Thursday, 30 September 2010

Masterchef Professionals reduce and Michael Wood plays it safe.

Michael Wood's Story of England continued tonight in what was a return to a more familiar format for the acclaimed documentarist. We pick up with the end of the World as we knew it and stopped short of the great plague. Most of the material had in fact been covered by other programmes last month during Norman week. That is not to say it wasn't interesting or well told. In his more familiar territory, Proff Wood did the BBC walk and interviewed a number of scholars who ritualistically pulled out the Domesday book and other ancient documents to appropriate awe and respect. He then wandered the countryside going to places so far away they had little if anything to do with Kibworth. I'm not saying he didn't illustrate his point properly, but we were told it was supposed to be about England through Kibworth's eyes. The one time he could have done so much more, he chose to do as little as possible. The Gar Tree or Speech Mound of Kibworth was a fascinating vestige of old English culture going as far back as the Druids, we had a location, medieval records, photos of the tree, we had aerial photography, we had a gnarled tree stump that looked at least 1000 years old. Did he do anything with it? Did they dig a test trench? Did they even walk over the spot it was supposed to have been on? NO. He could have  helped clarify much about early traditional moots, but he walked away. You know, while I'm at it , he also didn't think the Roman mound/Norman moat and bailey castle was worth excavating either. Time Team would have made a two parter of this one and most certainly discovered information that even now is under threat of being washed away and lost for ever. On the Gar Tree site alone, the number of questions that could have been answered. What kind of food did they eat? Did they leave sacrificial offerings on the site? Just how old is the site and of course if it was used as late as the 1700's, what was it's last recorded use and why was it abandoned.

As a history enthusiast, I was deeply disappointed. On the whole, I could have missed the hour and not been the poorer for it, that is except for the bit about the Gar tree. I sincerely hope the Plague to Oliver Cromwell is better and contains some nugget we might not have otherwise been aware of. Considering the programme was on at the same time as the 2nd half of  the Manchester United  CL match, and  was the only other thing  that wasn't a complete waste of time, I had hoped for something a bit more than reheated Norman history. If the next one is as tepid as tonight's effort, I may well consider looking to my DVD collection for inspiration. I know, I can watch a Tom Baker Doctor Who complete with sacred mounds and creepy villagers in tweed. Read the next review for Peasants' revolts to Tudors or watch the episode here

And so I was left with a bad taste in my mouth after the promise of a towering feast of history. But do not be concerned dear reader, I did get a pudding worthy of the G-ds. Masterchef The Professionals was in quarter final mode with a cornucopia of ingredients, including what looked like at least a £1,000 worth of perfectly formed truffles. There was sea food, fish , venison, rabbit, lamb and quail.  Fresh fruit and veg the likes of which make you want to fall on  and shamelessly writhe in. Is this making you hungry? It surely is making me. In order to insure no one is hurt in the reading of this blog, I will reveal that one beef Wellington was overcooked, an innocent rabbit was burned in a pan and some purée was polluted with vanilla pod served in a main?!?! Ben the French lad made the best pudding you will have seen till now on any Masterchef. Secret splosher Greg Wallace declared his pear in a sponge served with marzipan wafer, three raspberries and assorted other lovely bits to be the closest thing to a hug on a plate.  The critics unashamedly wanted to take it home and do unspeakable things to it with their tongues. Even our allegedly icy pro chef , multi Michelin star man was making noises that in no way resembled speech as we know it,  I myself was left in a state of utter ecstasy and I couldn't even taste it.

Needless to say, Ben will compete in the upcoming Semi finals, as for the rest, it was a question of do you put through the great chef who made you wait or the one who killed the Wellington but was on time. I say if a cook makes you wait and it's worth it , the wait is part of the experience. And eventually the panel agreed with me, putting through talented Northerner John from Northumbria who wowed the critics with lamb main and I think the shrimp starter . Nervous Dave and the others could have played a better game, but in the end inexperience and nerves took their toll. Basic mistakes  like not properly shucking beans and putting too many flavours on the plate at the same time, as well one case of murder through cold cucumber soup that ruined an otherwise perfect meal.  It's so easy to make mistakes, but on the level these people are operating on , they cannot afford to be sloppy. All of them have day sous chef jobs IN restaurants, and one is the head chef. Mistakes like burning rabbit and serving said rabbit won't be tolerated in a place were that kind of food doesn't get beyond the pass. Can you tell I'm enjoying this?

Reviews for week two here and finally here, And now week three and week four

Thursday, Nigella, and reviewed here, as well as  the Hairy Bikers are batting against tough Uefa cup competition. Manchester City v Nigella and Si and Dave, Hmmmmm, I know Nigella has her knockers (check in the mail for permission to use oldest joke on earth) and the Hairy Bikers with Mums know best seems be a repeat, but the TV guide is telling me otherwise. We'll see.

I promised you a Chocolate cake recipe yes? Well I'll definitely post it at the week end. In the mean time I strongly urge you to resist that Jafa cake, lovely as it is, and bake something fresh. My wife made us pretzels like they sell in New York and in the streets of old Poland. Cost us next to nowt and we'll be in hot baked heaven for the next few hours .

Till next time when I hopefully tear myself out of the kitchen and hop back into the mystery and mayhem that is comedy and detective crime.

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