People complain that we have too many cooking shows these days, too many TV chefs going on about deglazing and locavore produce and showing us how to form a quenelle.
Being a rabid fan of all things foodie (including deglazing, although I still haven't quite worked out what a quenelle is) I would normally scoff at this suggestion.
However having just discovered the worst cooking show since Peter Russell Clarke swore at those eggs on Youtube, I have to say I concur.
We DO have too many TV chefs. Two too many, in fact. Specifically, those two insufferable blonde food arrangers on Foxtel's Four Ingredients Australia.
They made this cake using just one ingredient - a store-bought cake. INGENIOUS.
You may already be familiar with the recipe books the show takes its name from - self-published by Queensland mums Rachael Bermingham and Kim McCosker, “4 Ingredients” went to the top of the best seller list in 2008 and spawned two follow-up books, the improbably titled “4 Ingredients 2” and “4 Ingredients Gluten Free”. (I guess when you only have four ingredients to work with, removing gluten gives you more room to move).
I first came across the book about a year ago at the house of a foodie friend of mine.
“Quick, easy and delicious recipes - all using only four or fewer ingredients” it blared from the cover, above a photograph of two very smiley blonde women in a very shiny kitchen, looking very pleased with themselves.
Suddenly my friend lurched into the room, grabbed the book from my hands and shrieked “I DIDN'T BUY THAT – IT WAS GIVEN TO ME, DON'T THINK I BOUGHT THAT”, before begging me not to tell anyone what I'd seen.
Having now seen Ms Bermingham and Ms McCosker in action, I can understand why she was so embarrassed by my discovery.
The Four Ingredients ladies are not TV chefs. They're barely even TV cooks. Restricted by their ridiculous concept, most of their recipes are simply an assembly of - usually store-bought - food items, with an oven possibly involved before the thing gets to the plate.
In furniture terms, if Gordon Ramsay is Chippendale, the Four Ingredients women are IKEA. And frankly, I'd rather eat an IKEA sofa than their “Curry Pie” which calls for sliced bread (one), milk (two) and a “can of sweet curry” (three).
Call me crazy, but I thought cooking shows were actually supposed to teach you HOW TO COOK. Are you actually teaching anything about food if all you're doing is opening a can of something and putting it on a piece of bread?
Apart from being completely vomit-inducing, it's terrifically unhealthy to constantly rely on pre-made sauces and cans of curry simply to keep under a four ingredient limit. Take their “easy casserole”: chopped steak (one), a bag of frozen vegetables (two) and V8 juice (three).
Firstly, I think I can safely say without even needing to cook it that this would taste disgusting. Secondly, bags of frozen veg always contain cauliflower, and who the hell wants that in a casserole? Thirdly, and more importantly, is it not a false economy to choose frozen veg over fresh just to keep the ingredient count down? Fresh vegetables would not only taste better, they'd be much cheaper.
Last night on the show I saw them make pesto lamb chops, which is composed of (you guessed it) store-bought pesto sauce spread onto a lamb chop. SURPRISE! Excuse me, but that's not a recipe, that's a serving suggestion. Do we really need a TV show to tell us to spread one thing onto an obvious other thing? That's like Jamie Oliver introducing his “lovely jubbly brekky recipe” and then showing us how to pour milk onto Cornflakes.
Apparently using only four ingredients in every recipe is supposed to make life quicker and easier. If you ask me it makes it boring, expensive and bordering on unhealthy. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make dinner – WITH NINE INGREDIENTS.
This article was first published in the Adelaide Sunday Mail's TV Guide on January 16, 2011.