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.
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:
- A week’s worth of packed lunches for a family of five – creating and delivering the lunches, and responding to customer feedback
- Providing healthy post-match snacks for your son’s or daughter’s football team
- Laying on a celebration buffet for 20 people including your mother-in-law, three children, a vegan, and someone who is gluten-intolerant
- Three items for a fundraiser at the local school
- Menu for a street party
- Consolation supper for a failed driving test
- New resolution weekday suppers following a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes
- Birthday picnic for 12
- 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
- Team challenge: a wedding breakfast for 50 people at a budget of £4 per head
Why 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.