Sky high standards
By Linda Parker
I have just been seriously impressed and am now in despair over my own cooking skills, having viewed the finale of the 10th series of MasterChef. After 24 episodes the three finalists, Luke, Jack and Ping, battled it out with one of the most complex set of menus imaginable, including ingredients I had barely heard of, to create combinations that were startling and unexpected.
Jack’s Razor Clam starter is possibly the most perfect first course ever, and it looked as pretty as a picture, too. He continued with Wagyu beef with haggis mayo and crispy gnocchi, amongst other things, but divided John Torode and Gregg Wallace over the pear tart tatin with gorgonzola ice cream. I think that is the one item on that menu that I could possibly muster up, so may pencil that in for a sunny bank holiday recipe test. Luke and Ping came up with equally interesting and surprising dishes. Ping’s wonton soup was a marathon of individual ideas that all worked together in harmony, with ‘crazily good textures’ according to Torode. Luke’s ‘intoxicating bisque’ (another Torode description) looked gorgeous served up with the inky black pasta. Ping won, of course, and has gone a long way to introducing the wonders of Malaysian food to the MasterChef-viewing public.
Not wanting to over-exert myself in the cooking department after the wonders of MC, I have been delighted to have received three very excellent, very simple and extremely useful items to try out, and which been promoted to the top of my ‘must have’ list…
Kuhn Rikon’s colourful Sandwich Knife, around £12.95 has a wide blade with a non-stick coating that means it slices through bread, lettuce, tomatoes and the like with terrifying ease; it’s made from Japanese Carbon Stainless steel as comes with a sheath. Buy it by visiting www.kuhnrikon.co.uk.
If your cupboards and shelves are overflowing, streamline things with the folding silicone strainer by Sabichi. It will drain a whole pan full of pasta or vegetables with ease, and then folds flat to go on a shelf, alongside the matching silicon splatter guard. £11 and £10 respectively, with a matching rolling pin at £9.50 for anyone who still sometimes ends up with over-sticky pastry.
Now the sunshine looks as if it has properly arrived I’m planning to try out the Zwilling TWIN Smoking set, which involves wood chips and adding smoked flavours with herbs, tea and spices.
I think it may be a bit of a learning curve as smoking anything isn’t an exact science … look at the equipment needed here but at least it can be done in the comfort of your own kitchen, rather than on the barbecue.
For the cheat’s version of a summer eating vibe I’m going to stick to easy-peasy char-grilling, using my years old cast iron grill pan, and perhaps a little bit of inspiration from Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes that can be seen in the Guardian’s food pages. Any savoury recipe that turns out pink is to be admired, so try the beetroot one first.
I think my summer cooking resolution for this year needs to be to move away from the monotony of barbecued burgers and sausages. Perhaps we should all aspire to be a little more inventive with delicious, healthy salads, the afore-mentioned chargrilled recipes, and just small, refined amounts of beautifully grilled meat and fish, and thinking in terms of quality over quantity.
Once again it’s back to cultivating home-grown fresh herbs, growing your own salads and vegetables and relishing the connection between the hard work of sowing’n’growing and literally enjoying the fruits of the labour. Thanks to my rather squirmy sense of humour I quite enjoyed the ups and downs of The Big Allotment Challenge , and although it wasn’t inspiring enough to get me out there showing off my veg, I loved some of the contestants, namely Gary and Pete the bee-keepers. It was all a bit hit and miss, but worth watching for the beautiful views of Mapledurham, the Elizabethan walled garden where it was filmed. However, as a result I’ll be very tempted to look things up for advice on gardening with llama poo and how to get best results for my dahlias.
Fingers crossed for lots of sun and a bit of spare time!
Linda Parker, Food Fan and Freelance Interiors Journalist