Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: Blumenthal's new show a cracker

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Back-to-basics series a refreshing surprise while gentlemanly Stein dishes up worthy one-off blues special.

Heston Blumenthal. Photo / AP
Heston Blumenthal. Photo / AP

Anyone highly sensitive about the endless servings of food and cooking shows that fill our television screens should probably read no further. I've just had the unsettling experience of stumbling on two of those sorts of shows that I actually enjoyed.

I wasn't surprised about the new Rick Stein show, having always been a sucker for the veteran English cook's passionate perambulations, especially when he's pootling about overseas somewhere sticking his nose in other people's pots.

But Heston Blumenthal took me by complete surprise with his new series, which has the off-putting title of How to Cook Like Heston (TV One, Saturday, 8pm).

He's the last person I'd want to cook like, thanks very much - a bossy egghead with his food syringes and his dry ice, making chemistry of cookery with as much hocus-pocus as possible.

Blumenthal's pushier than a playground and flipping annoying with it, I reminded myself, the raving, arm-waving opposite of the mannerly Rick Stein.

But, with little else on offer, I thought I'd give bloody Blumenthal one last chance and took a look at his new show, which turned out to be rather good. And when I say rather good, I really mean very good.

Making an apparently serious attempt to live up to the promise of the title, Blumenthal sets out, in each episode, to teach us how to handle an essential cooking ingredient.

Which mightn't sound very exciting, except last Saturday's opening show was all about eggs and it was a cracker.

Enlisting the aid of a top notch TV-making team and the redoubtable ladies of the pretty English village he lives in, Blumenthal whizzed through the how-to-dos of cooking eggs - from boiled, through poached and Scotch, all the way to the almost-inevitable bacon and egg icecream.

Great fun and useful, if you want to know how to boil the perfect egg (low and slow) and even make the previously homely Scotch egg "sexy". Though sexy, in Blumenthal's world, is a weird thing.

Rick Stein, on the other hand, doesn't do sexy, though he got closer than he's ever been with Rick Stein Tastes the Blues (Prime, Sunday, 8.35pm), when the dear old thing almost suffered sensory overload deep in the Mississippi Delta weaving together his two big loves, food and the eternal music of the area, the blues.

If anything, the bias in this one-off special was to the music rather than the food, with a very expensive soundtrack (Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, the Rolling Stones) and live encounters with a new generation of ancient bluesmen like the marvellous Cadillac John and even a brief meet with one of the last of the originals, BB King.

There was soul food too and plenty of haunting landscape as Stein drifted between juke joints and smoky rib and deep-fried chicken places, babbling like a man in heaven.

Which he was. It's just a pity he couldn't get to taste the blues for a whole series.

Moving from the blues to something much darker, I caught the first episode, last night, of Ripper Street (UKTV, 8.30pm) and I'm hooked.

Set in the midst of the dodgy East London police force in the period following the unsolved Jack the Ripper murders, it has the ferocious filthy kick of that benchmark HBO series, Deadwood, but English of course and starring a compelling Matthew Macfadyen as a troubled lawman in pursuit of a new serial killer.

Not for the faint-hearted.

- NZ Herald

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