Last Night's TV: I wish she'd made a proper meal of it

Delia, BBC2; White Girl, BBC2; The Fixer, ITV1

Those who believe in a wrathful god will find a simple explanation for the ferocious storms that have battered Britain these last 48 hours; indeed, Delia Smith's use of frozen mashed potato, in the first programme of her new series, Delia, might also have propelled the ravens from the Tower of London. The world suddenly seems upside-down.

Delia, I should add, occupies a firm place both on my bookshelf and in my heart. When I assume cooking responsibilities in our house, her Complete Cookery Course, a tome as well thumbed as Dr Billy Graham's bible, is still my first port of call. But now I feel as Dr Graham might if presented with conclusive evidence that there was no virgin birth. Not only frozen mash, but also tinned mince and ready-made cheese sauce! Why, why, why, Delia?

The series accompanies her new book, Delia's How to Cheat at Cooking, and is ostensibly for those who don't have the time to peel, chop or grate. Fair enough. Nigella Lawson, in the widely lampooned but functional Nigella Express, addressed a similar predicament. But by going the extra yard to the tinned-mince counter, Delia risks alienating her loyal constituency.

Maybe it all started with her famous "Let's be 'avin' you!" address to the crowd at Carrow Road, when, if not a little squiffy then certainly a little over-excited, she lapsed into estuary English to exhort the fans of her beloved Norwich City FC to get behind the team. This showed a side to her that was at odds with the prim schoolmarm of popular perception, and she obviously enjoyed the effect, because the clip was shown again last night. So could it be that she has now decided to go the whole hog, and similarly challenge our perception of her as a reliable, discerning cook? Because what she is doing with this series is akin to walking on to the pitch at Carrow Road and exhorting the fans to switch their support to Ipswich Town. Or to find a more culinary metaphor, she is mixing messages with a turbocharged Kenwood Chef. For years, she has encouraged us to reject what she is now preaching as gospel.

Besides, her justification for cheating doesn't stand up. If time is so much of the essence, then why even bother to make a shepherd's pie with tinned mince and frozen mash? Why not simply buy a ready meal and stick it in the microwave, or is she saving that idea for the next series? At any rate, supermarket executives must already be turning cartwheels at the prospect of Delia-enhanced profits, waiting for bags of salad leaves and pre-diced veg, which anyone with the slightest awareness of kitchen economy knows to be among the least cost-effective of foodstuffs, to start walking off the shelves simply because she has endorsed them.

Clearly, she is aware that she is presenting a controversial message, because the food writer Nigel Slater was ushered on to lend his support. He's a polite fellow, and plainly didn't want to upset his hostess, but it seemed to me that his support was on the under-cooked side of equivocal. The only person I know who might properly explain Delia's mission is my friend Rosie, who used to be a fashion writer on Vogue. When I questioned some of the more absurd Vivienne Westwood creations, she explained to me that the likes of Westwood don't expect women to walk down the street with one breast showing and wearing a purple top hat; fashion works by some of these more outré ideas filtering down in a more diluted way. Maybe that's Delia's scheme.

Whatever, having gorged myself on Delia I am left with little room to praise White Girl, a grim yet ultimately hopeful drama about an 11-year-old girl from Bradford who, saddled with an alcoholic mother and an abusive step-father, found solace in Allah. Wonderfully written by Abi Morgan – "Allah 'ad 99 names, were 'e fiddling 'is benefit too?" – and marvellously acted, especially by Holly Kenny as young Leah, it was more effective than any documentary at showing why someone without much of a life might embrace whatever religion happens to be available, which in the terraced streets of West Yorkshire tends to be Islam. Some of the previews dismissed White Girl as unconvincing: to me it seemed all too plausible.

The same cannot be said, alas, of ITV's daft new serial The Fixer, starring Andrew Buchan as John Mercer, an enigmatic killer who is sprung from jail by an enigmatic cop so that he can become a state-sanctioned assassin. Unfortunately, Buchan's way of playing enigmatic was to wear only one expression throughout, a look of slightly puzzled consternation, which in fairness was reproduced on our sofa. We couldn't understand why the enigmatic cop had paired Mercer with an accident-prone small-time crook called Calum (Jody Latham). Why team the Jackal with one half of the Chuckle Brothers? Like much of last night's telly, it made no sense.

b.viner@independent.co.uk

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

    Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

    In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
    Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

    How has your club fared in summer sales?

    Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
    Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

    'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

    Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
    The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

    The best swim shorts for men

    Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

    Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup