Tune in, switch off - The roast with the most

4th September 2009 at 01:00

Desperate Romantics (BBC2) - laudanum-laced, bonking-fuelled and with a little painting on the side - seemed like a six-hour trailer for a drama that only ever tantalised. Still, it could have been a PhD thesis compared with the prancing that passed as history in The Tudors (BBC2).

The strongest drama of the new season so far was ITV1's Gunrush, a topical portrayal of teenagers seduced by guns. Timothy Spall played Doug Becket, a too-good-to-believe husband and father until his daughter was senselessly gunned down after a childish argument in a supermarket. The loss drove a wedge between Doug and his wife .

There were powerful images: a very realistic death; the young killer curled up on his bed, nursing the murder weapon as if it were his teddy bear; Doug's pain as he tried to scrub his daughter's blood from her sister's cello. And a violent teenage universe that no education system could put right.

Doug was tortured into finding the killer to regain his wife's respect. His only clues were the missing murder weapon and his memory of "a smile", the killer's facial scar, buried deep in his trauma.

Everybody's Everyman, Spall acted to perfection. He once joked that he didn't like his face but wasn't having a head transplant. Well, I say Spall is beautiful.

English food was pronounced beautiful - "the best on the plate in the world" - by Vito Cataffo in Dolce Vito - Dream Restaurant (Channel 4). A successful Italian restaurateur in the UK, Vito is setting up a new place in Benevento, near Naples, to bring English cuisine to his countrymen.

Does he mean our Indian, Chinese or French restaurants, I wonder? For a good English restaurant is as rare as raw beef in steak tartare. But after a Devon-drenched summer, watching this was my last hope of a sun tan.

The Italians interviewed defined English cooking as fast food. If only: when the recipe claims it will take 10 minutes to prepare, you can bet it will take me half an hour. And that's just finding the potato peeler.

Roast beef was on the menu, fillet the tastiest cut "because it's the laziest muscle". Searching for the best, Vito shivered in a butcher's cold room where the beef was hung to draw out the juices and sweeten the meat. What happened to the Italian sun?

Vito chose the four-week-hung Dexter cut from Lincolnshire and back in Benevento prepared a beef banquet for friends. He kept slapping something loudly when making his point. Or was he just tenderising those fillets? I could try this to get attention in the next staff meeting.

Sporting a sporran-sprung kilt, Vito dressed for dinner on the big night. Well, he was going for an English. But the fillet was toughened by being over-cooked. So no blood on the plates and his guests left dreaming of pizza.

And while we've only been back in school for a week, I was left dreaming of my next Italian holiday.

  • Ray Tarleton is principal of South Dartmoor Community College in Ashburton, Devon.

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