Sometimes, when you are not the greatest cook on the planet, and you have watched smug cook after smug cook turn out perfect dishes, made from unattainable ingredients that do not satisfy even the most undiscerning of palates, you just want someone to tell it how it really is.
Thankfully, for Esther Walker, we all seem to have arrived at that point at the same time, and are a more than a little bit fed up with the likes of Nigella, popping to a Knightsbridge deli in a London black cab, for one piece of sirloin to have with butterbean mash for her tea, as if that’s normal behaviour.
We are no longer impressed with Gywneth, for forcing her inedible kale smoothies down our throats, and nor do we need Jamie banging on about how we should organise ourselves and knock up a fabulously healthy supper in under half an hour. We all want some reality! Most of us work eight hours or more a day, we come home and we are tired, starving hungry to the point of being spiteful, and there are other chores to do apart from whipping up a delicious dinner.
So it doesn’t surprise us that the studio kitchen of Nigella are beginning to grate and Jamie’s bouncing about is starting to severely irritate us. And don’t get us started on banned ingredients; what’s so wrong with a little salt now and then? And remember real butter? How about sugar? It seems that to be a cook these days, you have to leave out any ingredient that actually adds the flavour, and substitute either some weird micro herbs (yeah, tell that to your husband after a twelve hour shift!) or mung beans.
It’s as if these chefs are constantly trying to reinvent the wheel. I know they have to come up with interesting recipes but come on, we live in the real world and we don’t swan about our fancy apartments all day pursuing colour swatches and twiddling with the font on our websites; we do actually work, and therefore we need proper food to eat.
Luckily, it seems that journalist and normal (I say that with the greatest of respect) amateur chef Esther Walker, has hit on the nation’s nerve, as yesterday’s released eBook ‘Bad Chef’ shot ahead of Gwyneth Paltrow’s It’s All Good in the Amazon book charts. Inspired by Esther’s popular food blog, the Recipe Rifle, the book is a completely honest account of her endeavours in the kitchen, and rather than flower up her achievements, she gives you advice such as ‘You can either use a decent amount of salt in your cooking or you can die of a) starvation b) boredom’ and ‘If you want to cook for a lot of people, don’t be afraid to serve up something homely, like spaghetti Bolognese or a fish pie.’
Esther Walker is married to restaurant critic Giles Coren which must make life even more difficult if he is criticising her effects on a daily basis, and she is also mum to their two-year-old daughter Kitty, so you can expect lots of time saving tips and ‘proper’ recipes that will actually feed your own family.
What we love about Esther’s book is that there are no pretentious tales about stuffing anchovies in a leg of lamb when you were six in the heart of the Provence (Heston take note), most of us went to Butlins when we were kids, we don’t all live within a phonecall of sourcing ingredients from Selfridges, and quite apart from that, we are all worried about finding horsemeat in our Findus lasagnes.
The book is jam packed full of workable recipes, tips for entertaining, stories of pregnancy and best of all, stories of her husband (restaurant critic Giles Coren) coming home drunk. Now can you imagine Nigella admitting to that?
And butterbean mash, I mean, for goodness sake.
The Bad Cook is an utter delight and is available on Kindle at Amazon for £1.99.