Food & Drink: Edible History of English Food from Masterchef's Regional Winner; Alison Davison Finds an Enticing Book Charting the History of Our Eating Habits from Medieval Times to Modern Day

Article excerpt

Competing on Masterchef may seem to most mortal souls a nerve-wrackingly painful ordeal comparable to having one's toenails removed.

Not so, of course, to Christine Lloyd-Knight, the Shropshire woman who braved the TV cameras and Loyd Grossman's strangulated vowels to become last year's Midlands winner and the regional bearer of the Masterchef title.

'I know it sounds ridiculous, but it's actually a very relaxing thing to do,' she insists from her home in a Victorian schoolhouse in the village of Cleeton St Mary high up on Clee Hill. 'If you've got a genuine love of cooking, you just get engrossed.

'There's also a lot of support and help if a disaster happens. There isn't much storage space and in the semi-final, my four glass bowls smashed - it was all cleared up for me and you just get on with it. There's no time for nerves.'

It's the kind of bravado you might expect from a woman who loves a challenge - she got her private pilots' licence in 1995 so perhaps cooking a three-course meal against the clock as the nation watches, then to have it picked apart by expert judges seemed a bit of a breeze.

'The semi-final was a bit more nerve-wracking than the first heat, when there were three of us rather similar women and we just enjoyed ourselves.

'In the semi-final, it was much more competitive - there was one woman who really wanted to win whereas I was just pleased to have got that far.'

What appearing on Masterchef did perhaps most importantly was give Christine a platform for advertising the excellence of British regional food - a cause very close to her heart.

'I didn't use much regional food in the first heat as there were two others from the Ludlow area, but in the semi-final I used as much local food as possible, from Shropshire Blue cheese to Hereford cider.'

She also made much of using Lincoln Red beef, which forged a link with the city that has since led to her into the world of writing - she was asked to come up with a book on the history of British food which would raise funds for the Lincoln Cathedral Fabric Fund.

The result was A Bite Out of History, a thoroughly readable and educational account of 1,000 years of food facts and recipes.

This edible history lesson is particularly suitable for children, though anyone with an interest in food or history would enjoy dipping into it. …