The trouble with celebrity chefs is that you just can’t help but trust them. Food is their livelihood, they’ve studied it, worked with it for years and put in the hours working their way up from the bottom of the kitchen to become head chef and subsequently, a star. Of course you’d believe them when they tell you japchae isn’t hard to find outside of Chinatown, or that cooking a three course meal really can be the work of a mere half hour. What have they got to gain from deceiving you (besides millions of books sold, great ratings on the telly and a three month wait for a table at their exclusive restaurant)? They tell you this information purely out of the goodness of their own heart, to share the knowledge and make you at home a better cook. As you may know from Jamie Oliver and Quail Egg-gate, I take umbrage to chefs embellishing the truth. Jamie has been forgiven for his many lies but it didn’t take long for a new fibber to come to the forefront: step forward Gordon Ramsay.
Gordon and I have a chequered past as it is, what with him once being my weird crush until he was on TV ALL. THE. TIME and I gradually lost interest. There’s only so much shouting at morons I can take before it becomes tedious. I only became interested again (strictly in the cooking sense) when his back to basics cooking show ‘100 Recipes To Stake Your Life On’ started last year and the tasty looking recipes combined with Gordon’s rather inappropriate feelings towards food had me hooked. The few recipes I’ve cooked from the accompanying book I’ve had mixed feelings about. There is nothing wrong with the finished meals, they are simple, tasty and produce a satisfying dinner. They just aren’t anything special. Maybe I have too high standards, perhaps I want too much from Gordon and have ridiculous expectations to be blown away by every recipe. But then when I cook, say, satay chicken from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, or massamann curry from Gizzi’s Kitchen Magic, or chicken schnitzel from Nigella Express, I am blown away because they taste so delicious and addictive. I remember them, cook them again and The Boyfriend also likes them. They’re hits and all I’ve done is followed a recipe and put my faith in the authors. So yes, maybe I do have high standards but other chefs meet them. I like recipes that really pack a punch, whether that be spicy, salty, sweet or sour. In middle school I had a teacher who would not tolerate the word ‘nice’. She said it meant nothing and was an insult. I didn’t understand it then but now I completely get it. If you said to me that someone was nice, I’d assume that while perfectly pleasant, that person did not put across anything memorable or interesting about them self which would require a better adjective used to describe them. Nice is forgettable. Nice food does its job but in the end it’s forgotten. Much like how my friends and family are so much more than simply ‘nice’ (they’re kind, funny, witty, sharp, interesting, clever, charming, intelligent, enthusiastic, savvy, sweet, generous.. see how much more complimentary these words are than ‘nice’?) the food I like to cook and eat also needs to be so much more.
So Gordon already had his work cut out to try and please me with his recipes. I chose to make pork neck curry with mango salsa from his book ‘Cookery Course’ which accompanied the ‘100 Recipes’ TV show because he writes in the book that this is his favourite curry of all time. For a chef to make such a statement about a recipe makes me pay attention. He must have eaten and cooked loads of curries so if this is The Best then I am cooking it. Like I said earlier, the trouble with chefs is that you can’t help but trust them. It’s a Thai recipe, so I made a paste and assembled the curry and the house was filled with a delicious spicy aroma. Normally when I make Thai curries I reduce the sauce down a little so the curry is a little thicker and less watery, but this was quite tricky to do, possibly because of Gordon’s insistence on adding loads of stock. The pork itself was super soft after bubbling away in the curry for an hour and the sauce was spicy with plenty of flavour. However, it just didn’t have that wow factor whilst the sauce was too thin. For a mid week meal it would be perfectly acceptable but what with it being a Friday night dinner, I was a little disappointed. It makes me question Gordons judgement on food that he thinks this is the best curry he’s ever eaten. Whilst I don’t think you can ever really recreate authentic Indian curries at home, Thai curries are a little easier to replicate and taste fantastic made in your own kitchen. If you want an amazing home cooked curry, you’d be better off trying Gizzi Erskine’s lamb massamann or her green curry paste. These pack serious flavour and I find myself cooking them again and again. I’ll continue to use Gordon’s book as the recipes are nice and they beat chicken nuggets for dinner, but when it comes to weekend cooking and packing a punch, Gordon’s not the right chef for me.