Tag Archives: Masterchef

Ten real-life cooking challenges

Well done Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed on winning Masterchef 2017! Your cooking really inspired me, and I love the light, fresh, vibrant flavours you have brought to the table.

The winner of MasterChef 2017 has been announced

It must be daunting, as an untrained home cook, to be set loose in the professional kitchens of award-winning restaurants, and to produce exquisite platefuls for panels of exalted judges. Quite often, their accolade for a great plate of food was ‘I would be happy to pay for this in a top restaurant.’ This must be scary for other home cooks – it certainly is for me. The measure of your cooking likes in its suitability for fancy restaurants? Terrifying! And yet most home cooks rise to greater culinary challenges on a daily basis.

Which leads me to wonder – why doesn’t the BBC create a different kind of cookery competition? One in which home cooks are judged for extensive skills in all their normal tricky kitchen manoeuvres? In this kind of competition, we could have rounds on (disturbingly) real-life situations. Here are my ten top suggestions:

  1. A week’s worth of packed lunches for a family of five – creating and delivering the lunches, and responding to customer feedback
  2. Providing healthy post-match snacks for your son’s or daughter’s football team
  3. Laying on a celebration buffet for 20 people including your mother-in-law, three children, a vegan, and someone who is gluten-intolerant
  4. Three items for a fundraiser at the local school
  5. Menu for a street party
  6. Consolation supper for a failed driving test
  7. New resolution weekday suppers following a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes
  8. Birthday picnic for 12
  9. A meal which has to be prepared in advance and served within 30 minutes of arrival home, following a special event such as your stepdaughter’s first stage appearance
  10. Team challenge: a wedding breakfast for 50 people at a budget of £4 per head

2016-06-20 11.05.32.jpgWhy would this kind of approach make good viewing? Firstly, because everyone should have the enjoyment of good food as a regular part of life, and most of us can’t afford to pay for it outside the home. Secondly, because lots of people don’t know how to cook nowadays, and we need a bit of relevant inspiration. And thirdly, because it’s important to be in control of what we put into our bodies.

Finally though – because it’s a joy to get your sleeves up and lay on a bit of a spread, be it ever so modest; and it’s great to develop your skills and have them recognised.

Saliha, good luck with your ambition to combine your medical experience and training with the redesign of the British diet. It would be absolutely fantastic to breathe new vigour – drama, even – into the drive to reduce childhood (and other) obesity.



P1020464After a wet week we had a glorious Saturday – just what you need for an open-air music festival. Now I’ve never been to T in the Park or any other music festival for that matter and I imagine this one – at Newport-on-Tay – was a wee toty bairn in the festival family. It took place in the car park of the Newport Hotel, which faces right onto the river (or maybe it’s really the sea at this point). Who would have thought there would be room for such a thing in this space? Although it’s such a gorgeous wee site that it’s wasted on car parking. As you stood and watched the bands playing, you could see the RNLI lifeboat racing up and down the river behind.

I was watching the Black Cat Jook Band strutting their stuff and eyeing the Pulled Pork P1020454stall when a familiar body parted the crowd, bearing trays of – well, pulled pork probably – and strode down to the sea wall. I had a tremor of celebrity recognition … I knew I’d seen him before … it was the 2014 Masterchef winner who, as you may remember, came from St Andrews. I remember being xenophobically proud to have a local lad – and a rather bumbling and shy one at that – winning out over all those smooth Southerners. So now I’ve checked on Google and sure enough – Jamie Scott now has his own restaurant – The Newport.

Saturday’s festival wouldn’t have been any kind of culinary challenge for Jamie and in fact the only food obviously on offer (music and beer being the main point) was the rolls stuffed with pulled pork, as previously spotted. The Troubadour eschews eating ‘anything with a face’ so I asked about vegetarian options and of course there was one (so why didn’t they advertise it?) – aubergines and tomato on flatbreads. We had one of each and there was a certain grumbling about the lack of implement for eating the veggie option (none was needed for the pork as it was all snugly wrapped up in the roll). In itself it was tasty but maybe pitta would have made it easier to balance with your beer while you applauded the bands. On the stall there was a tasting menu which looked intriguing and would be well worth returning for. I liked the way all the provender was identified by its place of origin – including ‘Newburgh Chicken’ – I didn’tP1020462 know there was such a thing, and will cause enquiries to be made.

Anyway the festival was great fun and really family-friendly, with the glass walls of the restaurant thrown open to let in the sun. And the music was fantastic. Big congrats to the organisers and I hope there’s another one next year.