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Blumenthal: In Search of Perfection


tony h
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No way was that burger "two fingers" thick by the time they'd finished with it- two hands would have been closer.

Quite an interesting show I thought, but why go to that immense time and trouble grinding your own burger meat and laying it out a particular way as it comes through the machine; spending 3 months (3 'ucking months!!!) finding a suitable bun recipe and creating home made cheese slices and tomato sauce, only to use crappy jarred mayo, squeezy mustard and iceberg lettuce with no explanation why. It undermines the whole process in my view.

If you're going to ask viewers to suspend disbelief for 30 minutes and go with the idea that, for example, a tv crew really needs to spend licence fee money on traveling to New York in order to cook a burger then you've at least got to maintain the internal logic for the duration of the programme.

If you're going to  go to Holland to discover if Heston's bites of a burger are the same size each time (as Heston's mouth stays the same size throughout the eating process I reckon there's a bloody good chance that he might) then you've really got to explain why you've ended up with a gigantic burger when you we're aiming for a much slimmer one. Maybe the programme makers should watch a couple of episodes of Mythbusters to see how well popular science can be done.

Surely, if you follow this logic though, you end up in the kind of self-flagellating knot in which the BBC is tying itself over 'viewer trust'.

The show is an entertaining half an hour precisely because the bits they shot about making mayo and choosing the lettuce (with the precise note of crunch which triggered feelings of mild euphoria in lab mice) were judged either too boring or too much. You could make a show with all the ends tied up which explained everything, in real time, including the boring bits and the failures but no one would watch it.

What's most entertaining about watching the Beeb disappearing up their collective fundament about 'trust' is that everyone from programme maker to the most debased, knuckle-dragging punter is aware that entertainment is about pretending, about the suspension of disbelief. It's equally important to understand that since Eisenstein made his first jump cut, editing has been about prioritising and making decisions that substantially alter the material gathered. All editing is licensed lying.

Heston's show might be badly cut: loose ends might be apparent which, with more time, money and effort might have been tidied up, but it doesn't prove or disprove any idea or agenda he might have. In the end, it can only really be judged by asking questions like 'did I enjoy that?' or 'would I be better off watching celebrity dancing next week?'

I rather enjoyed it.

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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Probably just a footnote on this discussion but it's worthwhile drawing attention to Jack O'Shea, the butcher HB worked with on this week's BBC2 programme.

He is a dedicated professional craftsman who has had one of the best high-end butchers in Brussels for some years (3 rue Le Titien, near Schumann), putting enormous effort into sourcing prime dry aged beef, organic pork, lamb from salt marshes, seaweed fed organic chickens, etc.

About 18 month ago, he opened a second shop in London at 11 Montpelier Street (near Harrods) carrying essentially the same stock. That Blumenthal works with him is sufficient confirmation of his seriousness - but he is also a charming and creative guy who has worked hard for his success.

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It's equally important to understand that since Eisenstein made his first jump cut, editing has been about prioritising and making decisions that substantially alter the material gathered. All editing is licensed lying.

Heston's show might be badly cut: loose ends might be apparent which, with more time, money and effort might have been tidied up, but it doesn't prove or disprove any idea or agenda he might have. In the end, it can only really be judged by asking questions like 'did I enjoy that?' or 'would I be better off watching celebrity dancing next week?'

I rather enjoyed it.

A montage of detractions :biggrin:

I really enjoyed the programme too and it made me feel so, so hungry. That burger looked amazing. Love the way he did a slimmer bun (which I think is generally a waste of calories and appetite) and I reckon it did make the two-finger height objective once you work in the scrunch factor.

I thought the point about turning the burger over frequently when it's being cooked was very interesting, I'd never heard this before (always, leave the food alone, don't mess with it), but his point made sense.

I'm lovin' it.

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I thought the point about turning the burger over frequently when it's being cooked was very interesting, I'd never heard this before (always, leave the food alone, don't mess with it), but his point made sense.

This came from Harold McGee and is in his book somewhere on how to cook steak perfectly; allows you to get the maillard reaction on the outside whilst leaving the inside rare.

This programme is infinitely more interesting than most of the crap cooking programmes that the BBC is putting out. I would rather watch Heston make a burger than have to listen to Nigella Lawson go on about how she's too lazy to prep/chop/make anything from scratch.

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Did you know that wife of multi-millionaire art dealer and mother of two Nigella is so busy, in such a rush that she doesn't even have time to take her coat of before she starts cooking! Imagine, what a life she must lead! And then, guess what? Only the creative director of the BBC turns up unannounced for supper - and she's got virtually nothing in her corner shop-sized pantry to give him!

Despite having slipped through a hole in time and space and landed up in the middle of a 1970's sitcom, she uses all her culinary creativity and whips up a tray bake of haloumi and sausage and everyone laughs. Hurrah! It was so easy, so effortless, so express!!!

