Thursday, 22 April 2010

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Loyd Grossman Spicy Italian Salami with Smoked Chilli Al Forno Potato Bake


Loyd 'Where's my other L gone?' Grossman is affectionately remembered as the co-host of Through the Keyhole, alongside David Frost, in which Loyd would show us around a celebrity's house, before the home and studio audience would be shown it belonged to someone like Geoff Capes, and then a panel of nobody celebrities, humourists and Kriss Akabusi would try to determine whose house it was, with the studio audience applauding any correct nugget of information. Oftentimes we'd get this......

Panel member: "Clearly we're talking about a man."
Audience: no response.
Panel member: "Or woman?"
Audience: rapturous applause.

That's some positively Holmesian deduction right there. When they had realised it was Geoff Capes, Geoff Capes would then come out for an intense grilling by David. Incidentally, I'm pretty sure Frost/Capes is in the pipeline, with Michael Clarke Duncan set to play the otherwise inimitable Geoff.

I once watched a whole week's episodes of Through the Keyhole, where every day one of the houses belonged to a former Baywatch cast member. Having ascertained that the owner was not only an 'actor' but also 'athletic', the panel would soon namecheck Baywatch before inevitably asking "It's not Pamela Anderson/David Hasselhoff, is it?" And of course it bloody wasn't. Pamela's house would be too familiar because we've all seen inside it before, while as for the Hoff, I think the guy who single-handedly brought down the Berlin Wall is going to be a little too busy, don't you?

After Loyd left Through The Keyhole in 2003, he was replaced by a succession of women of decreasing suitability, but this was missing the point. Loyd was Through The Keyhole. The show began as a regular feature on TV-am in which he would describe a celebrity by looking round their house, without knowing who's house it was. It's clear then that he brought intelligence and knowledge to his role. That and a Boston-transplanted-to-England accent that we all loved to have a stab at.

It's in that midatlantic accent that we inevitably read the description on the label for this potato bake...

"Inspired by traditional Italian wood-fired oven cooking, this deliciously smoky Al Forno sauce adds a great kick to a roast potato bake."

It's nice to see this in quotation marks, it makes it feel like Loyd really said it. Beside it, Loyd looks pensively at some garlic. This perplexed me at first. Surely he should be looking at some salami or chillies, these being the key ingredients inside the jar. But then I thought, it's good that he's thinking hard about the garlic, it implies he's thought hard about every little detail when it comes to this product.

When I made the bake, it didn't look overly exciting on the plate, but this may be down to my poor presentation skills, and the fact that I didn't top it with either the grated cheese or optional breadcrumbs as per the recipe. What can I say, I'm a maverick. That or cheap. I liked the prevailing smoky flavour, though that was no major surprise as Loyd mentions this in the description, and it went down really well with a bit of garlic bread.

Let's look at the evidence. The roast potatoes. The spicy Italian salami. The smoked chilli sauce. Who'd eat a meal like this? David, it's over to you.

Loyd Grossman: 8/10
Potato Bake: 7.5/10
Total: 15.5/20

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins


Barry Norman is most famous for being the host of BBC's Film programme for over 25 years before Jonathan Ross took over in 1998. Here's a good Jonathan Ross joke:

Jonathan Ross was arrested for stealing a kitchen utensil from Tesco. When questioned by police, he said that he'd felt it was a whisk worth taking.

When Wossy decided to leave the BBC recently, many wondered who would take over presenting the Film programme. Some people suggested Charlie Brooker should host (which was wrong). He said he wasn't the right person for it (which was right), and joined many others in saying that Mark Kermode should do it (which was wrong). Kermode then said that he wasn't the right person for it (which was right). Brooker is primarily a TV and video games critic, and if he hosted Film 2010, he'd have less time to do the stuff that the people who suggested him loved him for, the idiots. As for Kermode, it was not, as he cited, his having a less mainstream taste that made him unsuitable, but rather the fact that he'd hate interviewing anyone who isn't Jason Isaacs or Billy Friedkin.

