Monthly Archives: March 2013

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 »


adventures in eating pt. 245


A brief off-telly aside.

A couple of days ago I went to Wahaca on the South Bank in London to try their ‘chapulines fundido’, after reading about it in the Guardian via a piece entitled ‘Should We Learn To Love Eating Insects?‘.  There seems to be a minor media wave about insects-as-food, tonight on BBC4 there is a programme about that very subject – although this particular subject does pop up pretty frequently.

The £3.95 Wahaca dish is billed as a grand ‘experiment’ (rather than a huge publicity stunt). This is what they say about it:

From Monday 11th March, we’re launching a new experimental dish at our South Bank restaurant. Chapulines fundido is made with one of Mexico’s most sustainably farmed, yet unusual ingredients, grasshoppers.

We take fried chapulines and cook them with softened shallots, garlic and smoky chipotle chillies to create a delicious salsa, which is served with queso fundido, a mixture of gratinated mozzarella and cheddar cheese, perfect for scooping up with corn tortillas.  Chapulines are considered a much sought after delicacy in Mexico… but as well as being a very tasty source of protein, from an environmental point of view, entomophagy (insect eating) is seen by many leading experts as the only logical answer to the critical pressure our growing population is putting on food supplies…. As grasshoppers aren’t currently farmed in the UK, for our first month long trial the only practical way to put them on the menu was to buy them from an accredited cooperative of farmers in Oaxaca, but our hope is that in the future if the dish proves popular we’ll be able to work to set up a supplier closer to home, making them even more sustainable.

We order it, and it comes. Unfortunately the cheese on top is too deep, thick and glutinous, and really overwhelms the grasshopper puree underneath – a disappointingly thin layer. It’s a shame because it’s great: earthy, rich, umami-y. The little fried ones on the top are nutty and savoury and more-ish. I could have eaten way more than five of them. But way too much cheese. WAAYY too much. It’s like some kind of fear absorber to soak up the scary new thing. But I, for one, welcome the new insect dawn. As long as they are all as delicious as this.

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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in Uncategorized


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food, glorious food, we’re anxious to try it

… or are we?

To much fanfare, ‘Food Glorious Food’ has finally appeared on our ITV screens.  Billed as ‘the Simon Cowell food competition’ you could be forgiven for expecting Masterchef Australia style studio auditions in front of a screaming crowd who’d boo when the judges diss a dessert or poo-poo a potato dauphiniose.  No, Mr Cowell makes no appearance which is for the best I think.  His production company created the show and that’s that.

Our judges for this gastronomic extravaganza are none other than Anne Harrison (WI vice chair and MC legend), Lloyd Grossman (the ULTIMATE MC legend), Tom Parker Bowles and Stacey Stewart (ex-MC contestant and wearer of the biggest bee hive this side of Sunderland).

Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Sneezy

Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy, Dopey, Sneezy

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but this is essentially what happens if the Great British Bake Off producers ran riot in a Cath Kidson warehouse.  There are marquees, bunting – oh my god, the bunting – flowers and general chintz here, there and everywhere.

Each cook/contestant (and there seem to be hundreds) serves up their favourite meal to one of the judges.  The idea is that this caravan of critics travel the country, dishing out rosettes to their favourite cook. Once they whittle it down to five, they cook off and all the dishes are tasted with one overall regional winner.  “What do they win?”, I hear you cry.  They win £20,000 and the chance to have their dish for sale in Marks & Spencer food outlets.  Just before the regional champ is crowned, a M&S buyer lady explains how easy or difficult it would be to mass produce these plates of food; “the Pimms jelly is great but it take a WHOLE BOTTLE per serving!”

I could go on at length but Charlie Brooker took the words right out of my mouth!  Clip is below after his take on the recent horse meat ‘scandal’

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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in ITV, Reality Show Genre


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 »


if you smell what C4’s cooking (P)

During a recent trip to a well known supermarket (OK we’ve got the product placement symbol, so it was Sainsbury’s!) I heard a pre-recorded tannoy announcement for a brand new ‘culinary chat show’.  Oh, the joy.  After a hard week at work I thought I may have imagined it but, no.  I tuned in to watch episode two and, readers, I tried but I failed to get any further than 20 minutes in.

does the light really go out when you close the door?

does the light really go out when you close the door?

Of course, it’s only natural for there to be teething problems or for chemistry between the presenters to develop but this is essentially Sunday Brunch and that’s not really a good thing.  Our presenters are Lisa Faulkner, the woman who I still can’t forgive for winning Celebrity Masterchef over lovely Dick Strawbridge and housewives favourite, Ben Shepherd.  Lisa’s cooking credentials are pretty sound, Ben on the other hand – no idea.  And I may never find out.

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Posted by on March 10, 2013 in Channel 4