Archive | February, 2011

Masterchef goes X Factor

17 Feb

Welcome to Boot Camp

What do we think of the new format of MasterFactor? Sorry, Masterchef. The cult cooking show has changed. The pesky producers have meddled and turned an interesting, insightful hour of cooking into commercial cringe. And it’s brilliant.

I tuned in a few minutes late last night and joined proceedings with cockney carpenter James strolling into the studio with his three burley mates. The familiar voiceover asked “will James have what it takes to impress the judges.” Probably, given that you’ve gone to the effort of filming his friends in such a cheesy manner. As the episode unfolded I was then presented with a mum of three who came “all the way” from Kent (love it!) only to get two ‘nos’ and fall into the arms of her awaiting loved one amidst sobs of tears, whilst Gregg and John looked on emotionally.

My rant is running away with me, so just to recap for those of you who aren’t aware: We have a new ‘audition’ phase of Masterchef, whereby wannabe contestants cook a dish of their choice with the last ten minutes of the meal prepared in front of Gregg and John, who then do the taste test. Two yes’ and you’re in, two nos and you’re out. Divide the panel and you get a ‘lifeline,’ a chance to come back, cook again and hopefully change the offending judges’ mind.

So now the hour-long show consists of: interviews with loved ones waiting in the wings; cheesy, emotional music and newsworthy back stories with less than likely Michelin-star candidates (poor Terry from Northumberland joined the army instead of pursuing his love of food when he left school as his family couldn’t afford a set of knives. I actually felt sorry for him.) Last night I even saw Gregg wipe away a cheeky tear when it all got a bit much. All sounds a bit familiar doesn’t it?

So, I can only imagine that next up it’s judges houses. A long weekend chez Torrode or chez Wallace would be brilliant. I’d have my fingers crossed for chez Wallace if it were me – pudding eating and shouting? My favourites!


Coke’s secret is out

15 Feb


This is a difficult thing for me to say, so I’m just going to come out with it. My name is Julia Round and I am addicted to Diet Coke. There, I’ve said it. I don’t know what it is but that stuff can get me through a day at work with a smile on my face!

So, I was pretty pleased when I saw in this morning’s papers that the closely guarded recipe for Coca-Cola has finally been revealed. Rumour has it that the 130-year old recipe has been kept under 24-hour guard in a vault in Atlanta, Georgia. But, what the top dogs at Coke failed to keep under wraps was a photograph on page 2 of the local paper in Coca-Cola’s home town, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, dating back to Feb 18th 1979 which shows a handwritten page of recipes from a pharmacists notebook. The pharmacist in question is John Pemberton, Coca-Cola’s inventor who starting selling the drink at drug stores in the US.

It’s not taken much to fight the urge to try to recreate the stuff in my own kitchen. Sounds like a complicated and messy process! Ingredients include; caramel, citric acid, lime juice, cinnamon and coriander. Added to which, the task would be almost impossible given that one of the ingredients, fluid extract of coca, is not simple to get hold of. It’s basically coca leaves which have had cocaine stripped from them (is this why I am so hooked?!) Interestingly, Coca-Cola has an arrangement with the Drug Enforcement Administration in the US which allows the importation of these leaves and only one factory in the country is allowed to process them.

So, for the time being I’ll stick to buying my regular fix, but whilst researching this Coke dilemma, I came across another way to get my daily dose of Diet Coke. Check out this recipe for Diet Coke chocolate cake. Bit of an oxymoron if you ask me – just like when I order a DC with a quarter pounder and cheese at the McDonald’s drive-though! Let me know if you’ve given it a go!

Jamie’s not quite 30 minute meals

7 Feb

Don’t get me wrong, I love Jamie Oliver and his latest book 30 Minute Meals is my new favourite. The tapas recipe is particularly spectacular. However, we’ve had a number of debates in the office about these culinary delights being possible to create in half an hour so this weekend I decided to set the stop watch (well, keep an eye on the microwave timer) and put this to the test.

Being a Friday night I set to work on his recipe for Cheats Pizza which I was pretty nervous about having never made a pizza from scratch before. I’ll not repeat the recipe here, but do check it out and give it a go, the results are fab. The whole process from start to finish took me 64 minutes, worth the wait – but certainly not the half hour breeze I was promised. For your benefit I will outline here some of the challenges which Jamie did not foresee:

1. Making a very sticky dough in the blender and needing to clean out this stickiness in full in order to be able to use the blender again to make the tomato topping

2. Your kind-hearted but heavy-handed other half actually breaking your beloved blender trying to clean it because the dough is so sticky

3. Digging out receipt and warranty for said blender to be able to make pleading phone call to blender company in the morning

4. Flipping the pizza base in the frying pan is a two-man job and takes a while after a few Friday wines – I’d say this added at least 8 minutes

With these hurdles out of the way I then set to work on the ‘super simple’ salads and accompaniments which are delicious, but I guarantee Mr Oliver has an army of choppers and slicers to help with his prep which a normal girl from Leeds just doesn’t have.

That aside, the pizza was yummy and I’ll be trying it out again just as soon as I get my blender fixed.

My delicious pizza