Back in the 90’s, I remember flopping down on the sofa at my flat after a day of college classes, ready to be entertained by Ready Steady Cook and Ainsley Harriot.

I have to admit that the recipes didnt look as tasty as the ones you see today whipped up by Nigella or Jamie, but the sheer entertainment factor – perhaps also the silly concept of two teams (one ordinary person each, unless it was a Celeb episode) called the Red Tomatoes vs the Green Peppers racing against the clock to cook in 20 minutes, with limited ingredients and one “famous chef” each to help (Aisley being one of them), it was television at its most couch-potato enducing.

In those days, Ready Steady Cook was hosted by the rotund Fern Britton, who was replaced by Ainsley (who stole all the attention anyway – Fern just sort of waddled from one cooking station to another) in 2000. As I moved from the UK in 1997, I was quite surprised that the show was still alive and kicking on BBC 2 in the same timeslot.

And after a bit more research, I found out that some changes had been made, in addition to Ainsley’s move from chef to presenter. One was that the food budget had been raised from the �5 if a Bistro bag (�7) or Gourmet bag (�10) was used. Sensible, as I dont think 5 quid can buy you much in London these days. Also, the show’s length had been upped to a lengthy 45 minutes!

What hasn’t changed is the studio audience voting with those giant flashcards with either a red tomato or a green pepper, or the grand prize, which remains at 100 quid TWELVE years later.

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While watching the holiday-appropriate “Turkey Challenge” episode of Iron Chef America, in which the contestants were each given the Thanksgiving bird to get creative within the show’s time slot, I watched half-interested as to who was challenging Bobby Flay (yet again) with Alton’s semi-sarcastic drawl in the background.

When I saw that it wasn’t Mario and that it was two affable ladies – a blonde in bright pink and a diminutive brunette with funky glasses, it got my attention. I realized after a while, that it was the Two Hot Tamales, also known as Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger.

The most interesting dish of the show by far was the Hot Tamales turkey (yes, turkey) ice cream, which used the bourbon Wild Turkey, and (regretfully) turkey stock. As one of the judges aptly put it, high marks for originality, low marks for the proteiny taste. Much as I like Mary Sue and Susan, I have to say that they reached a little too much here – who on earth would eat a poultry-flavoured ice cream? I must say that the presentation was beautiful though, a chocolate ball crust in a chocolate turkey-shaped basket.

Their other dishes beat Mr.Flay’s multi-turkey breast renditions (all the same, different sauce) by a mile I thought, with things like turkey meatball soup and a scotch egg which looked absolutely scrummy. You don’t get to see of the humble scotch egg on television much, and I have to say that the last time I saw one was at a garage shop in a UK motorway.

Sadly, it was a tie (the injustice!!), and even if Alton said that that was “rare” for the show, I should really email them and say that the last time I watched it was also a tie.

But anyway, one good thing was that I got to see the Two Hot Tamales again, who I hadn’t seen in years and had actually forgotten about in the sea of the new breed of Celeb Chefs (or dare I say media whores?). Now you know who I’ll be blogging about next.

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And more Thanksgiving tips from your favourite chefs…..

the Hearty Boys
Remember WHY your guests are there. Sure, we all want the food to be glorious and the table setting to be stunning….but we’re talking real life here. When things go awry, your family will just be glad to be together and your friends will probably be thrilled to have something to hold over your head for the next 15 years. That being said, when you plan your menu, don’t be overambitious and bite off more than you can chew. Plan on dishes that can be at least partially prepared one or two days in advance

Michael Chiarello
If you sit down for even a few minutes ahead of time to write down all of your dishes and the ingredients you need, you will actually get to be a guest at your own party. Ask yourself what can I do two days ahead, or even one day ahead? Also, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help.

Nigella Lawson
Keep the sides to a minimum, but make sure you have a lot of each. You need to create a mood of welcoming plenty, but too many pots on the stove will not help you feel hospitable. Make a homemade cranberry sauce�it’s easier than you think and will make everyone feel you’ve made a real effort. What’s more, you can make it in advance.

Paula Deen
Do as much as possible the day ahead. Casseroles are great because you can cook and freeze them ahead of time and just pull them out and heat up at the last minute. Serve things that can be eaten at room temperature.

Robin Miller
Take a deep breath, enjoy yourself and don’t try anything too complicated. Most people enjoy simple holiday foods. And, don’t forget to delegate!!

Sandra Lee
Make as much as you can ahead of time and freeze it. Thaw it in the fridge overnight and heat just before serving. Let guests bring the more labor-intensive and baked dishes. Don’t panic! Perfection is overrated, and anything is fixable.

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After the trick or treating is over, its time to start thinking of the holiday season, which is now really starting to creep up on us. For Americans all over the world, one of the biggest holidays, Thanksgiving, is marked on the calendar, a time when the word “preparations” means something rather large and daunting – especially for us mere mortals and not mini-Marthas.

So here I’ve found some of the best advice from Celeb Chefs which should ease some of the holiday aggro you most probably are experiencing now. So take their advice and get ready for a stress-free Thanksgiving.
Bobby Deen
Start early, have a plan, know how many you’re cooking for. Try frying your turkey this year and have fun with your friends and family�that’s what it’s all about.

Dave Lieberman
Don’t make too much and get your relatives to help. Delegate.

Ellie Krieger
Get as much done as you can ahead of time so you can relax and enjoy the company!

Emeril Lagasse
Don’t panic. Plan ahead and do your shopping in advance.

George Duran
Invite mom over.

Giada De Laurentiis
Do a Potluck�assign a dish to everyone so that you don’t have to do all the work yourself. And don’t be afraid to let your guests help out in the kitchen and with other loose ends. It makes them a part of the meal, while also taking off some of the workload.

Guy Fieri
Test run a turkey in your oven with the recipe you’re going to use a week ahead of time, making sure you track time, temp and method. Everyone can always use some extra turkey and if you do end up blowing the turkey deal on the big day, you already had some the week before and it won’t be so traumatic. Make real cranberry sauce�it is so worth it.

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Everyday Italian

When Giada De Laurentiis was pregnant — and her nesting instincts started early. She’ll be sharing Thansgiving recipes in her show Everyday Italian But the chef will be reinventing Thanksgiving fare, serving salad instead of corn bread.

She says most of her family is married to Americans, and so it’s become part of her personal family traditions. And have to admit, nothing like a table full of food to satisfy those first-trimester cravings.

To compliment your Halloween cocktails, here’s another recipe from Emeril that fits the bill for a spooky celebration – Torched Pumpkin served with a tasty Asian dipping sauce. Fiendishly good!

2 pounds yellow pumpkin, peeled and seeds removed, cut into 1/2-inch by 3-inch strips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups dark beer
1 tablespoon Emeril’s Essence, plus more for dusting, recipe below
Vegetable oil, for frying
Salt
For the sauce:
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 to 2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions

In a heavy, deep saucepan, heat the oil to 360 degrees F.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, beer, and Essence. Dip the pumpkin strips into the batter, letting the excess drip off. Fry in the oil until golden, turning to brown evenly, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and Essence.

For the sauce: In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, honey, sesame oil, and green onions.

Serve hot with the sauce.

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
2 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
1 tablespoon dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Yield: about 2/3 cup

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