Great british bake off

The festivalisation of TV

The Glastonbury festival has undergone a series of metamorphoses in the 31 years since I first attended as a 15-year-old fence hopper (as, indeed, have I, thank heavens). One of the most significant changes, to pillage Gil Scott-Heron’s famous prophecy, is that the evolution has been televised. Back in 1989, if your boots weren’t on the ground — often a quagmire, though not that year — you missed out on all the fun. This has not been the case for aeons. Television coverage of Glastonbury began on Channel 4 in 1994, switching to the BBC three years later. In recent times, the Beeb has sent its staff in numbers comparable

Prue Leith: My plan to get real catering back into hospitals

Picture the scene: we are filming the opening link for The Great British Bake Off. Here I am in the woods, dressed in a lion suit; Paul Hollywood is the Tin Man, Sandi Toksvig the Scarecrow, and, guess what, Noel Fielding is Dorothy. I leap out on to the yellow brick road, roaring — I feel a hammer blow to my ankle, and end up whimpering like the Cowardly Lion I’m portraying. I have snapped my Achilles tendon. Danny the medic, who has had nothing more exciting than bakers’ cut fingers to deal with for three years, finally gets to use his ambulance, wheelchair and considerable skills. He doses me

Recipe for success | 3 May 2018

From time to time, a TV show comes along which is so thrillingly original, so wildly imaginative, that you can’t even begin to think where the makers got the idea. Britain’s Best Home Cook (BBC1, Thursday) isn’t one of them. Nevertheless, it has a serious claim to being the most important new programme of the week — if only to the BBC which, despite the failure of The Big Family Cooking Showdown (whose title I just had to check via Google), clearly hasn’t given up on the possibility of finding a way to replace The Great British Bake Off. But in fact there’s another series that some viewers might feel

My ghastly Bake Off gaffe has led to some unexpected invitations

Who would have thought eating cake could bring one so much attention? Since my ghastly gaffe in revealing The Great British Bake Off winner, every quiz and comedy show invites me to join them to make a further ass of myself; McVitie’s, on hearing me say I didn’t care for Jaffa Cakes, sends me a box of them re-labelled Prue; I’m presented with wild necklaces and colourful glasses, and I get asked for selfies. Friends ask, don’t you hate that? No, I don’t. I guess if I were really famous, and couldn’t go anywhere without being mobbed, it would be horrible. But at my level, it’s flattering. And rather encouraging.

Winter Notebook | 13 December 2017

Edinburgh is a peach of a city, is it not? Last week, I walked up to the castle on a crisp and sunny morning. Crossing high above the railway line, I watched the trains slink out of Waverley station and snake along the valley floor, a giant Hornby set beneath my feet. The path to the castle is tarmacked and rough, but still slippery with morning frost, so I tread carefully as I follow the zigzag to stand under the castle walls at the top. A young man next to me breathes: ‘Awesome, man.’ Absolutely. And the more so when you think the volcanic plug on which the castle stands

Notebook | 5 October 2017

To Skibo Castle for a four-day wedding, a dream of super-luxury and great good fun. I was struck by how the American rich are saving the Highlands. Skibo is supported by a band of mega-wealthy Americans, some of whom have invested heavily in the nearest town of Dornoch, which is thriving as a result. They are following a great tradition: Andrew Carnegie, having made his fortune in the US, returned to Scotland and rebuilt Skibo. He also donated libraries and halls ‘big enough for dancing’ all over the world, many in Scotland. A great combo: reading and reeling. I live in the Cotswolds, where the rich often splendidly transform derelict

Straight to hell

No, The State (Channel 4) wasn’t a recruiting manual for the Islamic State, though I did feel uneasy about it throughout the four episodes. The fundamental problem is this: if you’re going to make a watchable drama about bad people doing terrible things, you inevitably have to humanise them. And from there it’s just a short step to making them sympathetic. Peter Kosminsky’s drama followed four British Muslims to Syria to join IS. Shakira, a black convert with a nearly-ten-year-old son, wanted to apply her skills as a doctor; Ushna was a teenager seeking to be a ‘lioness for lions’; Ziyaad was an amiable lunk looking for adventure; and his


