YOU’D think with a name like O’Leary, Big Brother star Dermot O’Leary would be able to rustle up a traditional Irish stew in his sleep.
But not at all, if his appearance in a celebrity challenge on Channel Four’s The F Word is anything to go by.
Indeed, the 33-year-old had to call on his Irish mother Maria to help him out, and even then the results were about as far away from traditional as you can get.
O’Leary was featured on a regular section of the food programme where celebrity guests cook the same dish as show host and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay – an award-winning, if foul-mouthed, perfectionist who is notoriously short-tempered with staff in his kitchen.
The dishes his guests cook are sampled “blind” by a panel, who then decide which was best.
When asked by Ramsay what dish he intended to cook, O’Leary said “traditional Irish stew . . . with beef”, at which the brutish Scot pointed out that the traditional dish called for lamb instead.
“Yes, I know but my mother prefers beef and I think beef tastes better than lamb,” said O’Leary, who fronts Channel Four’s Big Brother’s Little Brother audience show in which news about and the antics of contestants in the reality show are commented on by relatives and other invited guests.
As Ramsay goaded him over his choice of meat, O’Leary – looking increasingly ill at ease, grabbed his mobile phone and dialled his mother.
She then advised him on when and how to put in stock cubes and even agreed to a glass of wine going in as well, saying “it’s not traditional in Irish stew, but does that matter?”
Despite Ramsay’s criticisms, the panel – which is not told in advance whose dish they are eating – chose O’Leary’s over his.
Last night Mrs O’Leary, whose sister Angela Browne lives in Wexford, said: “Generations Brownes have always cooked Irish stew with beef, my mother did and so did her mother. It may not be exactly traditional but we’ve always liked it that way and that’s the way Dermot likes it.
“In fact, he likes the taste of my stews better the day after they’ve been cooked.
“I thought he did very well on the F Word but I have to admit, although his dish wasn’t exactly traditional – especially as it had wine in it – Gordon Ramsay’s was more of a Moroccan dish with all that lemon and the spices he put in.”
And as to how people should cook a traditional “Browne Irish” Stew, she added: “I put my beef into the saucepan, boil it with some water for a while then skim off some of the water.
“Then I add some mixed herbs, potatoes, carrots and unions and some beef stock and then let it stew for at least an hour an hour and half.
“The simpler it is the better.”
A friend of the star said last night: “Dermot loves cooking but pretty much just makes it up as he goes a long, where as Ramsay obviously does this for a living.
“It’s telling that it was actually his dish that won the taste challenge in the end.”
Indeed, one taster said of Ramsay’s Irish stew: “It’s delicious, but it doesn’t evoke any feelings of Ireland for me”.
Elsewhere on the show, O’Leary did his own blind taste challenge – sampling different types of cooked testicles.
He gobbled the gruesome twosomes to raise money for the charity Everyman, which campaigns to raise awareness about and funds research into a treatment for testicular cancer.