ʽʽHi, I’m Benjamin Nunn – critic, gourmand and author of Ben Viveur. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You might have read me in an in-flight magazine, or a beer publication, but here on my own blog I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others so anything goes.

I deal with real food and drink in the real world, aiming to create recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. Likewise, I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended.

Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

MasterChef - give us time, give us beer!

I'm always impressed with the quality of the contestants on MasterChef, and in this latest series the standard seems particularly high. Indeed it's high enough to scare me into not applying for the show myself!

(Particularly the ballsy Lancastrian lass who is my tip to beat the moustachioed twatster in the final!)

What I'm less impressed by is how formulaic the programme has become, with contestants slave to the straitjacket of rigid format as they wield their spatulas of conformity. (And, if anybody asks, I'll probably use that rather florid excuse for not entering rather than admitting my shitting fear!)

Too busy drinking beer to go on MasterChef
My biggest gripes can be summed up thusly. Firstly, the samesome timescales:

Pretty much every challenge involves having an hour (or, quite often, an hour and 15 minutes) to cook something, which rules out any slow-cooked dishes and indeed discriminates against chefs whose speciality happens to be slow-cooking.

(Yes, I'd probably include myself in that category.)

My other complaint, which may well be a by-product of the first, is that there is nowhere near enough cooking with beer on the show.

And we could all use some additional beer, right?!?

Give us time!

The current format, as well as hindering the more leisurely-paced contestant - also effectively excludes ingredients that cry out for slow-cooking. Cuts of meat like brisket, pork shoulder and scrag end of mutton rarely taste good when flash-fried in a pad thai, and consequently candidates eschew these in favour of a duck egg raviolo or something, which they'll have several attempts to perfect during the 75 minutes.

Likewise, many pulses benefit from a long time on a low heat, as do many classic dishes involving our good friend beer. I could cook my famous chilli in 75 minutes, just as I could make it without using beer, but it wouldn't be anywhere near as good. Several hours and plenty of dark lager are key to perfection on the plate.

It takes several hours to bring out the flavours and knowing how to handle these slow-burning ingredients is a culinary skill in its own right. One that Wallace and Torode don't seem particularly interested in.

It's all edited down into 30 second bursts of footage anyway, so why can't they have challenges involving 20 minutes prep time in the morning and half an hour to serve a dish in the late afternoon?

Give us beer!

One brave Masterchef contestant served a Lagerita with her dish - it was more or less roundly ignored - and that's been pretty much beers only involvement in the series.

Definitely not a scene from MasterChef...
But beer can be an amazing ingredient, whether lightening up the batter on your haddock with a light pilsner or enriching your steak and kidney to a state of luxiance with plenty of strong English IPA.

Lots of B-V recipes call for various styles of beer. Boston Baked Beans benefit from an old ale, while a classic Beef stew works well with porter. Both recipes improve with every passing hour in the oven, naturally.

It's not even just about slow-cooking though. I use kriek in the dressing for my goats cheese and cherry salad which can be prepared in five minutes, let alone 75.

So I wonder if MasterChef, indeed, maybe a substantial chunk of the foodie establishment, has a bit of a prejudice against beer and slow-cooking?

Perhaps it's not sophisticated enough?

Maybe it doesn't look sufficiently pretty on the plate?

It's a shame though, because beery slow food often tastes fucking awesome, and that, surely, should be the most important thing.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps it's because Greg Wallace gets a bit out of order after a few pints?


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