Marmalade’s had a rough old time of it lately. A recent report in the Telegraph declared it is dying out; that only oldies are buying it because millennials can’t handle ‘bits’ in spreads. Well, excuse me, but I direct you to this year’s World Marmalade Awards, held a few weeks ago in a big Georgian house called Dalemain just outside Penrith, which attracted nearly 2,000 homemade jars from around the globe. Big jars, little jars, jars decorated with glitter, sticky jars that had leaked in the post, jars with gingham hats. All laid out on trestle tables with individual, handwritten tasting notes from the WI judges underneath, marking each jar

Diary – 2 March 2017

A fortnight ago I got a taste of what being far too famous might feel like. A leak that I’m a contender for the Mary Berry slot on The Great British Bake Off morphed into the fake news that I’d got the job. For 24 hours it was a lead story — then it was yesterday’s non-news. My daughter, Li-Da Kruger, has made me her plus-one on the maiden voyage of Viking Sky, the swankiest cruise ship imaginable, all spacious showers, leather handrails and the surreal experience of sitting in the hairdresser’s with a roiling sea of black water and white-topped waves rushing past. Li-Da was booked to show her

Shall we dance?

‘Blimey! How on earth did they think of that?’ is unlikely to be anyone’s response to Our Dancing Town (BBC2, Tuesday). A few years ago, The Great British Bake Off was adapted into The Great British Sewing Bee by the simple process of fitting another domestic activity to the same formula. Now — after what I imagine was a brain-storming session lasting approximately 30 seconds — the BBC has taken the idea, structure and tone of Gareth Malone’s singing programmes and applied them to a series about dance. Enthusiastic evangelist for the life-changing potential of his chosen art form? Lots of initial sceptics dolefully shaking their heads and insisting that

Sweet sorrow

So, is that it? The end of sweetness, and the end of taste? Physically speaking, those things will no doubt carry on, when The Great British Bake Off moves to Channel 4 next year. We’ll still take vicarious pleasure in the mouth-watering sweetness of someone’s ‘crème pat’. The taste of lavender will still ‘come through’ in a contestant’s 12 identical puff pastry miniatures. But I’m referring to the abstracts: the sweetness, and the taste. I fear that those might have gone for ever. With Britain tearing itself apart this summer and autumn, one half being sarcastic and nasty about the other half all the time, the weekly hour-long patch of

Let’s not deceive ourselves, Great British Bake Off will never be the same again

So, is that it? The end of sweetness, and the end of taste? Physically speaking, those things will no doubt carry on, when The Great British Bake Off moves to Channel 4 next year. We’ll still take vicarious pleasure in the mouthwatering sweetness of someone’s ‘crème pat’. The taste of lavender will still ‘come through’ in a contestant’s 12 identical puff pastry miniatures. But I’m referring to the abstracts: the sweetness, and the taste. I fear that those might have gone for ever. With Britain tearing itself apart this summer and autumn, one half being sarcastic and nasty about the other half all the time, the weekly hour-long patch of

Great British Bake Off’s move to Channel 4 is a recipe for disaster

The Great British Bake Off (GBBO) is like a steaming spotted dick, moist and dense and delicious, and speckled with dried fruit. Paul Hollywood is the flour. He binds it all together. Mel and Sue are the milk and butter. They’re rich and creamy, and maybe a bit naughty in their comedic charm. Mary Berry? She’s the sugar, of course. Were she not there, the pudding wouldn’t be a pudding at all. It would just be a mound of carby sadness. Spotted dick is a fine pudding. And so terribly British, just like GBBO. Yesterday, gasps were heard when it was announced that the show will, as of the end

