Thursday, 17 June 2010

A long, hot bath

Earlier this year, the tellyfood void left after Masterchef (annoying voiceover; brilliant amateur cooks) was seamlessly filled with Great British Menu and thus disaster was averted: we could spend our weeknights drooling at the tv once more. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that the water bath is taking over where the oven - a perfectly acceptable tool, in my book - once sufficed. The chefs on GBM were vac-packing to their hearts’ content, anything from delicate pink trout to steak, and plopping it into the water. Steak? Call me backward but I’m rather partial to a caramelised hunk of meat, unevenly blackened and sitting in its pan juices. Nowadays, all it seems to need is a hot swim in a plastic suit after a quick burst in a pan to give said colour.

Is this faking it? Weren’t these cumbersome things once blue, bubbling and sold in Boots around Mother’s Day?

I am sure that the argument for these pieces of equipment in busy kitchens is that they maintain a constant reliable temperature and ensure uniformity of cooking at any speed. But I also thought that the reason we go and pay top price for their food is because this particular handful of people had learnt how to master a stove-top better than the rest of us. The Romantic cook in me also feels that this failsafe piece of - well, let’s face it - lab apparatus (pass the Bunsen burner someone) lacks the element of risk and uncertainty that accompanies most cooking techniques, unless you’re silly enough to stick your hand in it I suppose. Even I can run a bath - where’s the skill?

Will the fiery oven mouth go unfed in top kitchens of the future I wonder, putting an end to those meaty aromas that light the tastebud touchpaper? I sincerely hope not. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of the well-assigned bain-marie for a wobbly crème brulee and suchlike, but if I wanted my steak poached, I would most certainly ask for it. And finally, if the water bath is to become the norm, why on earth don’t they sell them in John Lewis yet and where, pray tell, am I going to put my vacuum packer?

Rant over. I’m off for a soak.

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