TV review: Cook Clever, Less Waste

Benjie Goodhart / 20 May 2021

Prue Leith and Dr Rupy Aujla look at how households can help reduce the huge amount of wasted food in the UK every year.



Cook Clever, Waste Less with Prue and Rupy 1/4, Monday 24th May, 8:30pm, Channel 4

Feeding a family is not easy. In episode one of this new consumer show about minimising food waste, we meet the Parshall family from Bristol. Mealtimes are complicated in their household because the children have food allergies. I can relate. Preparing a meal in our household is akin to one of the 12 labours of Hercules. Only involving grumpy kids, so actually harder than anything he ever did.

My ten-year-old daughter is a vegetarian. I admire her for this, particularly as she was a big fan of seafood, and I am proud of her principled stance. But it can be a pain in the backside, having to make separate meals for her. Why don’t you all eat veggie meals, then? Well, largely because my 13-year-old son is an inveterate carnivore. The rarer the better. I don’t mean he eats rare animals, he’s not dining on filet of white rhino or anything, I just mean he likes stuff very pink. He’d happily just wander round fields taking bites out of cows, except that he’s not a monster. Oh, and he’s also incredibly fussy. And has a bionic gag reflex. Just touching, literally touching a piece of fruit can make him throw up.

Then there’s my wife. She’s embarked on something called a keto diet. It basically means no carbs. I thought that would mean no rice, bread or potatoes, but it basically means no anything. Everything has carbs. She can’t have carrots or peas or sweetcorn or any fruit, or anything containing flour or starch or sugar. Pretty much all restaurant food is out, as is almost anything cooked in a sauce. She is essentially existing on meat, salad, rather-disappointing sugar-free wine, and a healthy cocktail of self-pity and rage. And then there’s me. I’ll eat pretty much anything, apart from goat’s cheese (why oh why?) and vinegar.

Anyway, I’m aware that I seem to be turning this TV blog into a sort of food therapy session, which is not exactly what you came here to read. You probably came to get car insurance and clicked the wrong link. Anyway, the programme.

This new series looks at the amount if food we waste every year (an appalling £14 billion) and introduces some handy hacks on cutting back on the amount we throw away. Each week, the culinary goddess that is Prue Leith teams up with doctor-turned-food-writer Dr Rupy Aujla to revolutionise the way a family shops, cooks and eats. And, as we’ve established, this week that family is the Parshalls. David and Nadya spend £9000-a-year on food (the average is £5000) and throw away an enormous 23% of the produce they buy. This is, in part, down to the complexities of having kids who are allergic to gluten and dairy products.

Prue and Rupy study the family’s eating habits and set about devising a menu, and a culinary routine, for the family to follow. In essence, it involves a lot of batch cooking, and being creative with leftovers. Don’t just make a ragout and use it in bolognaise. Make extra, and have it in burritos, and toasties, and cottage pie, across the week. Quite what Dr Rupy makes of eating red meat four times a week we aren’t told…)

It’s not rocket science, but it’s sensible. And there are some fascinating time-saving hacks here too. One of my favourite vegetables is a roasted butternut squash, but I never knew you can roast it with its skin on. Nor that you could make a delicious smoothie using the whole banana, including the skin. And I had no idea you could make a cake out of parsnip and orange squash. “What child wouldn’t want to try this?” said Prue happily. My wife said our son’s name, and sighed.

Before We Die, Wednesday 26th May, 9pm, Channel 4

I worry that I’m too strict with my son (sorry, he seems to have a bit of a starring role this week). This morning, I took an hour off his X-Box time, because he was tormenting his sister rather than brushing his teeth. Last night, I made him switch out his light ten minutes early because he’d not done his teeth when asked. Actually, most of his misdemeanours seem to be dental in origin. I suppose, if that’s the extent of his crimes, he’s not doing too badly.

Detective Inspector Hannah Laing (Lesley Sharp) has somewhat bigger problems with her son Christian (Patrick Gibson). He’s a small-time drug dealer. For all I know, he also doesn’t brush his teeth when asked. But she’s focussing more on the drugs – typical copper! Anyway, she makes the decision to bust him. No X-Box bans or early bed for Christian. For him, it’s a police raid, and the full force of the law.

So begins this intriguing new six-part drama from Channel 4. According to the blurb, it’s adapted from a Swedish drama of the same name, but it’s not exactly the same. I’d love to see how Channel 4 would explain that they’d called their new drama Innan vi Dör. But I’m being pedantic, it translates as Before We Die.

