Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Heston's Roman Feast (TV Review)

Guess what the secret ingredient is?

"Contains Adult Humour and detailed scenes of Pig Butchery"

No, not this, but Heston Blumenthal's Roman Feast. It's Week 4 and we’ve come to the climax of our gastronomic journey, where we find ourselves in the Roman Empire for a feast that will be "theatrical, deviant and orgasmic".

The Ancient Romans were all about culinary
boundarylessness, and their lusty appetites encompassed everything from flamingos to parrot tongues. Heston tells us that they particularly loved to create "theatrical spectacles to astound their diners" (anyone else getting massive déja vu?).

This week's guests are the Yes Man himself Danny Wallace, Pimms O'Clock Alexander Armstrong, coquette Greta Scacchi (or Skakky as I like to call her), the utterly bonkers Marquess of Bath (sadly sans wifelets), food Agony Uncle Matthew Fort and lastly the cheap version of Tara Palmer-Tompkinson (you know, the one off the rubbish new What Not to Wear who isn't Mica Paris). 5 out of 6 ain't bad, Channel 4.

Mister Wallace, cheap Tara P-T, Lord Bath

In keeping with the Roman orgy theme, Heston's racy appetiser is Pig's Nipple Scratchings - apparently Caligula enjoyed feasting on private parts. I once roasted a pork belly where you could still see a nipple - my husband screamed like a girl. Heston on the other hand lovingly slices up porcine areolas for deep-frying.

The resulting perky scratchings are then coated in coriander salt and served to his diners in individual packets, while Heston eavesdrops on their reactions via CCTV (part of me wonders whether he is made to observe remotely for anger management). Initial caution is followed by delight - the Marquess of Bath declares "I love pork scratchings but they're often not scratchy enough". Bless.

Nipp-uhs (say it like Cartman)

Next up is the starter. Heston tells us "I'm going to create an amaaazing meal you caaan't make at home". This coming after his opening of "Pleeeease don't try this at home" is making me irritable. Anyway, Heston's starter is Calf's Brain Custard. I could do that if I wanted to.

With the help of Rocco Panzarella, he attempts an authentic recipe by Apicius (where "epicure" comes from) of calf's brains, rose petals and garum - the Roman's relish of choice made from long-fermented raw fish guts (and also used in cosmetics and dog bite medicine).


Unsurprisingly, Heston has no garum at hand, so he substitutes the modern equivalent nam pla (Thai fish sauce which he refers to as "liquid armpit"). He blends the brainy mess together and then bakes it on coals, but the resulting custard doesn't hit the spot.

Thus Heston heads to Salcombe to catch some mackerel and make his own garum. It's Cannibal Holocaust time again, as Heston brutally disembowels the fish while they're "still breathing" (gasping surely?) - hey, no-one warned us about scenes of fish butchery (mongery?).

The next step in the garum-making process is to ferment the guts for several days, but Heston has apparently found an ingenious quick-fix recipe. He simply simmers the fish guts in brine, then vacuum filters to obtain a "surprisingly delicate broth tasting of langoustines." I'm not surprised. Dude, you just made fish stock. What part of "ferment" and “raw” do you not understand?

So, chuffed with his "garum", he makes a revised custard and serves panko & anchovy-coated, deep-fried calves' brains on the side. Matthew Fort says the custard is "exquisitely flavoured, I mean, textured" and, YES, Danny Wallace is willing to eat everyone else's brains as well.

Anyone remember Brain's Faggots?

"Having fooled [his] guests by using [his] brains" (ho ho) Heston reveals that his next course will be the Trojan Pig - so-called because it looks like a gift but a horde of tiny soldiers will stream out and stab you in the tongue. Or something.

No, apparently I'm wrong, the Pig is actually full of joke intestines which turn out to be sausages, so Heston travels in Del Boy's three-wheeler to Italy, the land of the sausage (this whole programme is like Benny Hill).

It's here that Heston has his most amazing encounter yet.

