La confiture de raisins

Or grape jelly to you and I…

Our grape vines, all 130-odd of them (and then some!) are all in various stages of coming to fruition. I like that word for fruit being ready. It seems somehow appropriate! Yet, what to do with such a harvest?! We aren’t in the ‘wine producing’ stages yet. Our grape  press, for one, is out of commission, though I think I could manage well with a bucket and a drill bit for stirring cement (make do and mend!) to get the juice out – and the rest, as I can see, is about killing off some of the natural yeasts, adding your own, then letting it do its business. I might have a go anyway.

But in the meantime, it’s grape juice and grape jelly a-plenty. I have a new-best-website find, the cottage smallholder which is an amazing site not unlike one I’d hope this will look like in a few years! I’ve been using this site, along with BBC Food (of course!) which negates the need for recipe books at all, especially if you love James Martin and the Hairy Bikers as much as I do. I’m a fan of Nigel Slater, too. I’m a fan of chefs who like to eat as much as they like to cook – they cook because they love what they produce. Not a fan of Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsey, though most of my dislikes of both are about their character rather than their cooking. Jamie Oliver needs about 2 inches shaving off his tongue on each side and needs to get over his ‘faux-pukka’ persona. Steve told me yesterday his son is called ‘Buddy Bear Maurice’ – which is either a Care Bear or a gay moniker. That’s a seriously evil thing to do to a child. That child will one day be a 50 year old bloke wondering where his life went wrong. Poppy – okay. I get that. That’s fine. Petal? Not really. It sounds like a detergent. Daisy Boo. Just no. No. No-one should have ‘Boo’ as part of their name. He makes me NOT want to use my British supermarket of choice, Sainsbury’s, because I don’t want a single penny of mine to go to him. Extreme, I know. Buddy Bear has enough issues without needing to be a trust-fund-pukka-wallah.

Gordon Ramsay – I just don’t like him. The arrogance of the man, the ‘sleb’ friendship with the Beckhams, the endless books written by other people with his name on them. The fact he probably hasn’t cooked for 10 years. The fact that he isn’t even EXECUTIVE chef at his own restaurants. Not only doesn’t he cook, he doesn’t even decide what should be cooked! The pretentious recipes, the endless books, his misuse of the word velouté, the pretentious names he gives to his food, his misuse of the word ‘custard’, which to my mind must have some kind of egg or egg based product in it. That’s the point of it. His sidelining of Marcus Wareing and Angela Hartnett, the real names behind his restaurant success.

Anyway, my top 10 – since top ‘whatevers’ always rock – of catering giants & then my worst cooks ever…

1. The Hairy Bikers. It might lead to coronary heart failure, but it’s constantly reliable and very, very British and Northern in good ways.

2. Nigel Slater, for his ‘plot-to-pot’ stuff and his simple suppers, even if some of the recipes need a little adjustment. A good cook would realise what needs sorting!

3. James Martin, for never, ever having failed to produce a recipe I’d want to cook and eat

4. Nigella Lawson, whose recipes are also a bit hit-and-miss, but she makes great, inspired puddings.

5. Simon Rimmer for also making good food you actually want to eat

6. Keith Floyd for his exuberance, simple recipes and use of wine in cooking – which is perfect!

7. Antonio Carluccio because he always makes simple, wonderful food that’s just wonderful. Italian food, like British food, is all about the carbs – with lots of  lovely vegetables these days!

8. Gary Rhodes, if for nothing more than the giant jaffa cake!

9. The WI for their fantastic baked goods, chutneys and jams

10. Ching-He Huang, like Ken Hom, for fabulous, simple oriental food

I must admit I like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal as well. Heston’s Christmas smorgasbord was fabulous – I can aspire!!

And with the Golden Raspberry of chefs going to:

1. Gordon Ramsay. Urgh. My worst nightmare would be to be in Indecent Proposal with Ramsay as Redford and me as Demi Moore.

2. Jamie & his Ermintrude tongue

3. Lesley Waters – don’t know who this is but they have far too many crap recipes on the BBC site. I haven’t seen a single recipe yet that I’d want to cook.

4. Delia – because none of her over-complicated recipes EVER work – and I can’t fathom why. If you want to cook ocelot’s earlobes, Delia’s supposedly-simple ‘How to Cook’ books are the place to start. They should be simple, but when you need a whiff of a kaffir lime leaf, or Grape Nuts or some other peculiar ingredient, then they aren’t. I made a key lime pie once for Steve based on her recipe. Grape Nuts are vile. Vile, I tell you!

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