Cooking back through time

One of the best things about Christmas is getting a new supply of cookbooks.
It’s a safe bet for anyone not sure what to get me because I appreciate new or old, traditional or exotic – there’s always space on my bookshelf for more recipe inspiration.
This year’s generous haul is no exception with Turkish cuisine and a world of curries among the treats waiting to be cooked up but nestling there I also found a Masterchef book from 1993.
I’m not sure I’d realised the BBC cook off programme had been going for quite so long and flicking back through this volume is like looking into a domestic history annul as the chef Loyd Grossman notes in the forward to the book.
“I “modestly” feel that MasterChef is the best and most entertaining programme about food that’s ever been broadcast in Britain, but I also have a hunch that in the future it will be prized as a social document and a witness to the years when Great Britain fell in love with food, “ he says.
“I’ve always liked to think that MasterChef has tried to break down some of the misconceptions about food that exist in Britain, including ideas that good food has anything to do with class, money. Pretention or, indeed, gender”.
And despite being 15 years old, the menus featured still have a fresh feel to them with dishes you’d certainly find familiar in neighbourhood restaurants up and down the country.
Unusually one of the northern finalists, Juliette Forden from Durham, created a vegetarian feast, the centre piece of which was a celebration nut roast en croute.
The regional section was eventually won by Sheffield nurse Rachel Southall with her medley of mushrooms in filo pastry, halibut escalopes and pears sauternes.
The final northerner Timothy Stokes from Harrogate did what sounded like a sumptuous roast lamb with garlic and redcurrant.
And the 1993 programme was the first time the contest had been won by a man with Derek Johns being judged by Michel Roux and Sir John Harvey-Jones as having the winning dishes with pasta with globe artichoke, rosettes of turbot and thin crust apple and mango tart.
The judges noted that they hoped this would be the first of many male winners and looked forward to seeing many more vegetarian offerings in future programmes.
So did 1993 mark the time “Britain fell in love with food” with menus becoming more health conscious and men battling their way into the kitchen?
Or are we still having the same health, quality, gender debates today?


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