Fiona Duff: The recipe for success is here

Masterchef 2016 winner Jane Devonshire. Picture: Terry Applin/Lanyard Media
Masterchef 2016 winner Jane Devonshire. Picture: Terry Applin/Lanyard Media
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It is, I think, 65 days until Christmas. Usually when someone says that I get an overwhelming urge to punch their fairy lights out. However, when you have drawn the short straw and have to produce lunch on that day for a greedy family it is about the time to set your mind to what can be served. It is all very well to get the turkey and “all the trimmings”, but once you have sat through as many cookery shows as me you know that’s hardly going to cut the mustard these days.

However, help is at hand and it gives me a few weeks’ breathing space. From November 25-27 there is a special Christmas Foodies Festival at the EICC where there will be all sorts of classes and ideas for those in the same gravy boat as me.

Sam Neil and Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Sam Neil and Julian Dennison in Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Rather excitingly this year’s Masterchef winner, Jane Devonshire, will be there. She’s a woman who took home cooking to a new level and so will understand how it is for the real amateur to take on a big culinary task.

Of course, she won’t be alone and you can expect to see various chefs who have earned Michelin stars and some of Scotland’s finest including Mark Greenaway, of whose food I am a big fan.

In addition to learning how to make Christmas cakes and canapés there will be wine and spirit experts because heaven knows what hell might be unleashed if the wrong grape is served with the festive bird. Mind you, as far as my family goes it tends to be a need for quantity rather than quality. But it’s not all about looking and learning, there will be stalls serving food as watching people cook doesn’t half get the hunger pangs started. There’s also stuff for kids at the Elves Cookery School where they can make some gingerbread men, although I am sure if they stamped their feet they could make a female 
variety as well.

Did I mention that there is live music? Maybe not, but it sounds like a grand day out which could resolve a lot of potential problems and might even mean that I can impress my mother on December 25. Better make sure I remember to buy her a present as well.

Daniel has a grand day out at the beach

There’s a website that dog lovers who are not able to actually own a mutt should know about. It is called Frankly it’s great for dog owners as well.

We have Daniel the Spaniel, a breed that would happily go out for walks all day and craves company. As I sometimes have to leave my home for work, visits to the supermarket or to meet a friend it means that he can have someone else to endlessly throw balls for him to chase in a totally meaningless way.

Last weekend I was out all day and a new recruit took him out to East Lothian for a day on the beach and in the pub. I returned to a happy and exhausted dog and any feelings of guilt that I usually have when abandoning him were completely unnecessary.

That just sucks

One of the problems of having a spaniel is that they moult. Add to the household mix an extremely fluffy cat and you can imagine the amount of hair that lies about in our gaff. In fact, if you suffer from asthma don’t even think of popping round

Anyway, the Holy Grail that I search for in my life is a vacuum cleaner that can pick up the detritus that my pets scatter about. I have tried so many different brands, including a Vax especially made for homes with pets.

I recently tried to do a bit of research and one that wasn’t too expensive but got good reviews was the Morphy Richards Supervac.

On my next trip to the supermarket you could have knocked me over with a wet kipper when I saw it was on offer – £20 cheaper than my research had suggested. It’s light and cordless, but there’s only one problem and it’s rather a big one. This machine is the worst of any for picking up cat and dog hair as it all gets stuck in the funnel which you have to clear every few minutes.

I suppose if this is my biggest problem in life I shouldn’t really complain, but I just can’t help myself. Suggestions on the back of an envelope please.

Seek out Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Last week I went to a film that I have been raving about to anyone who will listen. Hunt For The Wilderpeople is quirky and funny, as well as being very poignant in places.

It’s a fairly low-budget film from New Zealand that stars Sam Neill, who I have had a bit of a crush on for many a year. Even as a grizzly and grumpy old man he can make my pulse race. The real star is Julian Dennison, who plays a troubled young boy called Ricky. There has been no fanfare for this surprising film, as the biggest surprise to the producers seems to be how well it has done at the box office.

With fantastic reviews the run at The Filmhouse keeps being extended (at present it’s on until next Thursday). So do go and see this top film from Down Under.