Celebrity Best Home Cook 2021, Episode 1: Omelette Spectrum

We as a society must protect Gareth Thomas at all costs.

You might be thinking, 10 celebrities cooking a series of dishes that they may or may not have got from the BBC Good Food website is just Celebrity MasterChef isn’t it? And yes on paper these show are nigh on identical but this one has rogue strawberries and no Gregg Wallace!

We may have swapped the normies for celebrities but the judging panel of Chris Bavin, Angela Hartnett and a very socially distanced Mary Berry has remained the same, as has the delightful foghorn of a host Claudia Winkleman.
However, of course Covid has had an effect on how things can run so Mary Berry will not be allowed to walk amongst people and must instead stand atop the mezzanine and survey them through a set of opera glasses

The closest she is allowed to get is hanging around in the doorway like a child asking their parents if food will be ready any time soon

She is however allowed to dine with everyone and part of the challenge sadly isn’t trying to feed with with a series of forks taped together, a catapult or helium balloons like its a Taskmaster task.

Before we get to the action lets quickly meet the line up

Desiree Burch

Who is she? I cannot tell you. What I can tell you is that she worth every second she is on TV from a romantic dinner date with her cat to producing one of the most iconic culinary disasters on television.

Ed Balls

It was this or I’m A Celebrity – either way he’s stuck in an ever so slightly hostile situation surrounded by potentially inedible food. And yes, he is still dining out on his Gangnam Style salsa.

Ed Byrne

Fire the casting director. Not because I don’t like Ed Byrne but to cast two Eds both with B surnames so you can’t even call one of them Ed B. is nothing short of a disaster. So they will be Balls and Byrne from here on out. Also a surprising amount of sexual tension between him and Mary Berry.

Ferne McCann

A TOWIE native who will only cook a carb under duress. LETTUCE ISN’T A WRAP.

Gareth Thomas

An absolute radiant ray of sunshine and I mean this with complete seriousness and sincerity that he is some of the best gay representation we’ve ever had on television. If you were to drink every time he said “my husband” you would have died during the opening credits. God bless them.

Karim Zeroual

Karim is certainly a busy boy on television at the moment with him both cooking up chaos here and no doubt cooking up even more chaos on Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion. Unlike Ed Balls he is somehow yet to mention Strictly.

Rachel Johnson

If you decided to not watch this show based purely on the fact the BBC seems to be on a mission to make The Johnsons seem like a cuddly bunch of buffoons I would not blame you.

Ruth Madeley

By far the most alarmingly competitive contestants and by far the most likely to actually threaten someone with a knife.

Shobna Gulati

Slightly concerned that she had to have someone teach her how to cut sandwiches and tell jokes at the same time but she at least seems like a competent cook. Lets just hope Claudia doesn’t talk to her too much while she’s doing it.

Tom Read Wilson

“His speciality is vegetables” the voiceover tells us right before Tom informs us that his culinary achievements peak at having chopped a parsnip while on Sunday Brunch one time. At least he did better than Richard Blackwood did with a lemon.

Before they get cooking the celebs have to meet each other and Ruth is immediately terrified of Ed Balls – who amongst us isn’t? But stealing everyone’s spotlight is Gareth who discovers a “secret note” from his husband and it was very sweet but I did love him very loudly asking the room “DID ANYONE ELSE GET ONE?” and it being very obvious that nobody else did and this was an entirely produced moment. I mean who is Desiree going to get one from? Her cat?

We’re All Family

The first challenge that they all face is a very broad scope one of “make something that your friends and family really love you to make” so you would think they’d all make those classic crowd pleasing comfort dishes – cottage pie, roast chicken maybe even a chocolate cake? And you’d be right in some cases however Tom is from Chelsea and so has obviously rocked up to a competition for home cooking with 6 pieces of venison loin

which he is planning on serving with a parsnip rosti and a minty pea puree which ended up looking likely like a sulking ocotpus

He does manage to cook his venison very well but it falls apart a little at the rosti as Angela declares it not a rosti because it’s not crispy enough.

Tom’s partner in reality TV crime, Ferne meanwhile is whipping up a Chinese BBQ Pork Loin with Tenderstem Broccoli and setting herself up as the over achiever of the group she makes an additional side of Salt and Pepper Prawns dipped in Curry Sauce

which is then obviously made to be eaten wrapped in lettuce because she’s a 20-something influencer

But to her credit it’s apparently a very flavoursome dish and she accomplished a lot in the time that Karim took to make a Miscellaneous Curry and Bad Rice

Poor Karim, the cardinal sin of hyping up his ability to make the fluffiest rice imaginable only to forget about it and serve up so much weirdly sticky rice that he could have made a bungalow with.

Shobna meanwhile outdoes herself with a Prawn Thali consisting of a Prawn Coconut Curry, Tarka Dhal, Pakoras and Naan Bread

All of the judges are wild about it and heavily praise her deft spicing.

