The rather mental but infinitely likeable Heston’s back doing what he does best; cooking up unusual feasts which last night, was based on Victorian cuisine and featured, among many other things, mock turtle soup – mock because it was actually cow’s head soup – edible bugs, jelly powered by vibrators and a ‘drink me potion’ which tasted of toffee, hot buttered toast, custard, cherry tart and turkey.
Readers of Lewis Carroll’s famed book Alice in Wonderland may recognise that recipe as the flavours of the ‘Drink Me’ potion that a trusting Alice necked before embarking on what I always did believe was an opiate induced hallucination. In fact, Heston informed us that “opium was used in five out of six households” and also that he considered Alice in Wonderland to be the “quintessential Victorian novel.” I guess that’s arguable but hey ho…
His Victorian feast guests last night were former Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon, former Scud stud Rageh Omaar, roving/daring present Dawn Porter, Aussie comedienne Kathy Lette, actress Jemma Redgrave and Toby Young.
Heston began the show with a statement of the glaringly obvious by saying, “My name is Heston Blumenthal” adding with a notable dearth of modesty, “… and I run one of the best restaurants in the world”
The fact his restaurant was recently closed down due to a “spate of mystery illnesses” among his patrons is neither here nor there it seems and the celebrities waited with baited breath to see what was on the – hopefully – non-toxic Victorian menu.
I have to say, the guy has cahones and bravely reckoned that he regards adversities such as restaurant closure “as an opportunity rather than a threat” adding, “I think my creative juices flow best when I’m pulled out of my comfort zone.” Me too Heston; if our microwave goes on the blink and I have to use that cooker thing, I get creatively juiced to the max when I cook the beans in a pan rather than a handy plastic tub!
However, Heston did add in a wee small caveat about what he was about to cook – possibly in the hope of avoiding litigation if viewers tried to replicate his Victorian feast – by stating, “I’m on a food adventure in the extreme. So throw away your cookbooks and please don’t try this at home.” But if we can’t try it at home, why chuck away our cookbooks?
Not that there was much likelihood of anyone trying to replicate his feast at home… not when you saw what went into it all!
So just what did Victorians consider made a truly great feast? Turtle soup, phallic jelly, opiates and stuff they could snare in a fly trap apparently, as well as things that were in fact made out of quasi-mechanical delicacies. Little wonder then that Heston forewarned that his meal was to be a “trippy” one.
Heston’s pièce de résistance was a visually astonishing – and apparently wonderfully tasty – “Victorian kitchen garden” which consisted of gravel made from smoked eel, tapioca and crumbled waffles and “topsoil” that turned out to be dehydrated black olives, crushed grape nuts and pumpkin seeds. Add in ‘pebbles’ – which were new potatoes – and strategically placed mealworms and crickets and voila, the edible garden was ready to be eaten by the celebs.
However, despite it being somewhat childish, I have to say that my favourite moment was the appearance of the dessert; a huge conical jelly laced with absinthe and inset with vibrators. Apparently, this was a ‘prescription’ used by medics in Victorian times to alleviate the symptoms of female nervous stress and tension… and fair do’s, I can see that would work…
A nice pudding followed by a quick session with its solid filling and no having to tell it “yes that was the best ever” or have it then snore next to you all night seems like the perfect Victorian themed night in to me!
The grossest part for me though was watching the process of his making the mock-turtle soup; seeing a cow’s head simmering away in a huge pot was pretty nauseating to be honest but sticking faithfully to his Alice In Wonderland theme, Heston added the fob-watch of the story but his was actually a gold-leaf-wrapped around some kind of broth or stock-cube – I’m not good with the culinary lingo, I just nuke everything – which he then fashioned into the shape of the fob-watch.
This whole show was a joy to watch, especially as it was not only a ‘how to cook this thing’ but a video diary of his journey to the big meal including his catching a turtle and getting drunk as a Victorian Lord on the absinthe! I’ll for sure be tuning in next week when we’re going to be treated to a Medieval feast which will feature pigeon pie for the main course and “edible tableware” for dessert. Can’t wait!