Wednesday 13 October 2010

Masterchef addiction

Recently, I have become totally hooked on Masterchef (BBC 2). Which is odd, because it combines two of my biggest nightmares: posh cooking (as in dinner parties), and deadlines.

Here, you have pale, trembling contestants cooking fiddly, decorative little meals, against the clock, and with the judges literally leaning over their shoulders as they cook, clucking, rolling their eyes, and shrugging with dismay at each misplaced fragment or extra half-squeeze of lemon. Last night, they had to make tiny little souffles, plus a caramel sauce, in just 10 minutes. It was quite terrifying to watch. "Do you think your souffles will be cooked in time"? one of the judges asked gleefully of a miserable contestant, who was watching his pale, liquid efforts not rising through the see-through door of the oven. What was the poor guy supposed to say? Of course the souffles didn't rise; they never stood a chance.

The food in this programme is all fiddly food (I've posted about this before, but I have a bit of a thing about it). It's the kind of food which might do as an appetiser, or a subect for a still life painting, but it isn't a proper meal. I little mouthful of this; a small puddle of that; a garnish of tiny twigs...I simply don't see the point. As my eldest son (a very good cook, with a proper man's appetite) says: "people want pie". Exactly.

But I shall continue to watch this mesmerising programme, and keep everything crossed for the poor wretched cooks, and hope that, notwithstanding the extraordinary food, everyone manages to come out of it alive.


  1. Ooh, me too - hooked to the shabby souffles last night. I like it when the food critics get together and carp on about how rubbish everything on the plate is. Great telly.

  2. Me too! Son No 2 introduced me to it and now I can't stop! And as for Michel Roux's sous-chef, Monica - how scary is she with her horrified, wide-eyed look?!

    I'm no more than 50% satisfied with that, said one poor contestant. I wouldn't be 1% satisfied says Monica. Ooooh!

  3. Yes - I think Monica would make a very good side-kick for Alan Sugar. (And of course she can knock up little souffles in ten minutes; she's been doing it for years.) And did you see this evening's programme? Those smug, unsmiling, food critics? But while I hate to agree with the judges, I thought the quail and chocolate cake was a very bad plan indeed. But I'm delighted Stacey's through.

    Phew! What an evening!

  4. I suspect the smoked sausage and canned yams I just put on the stove would meat with some measure of their disapproval.

  5. Chocolate cake and quail - that was always a bad idea wasn't it? And, if he had to do it, why did he make it sweet - he could have made a much richer, deeper cake.
    I agree about Stacey, though, really glad to see her through.

  6. Nevets - I'll have to pass on that. Not exactly sure what a yam is (I always confuse them with clams).

    Alis - I've never had quail, and am not fond of cake, so maybe I shouldn't have commented at all! But I DO blame Masterchef for the fact that I've just made a disastrous pavlova. Pavlova is somethng I can prepare in ten minutes. It always, always goes right. Not today, though. All I managed was a sticky, treacly mess. I think the ghost of Monica was standing over me rolling its eyes and tutting. 0% satisfied.

    That's the last time I try to show off.

  7. My wife watches it and I suppose it makes good television. But I'd choose her cooking over anything I've seen served up on TV.

  8. Frances, yams in this case are sweet potatoes. They're canned in a bit of a syrup, so that when you sauté them they caramelize. Through a little smoked sausage in the pan and the natural grease adds an extra mmph.

    Not posh. lol

  9. And is it just me, or would separating all the food like that into little islands on a huge plate actually mean it was cold by the time the chef had waited for service and you'd got your plate from the kitchen? Either that or the plate would be so hot it would do nasty things to sauces and veg.

    And, of course, you're right, Frances - it's all very nouvelle-cuisine (sorry, fine dining) and insufficient quantities!!

  10. No, I don't get it. My weird TV weakness is watching Eggheads - where a team of hopeless Quiz contestants are up against a team of Mastermind winners etc. And we wonder who will win?! The cookery programmes always make me too hungry.

  11. Keith - believe me, I think anyone's cooking must be more satisfying that the food on this programme.

    Hi Nevets - I think I'll pass on the yams if you don't mind, but thanks for the explanation (I think it was the 'bit of syrup' that really did it)!

    Alis - I totally agree. And I've always wondered what a blind person would make of it? It all seems to be about presentation. It seems that with food, the more you pay, the less you get (think pub-size mixed grills - I've never been able to contemplate eating one of those).

    Dee - you should try it! There's not enough to make you hungry.

  12. Deborah, I wrote half a novel based on Eggheads. One day I plan to go back and write the other half. Another addictive programme!