In our house, when the sun goes down, the dinner plates are cleared, and the kids are safely tucked into their beds, there is one important ritual left.
With a soothing glass of red in one hand and something sweet and crumbly in the other, my husband and I settle into our sofa to watch the latest episode of our favourite cooking shows.
This genre has genuinely taken the world by storm, and many of the best shows have astronomical ratings. It has become something of an obsession in our family, so I thought I would break it down a little to try and give some insight into why we, like so many others, are completely obsessed with these delightful shows:
The dream kit
One of the best things about watching these people cook is seeing the incredible array of equipment that they use. The finest quality cookware sets, stunning appliances of every size and shape, gorgeous utensils and all manner of cooking paraphernalia are all at the contestant’s fingertips. Once I’ve gotten past my insane envy, it gets me dreaming about how I can kit out my own kitchen. While I don’t exactly have the kind of budget that would allow for quite that level of sophistication, with some savvy online research I’ve been slowly but surely building my armoury of tools to help take my cooking to the next level.
Ingredients for success
Many of the challenges involve the use of ingredients I have barely even heard of, let alone utilized in my home. Exotic foods such as Jerusalem artichoke, fennel, Japanese matcha tea, quail eggs, yuzu, cep mushrooms and other delights had not exactly featured heavily in my repertoire. Many of these are hard to find, however, when I do get my hands on them, it is wonderful to try out the new flavours, and textures and my family love the results!
A perfect match
In addition to the ingredients themselves, in many cases, it’s the combinations that provide the greatest fascination and inspiration. Under the pressure of competition, the contestants frequently push the boundaries to pair the most unlikely of ingredients in imaginative ways that leave me salivating and inspired. It’s prompted me to get more creative with my own creations. Occasionally this results in unmitigated disaster. However, it’s frequently resulted in stunning gastronomic experiences.
A matter of technique
Even the most common of ingredients can take on fresh life when you apply new techniques to them. One of the joys of these programs is seeing how the contestants can cook one ingredient in such a wide variety of ways, many of which you may never have considered. Whether it’s poaching sous vide, applying the blow torch to get a perfect sear, smoking, pickling, or achieving the perfect en glaze I simply love seeing innovative methods of preparing familiar foods.
There is nothing more mind-blowing than seeing some of the amazing ways that dishes are presented for judging. The incredible thought and care that go into the plating constantly astounds me and leaves me agape with admiration. Presentation is probably my greatest weakness as a cook, and I strive heartily to try to match the delicate beauty that these people can achieve with the dishes that they prepare. I have a long way to go before I get anywhere near that level, but it’s a delicious challenge that I’m relishing.