The action resumes two years later. Hannah is having an affair with a married police officer, Sean Hardacre. Sean, incidentally, is played by Bill Ward, the last person I interviewed face-to-face, before the pandemic. He was delightful, and conducted the interview with no shoes or socks. If your interested, Bill Ward has very nice feet.

Anyway, Hannah is on the phone to Sean, when there is an odd noise, and the phone goes dead. Normally, when I’m talking to my other half and the phone goes dead, I just assume she’s hung up on me. Again. But Hannah has a suspicion something is very wrong, and when Sean doesn’t appear at work later in the day, she persuades her colleagues to start searching for him. Among them is a blunt, plain-speaking Scotsman (is there any other kind?) Billy Murdoch (Vincent Regan), a copper with a dark past.

And then the intrigue starts to build. Who was the mysterious confidential source Sean was due to meet? How is Christian – now out of prison and going straight – linked to all of this? And is there a leak within the police department? Because, mother of God, if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s bent coppers! (Sorry, wrong programme… )

The script, beautifully adapted from the original by Matt Baker, is taut enough that the action moves along at a cracking pace, and builds to moments of unbearable tension. There are some really nice twists and a couple of major shocks in the first episode alone, which augurs well for the rest of the series. And there are some satisfyingly meaty underlying themes of family, forgiveness and redemption, so that it’s more than just people with hard expressions shooting guns and punching each other. And, of course, Lesley Sharp is magnificent. Lesley Sharp is always magnificent.

Oh, and the whole thing is set in Bristol, which makes it a Bristolian double-whammy for this week’s previews. Perhaps we could have a mash-up in episode two, with an exciting subplot where the police have to assist a family in trying not to waste food while feeding their two gluten and dairy intolerant sons. Just a thought.

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The best… and the rest:

Harry and Megan: Three Troubled Years, 7:30pm, Channel 5: Feature-length documentary looking at the deterioration of the relationship between the Sussexes and the rest of the royal family, and asking if there is likely to be a rapprochement anytime soon.

Eurovision Song Contest, 8pm, BBC One: Last year, Eurovision fans were denied their annual pleasure by the ruddy virus, so this year’s 65th edition of the gloriously cheesy competition, live from Rotterdam, is added cause for celebration. Graham Norton hosts, and Britain’s entry is singer songwriter James Newman, who will almost certainly lose to some bizarre heavy metal outfit from Latvia.

The Queen Mother 1/3, 9pm, Channel 5: New documentary series charting the extraordinary life of a certain Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon.

Arena: African Apocalypse, 9:30pm, BBC Two: Poet Femi Nylander investigates atrocities committed in Niger in the late 19th century by a French army officer named Paul Voulet.

Monday 24th May

Your Home Made Perfect 1/8, 8pm, BBC Two: Angela Scanlon returns with the pleasing property makeover show that employs actual architects rather than builders to put up a set of rickety shelves and some hideous curtains.

Long Lost Family: Born Without a Trace 1/3, 9pm, ITV: Hankies at the ready for the return of this emotional series that sees Davina McCall and Nicky Campbell helping people abandoned as babies to find their families. Tonight, are two girls abandoned in Chesterfield in the late 1980s sisters? Continues over the next two nights.

The Year Britain Stopped, 9pm, Channel 4: Feature-length documentary examining the personal stories of people during the pandemic, including scientists, frontline workers, and the nurse who treated Boris Johnson.

Tuesday 25th May

Springwatch 1/12, 8pm, BBC Two: Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan present the delightful nature show from Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk. I didn’t think there were any hills in Norfolk. Continues nightly.

Bake Off; The Professionals, 8pm, Channel 4: Liam Charles and Tom Allen return with the professional version of the baking show, featuring pastry chefs from top hotels, restaurants and small businesses as they vie to be named the best in the land.

Wednesday 26th May

The Black American Fight for Freedom, 9pm, BBC Two: Documentary examining the pivotal moments in race relations in the US, and asking why more progress hasn’t been made.

Broadmoor: serial Killers and High Security, 9pm, Channel 5: A rare look at the inner workings of Broadmoor’s high security psychiatric hospital, home to some of the most dangerous offenders in the country.

Thursday 27th May

21 Day Body Turnaround with Michael Mosley, 9pm, Channel 4: Ubiquitous TV medic Michael Mosley presents a new series in which he asks five volunteers to turn around their health in just three weeks.

What Are We Feeding Our Kids?, 9pm, BBC One: The other ubiquitous TV medic, Chris van Tulleken, examines the food we give our children, and asks why 21% of children are obese by the time they leave primary school. The answer may lie in ultra-processed food.

The Road to Partition 1/2, 9pm, BBC Two: Two-part documentary series looking at the story behind the partition of Ireland 100 years ago.

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