Method in heston’s madness

editorial image

Whether at his world-famous Fat Duck restaurant or on our TV screens, Heston Blumenthal is known for his crazy creations.

He’s back on the box with a new series giving his trademark twist to classic British dishes.

When Heston Blumenthal started making headlines, all the talk was of his snail porridge, bacon and egg ice cream and seafood platter served with an iPod playing the sound of crashing waves.

That was eight years ago, and those who wrote those dishes off as gimmicks would have done well to note that around the same time, he’d just won his third Michelin star.

There was clearly more to his fusion of the chemical and the culinary than met the eye.

Since then, via TV series such as In Search Of Perfection and, following his move to Channel 4 in 2008, Heston’s Feasts, his understanding of science, wild imagination and, not least, his incredible cooking skills have been enjoyed by millions of viewers.

Following on from Heston’s Feasts, in which he focused on Victorian, Roman, Medieval and Tudor recipes, and last year’s Heston’s Fantastical Food, where he made enormous versions of everyday items - including a pub made of pies - he’s back with another series, Heston’s Great British Food.

“I’m a bit flustered today,” says Blumenthal, midway through filming the series which explores the origins of classic British dishes and then, in true Heston style, experiments with new ways of serving them.

He says he’s recovering from a mid-series freak-out. It’s not uncommon, he explains.

“Last week I wasn’t happy with anything we’d done. It’s so much work, my brain just fries.

“For the first time ever, I turned to the director and said I didn’t think I could do something. I thought we’d failed. He was OK with that, and from a TV point of view I suppose it would be good,” he adds.

“But I’ve not failed on a challenge before. Even when that giant ice cream looked like it was going to collapse in the last series, we brought it back. I don’t want to fail at anything.”

In the first episode, Blumenthal hops into his red time-travelling phone box and discovers the roots of British favourite, fish and chips.

He found it became popular during World War Two, when potatoes were widely grown at home thanks to the Dig For Victory campaign, and fish was one of the few foodstuffs not rationed.

“We met a load of fishermen whose dads were fishermen during the war. They were telling us all these stories about being bombed while out at sea. Would you really have wanted to go out fishing during the war? Such bravery, and it played a huge role in it being a national staple.”

Giving tradition the signature Blumenthal twist, he visits the oldest chippy in London and creates something new.

It involves wrapping a saveloy in mushy pea puree, then wrapping that in blended-up fish, chips, tartare sauce and vinegar, battering and deep frying.

“It was so wrong, in many ways, but it tasted so right,” he says.