Prawn brains, raw sea urchin… that’s not my idea of fine dining! CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV

Remarkable Places to Eat (More4)

Rating:

Earth (BBC2)

Rating:

Unable to stomach the relentless sadism of ripper thriller Wolf on BBC1, I flipped channels and discovered something even more gruesome.

Dermot O’Leary was teaching Fred Sirieix, on Remarkable Places To Eat (More4), how to suck out the contents of a prawn’s head. ‘Mm,’ Dermot slurped, ‘brainy!’

The foodie friends were exploring Puglia, the heel of Italy, where This Morning presenter Dermot claims to be a ‘part-time resident’. What this actually means is that he has a holiday home there, though he doesn’t appear to visit often enough to pick up the language: Fred had to do the translating.

They were both in raptures over the cucina povera or ‘kitchen of the poor’ – the veg, pasta and seafood eaten for centuries by locals in the poverty-stricken villages. ‘Authentically rustic, honouring their ancestors,’ purred Fred.

It’s magnificently pretentious, of course. You won’t catch Dermot and Fred dining at the ‘kitchens of the poor’ back in Britain, queuing for a cheeseburger and £1.19 of fries at a fast-food franchise in Asda.

But their mouths were watering as they made orecchiette, little thimbles of pasta, by shaping dough over the tips of their thumbs.

Dermot O’Leary was teaching Fred Sirieix, on Remarkable Places To Eat, how to suck out the contents of a prawn’s head. ‘Mm,’ Dermot slurped, ‘brainy!

And they drooled as a fisherman with a Poirot-esque moustache demonstrated how to prise open a sea urchin with the tip of his knife, cut out its mouth, scraped away the half-digested algae of the shellfish’s last meal, and scooped out the orange flesh to eat it raw, using a mussel shell for a teaspoon.

Both our galloping gourmets declared this looked delicious. Back on BBC1, Wolf’s psychopathic kidnappers had just gutted a deer and festooned a tree with its entrails. I wonder whether Fred and Dermot are watching and licking their lips. One man’s horror movie is another man’s recipe book.

Raw molluscs are not my idea of fine dining, but the scenery was irresistible. The boys arrived at Gallipoli, a pre-Roman fishing town crammed on to a promontory, by speedboat under a brilliant blue sky.

The olive groves, the hillside farmhouses, the rocky bays and sun-baked sea walls were all impossibly picturesque. Not that Dermot and Fred took much notice – they were too busy competing with their exuberant tasting notes.

Fred wept for joy over a sheep’s milk cheese called pecorino, eaten with capocollo cured meat and orange jam: ‘I am not a fan of marmalade but actually, it goes perfectly with the fattiness as well as the slight smokiness of the pork.’

Dermot trumped him by inhaling the perfume of an oregano sprig. It grew, he claimed, beside the very beach where he took his morning swim, at Porto Selvaggio. ‘The smell, half pine and half oregano,’ he crooned. ‘It’s so beautiful.’ Fred forced a smile. ‘Is it?’ he asked shortly. He’d been out-foodied.

Chris Packham was embarking on his own poetic raptures as he recounted how our planet acquired its life-giving atmosphere, in Earth (BBC2).

Chris Packham was embarking on his own poetic raptures as he recounted how our planet acquired its life-giving atmosphere, in Earth

Chris Packham was embarking on his own poetic raptures as he recounted how our planet acquired its life-giving atmosphere, in Earth

‘The great bowl of the heavens,’ he chuntered, ‘just so beautiful. I love the fact that I can stare into a sky that the dinosaurs stared into, that Neanderthals stared into.’

Framed against dawns and sunsets in a succession of romantic shots, Chris made a series of complex scientific developments seem easy to understand, with his blend of enthusiasm and pithy phrases.

Pointing to a line of red in a rock, he called it a ‘geological tattoo’ from an era when the oceans were cloudy with rust.

The only mystery he didn’t explain was why this story, charting the first billion-and-a-half years of Earth’s existence, wasn’t the first in the series. Next week, in the final part, it’s the extinction of dinosaurs and the arrival of humans, so this episode seemed out of chronological order.

Non-non of the week

Drinks boss Tom quoted Napoleon’s remark, ‘Perry is the English champagne,’ as he sang the praises of pear cider, on A Cotswold Farmshop (Ch4). 

‘I mustn’t do the French accent,’ he added. 

Why not? Is ‘Allo ‘Allo a hate crime now? 

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