We've seen him attempt to produce the perfect bangers and mash, the perfect pizza and the perfect roast chicken. Tonight's episode of Heston Blumenthal's In Search of Perfection was the one I'd been looking forward to the most - the perfect spaghetti bolognese. I sneered at the thought and even said to my Mum 'I bet it's not as good as mine'. Yeah ok, so I'm a bit arrogant. But my ragu is damn good if I may say so myself. It's based on Delia Smith's but with a few extra additions like carrots, celery and milk.
Famous for his snail porridge and bacon and egg ice cream, Heston's restaurant The Fat Duck in Bray was voted best restaurant in the world in 2005 and the previous year it was awarded its third Michelin star. Not bad.
He's been described as a 'culinary alchemist' for his innovative style of cooking. His scientific approach to food involves researching molecular compounds of dishes in order to understand flavour. The lengths he goes to with his dishes seem totally ridiculous. Everything he cooks seem to involve slow cooking, plunging in water, cooking again, measuring the temperature with an expensive themometre and cooking again. But I wouldn't mind trying some of his dishes. He puts a lot of effort into it and he always uses the best ingredients.
Tonight's episode however had me in shock. It must have had every Italian in the country recoilling in horror. Here's a brief description of what he did.
Fry onion, carrots, celery, brown oxtail. Deglaze pan with white wine, add together and cook for six hours.
Meanwhile make a tomato compote. Fry onions and garlic, then add skinned and deseeded tomatoes. Put coriander seeds, cloves and star anise in a muslin and add to compote. Next add Worcester sauce, tobasco, ketchup, sherry vinegar, thyme, bay leaf and Thai fish sauce. Cook for 1 hour.
Fry the compote in olive oil, drain, add to ragu and cook for another 2 hours. Just before serving, add tarragon, parsley and celery leaves. Season to taste, add more sherry vinegar and butter.
At this point he wraps the cooked spaghetti around a meat fork, snips of the excess bits and puts it on a plate with the sauce on top - it looked more like a kebab of spaghetti that the simple dish it's supposed to be!
This recipe should be about simplicity - a simple process using simple ingredients. I can understand the use of star anise to a certain point as it's supposed to enhance the flavour of the meat. But fish sauce? Coriander seeds?
I find him irritating, but there's something likeable about this guy. I'd love to eat his mashed potato which he cooks first in the skin. I'd jump at the chance to try his roasted chicken, cooked for 4 hours to perfection. He has 3 Michelin stars and there has to be a reason.
But I'm sceptical about this bolognese recipe. I like the idea of cooking it for a long time, and I'm not against adding a few unorthodox ingredients like a bit of Worcester sauce for example. But I don't like the idea of adding Asian and Thai ingredients to a classic Italian dish.
I love his passion for food and the lengths he goes to in order to find perfection. He even went to Italy to find the restaurant that made the best bolognese in Bologna.
I hope he keeps on doing what he's doing, but I really would ask him to do one thing - lay off the Italian food.