And then a girlfriend rings up and invites herself round for Saturday lunch and Nigella has only got a plain old chicken. What can she do!! Its just a chicken - she can't give a girlfriend just chicken, are you completely mental!!

Luckily she has this fab recipe for golden dressing. Making a dressing? But won't that mean more dull old washing up? No, because you make it in a three quarters empty mustard jar. Brilliant. And if you haven't got a three quarters empty jar of mustard, just get a whole jar and throw three quarters of it away - brilliant!!

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...And then a girlfriend rings up and invites herself round for Saturday lunch and Nigella has only got a plain old chicken. What can she do!! Its just a chicken - she can't give a girlfriend just chicken, are you completely mental!! etc...

Andy that's very funny! :biggrin:

I must say I also am enjoying the second series. By necessity a lot of things can't be covered in an half hour program or are covered too briefly but at least there is some intelligence being utilised in perfecting things and questioning received opinions.

One aspect of the program that niggles me slightly is when they make the perfect burger, tikka etc. whatever they don't give a final view on how it tastes. But that is just nit-picking.

Overall this program is miles ahead of most of the other food related programs out there.

Go, Heston, Go...

Edited by joesan (log)
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Did you know that wife of multi-millionaire art dealer and mother of two Nigella is so busy, in such a rush that she doesn't even have time to take her coat of before she starts cooking! Imagine, what a life she must lead! And then, guess what? Only the creative director of the BBC turns up unannounced for supper - and she's got virtually nothing in her corner shop-sized pantry to give him!

Despite having slipped through a hole in time and space and landed up in the middle of a 1970's sitcom, she uses all her culinary creativity and whips up a tray bake of haloumi and sausage and everyone laughs. Hurrah! It was so easy, so effortless, so express!!!

And then a girlfriend rings up and invites herself round for Saturday lunch and Nigella has only got a plain old chicken. What can she do!! Its just a chicken - she can't give a girlfriend just chicken, are you completely mental!!

Luckily she has this fab recipe for golden dressing. Making a dressing? But won't that mean more dull old washing up? No, because you make it in a three quarters empty mustard jar. Brilliant. And if you haven't got a three quarters empty jar of mustard, just get a whole jar and throw three quarters of it away - brilliant!!

:laugh::laugh::laugh:

If you think that's bad, read the profile in the new Esquire. The same nauseating, 'I'm just one of the girls' schtick, now with added cheeky porn.

According to Nigella, "I know men like the whole strappy thing of suspenders. I've worn them with nothing but a pair of shoes in bed..." But she also casually reveals her inherent all-sisters-under-the-skin authenticity.... her fat bits bulge out over the top. So - and here we witness the rhetorical conceit that will hereinafter be referred to as the Lawson Bait-and-Switch - she prefers "those over-the-knee French schoolgirl socks".

There you go, ladies and gentlemen... one of the finest foodwriters operating in the UK today.

If you have dinner left to lose, prepare to barf it now.

Edited by Tim Hayward (log)

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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I just made them blumenthal burgers.

Fuck me, nicest burger I've had in ages. If I hadn't used the last of the tommy K (er, I mean Tomato Compote) I'd have another. 3. give or take.

Now, do I make the cheese slices or should I stick to Asda economy brand?

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Sadly not, my kitchen ceiling just fell through and everything is now covered in water - my priorities changed somewhat at that point! Hooray for dodgy plumbers :(

I will try and take a pick another time, the recipe makes a ton of meat, and it's all gone in the freezer :(

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  • 2 weeks later...

I picked the book up from WHSmiths t'other day, and I'm about half way through it.

I don't know if I prefer it to the first book or not, simply because I love both of them, and the concept behind them.

So far I've made the burgers and they really blew me away, they were fantastic. I think I'm going to go for the chilli next, albeit after I order lots of dried chillis online as they aren't possible to get up here in sunny Stoke.

The book is highly recommended, just like the first. In fact, I'm making his "perfect roast chicken" this weekend!

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Whered the programme go guys? I didn't remember seeing it last week, then realised it was autumnwatch. Its not on this week either. I was enjoying it as well, i've been reduced to Ramsays knobbers on a tuesday now. Pah.

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Whered the programme go guys? I didn't remember seeing it last week, then realised it was autumnwatch. Its not on this week either. I was enjoying it as well, i've been reduced to Ramsays knobbers on a tuesday now. Pah.

All of the "normal" BBC2 programmes between 8PM and 9PM - Heston, Nigella etc - are on hold while Autumnwatch is on.

Heston will be back on 20th November.

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Evening all.

Being as I've just come in to a fantastic chicken from wellhungmeat.com, I thought it might be a good time to try the recipe from the first series, "Perfect Roast Chicken and Roast Potatoes".

Just to preface, I have no camera abilities at all, so apologies for the blurry photos!

Roast Chicken & Potatoes

The day before..

The recipe is started the day before you want to cook the bird.