"Send her victorious, happy and glorious"

"I. am. Peppe Cotto. I. play. the. trumpet" says a wiry Italian butcher who then proceeds to blow a ham trumpet. That's a trumpet made from ham. Heston looks as confused as I feel, and this turns to fear when Peppe then slowly anoints his head with a bony crown made of lamb racks, whilst ominously humming "God Save the Queen". I swear, it's just like the Black Lodge.

Having offered Heston some cacao paté, Peppe then smoulders to him "Now. come. in. labora.tory"... sadly, it's only to the back room to make some bangers. Seriously, give the man his own programme, please. Anyway, Heston eventually concocts “small intestines” of pasty chicken and “large intestines” of porky cocoa.

Peppe Cotto, he da man

Now we're back to Blighty for the promised scenes of pig butchery and "the Notorious Trojan Hog". Heston likes to use water-baths to cook his meat, but a whole pig is too hefty, so he calls on the Canadian Spa Company to let him make Onsen Pig.

They sling the vacuum-packed piggy in a Victorian Spa and let it sweat at 60 degrees for 24 hours (this sounds like a bad idea to me). And Lo! a still pink and bloody-looking pig comes forth.

It’s okay though, Heston then spit-roasts the pig in his “garum” and pork stock so it caramelises and, well, actually cooks.


Next Heston uses an endoscope to place his joke intestines in the pig’s sweet spot and then it’s ready to be rolled out to the waiting diners. Bated breath all round, Heston slashes open the pig’s stomach and the “intestines” spill out juicily onto a platter.

It’s a hit - the pork is amazingly tender, the sausages equally so - Alexander Armstrong declares “Dammit to crikey goodness, that’s the most delicious thing I’ve eaten” and Matthew Fort applauds the “vulgar, coarse” humour.

Yummy intestines

Vulgar? He ain’t seen nothing yet.

The Satyricon is a classic Roman text which describes a feast held by Trimalchio; courses included a rampant statue of Priapus (randiest of gods) with a lapful of fruit, and cakes spurting out saffron juice.

So Heston decides to recreate the latter with his Ejaculating Cakes (as a nine year old, I once used “ejaculate” in a story to mean “say suddenly or quickly, esp. with feeling” [OED]. I got it from Just William. It was an innocent time.)


How will Heston achieve the money shot? First he tries the brown fountain ie Mentos and Coke, but that’s too messy; next he tries dry ice and water which just explodes. Finally he settles on dry ice, water and saffron custard which oozes languidly - perfect. Now he just needs a cake to house the eruption, so he calls on Mich Turner, cake-maker to the stars.

“Mich needs time to understand how my ejaculations will work”

They settle on a dense chocolate cake which he fills with white chocolate mousse, syrup, egg white and dry ice. Having used a paint-gun to coat the cakes in a chocolate shell to avoid “seepage”, he also makes a dark chocolate funnel to control the spurt. For an extra “surprise, orgasmic sensation”, Heston adds a base of popping candy biscuit.

First a Priapic statue is brought out to get the diners in the mood. Next the individual cakes are presented with little amphoras of saffron custard and the maitre d’ says to the diners “Pour your juices into the holes”. Ooh-er.

The money shot

The ejaculation begins - frothing, spurting, bubbling custard streams merrily out of every cakey cavity. Bafflingly, Alexander Armstrong says it’s “the biggest ejaculating pudding you’ve ever seen that hasn’t spurted in your eye”.

Greta Scacchi gets far too overwhelmed, and when the frothing stops, squeals “I want it to go again!” - Danny Wallace gives her a look and says “Give it 20 minutes”.

Obviously it’s super-delicious and when they discover the space dust, it sets them all off again.

Just before the credits roll, we cut to Ms Scacchi who exclaims “I really got off on that. It was very, very sexy”.

It’s best to end things there really.

All good things must come to an end, Heston

All photos belong to Channel 4

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment!