Review: The Delicious Miss Dahl

RAYMOND LI reviews the latest “food-for-porn” offering from Sophie Dahl.

Cookery Eton Mess Jamie Oliver Nigella Lawson Shepherd's Pie Sophie Dahl

Watch out Nigella. A new domestic goddess has arrived to take your crown and she comes in the form of Sophie Dahl. The supermodel-cum-cook offers "simple and honest" food from the heart. Each episode is set for each emotion felt universally by humanity- she spoils the viewer with self-indulgent, comfort food for the times when you’re feeling romantic, nostalgic, selfish or even depressed from seeing her smoothly polished designer kitchen.

Except the kitchen is not even real or hers. The kitchen is actually rented and it’s the same set where Ikea and Tesco photograph for their catalogues. Unlike Nigella and Jamie, there is no revealing glimpse in her private world and perhaps a good thing because this show is not about showing off smug friends or your own multi-million pound pad. This show is all about Sophie and there is no sight of fiancé Jamie Calum helping to make her indulgent recipes. Even her famous grandfather is rarely mentioned.

The food is exactly what it says on the tin. Nothing spectacular but simple. She makes familiar favourites like Shepherd’s Pie as well as exotic dishes like the Indian "Dahl’s Dhal." However, some of her dishes contain unusual additions. Eton Mess is a dessert made with strawberries but she uses rhubarb instead and she uses beef instead of lamb for her Shepherd’s Pie. She claims her food comes from her heart but your own may not take too kindly with the generous amounts of butter, oil and sugar added. No wonder she never eats more than a single mouthful from her dishes.

With her striking visage and doll-like eyes, the BBC was determined to exploit her sex appeal. She makes a habit of dipping her finger in her desserts like the peanut butter fudge mix (although she must have stated no pervy cameramen in her contract as there are no Nigella-style close ups of her ‘sampling’ the food). She smiles flirtatiously at the camera after blending egg white: "make sure there’s no shell in your blender!" In the first episode, she walks into a cheese shop and picks up a rounded buffalo mozzarella that resembles a silicone implant. As she gropes it, she says: "you can feel it slinking around in the bag. I actually fantasise about this cheese." Well there is something for everyone.

Despite the programme’s flaws, she does make for a charming and likeable presenter. There is a nice sense of quirkiness within her that sets her apart from Delia and Nigella. She reads poetic passages from her favourite authors in the intervals and says nice things that you wouldn’t expect from a cookery presenter/ex-supermodel like her declared admiration for people who go out on their own to restaurants and bars. Poetic descriptions of her food really shows her nostalgic passion and her child-like fascination. Some of her anecdotes are quite funny like the tragic tale of having a date run away after having Sophie’s home cooked Carbonara. Her mother said, "if he won’t stick around for your chocolate mousse then he’s not worth it." This reviewer will certainly be sticking around for the next episode.