Great British Menu

It’s series 10 of Great British Menu and, like every other cookery show on TV, the chefs are still taking themselves absurdly seriously.

At the start of this week’s opening Scottish heat, Michelin-starred Michael Smith squared up to the three contestants and told them: ‘I know what it takes to get a dish to the banquet. So get in that kitchen, and get cooking.’ In his head, he probably sounded like an Army drill sergeant, except instead of readying his troops for combat, he was preparing them to cook dinner for the Women’s Institute.

The contestants were pretty pumped, too. ‘I didn’t come here to lose!’ declared Jak, the show’s reigning Scottish champion. Think Braveheart, if Braveheart had been armed with a melon-baller instead of a broadsword.

Jak kicked off the series with her starter, which, after a dramatic build-up, she revealed was going to be called ‘soup and a sandwich’. Oh. I won’t lie, I was expecting something a little more sophisticated. What were the others going to make? Toast? Coco Pops? Of course, it didn’t actually look like soup and a sandwich. It looked like a steak and kidney pudding. In soup.

Fellow hopeful Graham’s take on this year’s theme – 100 years of the WI – was a savoury Victoria sponge, which is just wrong on every conceivable level, while third contestant Jimmy made a chicken broth congee, served in a knitted scarf. Yes, really.

For Wednesday’s main course, Graham made a ‘carrot cake’ out of venison meatloaf, prompting Michael to tell him in no uncertain terms that his popular-cakes-made-from-grossly-inappropriate-ingredients shtick was getting old now. Jak, meanwhile, served up a damson-glazed leg of venison in a gramophone. An actual, working gramophone. You can’t do that with Spotify, can you?

At the end of each episode, Michael returned to the kitchen to deliver his verdict on the dishes with the grim sense of purpose you might expect from a surgeon coming out of theatre to talk to the waiting family. It’s all quite ridiculous, really, but I fear I may already be hooked. If nothing else, it’s given me some cracking recipe ideas. Soup in a sock, anyone?

 

TV extra:

 

Ripper Street 

Cancelled by the Beeb but revived thanks to a deal with Amazon Prime, the third series of the lurid Victorian crime drama opened with a horrific train crash that turned the soot-black streets of Whitechapel red. Despite the bizarre, cod-Dickensian dialect (‘The men await your instructions as to how the warehouse is to be invigilated’), it was good to be reacquainted with Jerome Flynn’s Sergeant Drake and Matthew Macfadyen’s brooding Inspector Reid, whose mix of deductive brilliance and social awkwardness is a bit like Sherlock, only in Victorian times. I know, imagine that!

 

Flockstars 

Congratulations to the producers of Flockstars, who have managed to make ‘celebrity sheepdog trials’ look even worse on telly than it sounds on paper. In the first episode, Strictly hoofer Brendan Cole and a border collie called Hoggy (finally, a partner about who he won’t have to insist ‘we’re just good friends’) were soundly beaten by property presenter Amanda Lamb. (Amanda Lamb! See what they did there? Presumably Stan Collymore was busy.) Meanwhile, Gaby Logan shouts ‘release the sheep!’, with the look of a woman thinking of ways to kill her agent. Priceless.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 6, 2015

(c) Waitrose Weekend