BBC recipes drowned in Osborne sauce…

ANYONE who likes to cook will have used a recipe or two from the BBC website. My best finds have included Paul Hollywood’s method for hot cross buns – the first one to really work in years of trying – and Simon Hopkinson’s take on coq au vin, where you marinate the chicken pieces overnight in red wine.

I am grateful to these two cooks, and many others, for showing how to make something, and showing how to do it well.

After today my gratitude will have to find a new home, as the BBC has decided to remove all recipes from its website. Some 11,000 online recipes are to be shelved following a review of the BBC’s online output that aims to save £15 million a year by removing magazine-style content from the website.

This follows what is widely regarded to have been a bruising battle with the government leading up to last week’s white paper; the outcome to which was generally seen to have been good for the Corporation. So why the mean-minded removal of all those useful recipes?

It’s all George Osborne’s fault. Heavens, doesn’t that man have enough to do without spoiling people’s fun in the kitchen? Last summer the chancellor said the BBC was being “imperial in its ambitions” by expanding into magazine territory by including recipes.

According to reports this morning, the changes will make the website more distinctive. A BBC insider quoted in the Guardian says: “These changes won’t be popular with all members of the public, but we think they are the right thing to do.”

So not content with cooking up a national stew of economic arrogance, Osborne has strong-armed the BBC into removing a vast and useful fund of recipes on the grounds that the BBC shouldn’t be a national newspaper as well as the national broadcaster. A little odd in that the BBC broadcasts so many food programmes.

So to satisfy the whims of that strange and hardly compelling man, the BBC is removing lots of useful recipes that have taught many people how to cook.

Sharing knowledge about food is a wonderful and useful thing; teaching people how to cook is keeping alive a humdrum but vital skill. So how does this cleansing of recipes from the BBC website add to the pleasure of the nation or the usefulness of the corporation?

It doesn’t at all; it is just more mean tinkering from a man who should concentrate on running/ruining the economy rather than sticking his fingers into so many pies. And if you want the recipe for that pie, it has probably just been removed.

Here is my offering for U Turn If You Want To Pie:

Take the many stupid sayings of one irksome chancellor and sprinkle with salt; fry in a tablespoon of olive oil until well-cooked but not too brown; roll out ready-made flaky ideas pasty; carefully arrange the wasted words on the pastry, and fold over; form the pie into the shape of the letter U; bake until overdone (to match the chancellor’s rhetoric). Serve with all-in-this-together gravy.

Sadly, there probably won’t be a U-turn on this policy as the BBC is falling into line on this one. In protest, the chef Jack Monroe has already promised to post recipes online as a public benefit, saying in a Facebook post: “I learned to cook on the dole using free recipes online and for the BBC to reduce this vital service is an abomination.”

Quite so; and so too is that man the chancellor.

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