Byrne’s attempt at a Beef Rendang Curry was admirable but ultimately a trial of errors as he became locked into both a battle with his impertinent pressure cooker and Mary Berry psyching him over the fact he chose to beat his meat with a rolling pin. Quite whether the decision to aggressively bash a rolling pin against the beef came before or after the scuffle with the pressure cooker is not entirely clear. And it’s all down hill from there as he has to scrape his Spring Onion Pakoras off the bottom of the fryer basket

and serves up a rather tough curry with disappointingly little sauce

Although looking at the picture I think someone may have just not served Mary any of the sauce? But I eagerly await the ongoing feud between Ed Byrne and various kitchen utensils.

Ruth and Balls were stuck in a feud of their own as both decide to make a lasagne. The brief may have been to make something that your whole family loves but Balls decides that HIS YOUNGEST CHILD BE DAMNED, he’s going to make that Lasagne that he hates. The child probably hates it for good reason considering that Balls is using sheets of cheddar as a topping.

Ruth’s offering is much more traditionally Italian, mostly because if she didn’t her Neapolitan boyfriend would certainly have strong words for her. Both are serving their lasagnes alongside garlic bread, with Ruth deciding to dowse a couple of barm cakes in ALL OF THE GARLIC BUTTER

It’s the correct way to make garlic bread.
Ruth unfortunately isn’t as speedy as Balls and he gets his in the oven while she’s still finishing up her layers meaning that her final result is not only lacking in flavour but is undercooked

Whereas Balls’s defies all the odds and gets rave reviews

We’re going to have to send a well worded apology and a basket of muffins to the Italian Embassy.

And if you were thinking that Lasagnes were a safe bet, Rachel’s offering is an entire month’s worth of Mac’n’Cheese

Well, it’s more Cheese’n’Token-Pasta because it’s at least 5 parts cheese to every 1 part pasta because she wanted to “ensure the cheese penetrates every piece of pasta”

I never need to hear a Johnson saying the word “penetrate” ever again thank you very much.

The judges were a little iffy on how much work Rachel had done beyond spend most of the 90 minutes grating and excessive amount of cheese. Desiree on the other hand wasn’t keeping things so simple with an entirely home made Beef Taco with Guacamole, Refried Beans and Queso

Someone could have at least just bought her a pack of Old El Paso taco shells? Everything she makes techniquely works well together, the beef needed to be better seasoned and also cut much thinner because it’s a struggle to eat. However Mary might have struggled less if she wasn’t eating tacos with a knife and fork

Lastly we have the shining light of the show that is Gareth Thomas who is cooking a dish inspired by his husband: a Glamorgan Sausage. For the uninitiated, a Glamorgan Sausage is made from a mixture of cheese and leaks which is then coated in breadcrumbs and fried

Honestly, it sounds like it should be the Welsh national dish.
Because the recipe originated in the mid 1800s, Gareth is being very authentic and will be grating his breadcrumbs rather than blitzing them in a blender, a decision that Mary finds most odd. Need I remind you that Mary is the person who ate a taco with a knife and fork?
Despite her breadcrumb misgivings Mary is thrilled and loves the dish, as do Chris and Angela.

An Arbitrary Home Cooked Ranking.

  1. Gareth’s Husband’s Sausage
  2. Shobna’s Prawns, Many Ways
  3. Ferne’s Carbless Chinese
  4. Rachel’s Less Mac More Cheese
  5. Tom’s Midweek Chelsea Dinner
  6. Taco Tuesday is Cancelled
  7. Ed Byrne’s Defeat at the Hands of the Pressure Cooker
  8. Karim’s Miscellaneous Curry
  9. Balls’s Italian Hate Crime
  10. Ruth’s Potential Break Up

The judges then each have to choose a favourite with Angela picking Ferne’s, Chris choosing Shobna’s and Mary deciding that her favourite was Gareth’s sausage.

Eggy, Steady, GO!

The second challenge as ever is the Rustle Up Challenge in which the home cooks are given a random ingredient as well as a limited larder to make a dish in pure blind panic – it’s a challenge that harkens back to the good old days of the MasterChef Mystery Box and we must cherish it before it gets binned for putting off prospective contestants from entering the show.

Everyone is convinced that the ingredient is going to be an aubergine because Ed Balls dreamed of an aubergine last night like some sort of horny Mrs. de Winter, and he’s not the only that’s a little on the horny side

You’ve been away from your husband for 1 day!

Of course they’re wrong and Balls does not possess culinary clairvoyance, the task is actually to make something using the humble egg, which they might have liked to reconsider had they known they were about to served up the full omelette spectrum. The only real success story amongst the omeletteers is Byrne who achieves both a well coloured bottom and a gooey middle. Ferne narrowly missed with her Spanish omelette, that did actually feature potatoes

It’s just that little bit too anaemic, which is perhaps why is scattered a few pieces of red chillies over the top at the last second.

