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Category Archives: Pastry

“why you pursue something is as important as what you pursue”

Okay, I admit it.  I like Marcus Wareing.  There.  I said it.

Can you fault his skills as a chef?  No.

Can you fault his ability to grow an impressive beard?  Maybe.  But you’d be wrong.

Chef Wareing has even inherited Michel’s twinkly eyes and cheeky smile.  WHAT IN THE HECKY DECK IS GOING ON?  I think there must be something in the Masterchef tap water.

look into my eyes, look into the eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes

look into my eyes, look into the eyes, the eyes, the eyes, not around the eyes

A new series.  A new scary chef.  A new format.  A new location.  The same Gregg Wallace.  Well, you can’t have everything.

Anyone fortunate enough to take a tour of the Ram brewery in Wandsworth would have walked the walk past the Masterchef studio and, yes, I totally strutted my stuff like an amateur cook on a mission.  We were under strict instructions: no peeking and no photos.  Sadly it’s in the process of being turned into shops, flats and all things hip but at least we got to spend some time with the wonderful master brewer, John.

The new surroundings accompany a tweaked format.  We now have a VT to introduce our professional chefs which is a nice touch.  I like getting to know these men and women, judge them on their hairstyles and dodgy tattoos, find a potential favourite or two then have them kicked out 10 minutes later.  Oh, bye, Jogi!  I’ve eaten in your place, it was quite tasty, thanks, but I’m glad there wasn’t any pasta on the menu.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

GREAT

BOOOOOOOM. What a final. Everything. Tears. Drama. Brendan. Cake. Brendan! Fondant. Intrusion into personal living arrangements! (leaving at least *one* question unanswered…) ‘Soggy bottom’ disasters. BRENDAN! John finally nailing it! Contestants coming back! Exclamation marks! Tabloid bullshit!

I’m gonna miss GBBO. This time round they seem to have got the balance perfect, and assembled a finals team of people you could feel warm about and interested in. If Brendan was precise and practiced, James was innovative and seat-of-the-pants, John was quietly… just very good, and he delivered exactly when it mattered. But over the weeks, it was all about Brendan, and the triumph of practice, planning precision and drive over TV-friendly cheer. British values, indeed.

The Guardian summed the final up really well here.

 

HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS

Image

WE’RE down to the semis in TGBBO, and we all know who the winner is already. That’s right: Paul ‘Inside’ Hollywood. Mel & Sue are fun and sparky and dry. Mary Berry is dotty and posh and particular. John is flustered, Danny is pragmatic, James is coquettish, and Brendan is… well, Laurence Olivier playing Christian Szell in Marathon Man. But it’s The Big Bear that takes it, every week. Alright, I didn’t know he was apparently a gay icon until the Guardian mentioned it today.  He’s the only judge they all fear – you know Mary Berry isn’t going to tear your head off with a look, and she’s going to find something good to say, however pisspoor your St. Honoré. But PH never gives the impression he’s going to say anything other than the absolute, unvarnished truth.

Confident MC contestants can face down the Torode / Wallace blockade, because they know that it’s hokum and that they might well be right or lucky. But no-one dares to gets as much as a langue du chat past Hollywood. In interviews, he appears completely normal, and unaffected or just plain embarrassed by the fame and Twitter nonsense or whatever. In fact, he appears to be that rarest of TV creatures: a completely bullshit-free zone. This is a victory. A victory for rounded personality and unfiltered expertise that’s not been pushed through the dumbed-deeper-and-down TV drool-sieve. And people like that. Five million viewers (apparently) can’t be wrong. Apparently he’s just wrapped a new series for the BBC called – with presumed Liverpudlian irony – ‘Bread’. Which is good, because one thing that is missing from TGBBO is him masterclassing his own hot oven skills.

Anyway, Brendan. (Yeah, I was a bit harsh above. Anything to get a laugh). OK, he’s self-obsessed, aloof, eerie, curiously kitsch, and machine-like – or at least, that is the role the producers and editors have created for him. Yes, he insists on dominating and stamping his individuality on everything, rather than sitting back and letting his talent speak for itself. And yes he takes criticism appallingly, usually accompanied with an ‘I could have you killed’  dagger stare. But strangely, I’m starting to get the impression that he’s actually an extremely warm and genuine man who has just been waiting years to show the world that his pernickity, precise approach to cookery is best. Unselfconscious, nerdy talent FTW. I’m hoping he takes it all the way.

 

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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.

 

oh, oobee doo, i wanna be like khoo

Yes, I admit, I was skeptical upon seeing the adverts for a forthcoming show about a pretty lady in Paris – blurgh!  But I actually quite enjoyed it.

Maybe I stupidly fell for the lovely clothes, the nice lipstick and exciting atmosphere of gay Paris.  But what I did like was the size of her kitchen: she could stand in the middle, reach out and touch each wall.  Impressive.  Her simple French dishes were created on a little gas ring, grill and oven with the fridge doubling up as a chalk board (nice idea but there’s a far better Etch-a-Sketch in Chez Fanny).

Yes, I wanted to be one of Rachel’s hip mates, squeezing in to her petit appartement to eat madeleines stuffed with raspberries and curd and drink tea.  Well, maybe one day I will.  Rachel runs La Petite Cuisine a Paris out of her miniature flat so one day, I’m sure …

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i’d quite happily put my face in it

I think if a certain Mr G Wallace Esq were ever a guest judge on Top Chef: Just Desserts he might actually explode.

I’ve watched quite a few series’ of Top Chef and Top Chef: Masters over the years – they have the intensity of your MC OZ (screened six days a week) combined with our own MC: The Professionals.  Contestants on Just Desserts are all pastry chefs of differing experience and abilities with their main judge and pastry king being 50’s throwback Johnny Iuzzini.  Gayle Simmons is our master of ceremonies (a regular TC judge) and the Arsene Wenger of French cuisine, the wonderful Hubert Keller, completes the head panel.

Iuzzini, Simmons, Keller & the other one

Season openers always begins with the 12 (or so!) chefs meeting for the first time – it’s a common occurrence that there are familiar faces or the people have crossed pastry paths in the past.  The judges turn up and give them their first challenge.  “I couldn’t believe how beautiful Gayle was in real life and how Johnny’s eyes starred deep into your soul” was how one chef put it.

Let me tell you now, JD is camp.  Very camp.  You are beset by a visual feast of pink, chocolate, sugar and cream – your teeth will itch.

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the roux, the whole roux and nothing …

Recently concluded on Good Food is The Roux Legacy, a ten part series focusing on the legends that are the Roux family.  For the first time all four chefs unite to cook their dishes, recount some amazing stories and generally bicker like most families do.

The subjects of this programme are fascinating, the overall feel of it however is quite dated with a synth soundtrack and the occasional VT wipe …. niiiiice.  [I have just been advised that the main music used is Marillion]

As someone not old enough to know, it was a revelation to be told the Roux story – opening Le Gavroche when the quality and availability of British food was, by all accounts, appalling in 1967.  Their one ray of sunshine was Billingsgate Market where they would buy all they could and advise the traders what types of fish they should be stocking.  They became known as Mickey and Albie and pretty much transformed the way markets and shops were run.  In more recent years M&S had regular access to the Roux kitchen and changed how their own fruit and vegetables were packaged – green beans, for example, were top and tailed and stored in small, plastic trays – something you often see presented this way these days.

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