Tuesday 10 January 2012

Putting the Yummy into Mummy - one cake at a time :o)

One of the highlights of being a stay at home Mum and housewife (besides the obvious one of being with my boy) is that I can indulge my love of cooking and cookery programmes. I am selective though and very snobby about what I consider worthy of my precious viewing time when the baby is asleep.

I cannot abide the 'food porn' style of cooking: Nigella, Lorraine Pascal and Sophie Dahl seduce with food. They caress, tease and flirt with the camera. Very little is said about how to cook the dish and no actual instructions are involved. Nigella is far too busy telling us about how she entertains her retinue of adoring guests who fawn over her gingerbread, Lorraine Pascal keeps referring to her international pedigree (a Polish aunt and some Italian heritage apparently) while Sophie floats through her show as though she's advertising Cadburys Flake. When we do get a reference to the cooking it's all a bit vague - her pinch is my handful and when will they give the temperature in gas marks for those of us cursed with terrible ovens ?

Lest ye think I am being sexist I also loathe Jamie Oliver for his freehand pouring of olive oil like it's on offer in Sainsburys. That's not a splash you fool it's half a bottle !! His other crime (although he's far from alone) is to constantly say "the smells are amazing" are they Jamie ? I'll take your word for it as I didn't get a scratch and sniff card with the Radio Times.

Rick Stein is another one I fast forward on Saturday Kitchen. I think it's down to a personal grudge against him because I once stayed in Padstow while working in Cornwall and was horrified to discover that it's not even a one horse town, but has a great antiquated book shop. I was so disappointed that I didn't even try his food and bought something from Budgens instead which is how come I found the bookshop where I spent the evening browsing Dickens rather than sampling his seafood delights.

Nigel Slater is the exception for me as he only ever uses about 4 ingredients (supplemented with herbs from his garden) and few measurements or exact timings, but is so personable that I don't mind. He makes it look like you could just put something together after watching his programme with the things in your cupboards. Unlike Delia whose motto seems to be why use only 5 ingredients when 15 and something we've never used before will do ? Remember it's thanks to Deals that we have limes in our supermarkets as she caused a run on them when she made a recipe featuring a lime and they were not widely available at the time.

Delia was scathing about TV chefs endorsing supermarket products and openly criticised them until Waitrose came a knocking with clearly just enough money to buy her endorsements and recipe cards. Don't get me wrong, I'm the first to pick up her cards and have a stack of them with my cookbooks. Feel free to promote a supermarket I have no issue with it. I do, however, take issue with her Christmas cake recipe which I've cooked two years in a row using the pre-measured ingredients and followed the instructions to the letter and it's been soggy in the middle both times.

Mary Berry joined the 'make your own cake using this bag of stuff' brigade this year and as well as a traditional fruitcake she also offered delicious and simple cupcakes (also pre-measured) and the recipe is so simple I've kept it to make from scratch. I'm delighted she's back in fashion as her Christmas cupcakes saved the day for me ! Mary Berry was my first love with baking - years ago I used to make and decorate cakes for my siblings' birthdays so if you see a birthday photo featuring a calculator cake, a hedgehog or a dolly that'll be my handiwork.

Of course it's thanks to the Great British Bake Off that Mary has made her triumphant return, but it is one of the shows I don't watch. That and Masterchef, because while I find Greg Wallace very amusing I cannot watch John Torode. It was his one time covering for James Martin on Saturday Kitchen when he kept telling the chefs to wash their hands like an overeager Home Economics teacher. It is, of course, good sense, but it's also very dull.

I'd make a terribly boring TV chef as I'm a precise cook. I measure everything and follow the recipe to the letter (if I use one). Having said that I'm not too proud to do a cooking programme and if asked I'd be right in there. It seems you don't need to be an actual chef to get a TV show now, just someone who has cooked something once in your life - that's me qualified then.

Of course my first loyalty is to the one and only Come Dine With Me because I prefer my cooking programmes with a heavy handful of sarcasm. That is also the reason why I'd never apply to go on the show. When they were looking for contestants in Croydon one of my friends even sent me the application form. I politely informed her and everyone else who suggested I apply that the very reason I watch it is why I wouldn't go on it. I love shouting out "if you don't eat anything why are you on a cooking competition !!!" and I'd end up yelling at my guests if I did do it.

Also, I am guilty of equating food with love as that's how I was brought up. If anyone criticised my food I'd take it so personally I'd probably come across as a total loser. I never assume my cooking is anything other than adequate, but at the very least I like to cook things most people will enjoy. There are some ingredients I just can't stand. Cooked bananas just don't do it for me, yet I still make banana bread and ply hubbie and my reflexologist with it to buy favours at a later date.

I'm now that person who consults a handful of cookbooks (or t'internet) if I have some pecans to use up or some treacle that I forgot about in the back of the cupboard. Christmas was kind to me and I now have a brilliant selection of cook books to refer to, including one called the Meatfree Monday cookbook that I won from Ocado that was signed by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney - which was nice.

Just don't ask me what my favourite dish is. Depending on the day of the week it'll either be a fishfinger sandwich or parmagiano melanzane. Now that would get me onto CDWM !!

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