32. Tastebuds

Tapehead no 32

To start, salad of pigs’ cheek with leeks and lentils. Then a main course of either pigeon breast stuffed with smoked aubergine and pickled walnuts covered in game and garlic sauce, served with mashed turnips and shallots, or salmis of pheasant served with redcurrants and chestnuts, and braised celery.
Then, for dessert, roasted figs or caramelised raspberries and lemon posset.
Just another night chez Tapehead and by coincidence, the very same dishes knocked up on this week’s Masterchef.
For this week’s semi-final, Loyd Grossman is joined by lunching legend, Alan Yentob, and Sally Clarke of Clark’s in Kensington, the first high-quality restaurant to offer set menus only.
“I actually decided long ago,” says Clarke, “that I wanted a restaurant that would offer no choice to the customer.”
“Would you normally associate lemon grass alongside a dish like pheasant? Asks a suspicious Grossman.
“I would not,” exclaims Clarke, sounding uncomfortably like Lady Bracknell.
She disdainfully summarises contestant Number Two’s menu as “rather ambitious” and mercilessly taunts Yentob for admitting that, at home, he still uses sun-dried tomatoes (peasant).
By the end, Yentob condescends to offer the judgement that he “would happily be cooked for by all of them again”.
Big Deal.
Masterchef is one of those supremely enjoyable and relaxing programmes with shots of people sprinkling, whisking, and stirring that are unrivalled on British television. The Masterchef’s quiz is so marvellous that they have “2,000 lines open till midnight.”
When Grossman talks about things like “that combination of the rosemary and the crushed coriander we were worried about earlier,” Tapehead simply nods his head in agreement: he was worried about it too.
The highlight of this week’s episode is Grossman’s extraordinary pronunciation of risotto. Elsewhere, a cornucopia of wild mushrooms is outdone only by much talk of seasonality and rosticity: look at the rosticity on that.
Masterchef is tastebudtastic, mate.
After all that, lemon posset and roasted figs, what would slip down better than a quick dram and Wooldridge On Whisky ?
So far this series has offered an abundance of remarkable (not to say, encouraging) anecdotes and traditional tales from people fond of a tipple, including the recipe for Queen Victoria’s favourite nightcap (half a glass of claret topped up with malt whisky).
Tapehead is grateful to the doctor who reveals that five to 10 per cent of liver transplant patients with cirrhosis simply start again, putting their new, revitalised liver to good use.
In this, the last of the series, up pops Tapehead’s old drinking mucker, the Duke of Argyll, who shares the story of his first proper drink (aged four), after which, needless to say, he didn’t touch another drop for “a viry, viry long time”.
His parents were having their “usual daily cocktail party” (in Biarritz). A shaker of dry martini later, he was out cold on the floor, and whisked to hospital to have his stomach pumped – all before his strict Presbyterian nanny found out and resigned.
The usual story in other words.
Inspired by this series, Tapehead is pondering a move up to the Scottish islands, to the sort of village where they pour whisky over their dead so everyone can pay their respects without too much of a pong. They’ll sell their best milking cow to pay for the funeral too and rightly regard it as bad luck not to drink every last drop of the whiskey provided.
This week, no doubt, they’ll be toasting Taggart, whose sad demise has blighted Tapehead’s TV week. Mark McManus’s face will live long in the memory, as will his acid humour an iron courage.
So let’s drink: to Taggart.


Masterchef: Sun, 5.30pm-6.05pm, BBC
Woolridge on Whiskey: Thu, 8pm-8.30pm, BBC2