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The search for the next big thing... a ready meal

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: March 02, 2013

Carol Vorderman with two of the judges, Tom Parker Bowles and the WI's Anne Harrison

Carol Vorderman with two of the judges, Tom Parker Bowles and the WI's Anne Harrison

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Nothing for ages, then two new food programmes come along at once. The BBC has revived one of my favourites – Food and Drink (Mondays, BBC Two) – a great weekly exploration of its subject for 20 years from the 80s on.

With host Chris Kelly, the "crafty chef" Michael Barry and not one, but two wine experts – Jilly Goolden and Oz Clark – it really had its finger on the pulse as well as celebrating all things epicurean.

The new version – with chef Michel Roux – is a bit of a disappointment. Part of the beauty of the 80s version was its connection with what was going on in the food and drink world. This is like a soap opera – timeless.

So to ITV and their food offering, this time from Simon Cowell's production company: Food Glorious Food (ITV1, Wednesday).

As you would expect from Mr C, this has plenty of sparkle and pizzazz – think Britain's Got Tartlets or The Eggs Factor.

He has imported the idea of judges to sift through the contestants and their attempts to create the best new dish in the country which will win a recording contract, sorry, I mean find a place as a meal on the shelves of M&S, plus £20,000.

Members of the public bring their dishes to some kind of county fair (filmed on what looks like last year's only sunny day) to have them graded by a team of formidable talents. There's the very scary Anne Harrison, who judges for the WI and won't be messed with – which made contestant Terry's game plan (to flirt with her for the sake of his oatcakes) rather amusing – baking expert Stacie Stewart, sauce supremo Loyd Grossman and food writer Tom Parker-Bowles.

There were some nice dishes on offer and some absolute horrors.

Jane, 61, says she lost stones in weight by swimming the length of a river over 18 days and eating a salmon stir-fry.

Another competitor offered sausages cooked in milk, an old family recipe. Telling judge Anne it was best to eat it blindfolded didn't help her cause.

Loyd declared Trish's Pheasant Paprikash – a stew cooked over an open fire – a "super, super, super, great dish".

There were two contestants who served up the traditional Welsh dish cawl, one went through to the final.

And the lovely team from the Star Bistro at a college for disabled youngsters who made a Pimms Summer Jelly which stayed, "wobbled like me nan's bum" and was delicious.

Their tutor was in tears at their success.

Entertaining, to a degree, but I'm not sure I could sit through another eight weeks just for someone to come up with a new ready meal.

On Tuesday, the life of a single, white comedy female went under the microscope – looking for love, pushy mother, group of well-meaning but rather odd friends. No, not Miranda, but Heading Out (BBC Two).

In common with the divine Ms Hart, Sue Perkins writes and acts in this show, the story of a lesbian veterinary surgeon who has turned 40 but still hasn't told her parents she's gay.

And like Miranda, it does owe a lot of its success to the charm of the lead character.

Vet Sara is looking for the love of her life, but doesn't want to disappoint her parents (played by Penny Downie and Jeff Rawle) by revealing that would be a woman.

Instead, she creates an imaginary boyfriend, a Frenchman called Michel who, of all things, sells prosthetic limbs for a living.

Her friends (including the hilarious Steve Oram, seen recently in black British comedy film Sightseers) decided enough is enough and enrol her with batty psychotherapist Toria (Joanna Scanlan) to boost her self-confidence.

And, like Miranda, I'll be tuning in each week.

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