chap, in that eye-twinkling-I know-I-am kinda way.  What with him and that cheeky Danny Boome, it’s just not right.

As a 30-something female, I’m used to having a procession of attractive women give advice on how how to entertain friends, bake the perfect cake or create the ideal Sunday roast – all with a wink and a licking of the lips.  I’m no longer a 25 year old threatened by Nigella’s heaving bosom or embarrassed by Dervla Kirwan’s M&S voice over.  I pretty much expect a knowing look to camera as a sausage is suggestively eaten and find this amusing.  I’ve never met Nigella but I bet she’s a bloody good laugh and knows what she’s doing and it’s all done in jest (I have, however, seen her briefly at a book event and can confirm her ridiculous beauty).

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patronising, moi?

I imagine when creating a cookery programme the producer, director and the talent themselves discuss or, at least, think about the overall tone of the show.  Do they aim their programme at novices or those who entertain regularly for their family/friends?  Should all the ingredients be available cheaply from a high street supermarket or is it OK for the wallet-busting wild garlic or truffle oil to be purchased at Borough Market?

We all know what happens when one assumes and overall I think people get it right for their audience – you know what you’re getting with Nigella Lawson or Delia Smith.  Expensive or decedant things can be made at home for a treat now and again. Read the rest of this entry »

 

friends with benefits

I often ask myself ‘why am I not friends with a chef off the telly?’

I am certainly friends with people who love to entertain, people who make a mean cocktail and people who do wonders with smoking and pulling stuff but, sorry, you’re no good to me until you’ve got your own show.  The ultimate experience would go something like this:
J: “Alright Fanny, it’s Jamie!  What you up to next week, bruv?  I’m doing my new show on Spanish food and need some of me mates to pop over and stuff their faces with my loverly grub.  You up for it?”
F: “Well, I suppose.  I was planning to clean out the cat litter, arrange my CD collection … yeah, why not?  Do I have to look hip?”

Many a time has my attention wandered as Nigella glides through her house with plates of food for a group of random people.  Are they neighbours being thanked for the inconvience of the film crew traipsing around?  Are they friends who are happy to appear on television looking like poshos?  Or are they actors?  Maybe, in the case of Maria McErlane, they’re all three!  I see Maria round Nigella’s ALL THE TIME.  How often does she return the favour do you think?

I’ve also spotted a familiar face or two round Jamie’s, playing with the kids or being manly with a barbeque.  Maybe Nigel doesn’t have any famous friends.  Or any friends.

Oh, go on then Nige – I’LL BE YOUR FRIEND  :)

 

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2012 in Jamie Oliver, Nigel Slater, Nigella Lawson

 

a little taster

The most annoying thing in any programme is the tasting. If Jamie Oliver spends five hours making a chilli I doubt he’s going to taste it and say “meh”. Nigella will tell you what you already know – her salted caramel hot chocolate is better than sex, or something. I don’t need to see these cooks or chefs frown in orgasmic wonder at how darned good it is.

In Fanny Towers, appreciation is shown with the occasional “MMMMMMM!” followed by a high five.  That’ll do me.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2012 in Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson

 

shouting larder, larder, larder

Anyone familiar with cookery shows will know the phrase “a quick meal made with everyday ingredients from your larder”.  Yeah, right.

Whilst watching Everyday Gourmet I heard this phrase and my groans were cut short by Justine’s mention of tinned tuna.  Yes, a tin of tuna.  I have one of those, I thought.  In my larder.  Bloody hell!  Justine went on to make fish croquettes with wasabi mayo.  I don’t have any wasabi, but you can’t win them all.

This made me think about my own attitude to what constitutes an ‘everyday’ ingredient and my initial snobbishness about using tinned fish.  Justine aims her programme at families, people on a budget or those short on time.  A seemingly far cry from Nigella’s luxurious pantry, the size of a small shed.

Ingredients will no doubt differ depending on: status (single, family, shared accommodation), location (city or rural), what you can afford etc. 

Masterchef Australia has a challenge that involves cooking a fine dining meal using everyday items from an everyday family’s cupboard.  No cinnamon infused sugar a la Nigella or a canister of liquid nitrogen that Heston surely keeps at home.  Frozen food, tinned fruits, biscuits and cereal were their ingredients.  Some successful results but many failures.

So, I wonder, what is the most random item in your larder and what is the most ridiculous thing declared an everyday ingredient by a TV chef?

 

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in Australian, Masterchef Australia, Nigella Lawson

 
 
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