Author Archives: Vanessa Foran

From top: RTE Annual Report 2019 released yesterday’ RTÉ Player streams reached 50million views that year; Vanessa Foran

We are about to take a walk through the annual report for RTÉ for the financial year that ended before Covid 19 even began.  It is also the year I had this to say in the month before it closed.

“The failure is both Financial and Operational; and it was all under the jurisdiction of its strategic level decision makers, its board of directors.”

14 months later Chair Moya Doherty introduced the report you are about to read some more about with the following;

The current funding model is broken, and RTÉ will face a material uncertainty about its capacity to provide the same level of services in the medium term if it is not resolved quickly and definitively,”

The feted, styled, and heavily promo’ed leader of the organisation, the Chair of the Board of RTÉ, is telling us its Funding that is to blame.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t an organisation relying on charitable donations or volunteers, nor is it a scrappy start-up looking to escalate its second round of finance; this is a comfortable, well-resourced, staffed, and established entity that has had the benefit of significant finance, external expertise and assistance for decades.   It even has an Orchestra.

There are no exciting new productions, or script options, or talent hires, or digital opportunities, or major investment announcements or commercial ventures, or simple cutting its cloth; not even a nod to the revised strategy of November 2019 – It’s the Funding Model.

Moya Doherty is attempting to frame the Funding Model, because it requires very little change in how RTÉ run the business of RTÉ, or what the plans are for the future of RTÉ.

This is the poor mouth being staged under theatre lights.  Its Fiction.

So what are they telling us about 2019 in Montrose.

Well, its now Your Public Media.”

That’s how RTÉ introduces itself to the readers of this report.  Your Public Media.  Even more cosmetic covering up of its failure as the National Broadcaster.

I reach page two to be presented loudly with flash; Mission Vision & Values.

Have a good go at these.

To campion Irish culture…. Cultivating Ireland’s talent   … To enrich Irish life with content that challenges, educates and entertains

As an organisation and individually, we will be outward looking, creative, respectful, sustainable, and accountable, collaborative, and transparent.

And tell me which one explains the expenditure of over €23m on Acquired Programming from Overseas versus just over €3m on Local Produce?

Programming expenditure is really where RTÉ tells you what they do there all day, and in fairness, there is a healthy spend on indigenous programming, across their spectrum from the flagship RTÉ 1 down the line to Online Services and wherever that ends up.

A spend of €235.1m is quoted, which breaks out into a rough 80:20 split between In-house and Commissioned.  So at least they are using their gifted facilities for something.  But within that €235m, €2.7m was charged under Religious.

€2.7m was spent by “Your Public Media” on religious programmes in 2019.  Add that to the Papal extravaganza’ed over indulged exuberance from the year before.

Unless its News; like a Priest getting sentenced, religious programming is not a matter for “Your Public Media”.  If Religious groups want stuff on the telly, they should buy advertising or pay for product placement in the same way they buy PR and Crisis Management Services.

My old reliable with the RTÉ annual, Acquired Programming.  Again, across the range of RTÉ’s output, €26.7m worth of content was bought in, and in, again roughly, an 87:13 relationship between Overseas: Local Produce.

Or, €23.4m of Licence Payers funds was spent acquiring content like Ally McBeal, and € 3.3m for the locals.

€23.4m plus € 2.7 is a handy enough start into that promise on page 2, Cultivating Ireland’s talent.

I am not persuaded by the disclosures and detail presented on the page labelled 106, because like all the previous RTÉ annuals I’ve done here, it’s all about the presentation, and the staging.

Here its staged that RTÉ 1, RTÉ2, R1 & 2FM return a surplus to the organisation.  However I will ask ye to look at it from a public service value-for-money point of view, a place where not everything is a financial decision, so what do you now think of this – RTÉ 2 and 2FM, required almost €77m for their content in 2019.  €77,000.000.00

Yet Lyric plus TnG plus RnaG (net of Lyric’s half a million ish surplus btw) only needed € 25.3m.

The point here is, the National Broadcaster is going to cost money, nobody denies that.  Nobody pretends it shouldn’t.

But why does it need funding for anything if they can maintain 2FM, or use funds to acquire The Simpsons or Home & Away or Big Bang Theory, all of which have their own 24/7 channels somewhere.

