I’m used to watching Masterchef on TV and feeling teeny pangs of failure and regret, realising that “Oh noooo!” my mille feuille didn’t have enough layers or my tarte tartin should have been puff pastry not shortcrust.
To my deep and eternal chagrin, I haven’t yet made a croque-en-bouche and I’m never sure what to do with a whelk.
But unlike some of the contestants who, asked to create their Signature Dish, decide to cook something completely new which, by definition *cannot* be their Signature Dish, at least I have one.
My Signature Dish is a Beano Supper. It has given rise to more excitement and joy than anything else I’ve ever cooked.
Ever since my tastebuds first went twang to the sight of the words “porridge with brown sugar and cream” and “lashings of gingerbeer” in Enid Blyton stories, I have been bewitched by the thought of literary food. I’ve recreated many a Famous Five-style picnic with the use of a wicker picnic basket I was given for my 18th birthday.
I wanted to try Just William’s gobstoppers and Paddington’s marmalade sandwiches and Winnie-the-Pooh’s honey (best on hot muffins), not to mention the midnight tuck feasts beloved by the gels of Mallory Towers.
While older members of my family – my uncle Jeff, mainly, get all misty-eyed and delighted if I cook a Desperate Dan Cow Pie, my two boys loved the Beano and the Dandy comics – so the height of their culinary excitement was a Beano supper.
A mould of King Edward potatoes, mashed until with butter and a little milk would stand, well-fluffed, in the middle of a large plate. Glossy, freshly sizzled sausages would be jammed into the mash mound from all angles, and a moat of tomato ketchup would flow moat-like around the edge of the dish.
What followed was olde-style feasting with forks, very little finesse but a lot of fun.
I’m pretty confident that I’ve got my Signature Dish to myself and you’ll never see one on Masterchef because, face it, no-one ever got a Michelin star for a Beano Supper.