Category Archives: What I’m Watching

Great British Bake Off Finale 2015

 

In less than twenty four hours time, we’ll know who will be the winner of The Great British Bake Off 2015.

The downside of this is that this year’s series of Bake Off will come to an end, so we’ll have to say goodbye to Mary, Paul, Mel and Sue, cakes, pies, biscuits, meringues, pastries and breads until we see them again next summer – though sadly we’ll have to bid farewell to the 2015 contestants forever!

 

I get lost in my own little world when The Great British Bake Off is on. I actually feel as though I’m in the midst of the tranquil English countryside where the Bake Off tent is pitched. All those pastel, candy shades of iced goodies appeal to the kid in me. And even though the bakers often feel flustered and panic-stricken, there’s something so calming about the gentle pursuit of baking. It also invokes memories of home life and family time because let’s face it, who didn’t have a mother, aunt or grandmother who didn’t whip up baked delicacies, and I remember that growing up, teatime was a pretty big deal. And of course, the show celebrates that great British tradition, afternoon tea – which I’m sure you all know I’m a huge fan of. And best of all, for one deliciously decadent hour every week, we can forget that healthy eating ever mattered!

 

I think it’s fair to say that The Great British Bake Off is my very own televised Disneyland!

Mr.D and I have loved this year’s series – not to mention it’s sister program An Extra Slice with the hilarious Jo Brand. I often find that when I’m hooked on one year’s series of any show, the following year’s will fall a little flat so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this series so much as I thought 2014 was brilliant. But this year has been equally fantastic and we thought the contestants were a delightful and mega-talented bunch. It was so hard to pick a favourite because I had a soft spot for so many of them including Alvin, Sandy, Nadia, Tamal, and Paul. We’ve been watching Bake Off since the third series and one of the things that I love about the show – apart from it developing my love of baking and further increasing my love of all things sweet – is the sense of camaraderie among the contestants and the way they’re always willing to pitch in and help each other out even though this is a competition, and this year’s series has been no different.

 

Everyone has their own idea about who will win the title of Great British Bake Off Winner 2015 but I personally cannot make my mind up between the finalists Ian Cumming, Nadia Hussain and Tamal Ray. A lot of the work they’ve done has been highly original and really had the wow factor. Some people may have thought that Ian’s chocolate well last week was too simplistic but I thought it was amazing and showed that he really thought outside the box. All three have worked hard to secure their place in the final, and they’re all so likeable that it’s impossible to decide who to root for, so I’m cheering them all on!

Tomorrow’s final is going to be a real show stopper in itself. It’ll be interesting to see what culinary creations Ian, Nadia, and Tamal conjure up. I cannot wait!

 

 

Nici Wickes’s Trinidadian Chicken Curry And Caribbean Black Cakes

 

Travel and food are two things I love. And one of the things I love about travelling is sampling all the local delicacies. So it’s no wonder that I’m addicted to a TV cooking show that combines my two favourite things. It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of cooking shows but World Kitchen hosted by Nici Wickes is refreshingly different. Not only does Nici whip up interesting and exciting dishes from around the world – and make it look so easy – but she takes viewers on a culinary adventure as she heads off around the world, visiting fantastic places and learning about the local cuisine. Nici then heads home where she recreates many of the dishes that she’s learned to make from the comfort of her own kitchen. Each episode usually sees her rustling up one main and one dessert from the country she’s just visited.

 

The New Zealand-born chef is an absolute joy to watch with her sunny personality, mile wide smile, abundant energy, and her enthusiasm for cooking just shines through. But Nici is not just a pretty face, and neither is she just another TV chef. As well as being a seasoned traveller, Nici is also a cookery writer,  business woman, actress, motivational speaker, owner of a cooking school, business coach and runs workshops in leadership! Wow – does this lady ever sleep???

Nici has a multitude of fantastic recipes but I chose to include the dishes she made after her visit to Trinidad. I love the awesome flavours of Caribbean cooking, and I was famished just watching Nici cook these! But for more amazing recipes check them out here.  And tune into World Kitchen if you can.

