River Cottage: Hugh’s Three Good Things [Part 1]

River Cottage: Hugh’s Three Good Things [Part 1]

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Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (of River Cottage fame) has a simple theory – many classic recipes boil down to three complementary ingredients, skilfully combined.

To test this theory, he invites a series of chefs to join him for a friendly competition. The challenge is to create the best meal (as judged in a blind taste test by the guest judge) from the day’s featured ingredient, plus two more of the chef’s choice. The series is organised into three week-long contests (one per DVD in the set) which each revolve around a particular class of ingredient. Week 1 focuses on vegetables, week 2 on meat, and week 3 on fruit.

It becomes rapidly clear that there is no real contest to speak of. Hugh and his competitors take it seriously enough, but it’s the seriousness of good friends playing for bragging rights – there’s no prize at stake here. This ends up being a point in the series’ favour – where another show might have got bogged down in “reality”-style videologs about how each contestant feels about all the others, or how much they want to avoid elimination, 3 Good Things is able to just focus on the food.

Another thing that sets 3 Good Things apart from the Masterchefs of the world, is the quality of the guests. All Hugh’s guest competitors are respected chefs, and his judges are among the best in their fields, but none of them are what you might call celebrities (with the possible exception of Alys Fowler). This means they’re knowledgeable without feeling like they have some sort of persona to preserve – which adds to the “casual bets among friends” atmosphere.

The recipes range from the inspiring to the weird, but they’re always interesting. I’d recommend this one to anyone interested in cooking, or in food TV as psychic comfort food.

Available on R4 DVD from Madman Entertainment.

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