He has however, “become very sympathetic to them” as a telly species. “I used to occasionally watch a cooking programme and think, ‘Oh Gordon, stop being such a big diva, standing around swearing’. But now I’ve had a go at doing it, I realised what the problem is,” says May. That problem, he continues, is everyone on set sticking their oar in. “Everybody has a view on cooking because most people do it,” he says. “This is not true if you’re making a programme about science or engineering or car history, where you have some authority, but I’m working on a cooking show, where I avowedly can’t cook anyway, so everybody is part of the advisory committee and it does get bloody annoying, quite quickly”.
Admittedly, watching the series back, he says he comes across “quite bad tempered, which I never am normally. I’m slightly ashamed of it,” he adds, “but that’s what happens when you try and cook on TV.”
The book itself – Oh Cook! – is less fraught (although May does share his ire for chefs who go on about using ‘freshly ground pepper’ – “You don’t need to say it EVERY time,” he says with a sigh). In essence, Oh Cook! is “not about learning recipes. It’s about learning the basics,” which you can then apply to everything else. After all, “once you can roast a chicken, you can roast anything.”
He says it’s “not for accomplished chefs, or celebrity chefs or people who collect recipe books. This is a book designed to be propped up on the worktop and used like a Haynes Manual for beginners, and once you’ve made the stuff in this book, you should give it to Oxfam and move on.”
Stir-fried chilli beef
1tbsp sesame oil
1tsp grated fresh ginger
2tbsp soy sauce
1 green chilli, finely chopped
450g steak, cut into strips
1 red and 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
1 carrot, cut into thin strips
250g baby corn
200g mangetout, halved
300g bean sprouts
300g rice noodles
Sweet chilli sauce, to drizzle
1. In advance: Put the oil in a large bowl. Add the ginger, soy sauce, chilli and steak strips. Mix up and leave in the fridge, covered, to marinate for at least 10 minutes. Half a day is
2. Later: Heat your wok (large frying pan if you haven’t got one. Why haven’t you got one?) until really hot. Remove the meat from the marinade and wipe dry. Reserve the marinade. Add the beef to the wok and stir-fry for five minutes.
3. Now add the peppers, carrot, baby corn, mangetout, bean sprouts and the leftover marinade. Stir-fry for three minutes until everything is cooked but not soggy.
4. At the same time, soak the noodles for four minutes (or however long the pack suggests), drain well and add to the pan.
5. Toss well. Serve straight away, anointed with
Jam roly poly
Ingredients: (Serves 4)
Softened butter, for greasing
200g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
100g shredded beef (or vegetable) suet
1tbsp caster sugar
Pinch of salt
150ml semi-skimmed milk or water
6–7tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C/400°F. Butter a large sheet of baking parchment and set aside.
2. Stir the flour, suet, sugar and salt in a large bowl until fully combined. Slowly stir in the milk or water to form a soft, spongey dough.
3. Tip the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Roll the dough out into a 22 x 32cm rectangle.
4. Spread the jam onto the dough, leaving a 1.5cm border around the edge. Slightly dampen the border with water. Gently roll the dough up from the short end and transfer to the baking parchment, seam-side down. Wrap the roly poly in the baking parchment, making a long pleat in the paper to allow the pudding to expand as it cooks. Twist the ends of the parchment like a Christmas cracker and tie tightly with kitchen string, to seal the pudding inside. Repeat the wrapping process with a piece of kitchen foil.
5. Place the pudding on the roasting rack set inside the roasting tin. Pour boiling water halfway up the roasting tin, just to the base of the pudding, and cook in the oven for 30–35 minutes.
6. Remove the pudding from the oven, unwrap the kitchen foil, then snip the string and unwrap the parchment.
7. The pudding should be well risen and lightly browned in places. Don’t worry if the jam has made its way through to the outside of the pudding and ends up on your face.
8. Place on a warmed serving plate and cut into thick slices. Serve with lots of custard.