TRINIDADIAN CHICKEN CURRY

 

A delicious fusion of Indian and Caribbean flavours, this curry is perfect for those who prefer a milder, yet flavoursome, curry.

Serves 4-6

GREEN SEASONING:

1 green capsicum, de-seeded and chopped roughly
1 stalk of celery, roughly chopped
3 spring onions, roughly chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
¼ – ½ cup water
½ teaspoon salt

 Curry

3  Chicken Breasts – skin on, cubed
1 cup green sauce (recipe below)
2 tablespoons rice bran oil
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
1-2 teaspoons garam masala
½ cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 fresh mango, skinned and cut into 2cm cubes
Steamed rice and store bought roti

METHOD:

  1. Blend all ingredients for the green seasoning in a blender or food processor.
  2. In a bowl, marinate the chicken in the green seasoning.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium-sized, heavy based saucepan.
  4. Add the onion and sauté until soft then add the spices (cumin, turmeric, garam masala) and fry for 2-3 minutes until aromatic.
  5. Add the chicken and green seasoning and stir until coated in the spice mix and simmer for 7-10 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.
  6. Finally add the coconut milk, mustard (if using), salt and pepper.
  7. Gently stir in the mango and heat through.
  8. Serve with rice and roti.

CARIBBEAN BLACK CAKES

 

This is one of my favourite cakes. One of the things  I like about this cake is that the dried fruits are blended so you get the flavour but not the appearance. This is great for me because although  I love  which I’m not that keen on! This cake is usually served during special occasions in the Caribbean. Good reason to make every day a special occasion!

Ingredients: 

 2 cups mix of raisins & currants
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup rum
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons aromatic bitters flavouring

Cake batter:

150g unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon mixed spice
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 teaspoons lime or lemon zest

METHOD: 

Prepare the fruit: Place the raisins, currant and prunes in a large bowl, pour in rum, warm water and bitters.

  1. Leave for the fruit to soak up the liquor while you make the batter.
  2. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  3. Grease a 12 hole deep muffin tin.
  4. Make the cake batter: In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well to incorporate.
  6. Add the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, mixed spice and nutmeg), golden syrup, vanilla essence and lime zest.
  7. Mix gradually into the creamed mixture to form a batter.
  8. Set aside.
  9. In a food processor, pour the soaked fruit and juices and blend until thick and still a bit chunky.
  10. Now add the fruit puree to the batter and fold in until well mixed.
  11. Spoon batter into greased muffin tins.
  12. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
  13. Serve warm with sour cream sweetened with brown sugar.

 

Auntie Fee’s Kitchen Rules

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If the name Auntie Fee means nothing to you, then Muthaf***er, where have you been?

Auntie Fee

Auntie Fee

 

As someone who enjoys cooking shows, I am totally blown away by the latest hot, new chef on the cooking scene, who’s most definitely stirring things up in the kitchen. Based in South-Central LA,  her cooking methods are a little unorthodox; she doesn’t use ingredients that you need to order online; she’s not too fussed about presentation, and she’s got a mouth to rival Gordon Ramsay’s. Her video clips which she posts on YouTube have gone viral and I’m wondering how long it’ll be before she gets her own show. I’m talking about new American cook, Auntie Fee, also known as Chef Sista Girl.

Two weeks ago, I hadn’t even heard of Auntie Fee, real name Felicia O’Dell. But now the latest cooking sensation has the world in stitches with her culinary antics and expletive- laden commentary, all filmed by her son Tavis Hunter who acts as cameraman – and often gets an ear-bashing from his mum due to what she perceives to be annoying questions, unhelpful input and dodgy camera work. If you’re looking for the genteelness of Delia, the seductive charms of Nigella, or the perfection of Martha – forget it because as the name of her Facebook page states, Aunty Fee Keeping It Muthaf***ing Real In The Kitchen, Muthaf***er!

