Corner Shop Cook-Off**

BBC Scotland

“WE’VE all been there, that last minute meal from the shelves of the corner shop,” declared the woman tripping down the road toting a Little Red Riding Hood-style shopping basket.

She looked like that Clare Grogan, but it couldn't be. That Clare Grogan was the singer with Altered Images. That Clare Grogan graced a million teenagers’ walls. That Clare Grogan’s rosebud lips sang Happy Birthday on Top of the Pops. And that Clare Grogan stole Gregory’s heart.

But it was that Clare Grogan. Presenting a new cookery show on BBC Scotland is just another item on life’s shopping list when you are a moderately successful former pop star with a comeback tour starting soon.

In Corner Shop Cook-Off, Clare moderates while Gary Maclean, winner of MasterChef, challenges a fellow professional to make a three course meal for £15 using items from a local shop.

First stop was Bannockburn, where Shakir and Ruby run the Weaver Row newsagents.

“It serves the community from dusk till dawn with everything from chocolate, crisps, lottery tickets and newspapers, to packets and tins for ravenous residents,” said Clare, just in case viewers were unfamiliar with the concept of a corner shop.

Hang on, there was more.

“It is not just a newsagents. It is also a place you can pay your bills, top up your phone and pick up your online shopping.”

Anyone would think Clare was frantically engaged in the now standard BBC Scotland wheeze of stretching a half-hour programme into an hour. Yup, she was.

In her presenting style, Clare started at widely enthusiastic and built from there. “I love a bottle of limeade,” she fizzed, taking us on a tour of the shop. “It is not a proper corner shop unless they’ve got the limeade happening.”

This corner shop also happened to have a takeaway attached. The chefs could take items from there - fresh fish and chicken, herbs, etc - and from a larder that had eggs, oils, and other basics. So apart from the participation of top chefs, using ingredients you would not usually find in a corner shop, it was just like you or I trying to cobble up a meal from nothing. You’ve got to love reality TV’s commitment to reality.

Gary made samosas for a starter. “What defines a samosa?” asked Clare. “I don’t know,” replied Gary. Thanks mate. His opponent, Mark Heirs, who trained under Maclean and was now a private chef, went for baked eggs.

Clare jollied them along with time checks, a la Bake Off and every other cookery show, and had a go at that all-important catchphrase. She was torn between, “Do you want to grab your basket and go shopping?” and “3-2-1 cook off!”. It was a work in progress.

She was certainly fond of the “You say something and I’ll repeat it with an exclamation mark attached,” school of presenting.

“A tin of beans,” said Shakir, handing over his choice of a lucky dip ingredient for the chefs.

“A tin of beans!” said Clare.

“It’s better when you eat more of it.”

“It’s moreish!”

Her approach took a while to grow on the viewer but she got there eventually.

Shakir, Ruby, Amanda from the hairdressers and Gus the barman were the judges. Some 25 minutes in and we were still on the starters. Gary and Mark went shopping again for the mains, then the dessert. If there was an inch of that corner shop left unexplored I would be amazed.

Gary won the dessert round, Mark had to do the washing up as punishment, and my how everyone laughed: the participants because it was all finally, mercifully, over, and the viewers for the same reason.

Pleasant enough viewing, even better had it been half the length, but I don’t think Channel 4, poachers of Bake Off, will be coming for this one any time soon.