Start by making a simple brine solution for your chicken. Take a large saucepan or stockpot, and put in your chicken. Measure how much water it takes to cover it, take out the chicken, and add 8% of the water's weight in salt. As a rough guide, and adequate for a brine, 500ml of water weighs 500grammes, so its easy to work it out.

Bring the water and salt solution to a boil, then leave to go cool.

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Add your chicken (with the wings, leg tips and wishbone removed) to the cold solution and leave for 6 hours.

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After 6 hours, remove the bird and soak in fresh, non-salted water for an hour. Then, take the bird out, and place into boiling water for a minute. Remove (for the last time!) and dry with paper towels. Place in the fridge to dry overnight.

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On the day...

Pull the chicken out of the fridge to warm up to room temperature. Set the oven to circa 65degrees Celcius and leave to warm up for 30 minutes.

In the meantime, chop your brocolli into equal pieces

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Put it into boiling salter water for 1 minute, then into ice-cold water. It can stay in the ice water until you are ready to serve the bird.

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Make a gravy for your bird by frying a carrot, onion, a couple of cloves of garlic, the chicken wings and tips and some herbs. Add a little chicken stock and simmer for an hour or so. Strain and leave to cool.

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Time to put the chicken in. The chicken, with a probe thermometer, has to reach 60 degrees internally before being removed from the oven. This will take between 4 and 6 hours hours, and when it come out, it will still look raw. Leave it to rest, covered in tin-foil for an hour.

gallery_30769_5376_5071.jpg

Time for the roasts. The only potato that this works with that is worth the effort, is Maris Piper.

Take your potatoes, take off the peel and chop into quaters. Reserve the peelings and tie them in a muslin sheet and add all of them into boiling salted water.

gallery_30769_5376_22474.jpg

After about 15 minutes, take them out and let them dry. Whilst they are drying, turn the oven to 200 degrees, and place a roasting try with olive oil in it to warm up inside. Add the potatoes and give them a toss around to coat them, then stick them in the oven for 40 minutes, turning every 15 mins.

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After 40 minutes, add 3 cloves of garlic and a big bunch of rosemary and give it 10 more minutes.

Make a beurre manie to thicken your sauce; mix equal parts butter and flour in some clingfilm and put to one side. When the sauce is strained and ready, mix in chunks of this and whisk while the sauce boils and it will thicken nicely.

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Chop up your carrots and braise them in a knob of butter and a pinch of salt in a covered pan. Add NO water at all. They need about 30 minutes.

When every is approaching being ready, heat a saucepan up with a slick of oil till smoking hot. Add your chicken and fry it on each side for 3 minutes to crisp and colour the skin.

Carve the bird, assemble the sides, and enjoy perfect roast chicken!

gallery_30769_5376_3856.jpg (apologies for the crap picture, my daughter was moaning she wanted to eat!)

Overall:

A lot of work, no doubt about it, but it's very methodical and slow, no rushing "a la minute" style cooking, which suites a sunday roast!

The chicken is fabulous, the most succulent, juiciest you can imagine. Also, supprisingly, Blumenthal's way of cooking carrots is outstanding, perfectly sweet and reaffirms my disdain for boiling them!

If I was to adapt this and use it all the time, I'd do a couple of things differently. I'd take off the legs of the bird and use them elsewhere as I wasn't keen on them, I like them falling-apart tenderness, and there was slightly too much resistance for me. I'd also make the gravy the day before as it would easily keep in the fridge.

Overall? excellent recipe, like everything else from the book. Just make sure you use the best bird you can afford. It should be noted that the bird remains pinkish around the bone, don't let that put you off.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I was just reading next week's Radio Times. On Wednesday 19th December BBC2 is showing Heston Blumenthal's Perfect Christmas and there's a writeup of this in the Radio Times (sadly so far as I can tell it isn't available online, so for those people outside the UK you'll have to make do with what the RT website says and my summary).

Heston makes a Christmas feast for Terry Wogan, Kirsty Wark, Dara O'Briain, Rob Brydon, Richard E Grant and Sue Perkins. The guests are given hot/cold mulled wine and 'Christmas baubles' filled with salmon mousse. His guests have no idea what to expect when a panel is removed to display the dining table, nestled within a Narnian Christmas tree forest. Despite Heston's best efforts, you'd probably struggle to make this at home: Terry Wogan not included.

The 8 course menu they are served includes such delights as 'Gold, frankincense and myrrh': langoustine, onion and vermouth free-dried stock cubes wrapped in gold leaf to look like gold bars and then at the table dissolved in frankincense water and stirred with a spoon carved from myrrh, and 'Hand-reared roast goose' fed on apple powder, Paxo stuffing and essential oil of Christmas tree accompanied by sherbet fountains made from the powdered goose feed with vanilla straws (of course the guests are not told in advance that they are eating the goose feed).

It all sounds totally surreal.

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  • 2 weeks later...
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