 

Auntie Fee's son and cameraman, Tavis

Auntie Fee’s son and cameraman, Tavis

 

Auntie Fee’s choice of language is most definitely a little on the colourful side – and that’s putting it mildly – so she’s probably not going to be a hit with those who are easily shocked or offended. However, most people evidently think she’s awesome, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a TV chef so entertaining since Nancy Lam and her henpecked hubby, Ben.

The first time I happened to stumble across one of her video clips, where she made ‘something sweet for the f***ing kids,’ I watched it three times consecutively and howled with laughter. In fact my laughter could be heard all the way in South Carolina (Mr.D was Skyping his bestie at the time!) At that time there was very little info available about Auntie Fee, but she did have a Facebook page which at the time of liking, had less than ten likes – now there are thousands! Talk-show hosts have been clamouring to get her on their show, but even though Auntie Fee was allegedly holding out for Oprah, she did make an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live via Skype – and we got to see Tavis for the first time – last weekend, where she made a five minute meal using shrimp and garlic bread – and as expected she brought the house down!

My friends and I cannot get enough of Auntie Fee and her antics, and as annoying as it may be for some people, we quote her on a regular basis. Forget literary figures and noble statesmen, this cooking sensation has some real gems. We’ve watched her prepare raisin turnovers, egg rolls, chicken wings, a noodle soup dish, and a strawberry shortcake. A lot of Auntie Fee’s cooking is aimed at families on a budget or people who don’t have a lot of time to spend in the kitchen. Admittedly, it’s not the healthiest of food and doesn’t always look appealing (sorry Auntie Fee!) If you think Delia got a lot of stick for preparing food with her rings on, wait until you see how Auntie Fee seasons her chicken wings – not for the faint-hearted! And Auntie Fee is well aware of the criticism regarding her levels of hygiene and makes defiant references to it during her clips.

 

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But whatever you may think of her recipes, one thing’s for damn sure: Auntie Fee is a breath of fresh air in an industry where some chefs take themselves – and food – way, way, waaay too seriously. Auntie Fee may be at the other end of the spectrum but she is hilarious with it, and I for one cannot wait to see what else is on the menu.

Someone give this lady and her son their own show!

CLASSIC AUNTIE FEE QUOTES

1. “I don’t know what the f*** this is. It’s just something sweet for the f***ing kids.” – When asked what she was making.
2. “Muthaf***er, this is not no prison food.” -After Tavis cheekily asks if what’s she’s making is like prison food.
3. “I need to get me a f***ing cameraman cos you trippin’.” – Getting annoyed with Tavis’s questions.
4. “Goddamn it, I ain’t got no muthaf***ing name for it yet, muthaf***er!” – Just before she named the sweet treats ‘raisin turnovers.
5. “I don’t give a damn whether they broke or not. You smash ’em out how you wanna smash ’em out.” – Clearly not one for following instructions.
6. “This muthaf***er make any f***ing thang taste good!” – On dried parsley.
7. “Cook it for three hours if you want it to fall off the muthaf***ing bone. I swear this s**t will.” – On cooking chicken wings.
8. Aunty Fee: “I meant to say that you was my assistant. But instead I said you was my informant.”
Tavis: “Yeah, don’t ever say that again.”
9. “We had it for dinner last night. I don’t know where your fat ass was.” – To Tavis.
10. Tavis: “So this like the ghetto way of doing things.”
Aunty Fee: “We don’t talk ghetto okay? I’m not ghetto.”
11. “Oh but that Jimmy Kimble, Jimmy Kimmy, what’s his name? Jammy Kimmy…” – Unable to say Jimmy Kimmel’s name.
12. “You got an old Crisco can by your sink, then you a mutherf***ing G.”
13. “Now I can wet this with my hands if I want to, because this is my mutherf***ing shit.” – On sealing pastry edges.
14. “Tavis the camera better be on me. We only got one shot at this.” – Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
15. “Say something so I know we communicating!” – To Jimmy Kimmel

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Tenth Masterchef Winner: Congrats Ping

 

 

 

I’ve finally gotten around to watching the finals of the tenth – TENTH??? – series of Masterchef. This has been a great series with tons of amazing contestants who really gave it their all. I’m still disappointed however, that Alex, the rock n’ rolling wrestler was knocked out early on in the competition (gotta support my fellow rockers!) and I would have loved for Rani to have gone further as she did make me laugh but I think it’s fair to say that the best woman won.

