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Monthly Archives: October 2012

jamie, jamie and the magic touch

Seeing as my earlier Nigel Slater post had me singing XTC constantly, I don’t hold much hope with this one (look it up, kids)!

So, the inimitable Jamie Oliver is back on our screens with not only his ’30 Minute Meals’ (coz that clearly wasn’t fast enough) but also his ’15 Minute Meals’.  All Jamie, all the time.  I think even I might struggle with all the excitement.

There was a recent elimination task on Oz MC; cooks had 30 minutes to grab ingredients from the pantry and cook whatever they liked.  The bottom three moved on to the next round and had 20 minutes to do the same.  The bottom two then had a whole FIVE minutes to rustle up a storm in the kitchen.  Pretty crazy scenes, I can tell you.

COCK!

’15 Minute Meals’ begins with a visual riot of a title sequence.  Buffalo Stance blasts out of my speakers as our host flings basil, crushes chillies and generally makes a split-screen mess.  I pity poor old Jules who, I presume, has to clean up after him.  Read the rest of this entry »

 

and finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint

“Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.”

Thank you, sir, and now the check.

So, me and my friends would regularly chatter on about last night’s Masterchef or the merits of Slater over Stein.  Eventually, those who did not care for food-based telly programmes (I know, they do exist!) cried ‘shut up and blog it!’.  So, here we are.  It has taken me some time but, once outside of my Masterchef bubble, I have realised just how many cookery shows there are!  Bloody loads.

It was requested that I compile a list of current shows so my fellow bloggers won’t miss a morsel.  Happy to oblige.  It took me a while and I’m considering posting a permanent weekly/monthly list so our readers can also keep up.   Read the rest of this entry »

 

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 »

 

man v food v john catucci

I think most of us are familiar with Adam Richman’s Man v Food but for the uninitiated let me explain a little.

His culinary road trip is divided in two with our enthusiastic host showing us around the weird, wonderful and tasty sights of [insert American town here].  We see diners, dive bars, curry houses and BBQ shacks.  The first half focuses on popular local joints – most have customers who have been tucking into biscuits and gravy, chicken wings or cheesecakes for a long time.  There are regulars who have had the same meal every Friday without fail for 20 years.  Adam tastes the signature dishes, sees how they are made and, of course, shoves it down his cake hole.

‘Mmmmmmm. Donuts/beer/erotic cakes’

I admit to an assumption that MvF was fronted by a chirpy chap who likes to eat, more of a student type who likes nothing more than to chug down a few beers and eat as many kebabs as possible.  But he’s not just that!  Each show begins with a quick intro from the man himself: “I’ve held every position there is the restaurant business” so he has the background but he also has the intelligence and vocabulary to match.  He will explain that, yes, he may be a few mouthfuls into a 25lb steak but it’s SO GOOD because the sharp onion relish cuts through the beautifully rendered fat on the meat and the dusty coating of semolina on the chips gives an incredible crispness that compliments the homemade aioli.  Or something.

After the commercial break?  All hell breaks lose.  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.

 

whinging pomms

The nights are putting in but I still get my hit of glorious sunshine in the form of Australian Masterchef.  To make me feel at home this week the producers brought a little bit of Britain to Sydney.

Once a week George and Greg give an hour long masterclass.  They remind us of what was in the mystery box and make some helpful suggestions.  Occasionally a guest will appear through the huge MCK (as they call it) doors.  This week, as soon as Greg introduced the guest ‘chef’ as an ex-model, I knew Ms Pascale would sashay through the kitchen with a big smile towards her Kitchen Aid.

The contestants look thrilled as always (there MUST be times when they have no idea who the head chef or food critic is but they hide it well) and Beau looked particularly delighted to see her; Read the rest of this entry »

 

HOLLYWOOD NIGHTS

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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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NIGELI$$IMA

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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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what’s the crack?

My name is Fanny and I am a dealer.

I am new to this business and I’ll admit that I’ve clearly not thought this through.  I accept no money.  My reward is the expression on the faces of the uninitiated as their addiction takes hold.  It only takes one hit and they are mine forever.

Yeah, OK.  Enough of the Baltimore crap.  I make brownies.  People love them.  What of it?

“The game is the game. Always”

I saw the cover of BBC Good Food magazine earlier in the year and thought “I can totally make that for colleagues as a birthday treat”.  The recipe was really easy to follow and I was pleased with the results.  The next day they disappeared in a feeding frenzy.  “OH. MY. GOD.”  “YOUGOTTAMAKESOMEMORE!”

It took me a while but last week I did (after a not-so-subtle reminder from Boss Lady).  We recently merged departments and I thought it a good excuse to make friends and influence people.

Colleague1:  “Would you like a brownie?”
Colleague2:  “Ooh, yes please … did someone make these?”
Colleague1:  “Yes, Fanny made them – they’re amazing!”
Colleague2:   “Oh wow, thanks, Fanny”
Fanny:          “You’re welcome!”
Colleague2:   Eats brownie.  Frowns.  Turns to me.  Nods head.  Smiles.
Colleague3:   “Oh my god.  That was practically indecent!”

You get the drift.

The next day Colleague2 made the mother of all tea rounds so I asked if he’d like one of the last two remaining slices.  His hand was in the cookie jar before I’d finished my sentence.  Another one bites the dust.

Imagine my horror upon returning to work that morning in a post-deal high to be told “Colleague4 made brownies yesterday but we voted yours best”.  WHAT?  EXCUSE ME?  What craziness is this?  I’ve clearly wandered on to someone else’s patch.  Shiiiiiiiiit!  Apparently Colleague4 made salt caramel brownies as well as chocolate and raspberry ones.  You couldn’t make it up.

I’ve been informed that the other offerings were firmer and drier – this recipe tends toward the gooey.  It depends on your preference I guess.  I am currently making a new drug batch for friends but feel there is no need to head towards the New Jack City method of ‘cooking’.  No naked chefs in my crib, mofo.  For now.