I would fondly like to imagine I could have been on Junior MasterChef, had it been around in the 70s. My copy of My learn to cook book had food splatters on many pages; not just the recipes for coconut ice and ice cream sundaes. I baked the family Christmas cake every year (I don’t think it ever got eaten. I’m not sure the icing was penetrable without the use of power tools). I even cooked the family roast in my teens. Best not to linger on the unmitigated disaster of the gravy though. Not worth the salt of my tears, to misappropriate a Norma Waterson line.
But chicken laksa? Goats’ cheese and caramelised onion tart? Smoked salmon risotto? None of that. Some of the youngsters on the new series of Junior Masterchef have been coached perhaps a little too much by eager family and friends.
The Junior series is based in the same kitchens as adult MasterChef but with a jolly makeover, involving brightly coloured stuff around the place, and beanbags instead of sofas for the contestants to sit on. John Torode is avuncular and cuddly. He begins by giving the young people a masterclass in making Toad in the Hole before letting them have a go at cooking it. He then judges their efforts with Nadia Sawalha, who has the remarkably perky, up-beat temperament of a crisp meringue.
They clearly create a positive environment, because the contestants cook well and seem really proud of their achievements, as indeed they should. No-one knocks their batter to the floor, as I would have done, or leaves out a key ingredient, like the time I omitted flour from chocolate-chip cookies, which essentially meant I made a sweet, chocolate oven omelette, that not even the dog would touch.
Thanks to Shine Ltd for pic of Amber
I was, however, shocked when Mr Torode told the contestants to prick their sausages before cooking them ‘so they don’t explode’. Rubbish! He clearly needs to watch a bit of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall or Nigel Slater to catch up a bit. Not the modern method at all – you only needed to do that with rubbish bangers full of cheap filler.
When the kids cooked their own dishes, it got a lot more fancy than Toad in the Hole. Except for Amber, who cooked food that seemed to fit her character and age better than some of the others. Amber, India Fisher tells us (yes, she’s still narrating) recently cooked up £800 at a Jewish charity fundraiser. She has a similar shape to me at her age and I really warmed to her. At one point she says earnestly to camera: “I needed to get my onions a bit more floppy” bless her. She cooked tasty fried potato latkas, lovely herby meatballs and a smashing looking chocolate, cream and raspberry roulade. Not fancy, but they require skill, and she clearly knows her way around the brightly coloured kitchen implements.
Anyway, they all did really well, but the lovely Amber won, which made my day.
Posted by Inkface