I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately.
Well, to be honest, I’ve always done the cooking in our house, partly because I enjoy it, and it relaxes me after a stressful day at work (or gives me the opportunity to hide from the kids for an hour or two at the weekend, whilst enjoying a beer or glass of wine in peace), and partly because my wife, with the best will in the world, is not a cook.
She would be the first to admit this, and it’s not that she is a bad cook, more that her repertoire is limited, and her skills better suited elsewhere. In fact, with the exception of cooking and driving, I’m not entirely sure what else I bring to the family, as my wife is superior to me in virtually every other aspect of domestic life: tidying, ironing, whinging about tidying and ironing – you name it, she’s the master. Oh, apart from loading the dishwasher (I know she tries her best, but I’d prefer it if she didn’t bother, because it takes me twice as long to empty and then re-load it properly).
Anyway, when I say I’ve been doing a lot of cooking, what I mean is that I have been doing proper cooking, with actual ingredients (some of which were alien to me, until fairly recently), rather than simply heating stuff up.
The main reason for my previously basic meal choices, was that I was always under the impression nice, fresh food, would take a long time to prepare, and after a busy day at work, I struggled to muster the energy or inspiration.
However, through my love of Masterchef, and because I recently purchased a cook book that wasn’t entirely filled with snobby bollocks (which, coincidentally, was a recipe I had come across elsewhere), I began to realise that moderately-fancy cooking, with fresh ingredients, needn’t take all evening.
Of course, I can only attempt ‘proper cooking’ when it is just my wife and I dining, because, with the exception of a few meals (roast dinner, curry, pasta bake…), the boys will turn their noses up at almost every fresh or healthy ingredient known to man.
This is no exaggeration. I made a pasta dish not so long ago, and even blended the many vegetables I had included into my sauce, so that the fussy little bastards wouldn’t identify the lumps and refuse to eat. Then, for some unknown reason, just as I was about to serve up, I got all carried away and threw a handful of herbs in.
Barely had the little green flecks of flavour left my hand, before I realised my mistake, and time suddenly slowed, as I watched them descend towards the pan. I let out a long, drawn-out ‘nooooooooo’, before attempting (in my panic) to recapture them before they hit the sauce.
I’m not sure if you have ever tried to catch herbs, but it isn’t the easiest exercise. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s fucking pointless even attempting it. All I achieved, was 80% of them still ending up in my sauce, with the remaining 20% being wafted all over the cooker. It’s fair to say, this wasn’t my finest culinary hour.
Sure enough, no matter how much I tried to stir the herbs into the sauce, Ollie immediately spotted them, and refused to eat anything. Isaac (to his credit), did at least try one mouthful, and seemed to be enjoying it, but then noticed his brother’s face, and – as younger siblings tend to do – followed Ollie’s lead, and promptly spat everything out onto his high chair.
So, I have now restricted any ‘proper cooking’ to just my wife and I, because she is far more polite when eating, and very rarely makes retching noises, or spits food back out. In fact, the only time she now makes retching noises, is if I suggest an early night.
Anyway, I digress.
Thanks to my new cook book, and a moderately successful trial-run with one of those online grocery companies (who send you everything you need, to cook delicious meals for two), I’ve begun to really enjoy my nightly sessions in the kitchen, and have conjured-up some genuinely tasty food.
Unfortunately, this has led to me getting a little carried away with myself, and rather than simply watching Masterchef for the entertainment value, I have now started to look at some of the dishes and think ‘I could make that’, when, in all honesty, I severely doubt I could.
This has tainted my enjoyment of the current series slightly, and because I am now paying more attention, rather than simply having it on in the background, certain elements of the show have begun to irritate me. I’m not normally one to dwell on life’s little irritations, as you know (he says, having now completed 114 blog entries almost exclusively about being annoyed), but I have compiled a list of the things which have started to irk me most about Masterchef….
