Monday, 15 October 2007

How to Cook the Perfect Roast Chicken in 473 Outlandishly Complicated Steps

Tommorow (Tuesday) night at 8:30 on BBC Two, a new series of Heston Blumenthal: In Search Of Perfection starts. It's the best cookery show ever. And if that sounds like I'm damning it with faint praise, I'm not. It truly is awesome. There's none of that food-can-be-easy, fresh-ingredients-cooked-simply, made-in-five-minutes lifestyle crap here. (I saw the latest Nigella Lawson show earlier today between University Challenge and Dragons' Den. She 'got a call' from a friend having man-troubles, conveniently while the cameras were rolling, so she invited here over for chocolate-chip cookies, which miraculously cured her emotional distress. Lucky these things happen to Nigella, or there'd only have been ten minutes of show. I don't know how they get away with it in these anti-fakery days.)

Heston Blumenthal every week takes one classic dish (tomorrow chicken tikka masala) and spends the whole half-hour striving to make a perfect version of it, using the twin powers of cookery and science. He works only under the two constraints: that what he makes must essentially remain the same dish, and must be able to be made at home. This second constraint is imposed purely for comedy value, because nobody is going to be able to follow these recipes at home. Last series, his black forest gateaux involved getting chocolate, melting it with groundnut oil (I-Spy Heston Blumenthal awards 10 point for spotting groundnut oil - it has no flavour, you know), putting it in an aerosol can, spraying it into a tupperware box with a pinhole put in it, stuffing this in one of those bags you suck all the air out of to compact your luggage, and being attached to a vacuum cleaner until the chocolate aerates. Having made seven other layers similarly, he piles it up and sprays the whole thing with more groundnutty chocolate from a paint gun. This is served up with kirsch (cherry liquer - it's not a proper black forest gateaux without it apparently) in an atomiser which you spray into the air prior to eating (15 points for something in an atomiser).

The fact that none of his recipes are remotely feasible for home use is the genius of the whole enterprise. How-to shows are all very good and useful, but they're rarely especially entertaining. What's always entertaining is watching people do things that we demonstrably can't do - whether it's prefessional sports or Jack Bauer saving the world from terrorists. If this post comes too late for you to rearrange your schedule and you miss it, do what Heston would do - use the power of science and head on over to where you can download it for free for a week. Hurrah!

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