And then we come to the more questionable approaches to the frittata with Shobna finally achieving her dream of putting a load of meatballs into an omelette, unfortunately she put a few too many in and the whole thing look a bit like an alien nesting site

The meatballs also slightly overwhelmed the omelette and didn’t let the egg truly shine.
Rachel landed on a Spanish Omelette after dithering about whether or not to make a scotch egg or a quiche (both of which she didn’t really know how to make – that didn’t stop Gareth or Desiree). She loads hers up with goat’s cheese and spinach for slamming it on the plate with all the grace and care of a dinner lady who’s been on the job for 15 years

But it was poor Ruth who had the biggest Frittata Fail as for some reason she decided that she would bake the whole thing rather than doing it in the frying pan, a plan which is mainly foiled by the fact she’s cooking it in a rather large baking tin

She luckily noticed it wasn’t cooking and then proceeded to decant the whole thing into a frying pan to make a Frittata Scramble

Which Chris then had the audacity to say was “over scrambled” but did at least commend her for noticing that her frittata wasn’t going to work and changing course, even if that course was through a haunted forest with a very big TRESPASSERS BEWARE sign.

While Rachel may have been put off by not knowing how to make a quiche, Desiree was all to eager to showcase her recently acquired knowledge of how to make one. I’m hazarding a guess that she watched one YouTube video of someone making a quiche while she was doing something else because that’s the only way I can explain her reasoning behind mixing cheddar cheese, pork mince and spinach

the brainfart didn’t stop there though as in the final seconds of the challenge he decided that the best way to garnish her Disaster Quiche was with a strawberry

A truly iconic moment in the Pantheon of Cookery Show Tragedies.
Desiree wasn’t the only one venturing into new territories as Gareth decides he’s going to make a Scotch Egg with no prior experience and a tendency to make everything as large as possible could only ever have resulted in a sausage to egg ratio as imbalanced as this

You could insulate a house with that much sausage meat! Chris is lucky enough to get a perfectly cooked yolk while Mary and Angela’s were both a little overdone. Nowhere near as overcooked as the eggs in Karim’s Shakshouka though, the image of Mary Berry tapping her knife against a rock hard egg yolk will be playing in my mind for years to come

His one saving grace is the fact that his tomato and pepper sauce is very tasty – you just have to eat around the dentally dangerous eggs.

Balls took a very risky approach with his decision to make a soufflé which he then decided to only make harder for himself by not measuring up his ingredients but then covered all his bases by making a plethora of soufflé in every over proof dish he could get his hands on

and low and behold, he pulled it off

He doesn’t get any overt praise for managing to make a soufflé in a round where half of his competitors made varyingly gross omelettes which seemed a little cruel. But it was Tom that risked it all by deciding to make a Victoria Sponge with Custard Icing and Homemade Jam with not a recipe book in sight and somehow goes alarmingly well for him

Quite how he managed to get away with this when Shobna was told that her meatball omelette didn’t properly showcase eggs is a mystery to me. Especially as the judges didn’t even comment on the taste and Mary spent most of the critique pushing a chunk of rapidly crumbling cake around her plate

but well done for doing something different I suppose?

An Arbitrary Egg Dish Ranking

  1. Ed Balls’s Unsung Soufflés
  2. Ed Byrne’s Champion Omelette
  3. Gareth Thomas’s Big Egg
  4. Ferne McCann’s Pale Frittata
  5. Rachel Johnson’s Omelette Surprise
  6. Tom Read Wilson’s Dodgy Cake
  7. Shobna Gulati’s Meatballs First
  8. Ruth Madeley’s Disaster Omelette
  9. Karim Zeroual’s Bulletproof Eggs
  10. Desiree Burch’s Strawberry Garnish

Swiss Roll Showdown

The final round is a showdown in which the chefs that the judges deem the worst of the episode must face off in a blindly judged challenge and one will be eliminated. This week it’s Ruth, Karim and Desiree that all find themselves in a race to make a Raspberry Ripple Swiss Roll worthy of saving their bacon. They also only have 30 minutes

The trick is to obviously get your sponge in as quick as possible so that it can properly bake, for roughly 8 minutes is Mary’s suggestion, but also give it enough time to cool so that you can put the whipped cream on it without worrying about it leaking out of the ends. And we thought the 2.5 hours they gave them to make a three tier wedding cake on Bake Off was bad?

Karim is the first to panic that his sponge isn’t cooking fast enough, seemingly 2 minutes after he put it in the oven and quickly whacks up the temperature which is apparently why he had a great big crack along the top of it when he rolled it

Although he attempted to hide it by flipping his roll upside down but as we know nothing gets passed Detective Mary Berry

It’s all calm waters with Ruth though as she pretty cheerily ploughs on through the challenge ending up with the best swiss roll of the bunch

Desiree isn’t quite as composed as right from the start she severely overbeats her cream into a consistency I didn’t even know was possible

it just never came together for Desiree and her swiss roll seemed to be slowly cannibalising itself from the inside out

And it’s because of this that Desiree finds herself as the unfortunate first boot of the series.

And so, 9 Celebrity Home Cooks remain

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