My first thought, I have to confess, was, Do I want to cook like Heston? I’ve never eaten in a Heston Blumenthal restaurant and while there’s no way I’d refuse an offer if someone said they’d take me, I’d be slightly wary having watched some of his more outrageous cookery programmes. I’m quite classic in my style and enjoyment of cooking, hence my love for Italian and French food, but there’s no doubt, Heston is exciting. And most of the cooks I’ve interviewed in my Top Ten Cookery Books series have hailed him as a genius.
In this new series, Heston is cooking at home and focusing on one ingredient a week – this first programme was beef. Well, of course, Heston cooking at home is going to be nothing like the cooking most of us do in our kitchens. But immediately, I was captured by his passion and enthusiasm, which is infectious. And he’s a great chef to watch: relaxed, funny and entertaining.
As always, he completely overturns our expectations and backs up his methods and ideas with science. Science wasn’t my strong point at school, but even I can be won over and compelled by his arguments. Like, why to keep turning the steak as you cook it whereas I’d always thought to not turn it too much. If I can remember to salt my mince four hours ahead of preparation the next time I make beefburgers, I liked his explanation of why this tenderizes the meat. And the chilli con carne looked sensational. I also like that he and another guy stood by a life-size plastic cow and chalked on markings to show where each cut of beef comes from and explained why it has more or less taste, and why it was best to cook that particular cut quickly on a high heat or very slowly on a low heat.
If you’re any way serious about cooking, then it really does help to understand why certain things happen. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, but once you understand a process you won’t forget it, and afterwards there will be things you never do again – or always do.
Heston’s cooking isn’t about cosy meals with friends in front of a log fire – though he does eat with people in the programme and they look suitably happy and friendly and are obviously impressed by it. Heston’s cooking is about thinking differently; it’s about not doing the same old thing with that steak, or egg, or whatever, time and time again. It’s about challenging yourself because his programmes are about him challenging himself to get the best from his ingredients; he’s constantly striving to do better, to find out more and reach perfection. And even if it still isn’t quite what you’d do in your kitchen, I bet it will excite you to do something new and think differently. And that is always a good thing.
What a great new series – and I’m not going to miss a single programme!