CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Whiffy tripe sausages? They’re offal, but chef Rick still loves ’em
How To Halve Your Supermarket Bill
Behind the wheel of his Porsche 911, Rick Stein was looking bilious. On his zig-zagging journey across Secret France (BBC2), the TV chef had just downed a bowl of shellfish with the film crew, he said… and the mussels were none too fresh.
Euurkk! This wasn’t the only queasy moment on the restaurateur’s ramblings. At a market in champagne country, he picked up some skinned rabbits and showed how to joint the carcases.
‘These are the flaps,’ he explained, slicing away some pink bits and slapping his own love handles. Then he waggled his bottom at the camera: ‘This is the saddle, this bit,’ he crowed.
His wife couldn’t bear the thought of eating little bunnies, he added, skewering a piece of meat and revelling in the callousness of it.
Rick Stein takes his Porsche on a zig-zagging journey through France – but this road trip is strictly about the food
If there’s ever a remake of Inspector Morse, Rick would be ideal casting to play Dr DeBryn, the pathologist who wolfs his sandwiches while dissecting bodies.
But it was when he entered the back room of a butcher’s shop that the faint-hearted might have switched off rather than passing out. The taciturn shopkeeper’s speciality was andouillette, or offal sausages. And boy, did they look offal. Made from tripe that had been chopped and stuffed into pigs’ intestines, even Rick had to admit they were ‘whiffy’.
He was delighted to find the place, because he was warned as he set out from Dieppe that the French have ‘forgotten how to eat’. Once, they considered it sacrilege to spend less than two-and-a-half hours over a meal — but with the pressures of the modern world, some now take a mere 40 minutes for lunch. The uncivilised brutes!
Rick, who has a second home in the south of France, clearly wasn’t too worried.
He steered well clear of Paris, searching out villages with medieval thatch and timbers, to drop in at Michelin-starred restaurants for perfectly garnished platefuls.
His theory is that while you get a decent meal at the one-starred places, establishments boasting two or three stars are impossibly fussy and should be avoided.
None of his own restaurants has ever won a Michelin star, as it happens, but I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about that.
Shepherd’s pie of the night:
Ben Fogle was washing dishes at a restaurant in Ethiopia on New Lives In The Wild (C5). Run by retired Glasgow teacher Susan Aitchison, the menu is decidedly ‘school dinners’ — lots of carrots, mince and mash.
We were treated to digressions, with a visit to the Somme battlefield and some potted histories of French artists, but these were incidental, like a dollop of mayonnaise beside a steaming heap of langoustines and oysters. This road trip is strictly about the food.
So was Anna Richardson’s trudge up and down the aisles in How To Halve Your Supermarket Bill (C4), though her dedication to finding the best value ready-meals would freeze the blood of a true foodie.
This was a depressingly literal programme. Anna and co-presenter Sabrina Grant visited two families, promising to halve their food bills. For the next hour, they grimly, joylessly did just that.
I felt for dad-of-three David, who was handed a cut-price bottle of Vin de Paintstripper and told it was as good as his favourite. ‘Mmm,’ he said, forcing a smile as it took a layer of skin off the inside of his mouth.
Some assertions were alarming. A bag of Asda’s Straight Cut chips was £1.25, Anna said, while a bag of identical chips labelled Smart Price was just 90p.
Do supermarket branding bosses really regard us so cynically?
Mostly, though, this was a long-winded way to tell us how to save money by buying cheaper products.
Cheaper doesn’t have to mean grottier — I bet those offal sossies cost a fortune.