Mary Makes It Easy review: Old pals, bottle of red, Mary Berry cooking… it’s the perfect picnic! writes CHRISTOPHER STEVENS
Mary Makes It Easy
Inside The Tower Of London
Hard to believe that Mary Berry was five years old when the Blitz began. The queen of baking, born in 1935, is bubbling with the energy of a woman half her age.
I’m not being ungallant. She told us herself, as she prepared a creamy soup on Mary Makes It Easy (BBC2), that she can never chop a mushroom without remembering how her dad used to grow them in their cellar during the war. ‘It was a little bit of luxury to have something that was homegrown,’ she said.
At 88, she’s as spry and sharp as she was when Bake Off launched in 2010. Her friendship with Mel Giedroyc has survived the show’s defection to Channel 4, and the two set off for a camping trip beside the Thames with a car-load of cooking utensils.
Hard to believe that Mary Berry was five years old when the Blitz began. The queen of baking, born in 1935, is bubbling with the energy of a woman half her age
At 88, she’s as spry and sharp as she was when Bake Off launched in 2010
They put up a tent, waved to boaters on the river, got through a bottle of red wine and cooked spaghetti with veg ragu, followed by a gooey parfait with a raspberry coulis. As picnics go, it was thoroughly civilised without being impractical, a description that might fit Mary herself.
Mel let us know with a wink that they might not really spend the night in that tent, as if anyone could have imagined they would. But if the camping holiday was a bit of fiction, the camaraderie between the two is not. Completely at ease, they teased and gossiped, with Mary feeding Mel the set-ups for punchlines as well as meals.
Mel called her ‘Bezza’ and praised the combination of flavours in the parfait: ‘You get your sharpness and you get your sweetness.’
‘You’ll be on MasterChef next,’ Mary retorted drily.
Extra lolly of the night
Until Status Quo had their first hit in 1968, Francis Rossi had a back-up plan. ‘I was going to have an ice cream van,’ he said on Little Trains & Big Names (More4). Before that, Quo were nearly called the Muhammad Alis. There’s a punchy name
As on Bake Off, a little repartee goes a long way, and the jolly jinks paused several times so we could see Mary back in her kitchen, demonstrating a simple topping for toasted ciabatta and giving us a recipe for chicken tartiflette, a one-dish French recipe with onions and potato.
There was also time for a game of croquet and a chorus of Ging Gang Goolie. ‘I’m channelling the Girl Guide I never was,’ Mel declared happily. ‘Do I get a cooking badge?’
‘I’ll just see how you go,’ Mary told her firmly. She really doesn’t stand any nonsense.
There was chicken on the menu, too, for the ravens on Inside The Tower Of London (Ch5), or chicks at least — scattered on the ground as snacks for the eight famous feathered residents, by ravenmaster Chris Skaife.
Threatened by a nationwide outbreak of avian flu, they were confined to an aviary. It’s ironic that the ravens, symbols of the Tower itself, should be banged up there. To keep them entertained, Chris devised games such as hiding dead mice in plastic bottles. Gruesome it may be, but that’s in keeping with the castle’s gory history.
Chris wore a polythene hazmat suit, which helped reduce the threat of infection, though it isn’t the traditional attire of yeoman warders, or beefeaters. His comrades were parading for the last time in their uniforms with the red and gold insignias of Elizabeth II — now replaced with the King’s cipher, CIIIR.
Beefeaters must be the most heavily armed stand-up comedians in the world. This show, now in its sixth series, reveals their polished patter. ‘Who’s up for a story with a happy ending?’ one asked the tourists. ‘Okay, go visit somewhere else then!’
‘We got a book filled with 80 years worth of daft questions asked by visitors to the Tower,’ announced another in a stentorian bellow. ‘The Tower of London… was not built by a wizard!’
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