Blaise Tapp writes: Cooking is a release; a way to banish the memory of yet another challenging day and, if I do say so myself, I’m getting better at feeding my loved ones. It’s taken me long enough to get to this point, to be fair.
Although I flew the nest at 18, it took me until my mid-twenties to broaden my repertoire beyond noodle sandwiches and Fray Bentos pies with baked beans. These days, cooking is one of the few pastimes I indulge in, along with following a mediocre football team and channel hopping when I really should be in bed.
I love wearing my novelty ‘head chef’ pinny so much that almost everything anybody buys me for Christmas and birthdays these days is related to my culinary journey. My most recent gifts were a food processor which looks like it was developed at NASA and a day at a cookery school with fellow foodies.
I own more recipe books than Nigella Lawson would know what to do with and have got to a standard where my friends and family regularly send compliments in my general direction, praise which could easily go to my head. And it does.
I’ve graduated from omelettes and slow cooker stews to complicated dishes with French names and I’ve even successfully attempted souffles. I consider myself to be a good cook but then I watch MasterChef and my inferiority complex kicks in.
In our house, MasterChef sits alongside Call the Midwife and Line of Duty in terms of essential viewing and has been so since the noughties. It is every talented amateur chef’s ambition to appear in that famous, shiny kitchen and to have Gregg and John dig their spoons deep into one of their unique creations. I too have dreamt of Londoner Gregg telling me that triple chocolate fondant with a brandy and caramel tuile is ‘laaavley’ or for John to acknowledge the serious heat in my Goan turbot curry.
The problem with dreams is that they very rarely come true because, more often than not they’re not based on reality. That’s where my MasterChef dream falls down - while everybody who has tried it, raves about my paella, the fact is that I am not ambitious, not to mention not skilled enough, in a kitchen to make it onto my favourite show.
Last week I tuned in to watch a marine pilot called Eddie who put an extraordinary twist on fish and chips and created a steamed ginger pudding which had the guest judges swooning. He also seriously impressed Tom Parker-Bowles, the esteemed food critic, who is the stepson of the future King. Sometimes I struggle to impress my 12-year-old and her little brother, who regards peanut butter and jam bagels as haute cuisine.
The other Sunday, the eldest informed me that I had lost my way with Yorkshire pudding and had I thought to turn the oven up a bit more before sticking the batter in? It’s feedback like that which brings you down to earth and makes you try that little but harder because, if you can’t impress your kids, then who can you impress?
Yes, the people I love the most do regularly ask me to make my macaroni cheese, pancetta and broccoli (without the broccoli of course) but I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t pass muster with Jay Rayner or any of the returning champions. I don’t know how to use a blow torch to finish off a creme brulee, nor do I know how to perfect a jus - my gravy, however, is the stuff of legend.
I ought to stop watching the programme because the skills on display in this latest series are causing me to seriously doubt my own abilities with a whisk and a posh knife. While I’ll never see my name up in lights, I do know how to cook away the stresses of the day.