Category Archives: Good Food Channel

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!

Read the rest of this entry »


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?


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 »


street life, it’s the only life i know

Not really knowing what ‘street food’ is, I thought I’d give ‘Andy Bates Street Feasts‘ a whirl.  Half a hour later I was kinda none the wiser.

The Good Food website introduces our host thus: “Andy Bates, aka Pie Man, is known for his hearty, traditional British street food which he sells on his stall at Whitecross Street market”.  Until recently I worked quite near to the market but never ventured that far for my lunch.  Shame really, I will take a trip sometime soon I’m sure.

The Pie Man Andy Smith not to be confused with Andy Bates

The Pie Man Andy Smith not to be confused with Andy Bates

Programme wise we’re subjected to funky music and numerous ‘coming up next’ montages along with a promise to show us “grab and go grub” [eye roll].

Mr Bates takes us on a culinary trip to Wales and St Davids Market where he chats cheese and selects three to use for his cheese and leek quiche.  “This cheese is made with love and dedication so it’ll taste GREAT!”  I think it takes a little bit more than that, Andy.

He relocates to a kitchen and declares, “let’s start building a quiche!”  This is very similar to a HF-W recipe I regularly use and the finished article looks pretty darned messy.  Is this street food?

Next up is a forage with Jonathan Williams.  They trawl a local beach for seaweed and samphire – make sure it’s edible seaweed, folks!  A dish of sea bream on a bed of bladderwrack was created on the shores then off we went indoors for a “100% VEGETABLE PIE.”

The Pie Man Andy Bates not to be confused with Andy Smith.

The Pie Man Andy Bates not to be confused with Andy Smith.

Now, I love a good pie and I also love a vegetable or two, so this was sounding promising.  It was a great looking pie and even the gelatine aspect (aspic 🙂 ) of it didn’t phase me.  Overall, the programme improved as it was in danger of falling into the Naked Chef/Aaron Craze style of nonsense. Good job, Pie Man.

I still didn’t feel that I had been convinced of the concept.  Mind you, I could’ve just read wikipedia:

“Street food is ready-to-eat food or drink sold in a street or other public place, such as a market or fair, by a hawker or vendor, often from a portable stall.[1] While some street foods are regional, many are not, having spread beyond their region of origin. Most street foods are also classed as both finger food and fast food, and are cheaper on average than restaurant meals.”

OK, I guess it’s just me.  I prefer the idea of sitting down and eating my food – eating chicken noodles while walking or munching my burger while stinking out the 243 bus is not my idea of fun.  Maybe I need some more fun in my life.


“me on a plate”

Nothing fills me with more horror than the utterance of those four words.  It’s bad enough when a Masterchef contestant claims to be the physical embodiment of meat and two veg but, as MC Ireland begins the round of final 16, our haughty hosts gave them specific instructions to do just that.  The tables heaved with fresh, local produce and they could select whatever they liked in order to show the judges what they’d be if they were served up for dinner.

Sadly there was no recreation of The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover although there were a couple of microplane ‘incidents’.  A quick look at the closing credits proved that ‘Medic Willie Wade’ earned their wage that week.

MC Ireland

So, what did we have from our cooks?  Apart from some blue plasters here and there we had quite a few desserts; a trio of strawberry treats and gooseberries with custard and biscuits.  There was also a bonkers dish from Kevin (the blow torched salmon guy) who smothered another fillet of the fish with chocolate sauce – I ask you!  He then created a garnish using a bulb of fennel that “looks very phallic to me!”.  Needless to say, he got rinsed but he did tell us later that he stood by the dish and thought they made a mistake.

Mary’s strawberry trio went down a treat but her station was atrocious – bowls of food on the floor, utensils everywhere.  She got through no problem but knows to never work like that again!  Shane’s gooseberries were a particular highlight for Nick Munier who seems to share Gregg Wallace’s sweet tooth.  He devoured the tea cup of custard and muttered something about wanting to lick the plate clean.  Well done Gregg, you should be proud of yourself.

One of the cooks decided that ‘me on a plate’ would involve many orange ingredients to match his red hair (beef with carrots and pumpkin) and we had Asian chicken kebabs with papaya salad from Nadia which elicited the following;

Dylan:  “It’s like something you’d pay £6 for in a Thai restaurant”
Nick:    “If that”

Ouch.  However, the heartbreaking moment came when, with 30 seconds to go, Jackie realised she hadn’t heard the judges calls to start plating up.  Turning to Pierce she asked why he wasn’t plating.  He replied, “Errrr … I’ve already done it, time’s up!”  Cue tears, trembling of hands and the realisation that she’d be hanging her pinny up within the hour.  Jackie was called last to the tasting table with nothing to bring, poor love.  Still, she got sympathy from the judges and a big hug.  Kevin, Nadia and Mandy also left MCK and then there were 12.


a stew boiled is a stew spoiled

Just as the new year looked to be devoid of Masterchef, my thoughts turned to the world darts championship and avoiding Hobbits.  How pleased was I upon seeing an advert for Masterchef Ireland?  VERY.  The briefest of promo revealed a kitchen, an apron or two and a couple of male judges.  Who were they?  Will this follow the UK or OZ format?  All will become clear in a matter of days, my friends.

2nd January 2013 soon came around and our judge’s were chef Dylan McGrath (once of Michelin starred restaurant Mint, now owner of Rustic Stone in Dublin) and restaurateur Nick Munier, no stranger to pressurised atmospheres as the former maitre d’ for the Hell’s Kitchen TV show.

