Cooking the books

At this time of year Formula 1 journalists tend to stay at home and do dreadful things - like the accounting. This inevitably leads to a week or so during which one tries to figure out how to make more money in the year ahead.

But all work and no play makes us all rather dull boys (and girls) and so I also try to get some time off in order to indulge in my other interests in life.

It is not a well-known fact but I like to cook. And in the winter months I get my chance to make a real mess in the kitchen. And it was while I was playing about the other day with a Thai curry (red rather than green) I had a brainwave. I decided that I was going to write a Grand Prix cookbook.

I was amazed that Eddie Jordan had not already done it.

The logic is sound enough. Having read a lot of cookbooks I have concluded that you do not need to be a Cabinet Minister's daughter to write cookbooks. All you need is a limp-wristed photographer (and there is no shortage of them), a few ingredients and a publisher. After that you just make up recipes and it really doesn't matter if they are good or not because people only ever buy a cookbook once. If a recipe goes horribly wrong people blame themselves. It is assumed that the author knows what they are talking about. This is always a danger as when you go down to the local book shop and look in the motor racing section you do sometimes wonder.

What you will find is that the section dedicated to Formula 1 is considerably smaller than the shelf space enjoyed by cookbooks, particularly in the run-up to Christmas when everyone is agonizing about what to buy for Mum.

I decided that Grand Prix Grub would slip in nicely on the shelves beside Pretentious Aussie Tucker, The Poacher's Guide to Vegetarian Cuisine, Fiddly French Finger Food, The Use of Tofu in DIY, Gutting Goats and that great American classic Pies for Puddings.

I am not sure which is my favorite cookbook but The Jungle Hiker comes close. Published by the Royal Air Force in Ceylon in 1944 it has everything you need to know about surviving in the jungle after a plane crash ("First cut yourself from the wreckage...") and includes the splendid recipe for "Fricassee of Lizard".

I have built up quite a collection of cookbooks (although I have never been a great follower of recipes as some of my dinner guests will tell you) which deal with woodcock and foie gras and that sort of stuff but whenever I do something exotic like that I always end up serving it to a fruitarian or to someone who says "Bllurrckkkk" at the idea of doing mean things to poor sweet little birdies.

But my library includes only two automobile-related recipe books: Racey Recipes and Manifold Destiny. I think Racey Recipes is probably the better. It is billed as "The Ultimate Motorsport Celebrity Cook Book" which to my twisted mind sounded like some advanced form of cannibalism with racing stars being prepared in unusual fashion: Michael and Cabbage Pie, Ralf Schumacher a la banana and Fried Irvine Brains. That sort of thing.

Inevitably the book has a foreword by Jackie Stewart (as every motor racing book does these days) and the only drawback is that racing drivers are nowadays programmed to believe that having a personality means that they are unprofessional and so there are a long list of drab pasta dishes: Buttered Farfalli, Spaghetti with pinenuts and other really dull things. The reason they all eat pasta is that they think that they must be seen to be carbohydrate-loading. This is what athletes do to fill their muscles full of glycolin, the intermediate energy source which the body changes into blood sugar when it is doing anything energetic.

The stream of dreary pasta is mitigated by the occasional burst of character, notably from Derek Bell who tells a marvellous story about Moretti Spaghetti, named after a rival (but not a very quick one) called Gianpiero Moretti who used to turn up at sportscar races with his own team. The first thing that was unloaded from the transporter was not a car or a toolbox but rather a vast cooker on which Moretti himself did the cooking. Moretti Spaghetti was impressive in that it included a good splosh of Scotch to give the pasta a little extra zing.

Hidden away between the pasta are some interesting recipes such as Soupe a la Ginny Williams, Lethal Chocolate Thingy and Roast Haunch of Wild Boar ("First catch a wild boar. Rip off one leg...").

Of the non-pasta dishes some are fairly predictable with the Scotsmen liking Mince and Tatties but there are some gusts of fresh air, notably with Damon Hill's Sticky Toffee Pudding, Jacques Villeneuve's Sugar Pie ("Make pie, add sugar") and Professor Sid Watkins's Nigerian Curry.

Manifold Destiny, my other automotive cookbook, is a guide to using the engine of your car to cook dinner. This tells you where on the engine to place the dish (wrapped in tin foil obviously) and how far you have to drive (and at what speed) to get the result you require. My favorite recipe here is Upper Class Roadkill ("First run over a small deer...") but it does include some truly disgusting things such as corned beef donuts.

Having now identified a gap on the market all I need is the right recipe for the recipe book. Take 20 recipes, stir well. Add a dash of anecdote, celebrities, half-naked women, racing cars and some well-lit dishes, prepared by a food stylist called Rupert... Throw it all together and half-bake for a few months and it will produce a very tasty sum of money.

And then I could spend more time cooking and less time worrying about how long the accounts need to spend in the oven.

Print Feature