Wednesday morning arrived, and I climbed into the awaiting taxi. I declined breakfast knowing I was about to eat a full on roast and an American style Christmas courtesy of Matt Tebbutt and Christian Stephenson.
I decided, because of my hotel hopping, to rearrange my travel bags. I would leave my suitcase in the dressing room and just take me wash bag.
The dressing room was a small room with a fan, dressing rail, dressing table with lights round the mirror, shelves of ‘Accessorize’ earrings, empty carrier bags and mounds of pink tissue paper.
I carefully repacked my case put my washing stuff in one of the paper carrier bags and took myself off to makeup, turning off the light and closing the door. The room was hot, I was hot, the only cool place – both metaphorically and literally – was the studio.
Plonked myself in front of Kathy who had painted me to go with black velvet and gold trimmings, lime green, slinky black with see through bits and now Royal blue, which was later ruined by my pigging out on goose-fatty-roast-potatoes that were so unctious I was stuffing them in my gob when nobody was looking.
‘Step away from the spuds’ shouted Mel the patient floor-manager…
‘We need them for the pack shot’
I snaffled a secret ton of crispy Desiree’s, but left just enough for the cameramen to shoot.
When’ Good Food Live’ came to an end ‘Market Kitchen’ took over. I never met Matt Tebbutt at the time, but he was the beefcake behind the hob. It could have been awkward, but The Tebbutt is a gentle man. Along with his maddeningly mellifluous tatties we chewed the fat, ditched the dirt and spilled the beans, all the while he was preparing his turkey and titivating his chestnuts.
Matt’s Christmas cook was ‘The Big Day’ with a plomb. Not a plum, but a plomb. The mother load of a turkey had been steeped in a bucket of brine. Steeped in that bucket for nearly as long as Mr. Alex Salmond had been campaigning for the ‘Yes’ vote.
Salt, peppercorns, cinnamon and cloves, caraway seeds, Star Anise, sugar and white wine, mustard seeds, onion and garlic then finished off with a flourish and a bunch thyme. That big old bird had been soaking in the brine for a couple of days, by the time it winged its way into the oven you knew she was going to give herself up sweetly.
The legs were cooked separately, having laid in goose fat like Confit of Duck. They were cooked on their own. Wonderful taste and texture. Add to that homemade cranberry relish, and a terrine of stuffing; cabbage with sausages and chestnuts, if it hadn’t been mid-September you might have heard the sleigh bells ringing and St. Nicholas banging on the door for his pigs in blankets.
Peter Richards is a very tall man, as gentle as the Christmas lamb, with the nose of an Oxbridge Don, he provided a selection of wines worthy of the Christmas Angels.
When we sat down to eat – on your behalf I may add- my lacy black outfit was creaking at the seams. I was so full after the meal I could barely stand, and it was only day three, we still had 7 more feasts to get through.
A change of clothes, into something snazzy – and elasticated – to welcome Christian Stephenson othrwise known as DJ BBQ, who was serving up an American table.
American food is vast all year round, this Southern chef was about to blow our minds, and zips, with his Christmas contribution
Dj’s dad sold Hallmark cards so the Stephenson family had Christmas all year round, the family room decked with cards, reindeers, tinsel and his mother’s green bean casserole. With a personalty the size of Texas the BBQ king set about preparing his Piri Piri chicken wings and Jalepeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese, as well as his mother’s aforementioned mushroom soup steepedbeans.
Hardly fine dining but it was dining to match the size and gravitas of the man. The green bean casserole teamed with a massive plate of Pulled Pork could have fed the entire Confederacy.
Young Sarah Warman served beers that were deeply beery which made the Jalepeno peppers pop in the mouth.
By the time that Pulled Pork had been pulled through the pearlies there wasn’t a dry mouth in the house.
And then the taxi came. A swift exit in my dungarees and t-shirt.
The HDV could not have been nicer. I was not in my garden room but a delightful first floor room, much smaller, but perfectly formed.
A garden party was taking place in the courtyard outside my window, peals of jollity and merriment filtered through my window. It was good to be ‘home’.
When you’re on the road home comforts stop you from going nuts, which is what I had for supper. A whole tin as a matter of fact.
I felt like I had travelled to Mars and back, three hotels in as many days, Winchester still remaining a mystery.
I tried to watch some telly but in the end exhaustion, and Christmas fare got the better of me. As I fell asleep I had Matt Tebbutt’s words ringing in my ears,
‘Never, ever, leave rice to stand when cooked. Always eat it immediately. It ‘s one of the biggest causes of food poisoning’
‘Never. ever, eat bean sprouts from the supermarket, they are often covered in bacteria’
‘Never….ever…. never….ever….’. The perils of working on a cooking show, sweet dreams turn into foodie nightmares.
I awoke, my body clock snapping me awake, The wake-up call failed to materialise, ran down stairs just in time to bundle myself into the back of the taxi.
Thursday 18th of September, the Scots were voting, I was bloating and Omar Allibhoy was preparing a Spanish feast that was so dreamy he had the whole team floating.
My body was just about holding up – or was it?