So instead they went for Claudia Winkleman, and hundreds of people were left crying into their copies of Empire, Total Film and that magazine you get for free in Cineworld that tells you that every film is amazing. Those people were massively mistaken since Winkleman is not exactly filling the vacant seat - her appointment signals a format change: Winkleman will host with 'cinema experts' (read: film critics) in to discuss the latest releases. Thus Kermode will probably be on the show from time-to-time anyway. I object to Winkleman only on the grounds that her orange visage will constantly have me reaching for the remote to adjust the colour settings. Just thank the lords that they didn't go for Alex Zane.

Anyway, I digress. To be honest I was too young/not alive to offer reasonable judgement on Barry Norman's reign with the Film reins, so I shall have to look at his top 10 films from the last Sight & Sound Top Ten poll (2002):

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, 1925)
Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938)
Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
La R├Ęgle du jeu (Jean Renoir, 1939)
The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
Singin' in the Rain (Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen, 1952)
Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)


It's all a bit obviously, well, film critic-y isn't it, Barry? Four of those films were in the Critics' Top Ten. A bit more outside the box please! You may note that the poll is from 8 years ago, but given that he seems to have decided at the beginning of the '60s that no new film is going to break into his sacred top ten, I expect that if he is asked for a list for the next poll in 2012, he'll submit a note saying only "See 2002".

Anyway, Barry's company is called PickleODEON foods. Brilliant. I'll give a whole point just for that. On the lid of the jar of Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins it says...

Barry Norman never buys pickles. By a mixture of trial and error, 19th century recipes handed down from his grandmother and expert advice, he concocts for himself the ones he really likes. He's pretty sure you'll enjoy them too.

Firstly, I'm a bit disappointed that Barry is referred to in the third person. A direct quote from him would add a nice personal touch. Secondly, I infer from this that if Barry Norman doesn't buy pickles, then perhaps none of use should. If this is intended, it's not good for business, but it's nice of him to share his recipe with those of us who are too lazy to concoct their own.

Now, I'm not a big expert on pickles or gherkins, but when I get a burger from McDonald's, I'm a leave it in kind of guy. Barry's pickles are a reasonable snack, the spice gives it a nice little kick, but they're a little too vinegary to have more than one at a time.

Here's my main problem with them though. On the front Barry is holding a clapper board, which says at the bottom "Scene: Spicy!" and "Sound: Crunchy." I've no problem with the spicy part (though I'm not sure why this earns an exclamation mark), but crunchy is not the sort of sound I'd like to hear when watching a film, particularly the films Barry lists in his top 10. It's unfortunate in this regard then that Barry is a film critic, because another celebrity would not be marked down for this.

Barry Norman: 6/10
Pickled Gherkins: 6/10
Total: 12/20

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome

For my birthday recently, I received a gift from my friends Joel and Liv. Opening it from the bottom, it appeared to be a jar of pickled gherkins. My emotions quickly moved from bemusement to worriment - I was going to have to feign enthusiasm for this in front of a group of people. It turned out that they were indeed pickled gherkins, but not just any pickled gherkins. They were Barry Norman Pickled Gherkins. Knowing that I am a fan of cinema, they thought I would appreciate this. And appreciate it I did.

Over time I pondered whether I would actually eat the gherkins - when it comes to pickles/gherkins, I can't say I'm a huge fanatic, nor am I a naysayer. I came to the idea that I would eat the gherkins. Furthermore I would eat other products endorsed by celebrities, and review them. That is, review both the celebrity and the product, rating each out of 10 (for a grand total out of 20).

I'm not sure if this idea has much legs, so this is an open invitation for suggestions/recommendations. A few rules though. I'll try to steer clear of celebrity chefs, so it won't be a procession of Jamie Olivers, Gordon Ramsays and (cyclist-bothering) James Martins. The same goes for people who are famous because of their product, e.g. Levi Roots. I will end up reviewing some celebrities more than once - most endorse a range of products, and I don't think I can condense all I have to say about Loyd Grossman into one post. Finally, the degree of endorsement may vary - some, like Barry Norman, may have had a role in developing the product itself, while some may have just lent their image to the packaging. At the very least they or their name must appear on the packaging.

So join me on this journey, from the world of celebrity into my kitchen, and I dedicate these endeavours to Joel and Liv, for setting me on this path in the first place.