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Picture yourself on a windswept beach fringed by blue and white beach houses. The sound of sausages sizzling on the barbeque, and a rich vegetable relish bubbling in the pan beside. Way afar in the distance the sight of dogs frolicking beside the waves. The party gathers by the barbeque and tucks into sausages with home made creamy potato salad served in lovely individual cartons, and finishes the picnic with a chunk of Ina's vanilla tray bake topped in a thick chocolate ganache frosting and decorated with the most exquisite dog shaped biscuits. She caters for the dogs too and brings them their own doggie treats to enjoy. Heaven and I saw all this from my armchair the other night!
Barefoot Contessa is an American cookery show which is shown on UK TV Food on Sky 249 or on Virgin 260. It is presented by a lady called Ina Garten who is a self taught cook. In 1978 she was working in the White House office of Management and Budget and she felt she was missing something in her life because the creative side was being neglected. She saw an advert for a speciality food store in The Hamptons and went to look at it with her husband Jeffrey. Having no prior knowledge of food she drove to Long Island and made a low offer for the shop and it was accepted. The rest is history. Ina ran the shop which was called Barefoot Contessa named by the previous owner after the 1950s film starring Ava Gardner until 1996 when she sold it and then began to write cookery books and in 2003 began her TV show.
Each episode has a theme. There will be an event Ina is planning and the show will be devoted to the preparation and serving of the food with special attention to lots of little touches such as flowers and venues. The beach party I described was actually to celebrate Ina's friend's dog's birthday or rather to have an excuse for a get together between old friends in an inspirational setting. Sometimes she cooks intimate dinners for her and Jeffrey and sometimes she cooks delicious meals for him to enjoy when she is away!
My love of this programme really started in the last year before my second daughter left for university. She is a very keen cook and I am sure she won't mind me telling you she is talented and makes wonderful vegan food. In her free time before she left I would often find her watching this show and from that moment on I became a fan!
It is compulsive viewing. From the catchy music in the opening credits to the sensual yet homely voice of Ina it flows like a gentle river meandering down to the sea. It is so relaxing to watch.
Forget diets-there is plenty of cream and butter in the recipes which are bursting full of the finest ingredients. From chocolate ganache(there always seems to be a pot of chocolate drops melting in a pan over hot water with thick cream) to delicious mouth watering savoury creations flavoured with herbs from Ina's beautiful landscaped gardens.
The programme is different to some cookery programmes as it is a sensual journey where every morsel is savoured and lavishly prepared with love. Everything is made with attention to detail. The table is always decorated with flowers which are chosen specially for their textures and colours and every meal is an occasion.
My husband often says he would love to be Jeffery! I think he is referring to an episode in which Ina is cooking Geoffrey's favourite French meal they shared together in Paris. He comes home to find heart shaped strawberry tarts! I think Jeffery features a lot in the show so my husband thinks he is very lucky to have a fridge full of home made goodies- so beware ladies better keep hubby busy when you watch this!
The programme is a celebration of food and each episode is a comforting journey. By the time the show finishes in half an hour you will feel like you have been invited to the party and have eaten the goodies yourself, so although there maybe lots of butter and cream in there it's actually a good way to diet as you haven't actually eaten anything!
Only one slight difference to the UK she measures everything in cups and some of the ingredients are named slightly differently but you can easily work out the amounts by looking at conversion charts.
She has many wonderful cookery books out too so you might want to put one on your Christmas list.
One thing I can promise is that I would love to be invited to her house for dinner. My son lives in Arizona so it's a long way from where she lives in East Hampton and Manhattan so no excuse really when I visit him- but I would love it and I am sure you would too!