Feature: cooking lesson with St Albans DJ and MasterChef contestant
PUBLISHED: 11:50 13 June 2017 | UPDATED: 11:50 13 June 2017
Danny Loo Photography 2017
Keep it simple and cooking can be pretty foolproof, right? Wrong. One fateful university dinner I misguidedly put tablespoon after tablespoon of sugar into my pasta tomato sauce and was then forced to pretend to enjoy the sickeningly sweet, gag-reflex inducing dish with housemates watching, laughing, and waiting for me to admit it wasn’t edible.
I went to bed queasy and vowed never to attempt this awful cooking malarky ever again.
Which brings us to the present, in the Herts Ad newsroom, and St Albans DJ Lynsday Evans is smashing her way through round after round in this year’s BBC1 MasterChef.
During the competition she picked up a reputation for excitingly ambitious dishes, combining unusual ingredients and techniques and always producing something delicious.
Her journey ended in knockout week because the judges thought her seaweed, scallop, and crab bonanza looked lovely, but tasted ordinary.
After speaking to her numerous times while covering her progress, I was only a little nervous being warmly welcomed into her Tyttenhanger house for a cooking lesson.
How long would it take her to realise I’m embarrassingly incompetent?
She informs me that I will be preparing everything for pineapple cannoli by myself - a dish she delighted the judges in the early stages on MasterChef. We will be inducing a chemical reaction in coffee to make pearls, frying pine nuts, and decorating the swirls with edible flowers.
It doesn’t start well - apparently cannoli is different to calamari.
Lynsday grew up in the New Forest with one sibling, entertaining herself through childhood. She describes a love of cooking fostered by her mother and grandmother, being let loose on the stove from a young age, and economically making meals for her flatmates throughout university in exchange for ingredients.
As a successful international DJ under the pseudonym She Plays Drums, aptly named as a professional drummer, Lyndsay had to travel around on tour with an Austrilian tap dancing show called Tap Dogs, discovering cuisines from exotic countries and building inspiration for her own creations.
“Cooking is like art, it’s about the ‘wow, I would never have thought of putting that together’.
“Tasting is something multisensory, food is sight, smell, it’s obviously taste, it draws on all those memories from childhood, so I always really loved those extremes of cooking.”
Performing music and whipping up meals in the kitchen are both art-based disciplines within a time frame, she says - once it is done, it is done.
“You can’t go back and keep correcting what you’ve done, it’s quite freeing. It is what it is.”
This is something I can relate to, feeling the panic rise in my chest as we suck up heated coffee mixed with setting agent into a syringe, and quickly try to drip it out in perfect balls into a glass of oil - all before the liquid solidifies.
My attempts to make the spheres are abysmal: I make them tiny or huge and misshapen, I can’t quite find any middle ground.
The only thing I get the hang of is rolling ricotta into the pineapple slices, which have been soaked in sugar syrup - I even manage to mess up arranging decorative flowers, by dropping them in the pineapple juice the dish is sat in.
Overviewing the finished plate, I’m pleased to conclude that I’m not sure people would know quite how much of a shambles I made of putting it together.
Lynsay is kind: “You were wicked, really good, well done - considering how petrified you were beforehand and how worried about going wrong.
“But hopefully now you see even if it goes wrong, even if the coffee bits are a bit of a weird size, it doesn’t really matter. You did very well.”
Going forward, she is reluctant to mix business and pleasure by landing herself a chef’s job - but she is intrigued by the potential of teaching, and experimenting with new, exciting dishes.
Keep up with Lyndsay at her instagram on @dont_blow_up_the_kitchen