Probably called ‘Cook It!’, or ‘My Way’ or somesuch, it’s a format of such pure simplicity that it could make for fascinating contests, like the first couple of years of Big Brother before producers started wanking around with the rules and every housemate became a wannabe Z-lister.
And it might well have been done already – I don’t watch enough television to say for certain that it’s an original idea – but if it has, I’ve never seen it.
|My screenplay, apparently|
They let me talk them enthusiastically through the synopsis for many minutes, perhaps with some degree of awkwardness on their part, before quietly informing me that I’d actually been recounting, with startling accuracy, the entire plot of The Pelican Brief. Oh.
I didn’t know! It wasn’t my fault I hadn’t read it or seen it and had just happened to come up with a similar idea! You've got to believe me!
I never heard from them again.
But life goes onAnyway, here’s the deal: The contestants – three or four of them, probably - are told at the start of the programme what is on the menu that evening. Like ‘Spaghetti Bolognaise’ or ‘Eggs Benedict’ or ‘Cheese and Ham sandwich’ or ‘Apple Crumble’. Simple.
Perhaps after a couple of series, the prescribed dishes could be a little more ambiguous – ‘Pheasant Surprise’ or ‘Chocolate Outrageousness’ or something – but that’s it.
I think you see where I’m heading… we’d then see footage of the contestants going round shops buying up their ingredients, while the host watches on a big screen nodding and raising eyebrows as appropriate.
Later, in the studio, the cooks assemble in the on-set kitchens and - cue more nodding, eyebrow-raising and sarcastic comments - cook the specified dish. Their recipe. Their own individual take on whatever the menu might be.
|Textbook Cottage Pie, this, texbook|
Will some poor sap spend hours perfecting an original and delicious Cottage Pie recipe, only to be told that ingredient-for-ingredient it's exactly the same as the Cottage Pie made by the catering unit on the set of The Pelican Brief?!?
God I wish those TV producers were reading thisI really like the idea that four different people could make four very different Paellas, and the winner would be determined by a vote after a tasting – though unlike Masterchef et al, I’d like to see the contestants make enough so the audience can try some too.
It seems ridiculous that the Ready Steady Cook winner is determined by the votes of a studio audience who only get to see (and possibly smell) the food. Surely you need to taste it to make an informed judgment, no?
And we’ll have no racing against the clock and plating up at the very last second or any of that needless manufactured drama either. They can start when they’re ready with a view to finishing at roughly the same time.
Anyway, I know it’s similar in a lot of ways to a number of existing shows, but then so is most TV.
On that note, here’s a relatively conservative – but extremely yummy – recipe for Cottage Pie, which I might possibly do if I were ever a contestant on this programme and ‘Cottage Pie’ was the dish of the day.
Actually, come to think of it, ‘Dish of the Day’ would be a far better title than ‘Cook It!’, wouldn’t it?
The BV Cottage Pie
Ingredients - serves four:
Lean minced beef, 1½-2 pounds
Carrots, 4 large or equivalent, coarsely grated
Onion, 1 large or 2 small, finely chopped
Chestnut mushrooms, a handful, chopped
|9 out of 10 people we asked couldn't tell the difference!|
Tomatoes, 3-4, chopped
Garlic, 2-3 cloves, smushed/finely chopped
Worcestershire Sauce and/or mushroom ketchup
Red Leicester or Mature Cheddar (or a mix of the two!), grated
Once the meat is cooked through, add a big glug of Worcestershire Sauce/mushroom ketchup, reduce the heat and cover, letting it simmer for an hour or so, longer if you've time.
|Coming along nicely...|
Transfer your beefy mixture to a casserole dish, adding a little flour to thicken before so doing if necessary.
Ideally you want the dish to be filled evenly, and just over the half-way line to get the right ratio between potato and filling.
Spread your mash smoothly and evenly over the top of the meat, ensuring it’s completely covered, then add a sprinkling of grated cheddar to the top for extra cheesy goodness. Cheese goes well with beef and potato, don't you know!
Pop the dish in the oven (don’t cover!) at about 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes, so the cheese melts and the top browns slightly. When it looks ready, it’s ready.
Serve with a dollop of baked beans (be sure to add Worcestershire sauce) and a pint of good honest ordinary bitter.
For a ‘Shepherd’s Pie’ variation, use lamb instead of beef, substitute the carrot and paprika for diced aubergine, rosemary and mint, and perhaps top with crumbs of Feta instead of grated cheddar.