Masterchef Ireland Judges

‘Giggles’ and ‘Smiler’ aka Munier and McGrath

Right, let’s not muck around here, people, we know the drill by now.  The format follows the newer, UK format and the judges are grumpy.  Nuff said.

The auditions take place in Dublin in what looks like a studio based, warehouse mock up and family are on hand to give support to their loved ones.  Once through the sliding doors, our nervous wrecks are informed that they have 45 minutes to cook a dish plus 10 minutes to plate up and, get this, CLEAN DOWN!  I guess all MC contestants all over the globe are required to do this but it’s honestly never occurred to me.

Among the wannabe chefs we have Miana, a 23 year old au pair from Mauritius; Grant, a South African who cooked kangaroo in a cherry and red wine sauce (Nick commented, “I hope it jumps in my mouth!”) and Sinead made an average wonton soup.  Dish of the day was Mary’s scallops which perfectly illustrated that food needn’t be different in other parts of the world.  Wherever you go, there will ALWAYS be a scallop snuggling up to a pureed cauli or cubed pancetta and there will ALWAYS be a massive, shitty smear across your plate.  Mmmmmm, shitty smear …

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hey now you’re an all star get your game on, go play

So, during the ridiculous, TWOANDAHALFHOUR season finale of Masterchef Australia, I told Carsmile “so, apparently as well as a Celebrity version there’s an All Stars series like what Top Chef do!”.  A few minutes later, after the confetti fell and the credits rolled, what happened?  A trailer for the aforementioned All Stars Australia!


I’m familiar with the concept: former competitors return with previous years represented.  They take part in challenges in order to win money for a chosen charity.  As far as I can remember, where Top Chef All Stars differed is that winners do not compete – it’s a chance for those who failed to try one more time.  In this, the first All Stars for Masterchef, there are two previous champions (with the remaining one being absent due to telly commitments).

Masterchef Australia All Stars

Does it include the 2012 winner?  A little too soon, me thinks.

This was originally aired during the London 2012 Olympics for three weeks.  I think even me, with my love for all things Masterchef would have felt my enthusiasm flag.  As it was, I watched a few episodes here and there then abandoned the show only to return for the 90 minute finale.

Maybe I’m used to the Top Chef mentality where the contestants are already professional chefs and the competitiveness never wanes.  Back in Sydney, there’s a very relaxed atmosphere, a little too relaxed for my liking; laughs, silliness and what seems to me like faux shock and anguish at the thought of revisiting disaster dishes.  Take it seriously, guys! 😉

It also gave me the opportunity to savor the beauty and vastness of the MC kitchen along with the gorgeous house on the hill in which they live.  Season five will relocate from Alexandria with a new home yet to be decided.  Hopefully it will be Melbourne so when we eventually fly over for the comedy festival and a trip to Chris and Julia’s Josie Bones, I can say we’re in the home of Masterchef, yay!


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 »


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 »


greece is the word

With lots of shows cued up on my telly box and the weather waaaay too hot for lil’ ol’ me I decided to have, not quite a marathon, more a fun run of a few of these summery episodes.

One that stood out, initially for good reasons, was ‘Lyndey and Blair’s Taste of Greece’.  One of the myriad Australian shows on the Good Food Channel, this was a 13 part road trip across the Peloponnese for a mother and son.  We are introduced to Blair Milan as an actor and voice-over artist and his mother, Lyndey, a presenter and all round culinary expert.  The moment Blair speaks he is clearly an actor, handsome and confident, appearing in Home and Away among other shows.

They seem to have a great relationship and when they stop in Athens to visit the Agora Market to point at the goat heads, Lyndsey exclaims “having brought him up to be knowledgeable about food I was surprised at how squeamish Blair was – so I decided to make him eat some tripe soup!”  The gelatinous soup is served …

L: “It’s an acquired taste”
B: “Let’s see how acquired … 😦 it’s not the best thing I’ve put in my mouth!” Read the rest of this entry »


on the rhode

So, the ever so slightly creepy Gary Rhodes takes us on a trip across China.  I’ve joined him right at the start of his three week culinary journey in Hong Kong and he’s already picked up a couple of lovely ladies along the way.

Two ‘apprentices’ were selected in the UK to join Gary on his travels.  I presume they expressed an interest in accompanying a famous chef across a far away land for nowt, trying some amazing food, meeting lots of nice people and being on the telly … oh, and a bit of obligatory animal cruelty as well.

Melissa and Teresa seem like ideal candidates; enthusiastic with some background knowledge (Teresa’s parents are from China and Melissa recently returned from the Far East on a college trip) they get involved whenever possible.

Rhodes introduces us to the delightful Chef Po and they cook on a waterside set up with the Hong Kong skyline behind them where Gary is told “the Cantonese eat anything that flies except an aeroplane, anything that swims except a submarine and anything with legs except a table”.  We are given a brief masterclass in making soy sauce and how the taste differs between the various types.

Next, Chef Po takes Gary to one of the oldest eateries around where beautiful looking suckling pig is made and Gary has a go at dim sum.  Now, when someone says ‘one of the oldest restaurants in XYZ’ I imagine we’re looking at a Rules-like 150 years minimum but this fabulous local place is a mere baby at 80 years old.  Meanwhile our intrepid Brits are exploring the streets with food bloggers and Gary joins them just in time for some snake soup.  Teresa explains on her UK Food TV blog; “I went for some snake soup at Shia Wong Hip. I have tried it before so the thought didn’t bother me. Hats off to Gary though, because he tasted snake bile. He even drank the pure version, with water rather than rice wine!”   Rather you than me, Gaz!