Am I lovin' it?

screen scrumptious Joey Matthew
Last Updated 30 June 2012, 21:01 IST

While surfing channels, one might come across the original domestic goddess, Nigella Lawson, whipping up butter, cream, sugar, eggs and chocolate into rich, gooey goodness, and pouring over the contents of her mixing bowl into a golden-brown pie crust.

One might even feel the need to slice the pie and extract a plate or two of the dessert she’s seen sharing with friends, through the television set, but unfortunately, technology hasn’t quite gotten there yet. So, what’s the next best option? No, not bake it yourself, as that seems like far too tedious a process. The correct answer — change channels, of course.

And so, just as Nigella is seen rummaging through her fridge for a midnight snack, pulling out a slice of what distinctly looks like the aforementioned pie, sprinkling it with macadamia nuts (okay, so that bit could just be my salivating imagination), I decide that this is far too much a temptation for my ever-growing tummy. I press hard on my barely-functional remote, trying to find anything on the idiot box that could take my mind off food, but alas, the culinary arts seem to have taken over the telly.

Masterchef Australia glares down hard at me, reminding me that I have only five more minutes to plate, Rocky and Mayur are hanging out at all the campus addas, biting into plates of hot samosas, a traditional Tamilian maami waves her stainless steel ladle in my face, urging me to try her idli innovation because it’s “something different for the kids,” and famous Canadian chef, Chuck Hughes is bent over his kitchen counter, busy preparing his “amazing” creamed corn. I appear to give in and decide to retrace my way back to Nigella, when, along the way, I chance upon Indian supermodel, Joey Matthew, inviting me into her kitchen for a bite.

“I am a model,” Joey croons to the camera, explaining that her stints around the world have allowed her a chance to explore the world’s various cuisines. And with food being one of Joey’s long-standing passions, she embarks on a half-hour journey every Monday and Tuesday on NDTV Good Times at 10 pm, churning out three ‘yummilicious’ dishes for a final dining sequence with friends, after which she calls it a wrap.

Brace yourself for some strong hunger pangs, even if you’ve just finished one of the three important meals of the day, as Joey beats egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks for her chocolate pavlova, blitzes mangoes to pureed perfection for her mango meringue cake, roasts a pumpkin to a sunburnt complexion for her roast pumpkin soup, and blends wasabi with mayonnaise for an innovative dressing to go with her chicken legs and chorizo. Phew! Joey sure has come a long way from being a lawyer; since her law school days, she has not only owned the ramp, but a music company (Audio Ashram) too. And now, here she is, wearing the chef’s hat as well.
Love at first bite?

This series, I understand, is an attempt to cull out a perfect menu for a love-themed restaurant in the making. But, what exactly is a perfect menu in the first place? No sooner do I begin to ponder over its precise definition than Joey comes up with a list of qualifying attributes for the same: a concise menu that uses fresh produce and one which is constantly updated to reflect variety. So, what makes the cut for Joey? Molecular gastronomy specialist Heston Blumenthal’s menu, of course! Quite a tall order, eh?

The show, however, doesn’t quite stick to Heston’s methodology. Main course isn’t tricked into being a dessert, and there don’t seem to be any vats of liquid nitrogen lying nearby. Instead, Joey rolls a slab of what appears to be store-bought tuna in black-and-white sesame seeds, before drizzling it generously with olive oil and searing it for the final finish. Through it all, Joey’s beady stare and husky voice takes you through the process, and just when it feels like it’s time to make a channel switch, the camera dips down in a blink-and-you-still-can’t-miss-it fashion, and shocks you out of it.

But this isn’t supposed to be that kind of magical cooking. This is simple and elegant, a “fancy” meal you and I could plate out for our dinner guests, a cordon bleu aspiration at best. And for that, I would have to give it to Joey. Not a day has gone by when, inspired by Donna Hay or Jamie Oliver, I’ve sent my mum, much to her chagrin, scurrying down every market lane, in search of tarragon and such like, only to substitute them with our local dhania and kadi patta in the end. But here, Joey appears to have been extra careful: “I’ve ensured that the ingredients to whatever I present on the show are available at INA or the nearest local market. I even suggest alternatives, if any.”

What makes this show different from the rest? Joey accepts that she isn’t a professionally qualified chef, and a lot of what she doles out is through her own experience as a home cook. Being a model, “eating is the last thing on my mind,” she reveals. But still, it’s her passion for cooking, and perhaps more importantly, “feeding,” that she feels underlines the theme of this show. However, I’m not quite sure if that is the message that comes across, as the show, relying heavily on Nigella’s flirty format, often has Joey teasing and seducing the audience in an attempt to convince them into staying on for her next “glamorous” course.

So, what’s the final verdict, you ask? Watch, if you must, on lazy weekday nights. Although the presentation leaves much to be desired, the food in itself is delectable enough to sustain you through the night.

(Published 30 June 2012, 14:27 IST)

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