Unnecessarily Posh Ingredients
I understand that Masterchef is all about fancy food (otherwise it would just be called ‘Chef’), and criticising it for being extravagant, is a little like criticising Top Gear for only showing fast cars (let’s be honest, the appeal of a one-hour show about the Vauxhall Vectra, would be extremely limited), but there are some ingredients I have never even heard of, and doubt I could obtain without trekking across South-East Asia. As a general rule of thumb, if Waitrose haven’t heard of it, then it’s too posh.
The first time I heard someone say ‘salsify’ on Masterchef, I honestly thought it was a process for making a dish taste more like salsa. By the same token, frangipane (Chelsea midfielder), gremolata (Italian opera) and star anise (stripper) can all do one as well.
And what the fuck is celeriac? It sounds like someone who suffers with an intolerance to celery (which should be everyone, because celery tastes like feet). “Sorry, I can’t eat that, I’m a celeriac.”
Having said all that, I did cook with samphire and lemon grass recently, and I’ve never felt so alive.
The contestants play a significant role in Masterchef, so disliking all of them would render the show rather pointless (although people still watch The Apprentice), but I am noticing increasing numbers of cooks who are, for want of a better phrase, dickheads.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a lady who actually had her own sous-vide machine at home. If you are the sort of person who prefers to vacuum-pack their food, before cooking it in a water bath for an inordinately long time, you are, without question, a dickhead.
Gregg Wallace’s Sex Face
When Gregg Wallace enjoys food, he really enjoys food:
John Torode’s Sex Face
While we’re on the subject, and in the interests of balance, when John Torode really enjoys food, he looks like a particularly sleazy frog:
Imagine being Lisa Faulkner, and having to make love to that face. Not hungry now, are you? What do you think of that, Gregg?
This is not X-Factor, where some of the contestants have genuinely upsetting backgrounds (“I just want this so much, Simon. When I was two, we lost our house, and lived in a skip, and we had to eat from the bins round the back of Iceland…”). Even though I don’t agree with them using their past to try and progress in the show, at least they have actually had it tough.
However, if the worst thing that has ever happened to you, is that your profiteroles didn’t rise properly, then you can piss right off.
Oh, and this is not your ‘last chance’, love. You’re only 54, and it’s not like you’re trying to have kids, or join the fucking ballet. It’s cooking.
The Food Critics
How on earth does someone become a food critic? As far as I can tell, their only discernible qualification is that they have spent many years eating nice food in nice places, which only qualifies them to be a complete cock in my opinion.
How arrogant, to spend your life dining in the finest restaurants, and then suddenly proclaim yourself such an expert in food, that it gives you the right to crush Karen (a 49-year-old shop assistant from Grimsby), because her consommé is a bit cloudy.
Just look at them:
They look like a rough J.K. Rowling, Peter Griffin from Family Guy, an IT Consultant, and the bastard love-child of Jonathan Ross and Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen.
If the critics weren’t bad enough, we also have to sit through previous finalists judging the current crop of contestants.
At least the critics have been accustomed to fine dining for several years, but now all of a sudden Geoff, the postman who finished third in 2014, is considered suitably qualified to slag off Janet’s panna cotta (with raspberry compote, obvs), because it doesn’t ‘wobble properly’. Screw you, Geoff – not so long ago, it was your panna cotta that didn’t fucking wobble.
The Obsession With Purée
Why is puréeing everything now considered classy? Can posh people and food critics not chew anymore? Ok, I understand why you might not like lumps in your mash potato, or custard, but if one more person makes a celeriac purée, I might have to hunt them down and remove their knee-caps.
John and Gregg’s Analysis
The fact that the two judges don’t get on is common knowledge, but could the producers at least make it look like their post-dining critique takes place in the same room? Clearly, they have to film one of them talking, then delve into a database of stored ‘generic facial responses’, before splicing the footage together, and it never matches.
When did everyone suddenly decide that it was not only acceptable, but classy, to combine mint with peas? How often do you bring home fish, chips, and mushy peas, and then brush your teeth while eating?
Why is a messy plate of food, now considered ‘rustic’?
What is the obsession with ‘deconstructing’ desserts, so it that it looks like the waiter dropped it on the floor and then scooped it up with a ladle?
And stop calling it crème anglaise. It’s fucking custard.
When does Masterchef Australia start again?