James Delingpole

Pussy galore

I think I might be turning into Alf Garnett. When I was growing up I saw him as an obnoxious, cantankerous, ranting old git that my grandparents’ generation seemed to find funny but who left me cold. Now I’m beginning to identify with him as an unfairly maligned and surprisingly youthful fount of wisdom whose tragedy is to be ignored by maddeningly unsympathetic womenfolk and infuriating kids. That was my thought, anyway, watching Till Death Us Do Part (Thursday, BBC Four) — a one-off remake of one of Johnny Speight’s original Sixties scripts, with The Fast Show’s Simon Day as Alf. It’s part of a short season, ‘Lost Sitcoms’, commissioned


Protesters to serve up anti-Tory cake at party conference

The Great British Bake Off has been praised for getting the nation cooking. Now, it seems the fever has become political, as anti-austerity campaigners get baking ahead of this year’s party conference in Manchester. Activists have been tasked with baking their best anti-Tory cakes for a picnic due to be held as part of the action against the Tory conference. But rather than a poisoned creation for a Conservative politician of choice, the winning entry will be fed to the homeless. The lucky winner will be given a ticket to ‘Laugh Them Out Of Town’, a comedy event taking place during conference featuring Frankie Boyle and the Thick of It‘s Sara Pascoe, which hopes

When autumn comes

You know when late summer has arrived because conkers are starting to form on the horse chestnuts, your eagerness to get the kids back to school has reached fever pitch, and another season of The Great British Bake Off (BBC1, Wednesdays) has begun. If it feels like there has never, ever been a time when GBBO wasn’t on, this is because there hasn’t. Here are some key facts about our favourite telly comfort blanket you won’t find on Wikipedia. 1. Mary Berry has barely aged at all since the show’s first edition was broadcast in 1946 immediately after Muffin the Mule. Mary was 11 at the time and was chosen

What the Great British Bake Off really says about Britain

There was an interesting news item on the television the other day. A transgendered chap was hoping to become the world’s first dual-purpose father and mother to a baby. He had frozen his semen before the surgeons came along with their secateurs and staple gun. I turned to my wife and said: ‘One day the chill wind of Odin will blow down from the icy north and cleanse our nation of all purulence and disease.’ She said nothing by way of reply — but a moment or two later announced that she was going to bed, and would be sleeping in the spare room. She had a distressed expression upon her

Socrates and Galen on the Great British Bake Off

As the national girth expands by the second, Auntie, never backward about lecturing us on the topic, continues to glory in the popularity of The Great British Bake Off. What a take-off, ancients would have thought. Philosophers, naturally, had little time for fancy cooking. Socrates argued that cooks had no interest in health, only in thrilling the client. They were mocked for the extremes they went to in perverting nature. The Roman poet Martial tells us that one Caecilius fashioned a complete meal from pumpkins which he turned into cakes, lentils, beans, mushrooms, sausages, tuna fish, sprats and sweetmeats. All very Bake Off. Athenaeus’s lunatic Professors at Dinner in 15

The Great British Bake Off becomes latest victim of ‘clean eating’ cult

In a world in which wholesome recipes by the likes of Nigella Lawson and Delia Smith are being spurned in favour of lean alternatives from green goddesses who advocate ‘clean eating’, Mr S would have hoped to be able to rely on the no-nonsense Mary Berry to talk some sense at this testing time. Alas, it’s not to be. The BBC’s Great British Bake Off is the latest victim of the ‘clean eating’ trend. Tonight’s episode of the hit BBC2 show will see Berry and Paul Hollywood instruct the contestants to bake ‘without sugar, gluten or dairy’. In case you — like Mr S — don’t know how to bake without these food groups, this evening’s tasks will include creating sugar-free cakes,

Having an Aga doesn’t make you posh

‘I already hate Sam. He’s too chavvy.’ Can you imagine the outrage that would kick off if someone said that about a contestant on a reality TV programme? But that’s essentially what happened to Flora Shedden, a 19-year-old candidate on this year’s Great British Bake Off who was accused of being ‘too posh’ on social media. So what triggered all of this? Simply forgetting to turn on her oven because ‘at home we’ve got an Aga, and I’m so used to having it on all the time.’ This one statement triggered a stream of abuse on social media, with many commenters hoping that she’d leave the competition first. For what crime?