Belfast Telegraph

Friday 19 December 2014

Has Paul Rankin put the choppy waters behind him as his new TV show casts off?

Catch of the day: Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn in the Big Food Trip
Catch of the day: Paul Rankin and Nick Nairn in the Big Food Trip

There are only so many cookery shows that I am able to stomach.

Masterchef is a must, but it's the contestants who are the vital ingredient and who make the show such a massive success. Hosts Gregg Wallace and John Torrode are merely a side dish.

So what of Paul And Nick's Big Food Trip, a new culinary treat served up by UTV? The evening show, which runs for eight weeks, sees local man Paul Rankin team up with close friend and Scottish celebrity chef Nick Nairn in a food-inspired boat trip around their native lands.

Their journey takes them to various towns such as Donaghadee in Co Down and Ayr in south-west Scotland, sourcing local produce to come up with modern twists to classic dishes.

The format of the show is tried and tested. The Hairy Bikers is in a similar guise. But that gastronomic road trip wouldn't be half as much fun if the chemistry between Dave Myers and Si King wasn't crackling.

Judging by the opening episode of this new series, Paul and Nick's Big Food Trip served up stunning locations, mouth-watering recipes and a dollop of banter between the two friends.

The Northern Ireland Tourist Board must be delighted that the countryside looked as lovely as the food conjured up by our chefs.

First port of call was Glenarm village, in the southernmost of the nine Glens of Antrim.

As the boat sailed in, Paul told us that he grew up speaking Ulster-Scots. I'm not so sure.

There's still the slightest hint of that transatlantic twang that he brought back home with him from Canada many years ago.

They headed straight for Glenarm Castle, where estate manager Adrian Morrow helped them source the fresh salmon and shorthorn beef needed for a special feast they had to prepare that evening. Lord Antrim himself would be presiding over affairs, but the chefs were confident they could stand the heat of the kitchen.

With Paul rustling up a starter of salmon with horse-radish cream and beetroot salad, it was up to Nick to create a main fit for a lord — peppered shorthorn fillet with whiskey cream and crispy potato wedges.

“So posh steak and chips, then?” quipped Paul. Of course, the dinner party was an all-round success and our chefs sailed off into the sunset.

Paul Rankin's had a tough few years of late. Not only did his culinary empire crumble around him, leaving him with just one restaurant, the award-winning Cayenne, but his marriage broke up after 25 years.

So let's hope this new series marks a turnaround for him.

It certainly seemed the perfect recipe to put a smile back on his face.

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