Deborah Ross

Food

If I could just settle for who I am rather than the person I hope to be one day, I could save a lot of money

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One evening I saw Gordon Ramsay on Friday Night With Jonathan Ross plugging his latest cookery book, Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, which is readily available from most bookshops, unlike Ramsay Makes It Hard which, I’m guessing, is available only from those adult shops with beaded curtains. Anyway, every time Mr Ross mentioned the book Mr Ramsay added: ‘And it comes with a free DVD!’ which totally got my juices going. What an inspired idea, I thought. A recipe book with Free DVD! so that you could play it on your laptop while you cook. It’ll be like having Gordon — a brilliant chef, whatever else you may think of him — in the kitchen with you. Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? And if he turns nasty and swears, you can always freeze the frame and give him a good slap round the face with a fish slice. True, there goes your state-of-the-art laptop, but I can’t help thinking it would be immensely satisfying just the same.

So, first thing on the Saturday morning, at around noon, I go down our local bookshop, where I find Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy readily available, unlike Gordon Ramsay Makes It Hard, which is more difficult to acquire and not necessarily worth the effort, by all accounts. I then take it over the road to Starbucks, so that I can study it properly. Our Starbucks, by the way, is one door down from Costa Coffee and just two up from Mr Espresso, just in case you ever find yourself in Crouch End gasping for a cappuccino and can’t find a place to go. I study the book with glee. I love cookbooks. I can read them from cover to cover as if they were novels. I rarely cook from any of them, but that’s hardly the point. The point is that, one day, when I turn into the person who cooks regularly from cookbooks, which may be tomorrow for all I know, then I will have the books handy. It’s quite like the wholly inappropriate shoes I buy and then never wear, but will do when I turn into the sort of person who wears shoes like that. If I could just settle for who I am rather than the person I hope to be one day, I could save a lot of money.

The book is lovely, with its ‘Contains Free DVD!’ sticker and some 100 recipes, most of which look as if they might actually be do-able. Also, it’s sumptuously illustrated with gorgeous photographs of the little Ramsays watching on joyfully as dad dips fruit kebabs into chocolate fondues and whatnot. What is it about celebrity chefs and pulling in the family these days? I mean, it’s now reached the stage where Mrs Jamie Oliver has even written her own book, Minus Nine to One: Diary of an Honest Mum. For those who missed the serialised extracts in the Daily Telegraph, a summary might go as follows. ‘I couldn’t have a baby for three minutes and then I did and I had to talk to five people before I could get through to Jamie on the phone and he had a chicken in the Aga.’ There, I’ve saved you the bother of having to buy it, readily available or not. As for Nigella, she has yet to include Charles Saatchi watching joyfully as she, say, ices little fairy cakes. I do love Nigella, as you know, but even I think she’s missed a trick here.

Whatever. My partner is out for the day and what I decide is this: I will make him a three-course Ramsay meal for dinner. He will be most pleasantly surprised. I will not, though, open the door in pinny and nothing else as there is a difference between a pleasant surprise and one of those nasty shocks that can do you in. I decide to make the following, largely because they seem to require the fewest ingredients which is, of course, quite the best way to choose a recipe: scallops in Parma ham with monkfish and rosemary; saddle of lamb stuffed with spinach; chocolate pots. It’ll be good. It’ll be easy. I’ll follow Gordon on the Free DVD! So it’s off to Waitrose, then back home where I place my laptop on the kitchen counter, slip in the Free DVD! and ...hang on a minute! I think I have done something wrong. There are only five recipes on here, and one is for scrambled egg, which any old bozo can make. I refer to the cover of the book. Yup, the sticker still says: ‘Contains Free DVD!’ I refer to the inside flap of the book: ‘As a unique bonus you will find a specially filmed DVD showing Gordon cooking his favourite recipes and explaining every step of the way.’ Nothing — absolutely nothing — says that his favourite recipes amount only to five (one is the lamb, at least). What was I expecting? All 100 recipes to be demonstrated? Yes, actually, I was. What a dumbo I can be. I find I’m pretty cross, though. I might have to slap Gordon with the fish slice from the off. I’m looking forward to it.

Meanwhile, I get on with the starter and pudding, as not shown on any DVD, free or otherwise. The starter is fiddly — scallops encircled by Parma ham, topped with a chunk of monkfish and speared with rosemary twigs — and is more construction than cooking, but the final result looks impressively posh. The chocolate pots are a doddle. All you do is melt good chocolate, add an egg yolk, fold in whipped egg whites and chill in ramekins. No worries there. On to the lamb and the Free DVD! It didn’t help. I’m not sure why it didn’t help, it just didn’t. The thing about professional chefs — who will, I’m sure, shortly be illustrating their books with photographs of their wives in the shower — is they forget that while something might be easy for them it might not be easy for us. Gordon rolls his meat around the spinach, mushroom and mascarpone stuffing with astonishing skill and dexterity. The result looks like a finely-toned arm — Madonna’s arm, say. Mine does not look like that. Mine looks like a fat, squelchy thigh oozing watery green stuff. Gordon keeps going on about how ‘sexy’ this dish is. My version does not look sexy. My version looks like my thigh. This is another good reason for never appearing in just a pinny.

Still, by the time my partner comes home the starters are ready for the oven, the lamb is resting and chocolate pots have (miraculously) set. ‘Bloody hell,’ he says, ‘what’s going on here?’ I think he thinks I’m going to announce I’m about to leave him or something. Poor chap. Always lives in hope, as anyone would if they lived with someone with thighs like mine. I say I just wanted to try out this new Gordon Ramsay thing with Free DVD!, but better luck next time. Our verdict. The starter? Totally simple, but utterly sublime, the Parma ham adding a wonderful salty contrast to the fish. The recipe made 20. We ate ten apiece. The lamb slopped all over the shop when carved, puking the watery spinach. It tasted perfectly fine, but not exceptional. I wish I’d simply bought a leg and roasted it. The chocolate pots were excellent though. Very rich and dark and gooey. All in all, I’m glad I have the book, but I think the DVD is a bit of a swiz. You might, instead, wish to purchase my own Diary of a Thoroughly Dishonest Mum, which is £768 but worth it, obviously.

Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, Quadrille Publishing, £19.99 (contains Free DVD!, for what it’s worth).