We’re tiring of Masterchef in all its incarnations, aren’t we? We’re exhausted by Gordon Ramsay shouting at Yanks in Kitchen Nightmares; we’ve been charmed by Lorraine Pascal’s brownies and Levi Roots’s chilli sauce and Mary Berry’s tarts and Paul Hollywood’s kneading skills – but don’t you wish someone had the courage to say: “That’s enough cookery shows for now, thanks!” What culinary niche can possibly still be unexplored? Which gastro-territory remains uncharted? Don’t ask. The BBC always has an answer – or, two.
The first is Pub Food. If you want your Sunday lunch to resemble the one in the Pig and Whistle, now’s your chance. Tom Kerridge’s Proper Pub Food will bring the secrets of the chalkboard to BBC2. Bald, beaming and bouncy, Kerridge cooks at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, where he’s picked up two Michelin stars. He promises to introduce us to “treacle-cured” roast beef and “ultimate” Yorkshire puddings, treats that practically scream for Michael Roux Jnr to come in and do his both-eyebrows-raised-in-consternation routine.
The same commissioning team (Alison Kirkham and BBC2 Controller Janice Hadlow) will launch a second show, whose niche or USP is Exotic Flavouring. Based on the proposition that there’s no traditional British dish that can’t be improved by “the versatility of spices and exotic ingredients,” The Incredible Spice Men: Todiwala and Singh aims to “reinvent” British home cooking.
Madhur Jaffrey was the first Indian to front a UK cookery show, in the 1980s, and the Nigella-esque Anjum Anand put in hours of saucy instruction on Anjum’s New Indian, but this is the first time Indian men have fronted a cookery show.
The co-hosts aren’t, however, that “exotic”. Cyrus Todiwala has run Café Spice Namaste (near Tower Bridge) for years and cooked a Anglo-Indian Raj dish called “Country Captain” for the Royal Jubilee last year.
Tony Singh is a fourth-generation Scot who’s run three restaurants in Edinburgh and picked up the Scottish Chef of the Year Award. Their brief isn’t to teach us Indian cooking, merely ways to use tamarind or fenugreek to make food more exciting. So – Pub Food and Indian Seasoning. Is either sufficiently niche to persuade you to stay home and watch TV?
Or would you enjoy yourself more at the Queen’s Head or the Star of Delhi?