Film that ticks all the boxes

Sunday Express - - Jennifer Selway -

YOU’VE prob­a­bly seen the posters for The Hun­dredFoot Jour­ney star­ring He­len Mir­ren. It opens next week. It’s a shame­lessly feel­good movie com­bin­ing so many favourite things that it’s al­most in­de­cent. In­dian food? Tick. Life in idyl­lic ru­ral France? Tick. Foodie-ness gen­er­ally? Tick. He­len Mir­ren? Tick­ety tick.

She plays the snooty owner of a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant in the per­fect French vil­lage and she’s fu­ri­ous when an In­dian fam­ily opens an all-singing, all-danc­ing restau­rant across the road (100 feet away, you see). But it’s not re­veal­ing too much to say that by the happy-ever-af­ter end­ing they all adore each other.

It’s light, it’s sweet, it’s a per­fect souf­flé of a film. Yet the cui­sine scenes gen­uinely im­pressed chef Loic Mal­fait of the Cor­don Bleu cook­ery school – the holy of holies – who in­vited me to an even­ing work­shop. He is not a man who is eas­ily im­pressed.

Watch­ing Masterchef and in­deed Bake Off (that’s got a bit heavy hasn’t it?) has per­suaded me that though I love cook­ing I’d be hope­less un­der pres­sure. Pot­ter­ing around my kitchen, chop­ping things, play­ing mu­sic… is a joy. Sim­ply step­ping in to a Cor­don Bleu teach­ing kitchen had me feel­ing faintly jit­tery. That phrase “if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen” makes per­fect sense when you’re pan-fry­ing a piece of fish un­der chef’s crit­i­cal eye. The heat of the ovens is weirdly more in­tense than any do­mes­tic cooker – like the cen­tre of a halo­gen-lit vol­cano. Not only that but you’re swathed in a high-neck Cor­don Bleu apron (quite stylish) and you’re ner­vous. And ter­ri­bly hot. Did I men­tion that?

Our first task was to cook an omelette. This is the test that the He­len Mir­ren char­ac­ter gives to ap­pren­tice chefs. Sounds easy but try do­ing it with sur­pris­ingly shaky hands and a hu­mor­ously sar­donic French­man look­ing over your shoul­der. Chef tasted a morsel, made a non-com­mit­tal sound and nod­ded once. I wiped sweaty palms on apron and sud­denly re­alised I’d mis­taken the grated co­conut (this was French cook­ing with an In­dian twist) for sea-salt but hap­pily it didn’t seem to have done any­thing aw­ful to my omelette. I think I got away with it. Maybe.

Then on to the main dish: monk­fish mouclade, baby veg­eta­bles and chick­pea purée. The purée failed to smear ar­tis­ti­cally across the plate in the ap­proved pro man­ner but I thought I dis­guised it cun­ningly un­der a tee­ter­ing tower of veg. Then, flushed and elated, we showed our plates to chef (like chil­dren des­per­ate for his ap­proval), took them to the din­ing room and gob­bled ev­ery­thing up with a glass or two of wine. Ut­terly de­li­cious, though I say so my­self. The high point? Shout­ing “Yes, chef” like they do on the telly. Thrilling.

MICHE­LIN STAR: Dame He­len Mir­ren

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.