Ashley Banjo appeared on last week’s edition of Saturday Kitchen and he is my unsung hero. The TV was providing some light background entertainment as I was getting ready that morning. I heard James Martin, presenter of Saturday Kitchen instructing the audience to place the apples in the roasting tray and sprinkle with butter and sugar. I thought he was making apple crumble until I saw the pork shoulder. I started to pay attention! James then started explaining to his guest for the week, Ashley Banjo – lead dancer of dance group Diversity and Got to Dance judge that you need to rub the fat of the pork shoulder with lemon juice and salt to make crispy crackling. Seeing Ashley’s shocked expression made James ask him “Have you never had a packet of pork scratchings with your pint of beer in a pub?” Ashley politely replied” No” but his facial expressions spoke a thousand more words, none of them positive. I don’t blame him. To want to eat a packet of crispy fat is ludicrous – unless you’re happy heading towards obesity! Saturday Kitchen was turning into a bit of a comedy sketch. I was hooked!
The salted pork shoulder was ceremoniously placed on top of the apples and then in the oven to roast for 3 hours. Next to prepare was the mashed potato. A moderately healthy dish I thought until James claimed that the perfect mash is equal quantities of potatoes, cream and butter. Ashley looked as shocked as I felt!
It was now time to remove a roast pork shoulder that James had prepared earlier. True to his claim, the fat was golden and crispy all over and if you tried not to think about what it was, looked quite delicious. But Ashley didn’t look convinced! Unperturbed, James made the final preparations for the dish. He lifted the fatty pork off the tray to reveal mushy apples swimming in the fatty juices. James and guest chef Nick Nairns were salivating as they explained that you now have a ready made apple sauce to complement the pork. To make the gravy, you gather up the juices from the pan and heat to thicken. Ashley looked into the pan and said “You’re not seriously going to use that are you? That can’t be good for you. That’s just a heart attack waiting for you in the pan!” Words of wisdom falling on deaf ears Ashley, I said to myself. James at this point tried to change the tone of the conversation by asking Ashley about his up and coming TV programme, to which Ashley replied “Yes, If I’m still alive, that’s Got to Dance, every week from Sunday.” James, ever the professional and totally unwilling to be put off by an uncooperative healthy freak of a guest, began to serve, first a couple of slices of roast pork, then buttery mashed potato and finally a crispy hunk of crackling! Finally, the gravy (or more appropriately the nail in the coffin) liberally doused over the meat and potatoes. Time for Ashley to taste as he forced a tiny morsel of meat into his mouth. The well trained cameraman moved away from Ashley’s face just as the poor guy started to retch. However, not before I caught sight of the priceless moment as I collapsed in heaps of uncontrollable laughter. James Martin may have achieved a Mitchelin star or two in his time but I don’t think he’ll be awarded a gold star from Ashley Banjo anytime soon.
Many cookery programmes are great entertainment but they should alert the audience to “Don’t try this at home without consulting your doctor first!” As for Ashley, I give him 3 gold stars for having the courage to say what he’s really thinking, even if it’s live TV and he’s pissed off the entire cast of Saturday Kitchen. I hope that a coronary or two has been prevented this weekend because of his efforts. TV Chefs, clear up your acts and stop clogging our arteries.