Sunday, 18 May 2014

More fantasy Vs reality

OK, it's confession time again and this time I'm afraid I have to admit to having been on the edge of my seat during the semi-finals and finals of Masterchef. I was particularly pleased that the competition was won by Ping because I felt she thoroughly deserved it due to her consistent ability to turn out amazing food and remaining cool, organised, and generally unflappable regardless of the pressure she was under. I have no doubt that all the finalists will quite rightly go on to fabulous careers on the strength of their performance on the show, and good luck to them all.
The Masterchef programme has a habit of encouraging people to reconsider their cooking abilities and try to do something different. And that's where the trouble usually starts.
I generally consider myself to be pretty reasonable in the kitchen. From an early age mum had me learning stuff in the kitchen and I was always keen to try and do things myself. I seem to recall starting off making jam buns, and once I got my head around following recipes there was no stopping me.
Time moves on and after a while you sink into a bit of a rut with the meals you make; always doing the same old dishes week after week because at least you know everyone likes them and there's no waste. But every so often you step back and take stock of the situation, realising just how dull it has all become and go on a mission to reinvent the weekly menu. So you drag out the cookery books and fire up the BBC Food website and trawl through in desperate search for inspiration.
Initially it's all a bit overwhelming, but once you settle down you end up with a great long selection of new recipes that look and sound wonderful. Next comes the task of paring this list down by discarding the ones that use a rare and very expensive ingredient that you know damn well will never get used for anything else and get lost at the back of the cupboard until you throw it out because it's two years past its sell-by date, and the same goes for anything that looks like it'll just take too much effort to do.
By the time you've done this and thrown out the recipes that contain ingredients that someone doesn't like or has an adverse reaction to, your initial collection of thirty or forty potential culinary adventures has been whittled down to about four. Then it's off to the dreaded supermarket for the weekly grocery run where you discover the bill has inexplicably risen by ten percent. Actually, you can explain it, because your chosen experimental recipe involved fresh langoustines and you just knew that a rather good Chablis would go with the dish very nicely indeed thank you very much.
So you're all set to wow the family with a new and exciting meal that will have them salivating like a rabid dog and, having consumed this amazing repast, be pleading for more like some modern day Oliver Twist. The feeling when something like this happens leaves you with a wonderful glow (although that might be down to the quantity of Port consumed while you were cooking), but this is usually tempered by the enormous mountain of washing up left behind because you've used every utensil you own, plus there's the fact that having spent three hours preparing such a culinary delight it was polished off in six minutes flat.
The alternative to this of course is the times when the plates are pushed away half-eaten with mumbled comments along the lines of "Perhaps we won't have that again", or "Can we go back to having chilli on a Thursday?", followed by a quick trip to the local corner shop for a tub of lemon sorbet to take away the taste.
This is the problem with experimentation. You see Masterchef and get inspired to do something new, and when you try it sometimes becomes clear why you do eat the same stuff all the time - you know you can do it right. And if it's something like a casserole in the slow cooker that creates the minimum of washing up then so much the better.
On Masterchef they work with top quality ingredients in an amazing kitchen with every conceivable gadget and gizmo, supplemented with a level of talent that far surpasses Joe Average even on a good day. Whereas I struggle with a cantankerous and occasionally downright vicious fan oven that conspires to screw up my cakes at every available opportunity. That thing is a vindictive bastard that's determined to undermine my confidence in the kitchen to the point where I could actually consider keeping a supply of microwave ready-meals in the freezer just in case dinner goes horribly wrong, but that would be a step too far because even an overcooked and underseasoned brown disaster is still preferable to the crap in those things.

Ping Coombes. She can. I can't.