 

All three of the finalists – Jack Lucas, Ping Coombs, and Luke Owen – were nothing short of awesome and really cooked for their lives (not to mention the Masterchef title!)

 

At an age where most people’s culinary skills extend no further than opening a tin of rice pudding, twenty one year old Jack amazed everyone with his flair and skills, and very rarely put a foot wrong. And Luke was a huge fan of daring flavour combinations and experimenting with food. His experiments weren’t always majorly successful but his boldness in the kitchen impressed Masterchef Judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.

 

 

But it was Malaysian-born Ping who really stood out from the moment she entered the competition. The very first dish she made – a curried chicken dish – just made me want to stick my hands through the television screen and grab a mammoth bowlful for myself. Even though Malaysian cuisine appeared to be her signature style, Ping showed her ability as a versatile cook by successfully cooking an array of non-Malaysian dishes. There was no doubting that Ping really put her heart and soul into everything that she was cooking, and her dedication, organization, talent, and the super-fast pace at which she worked were just extraordinary. As the finals approached I was so sure I knew who’d win – and I was right!

 

 

Ping says it’s her goal to introduce more people to Malaysian cuisine – she has ambitions to bring out a cook book and open a Malaysian style café – and I truly hope she achieves this. As someone who has family who hails from this part of the world, I can honestly say that Malaysian food is one of my most favourites. It’s just a shame most people don’t really know about it. The main that Ping created for the finals – nasi lemak – is the dish I always choose when I go to my fave Malaysian restaurant. There are many different variations of this dish but it basically consists of coconut rice with a variety of different side dishes. I always say that the restaurant I often frequent serves the best nasi lemak ever, and their version contains coconut rice; a spicy squid sambal; crispy fried chicken wings; deep fried anchovies and peanuts; a cucumber salad and a fried egg. This would most definitely be my last meal!

I’m so passionate about this dish that I’ve included a recipe for anyone who might want to attempt it. But be warned – it might be addictive!

 

 

I’m disappointed that this series of Masterchef has come to an end and I have to wait for another year. This has been an amazing series and I cannot wait for the next one to begin. Mr. D on the other hand, can’t wait for Masterchef USA to begin it’s fifth season as he much prefers that to our home-grown version. I like both of them and appreciate each of them for what they are but I’ve noticed that if you’re more interested in food than contestants’ dramas, then Masterchef UK it is. And of course we have the delightful John and Greg!

 

Ping hard at work

Ping hard at work

 

So congrats to Jack and Luke for doing so well to get to the finals. They seem like really cool guys who have a real passion for food and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of them. And of course congrats to Ping. I just hope she hurries up and opens that café. Nasi lemak, mee goreng, chilli crab… bring it on!

 

NASI LEMAK
Serves 3-4

Ingredients:
•Oil, for deep frying
•Cucumber slices, for garnish
•Sambal chilli (recipe above)

Ingredients for the SAMBAL CHILLI:

40 gram dried red chilli

100 gram onion

25 gram garlic

5 tablespoon cooking oil

80 gram ikan bilis (anchovy)

25 gram sugar (to taste)

250 ml water 

 

Ingredients for the rice:
•250 gram rice
•275 ml water
•225 ml coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk)
•1 onion (about 125 gram), cut into chunks
•1 star anise
•1 large cinnamon stick
•Pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)
•½ teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoon sugar

Ingredients for the chicken wings:
•500 gram chicken wings (about 8 pieces)
•3 eggs
•½ tablespoon turmeric powder
•½ tablespoon salt
•½ tablespoon white pepper powder
•2 inch ginger, pounded
•3 tablespoon corn flour
•6 tablespoon rice flour

