Asking me if I love MasterChef is a bit like asking if a bear sh*ts in the woods.
I decided to write a blog because I'm working on a Burmese cookbook, and I wanted to know if people would like what I said, but the thing that actually got me started, the first thing I ever wrote about, was MasterChef.
I've had some folk comment that me putting virtual pen to paper about MasterChef is a waste of my "time and talent", that it's low-brow and inane, but goddammit, I'm a big girl and if I think it merits attention, then who the hell are they to disagree?
The fact is, I adore MasterChef with every fibre of my being. It's emotional, it's visceral, it's ludicrous, it's compelling.
By the time you get to the final, you're right there with them, rooting for the competitors, wanting to adopt each and every one of them, to give them all a big hug and to tell them that everything's going to be all right (okay, this may just be me).
But would I ever go on MasterChef myself? For the love of God, no.
Despite being inherently vain (I have a blog - of course I'm vain), I'd never dream of competing for that delightfully plasticky trophy.
I want to watch people make massive, ungainly sponge cakes, not try to combat them myself.
But MasterChef Live - well, that's another kettle of fish entirely. I'd battled the beasts once before at the BBC Good Food Show, so when appliance gods Miele asked me, "So d'you fancy Round 2?", I said "Bring it!".
The small print? Five bloggers, one hour, two courses each, one winner. John Torode, Gregg Wallace and Andi Peters to judge. Andi Peters! Conditions to be as close to the real deal as possible. The venue - the Miele Showroom in Central London. What could possibly go wrong?
My fellow contestants were Danny aka Food Urchin, Ireena from Not Another Food Blog, Sarah from Maison Cupcake, and Helly from Fuss Free Flavours - worthy opponents and wonderful people all.
My plan to defeat them? I was going to deal out a culinary smackdown in the form of ohn-no khao swe aka Burmese coconut chicken noodles - one of the best-loved and best-known Burmese dishes of all time.
And then I thought, "Frack - I don't do desserts". In fact, I've baked off my own bat just once in my life, when I made exceedingly square biscuits (the batter blobs were too big and kinda merged).
But I did a bit of research on how to make a basic shortbread, and finally came up with an orange zest shortcake with whipped cream and blueberries, and a blueberry and orange coulis. Howzabout that from a pud-making virgin, eh?
Thus in a state of wild and unjustified over-excitement, I met up with Food Urchin just before the zero hour to drag him around Chinatown to pick up my "special" ingredients.
The MasterChef Bloggers - Maison Cupcake, Food Urchin, Not Another Food Blog, me, Fuss Free Flavours
Final destination - the Miele Showroom. Sealed away like a space age time capsule, we walked into what can only be described as the Jetsons' residence. In lust with all the appliances, I just about managed not to fling myself at the nearest shiny surface and press all the buttons.
And soon enough, Messrs Gregg Wallace and John Torode descended shortly after, but to my utter, utter disappointment, there was nary a sign of the legendary Andi Peters. Sad face.
Gregg and John came over over to greet us - I say "greet", the first thing Gregg said with a grin was, "Have any of you written anything rude about us?".
I wasn't sure if they recognised me from Brum, but suddenly the pattern on the floor became very interesting to me. Hey, at least I didn’t create this image (second one down).
And then, and then, it was kick-off time. So we chopped and we diced and we minced and we sliced, and all the while, the Egg and the Toad came over to poke and to prod and generally get right up our grill-pieces.
Gregg decided to call me "YouYou" which was hilarious as you can imagine, and John just gave me death stares.
Soon though, I was too busy playing with the Miele equipment to give a fig - I especially loved the BOOST button on the hob which got you a pan-ful of boiling water quicker than a kettle.
The hour flew by way too quickly, and suddenly it was time to dish up "to restaurant standards".
This year's winner Dhruv Baker turned up at this point as well, allegedly to say hello, but more likely to make fun of us all.
So up on the pass we had:
- Food Urchin - Grilled Mackerel with Spring Onions, Charlotte Potatoes and Calcot Sauce, followed by Stewed Gooseberries topped with Meringue Peaks (the goosegogs and tatties were home-grown, no less)
- Not Another Food Blog - Indian Spiced Salmon, Vegetable Pilau Rice and Aubergine Raita, folowed by Nectarine 'Crumble'
- Fuss Free Flavours - Veal on a Mediterranean sauce of garlic, onion, raisins, capers & olives with a rocket and broad bean salad, followed by Lime and Elderflower posset with berries marinated in homemade elderflower cordial and an Irish Lace biscuit.
- Maison Cupcake - Hazelnut French macarons with mascarpone and Nutella filling, followed by Hummingbird Bakery's Nutty Apple Loaf (can I just say all power to Sarah for daring to make macarons and beautiful they were - though I'm not sure my mum would deem this a balanced, two-course meal)
- Meemalee's Kitchen - Burmese coconut chicken noodles aka ohn-no khao swe, followed by blueberry and orange zest shortcake, with whipped cream and a blueberry and orange coulis.
Judgement time. Noodles first. I told The Egg and the Toad I'd cooked Burmese food, though I kinda got the impression I could have said it was Martian.
At any rate, they seemed unimpressed and rather confused that I'd put the garnishes on the side, though I explained, “That’s the Asian way of eating – you season according to your own tastes”. Tumbleweed rolled past.
They took a forkful - John wanted more fish sauce and Gregg wanted more chilli.
Whatevs man, it's meant to be a subtle dish, and I'm not sure what part of "season to taste" they didn't understand.
Next up pudding. Alas and alack, my lovingly-whipped cream melted into a puddle as the blueberry sauce simply hadn't cooled enough, but John seemed to like it, despite the milkshakey-ness.
Gregg complained about the fact that I'd baked star-shaped biscuits, and stridently declared that those who make their food into shapes "lack confidence in their cooking". To which I say equally stridently, "Bollocks".
However, he did say that I had real baking skill, though sadly he didn't feel the urge to stick his face in it.
Anyway, Dhruv "Palate of an Angel" Baker liked my food, so I couldn't really give a monkey's what the other two think.
Anyway, after they'd gone all the way down the line, we knew Ireena from Not Another Food Blog had won, as the gruesome twosome only just stopped short of inhaling their spoons.
Her pud especially was a triumph, so well done to her on winning the grand prize of a Miele Masterclass Cookery Experience and a bottle of bubbly.
Weirdly, everything's a bit of a blur after this. In fact, you can actually hear Gregg expressing concern for me here.
What a lovely pair of chaps they are.
But thank you so much to Miele for inviting me to take part and for the chance to meet some fine fellow bloggers - 'twas an interesting afternoon all round.
And here's to Round 3 - whatever form that may take ...
Blueberry Shortcake Recipe here.