Ingredients for the ikan bilis and peanuts:
•50 gram peanuts
•20 gram dried anchovies

1 fried or boiled egg per serving

METHOD:

  1. To make the sambal chilli , rinse anchovies with water and allow to dry completely.
  2. Place dried anchovies in a food processor and grind into fine powder.
  3. With a pair of scissors, cut the dried chilli halfway to remove most of the seeds.
  4. Soak dried chilli in water to soften, then drain the water.
  5. Blend dried chilli, onion and garlic to form a smooth paste.
  6. To a heated wok, add cooking oil and stir-fry the ground ikan bilis for about 2 minutes till fragrant.
  7. Add the ground chilli paste and sugar and stir-fry over low heat for 10 minutes, adding water as you fry to avoid burning the paste.
  8. The resulting sambal chilli should be moist and pasty.
  9. For the rice: Put all the ingredients for the rice in a rice cooker.
  10. Leave to cook and remove onion, star anise and cinnamon stick when done.
  11. For the chicken wings: Mix all ingredients to form marinade and batter, and allow to settle for about 10 minutes. 
  12. Dip the chicken wings in mixture, and fry until golden brown and crispy over medium heat for about 2 minutes each side.
  13. For the anchovies and peanuts: Deep-fry the peanuts and ikan bilis separately before mixing together.
  14. To assemble: Serve a bowl of coconut rice with the chicken wings, egg, anchovy and peanut mix, and garnish with 2-3 slices of cucumber topped with sambal and  chillies.

 

The Unexpected Tale Of The Flypaper

 

Being a fan of quality television and having an intense dislike for most of the reality rubbish that is on these days, I’ve taken to watching old episodes of Tales Of The Unexpected – the show which features dancing silhouettes emerging from flames in its opening credits along with a freakish yet seductive theme tune which has something of a carousel vibe! It was very popular in the 1980s although I didn’t get to see many episodes due to it being on way past my bedtime!

 

But I’m making up for lost time now and really enjoying the episodes. As usual every episode ends with an unexpected twist – and I spend the last ten minutes of every episode trying to suss out the twist. I’m happy to say that I’m usually wrong as I like the element of surprise.

 

However one episode which left me more than just a little surprised is the notorious The Flypaper written  by Elizabeth Taylor (no, not that Elizabeth Taylor!) I have yet to watch every episode of Tales of The Unexpected but I’m sure when I do I won’t find any that is as chilling and disturbing as The Flypaper. It was so creepy it was all I could think about for days.

The story centres around recently orphaned Sylvia Wilkinson who lives with her cold and uncaring old battle-axe of a grandmother. At this particular time, there is a child killer on the loose and Sylvia becomes anxious as she catches glimpses of a middle-aged man who she thinks might be following her. He manages to board her bus one day just as she thinks she has escaped him and starts to harass the timid schoolgirl. Thankfully for Sylvia, a kind and motherly lady witnesses the man’s behaviour and comes to Sylvia’s rescue… but far from being safe, Sylvia’s nightmare has just begun. The viewer can definitely empathise with Sylvia and sense her acute fear; her feelings of powerlessness and the overwhelming feeling of claustrophobia.

The underlying message of the tale is that you can’t trust anyone and really brings home the issue of ‘stranger danger.’ What made the episode even more dark and macabre is that despite it having been made more than 30 years ago, with today’s dangers of stalking, abuse, abduction and child disappearances, it is probably more relevant today than it was back then.

It is such an effective piece of drama that I actually think it might be an idea to show it in schools in order to explain to schoolchildren why they should be careful of people they don’t know. Even though The Flypaper probably didn’t intend to be, it’s quite an educational episode. The only problem is that there’d be a lot of irate mums and dads who’d have to put up with their kids taking refuge in their rooms (just like I used to!)

 

One of the good things about this episode is that it has introduced me to the work of Elizabeth Taylor (the non-Oscar winner!) and I’m interested in reading her novels and short stories. I can’t wait to watch the rest of the episodes… although I know that none of them will be anything like The Flypaper

 

Masterchef USA 2013: Thrilling Finale

 

Mr. D and I are so disappointed now that our favourite culinary competition -Masterchef USA – is over but what a fantastic finale it was. We knew it was going to be close as the two culinary hopefuls Luca Manfe and Natasha Crnjac battled it out for the top prize.

 

But we are thrilled, thrilled, THRILLED that Luca has been crowned Masterchef 2013.  Out of all the contestants he was the one who had come the furthest. He’d really struggled in the beginning and we weren’t expecting him to go further than a few episodes. But he improved beyond belief and despite his on-going success he never once came across as big-headed, arrogant or cocky – unlike some of his fellow competitors. And who could forget the infamous ‘butter incident’ where Luca very magnanimously gave Jessie a stick of butter.  He may not have been taken seriously initially but he did seem like a genuinely nice guy who was passionate about food; keeping his Italian heritage alive through his cooking, and his dream to start up his own restaurant. This was Luca’s second attempt at trying to compete in Masterchef and as the weeks went by and he started to progress at an astounding speed and level, it was quite clear that this guy didn’t just have passion – he had culinary talent too. We hoped Luca would win, but with so many big, forceful characters who were equally skilled and fighting to be noticed, we weren’t sure if the mild-mannered New York-based Italian stood a chance.

 

 

The finale kicked off with an emotional start as the two contestants were reunited with their family and friends, including Luca’s sister and father who flew in from Italy – and yes, I did get a little weepy! But then sentimentality was put aside as Natasha and Luca had to prepare a three course meal for the Masterchef judges, Gordon Ramsay, Graham Elliott and Joe Bastianich. This is where the excitement began and there were more twists and turns than at a breakdancing competition: The judges loved Natasha’s food… no the judges loved Luca’s food… Luca has a near melt-down as he realises he has forgotten to strain the panna cotta… Natasha ditches half of her dessert when she sees it hasn’t set right… Krissy and Natasha have a last war of words… the judges very nearly declare a draw – it was all happening!

 

 

 

It was clear pretty much from the start of the show that Natasha was the favourite to win and it did look as though she had it in the bag. Each of Natasha’s courses were exactly the kind of thing I’d choose for myself if I were dining out and her presentation was faultless. Also no one could doubt her passion, commitment and talent throughout this season where she hardly ever put a foot wrong. She was a well-rounded home cook who could cook almost anything. She had an incredible knowledge of food and a high level of technical ability. Her flavour combinations always hit the spot according to the judges and even when the other contestants made the mistake of underestimating her, she always rose to the challenge and won. Due to her competence and skill, she hardly ever had to face the dreaded pressure test. All this plus her winning menu seemed to indicate that Natasha would be walking out of the Thunderdome kitchen with the Masterchef title. Luca’s menu was as adventurous as Natasha’s was safe and I wondered if it was perhaps a little too much for the judges who expressed concern over Luca’s choices.

Awful as this may sound, we really hoped that Natasha wouldn’t walk away with the grand prize. Why? Because despite all her culinary genius, Natasha came across as the most unlikeable know-it-all with an extremely bad attitude.  She hardly ever had a genuine smile on her face and just sulked and pouted when she didn’t get her own way – and she positively hated it when her fellow contestants did better than her. The first time the viewers saw her, she talked about how her cooking ability was always underestimated because she was so pretty. Boastful? Natasha? Never! And she definitely didn’t score any brownie points by reducing contestant Beth Kirby to tears.

Thankfully Luca’s gamble paid off and as doubtful as the judges were initially, they LOVED his dishes including the ambitious basil panna cotta with tomato jam. Not something I would have chosen for dessert but according to the judges, it worked spectacularly. A lot of Luca-haters have stated that Natasha was robbed of the title as she was the far superior and consistent cook and that Luca only won because he was a man, and for the first time in the show’s history it was important for a male contestant to win the title. Even when Natasha’s unpopularity was pointed out, her supporters have stated that this is a cooking competition and not a contest based on personality. This is fair enough but it’s important to remember that the winner will go on to great success including their own cookbook and potentially starting up their own restaurant. Would I want to eat at the restaurant of or buy a cookbook from some who does not come across well as a likeable person? No, I wouldn’t – and I don’t think many others would either.

So Mastechef is over for another season and we’ll have to wait another year to see more culinary magic. Congrats to Luca. A very worthy winner who I hope goes on to great things. Proof that sometimes the nice guy does indeed win.

Roll on 2014. We can’t wait for season 5!

 

Irresistible? Just A Little!

My thesis for my MA degree was based on the subject of my favourite type of film character – the femme fatale. So it was no surprise that Mr. D. and I enjoyed the movie we watched last night, Irresistible, starring Susan Sarandon, Sam Neil and Emily Blunt. It was actually released in 2006 but for some reason, I’ve only just got round to watching it! But it was definitely worth the wait.

 

 

 

Sarandon’s character, New York- born Sophie Hartley, is the archetypal woman who has everything: a fabulous life in Australia; two beautiful daughters; a loving and successful husband; a close relationship with her father;  a gorgeous house (I asked Mr. D. when we were going to get a house like that) and a great career as an painter and illustrator. And is she happy? You’ve guessed it, NO! Sophie is haunted by a secret which she has carried with her since her teenage years – and it’s a secret that threatens to destroy her piece of mind and happy family life.

 

 

Step forward the beautiful Mara (played by Blunt) who works with Sophie’s husband, Craig (played by Neil.) Stunning, intelligent, with a home and family life that looks as though it came straight out of the pages of a magazine, Mara seems a little too good to be true. Always willing to help Craig both in and out of the office, Mara also quickly latches on to Sophie as soon as she meets her and is eager for the two of them to be good friends. Mara tries to bond with Sophie through their role as mothers and also confides in her about the tragic death of her best friend Kate. But is Kate’s death all it seems to be? And can Sophie trust Mara?

 

 

It would appear not, as over the course of the next few weeks, trivial items appear to be going missing from Sophie’s home. It’s all put down to forgetfulness; grief over her mother’s death; tiredness and scattiness in general before Sophie begins to question Mara’s motives and suspects that she may be the culprit behind the strange goings on. Her suspicions do nothing to endear her to Craig who is slowly beginning to lose patience with his wife and refuses to listen to her. Sophie realises that the real reason why Craig refuses to listen to her and fire Mara is because he’s secretly falling for his employee. So in order to get proof that she’s being stalked, Sophie turns to stalking her tormentor – and a chain of catastrophic events follow.

 

 

Irresistible is an Australian film, set in Melbourne and directed by Anne Turner. It’s enjoyable but it has a rather earthy, no-frills vibe to it rather than the glossy veneer of the nineties Hollywood movies of the same ‘crazy woman’ genre that I loved and still love e.g. – Single, White Female, The Hand That Rocks The Cradle, Disclosure etc. This film is packed full of twists, so it is very entertaining, although I did predict a couple of those twists. However, the final twist was a real shocker that I would never have guessed, but Mr. D. was left feeling confused by this so perhaps more clarity was needed so that the viewer could really feel the impact  when Mara’s true identity is revealed. Plus a little more of the eerie factor wouldn’t have gone amiss, so that the final scene would have been as strong as that in Psycho. Furthermore,  I feel that the title is a little misleading and a more appropriate one could have been chosen.

 

 

I know this film didn’t get spectacular reviews but then again it didn’t get terrible ones either. With a few tweaks here and there it could have been in the same league as other femme fatale films – this one was edging dangerously close to the border of soap opera territory. But it was still a good film with a strong cast and I would definitely watch it again (Blunt’s Aussie accent was very convincing.) It would be worth watching just to see Emily Blunt’s outfits again – that girl must have had a field day in wardrobe!

 

Of course films like this always make you think. A character like Mara can strike fear into the heart of the viewer. What would you do if you were Sophie and someone was threatening the stability of your home life? How would you feel if no one would listen when you tried to tell them that the likeable young miss was not who she claimed to be? And what would you do if your once devoted husband suddenly had his head turned by his new, pretty, young colleague? I was able to give Mr. D. an answer to the last question when he asked me – he soon wished he hadn’t!

 

 

 

Armchair Masterchefs

 

My husband and I pretty much gave up on television a while back. No matter how many channels there were, there still didn’t seem to be anything worth watching. But there are still some shows we make time to watch religiously. At a risk of sounding like a couple of oldies who have nothing better to do, Mr. D. and I are addicted to culinary competitions which seem to be all the rage on television these days: Come Dine With Me, The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef, Next Great Baker… you name it, we watch it! In fact it’s more than watching it’s become a full scale obsession. We must tune in to see what happens next: who stays… and who goes. Oops! That’s Big Brother which we don’t watch!

 

 

We have a lot of fun watching these shows. They’re entertaining and informative but they can also be quite depressing. Why? Because after years of thinking that I’m a pretty good cook (I’m no Heston but I’m not bad either) I’ve suddenly realised that compared to the contestants who take part in these shows, my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ve come to this conclusion after realizing that:

  • My pastry making skills are far from perfect (as explained by Mr. Hollywood and Ms. Berry.)
  • I have no idea how to make sushi – even though I love to eat it!
  • There is a tendancy for me to overcook food (as pointed out by Mr. D!)
  • I can really only bake cakes when I have a little help from my friend Betty Crocker.
  • Rare, medium rare, medium, well done… it’s all the same to me!
  • I’ve lost the ability to poach a decent egg.
  • I’ve never heard of half of the ingredients mentioned in the show.
  • There is no way I can chop onions, apples, carrots etc. so that all the pieces are virtually identical.
  • I have no idea how to debone a duck.
  • There’s very little chance of me being able to adequately filet a fish.
  • I don’t have the kind of palette where I can successfully identify every ingredient in a dish.
  • It’s really not a good idea for me to attempt to flambé anything…
  • Me and sharp knives are a dangerous combination so it’s really not a good idea for me to go at the speed of the professional chefs or the other contestants.
  • I like to take my time in the kitchen – that probably explains why we never eat before 10pm.
  • I probably don’t add as much seasoning as I should.
  • I love eating shellfish – but haven’t got a clue how to prepare it.
  • This may be an Anglo-Italian household but there is no freshly made pasta in this house as neither of us know how to prepare it!
  • If I cook fish so that the skin is super crispy, it’ll be burnt.
  • We like to drench our food in sauce – none of this ‘little smidgeon’ business.
  • We also like large portions in this house!
  • I haven’t got a clue how to make ketchup or barbeque sauce from scratch.
  • I’ve never used most of the gadgets and kitchen appliances I’ve seen.

 

However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve learnt a lot from watching these shows and have got lots of new ideas.  We like to put what we’ve learnt into practice:

  • I can make bruschetta better than I did before.
  • I now know what goes into making honeycomb.
  • I know how to remove bones from fish easily.
  • I know the secret to a good pesto sauce.
  • Seasoning is important!
  • So is not overcooking food!
  • Garnishes are important but there should also have a purpose other than just decoration.
  • We come across lots of new flavour combinations.
  • I know that you should never wash sea urchin (not that I’m likely to cook it!)
  • we’re trying to put into practice that less is more!
  • I know what’s meant by tunnel boning.
  • I also know what a ballotine is.
  • I know how to pronounce words such as ‘coulis’ and ‘melange’.
  • I see the contestants mistakes and know what NOT to do.

 

 

I still have an awful lot to learn and I’m getting there slowly. There’s still hope for me. But I know that no matter how much I learn, I would never want a dressing down from Mr. Hollywood or Mr. Ramsay so there’s no chance of me ever entering one of these competitions. I know which side of the television screen is the safest for all concerned!

 

 

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