I understand there was a need one time for a strong buying-in policy, like in the 80s shows such as Dallas were must see TV.  There is nothing charged to Acquired Programming from Overseas that I or anyone else reading this report cannot access from a half of dozen different Public Media outlets.  Or can acquire independently, like an old fashioned DVD or box set, without imposing on the Tax Payer.

I have no problem in Acquired Programming, like the big big movie stuff.  But why can’t RTÉ look also at developing or co-developing its own big big movie stuff? I see no evidence of that even being a Strategic Goal.  Anywhere within the organisation.

Likewise, I do not accept that the RTÉ are acquiring a library or reusable inventory either.  Neither do they either as it happes;  values of acquired content are written off on the second repeat (pg 101).

And that’s where I struggle again with RTÉ.  There is far too much space given to the day-to-day P&L operational level stuff, like Dee Forbes’ payroll (same as 2018 btw) and canteen costs.  I’ve done it there myself picking apart programming.

If we are serious about calling out RTÉ we must insist it goes back to where its all going wrong.  Its Strategy, albeit Revised Strategy, its Strategic Level Decision making, its Governance and its Culture.

It is devoid of any ambition or creative courage.  It just wants to keep the same show on the same road.  Their Board composition continually renews terms and all from the same backgrounds.  There is no willingness to look outside their own comfort zone and familiar settings.

A goal of strict aggressive Change Management is currently impossible in RTÉ.  The world changed since that Year End Report, but RTÉ hasn’t.  If it had that’s what we would have heard from Moya Doherty yesterday, not The current funding model is broken, and RTÉ will face a material uncertainty about its capacity to provide the same level of services in the medium term if it is not resolved quickly and definitively,”

Why or how could any organisation be considered for Taxpayer Funds, additional or otherwise, like grants If they have no Strategy that recognises a very different future.

This report is titled Your Public Media Yet RTÉ has no idea what it must deliver under that title.  Go to page 64.

A portion of a middle of a three-column page is given to its Player, which is its best opportunity.  Don’t believe me?  Check Channel 4s outreach on their player or the numbers engaging RTÉ Player for Sports content that they already secure through licencing.  This is content that will always have a streaming and on-demand market, and it’s a market that will always have Paddys abroad creating an even bigger market for and regenerating it.

That €23 plus million spent on Home and Away and the like probably doesn’t taste as nice now.

This report itself tells you that RTÉ’s own Content is the most accessed for the On-Demand audience, and they’re hiding it.  They treat their Player opportunity like they are uncomfortable with it; it’s not Weekends on Radio 1 with all the pals around and canteen brunch for afters, or Friday night in Studio 1.

This report, incidentally, gave more air to its Board composition by gender and diversity lines, than it did to the RTÉ Player.

You know what RTÉ needs – it needs a Strategic Director with years of the experience of the BBC, CNN, Discovery Channels, Shondaland, Netflix etc.  Or someone who has worked in the dept of Foreign Affairs – and knows how to work a Grant Application.

The former can create value, promise independence, innovation in every colour and create a commercial appetite, plus all those things quoted on page 2 of this report.  A Real National Flagship that can qualify for what ever funding it needs.

The other just buys you another five years just the same as the last five years.

Another full year has passed and been completed by Montrose.  With no change in Montrose at any level.  So, between now and when that Annual Report comes out, remember this, most of their content was handed to them last year, from Covid Briefings, round the clock hysteria, their ‘big stars’ in their sheds, Luke O’Neill moving in, and the best Paddys Day coverage ever.  For Free.

The biggest year for Video On Demand and Streaming services was 2020.

Yet RTÉ will blame Funding.

Gas isn’t it.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Yesterday: Meanwhile, In Montrose

From top: The Board of the Football Association of Ireland has approved the 2019 accounts for the Association of the FAI AGM on December 29; Vanessa Foran

A year to the day ‘ish, since the last Broadsheet kickabout

This is a bit that didn’t make it past the gaffer;

It needs a new Strategic Plan, and a new Leadership team, and I would be more helpful when I get to consider Years ending 2020 and 2021, when we have an opportunity to see what the FAI can really achieve if it is run properly and is taken care of in the manner any organisation tasked with flying the Irish Flag should.

The purpose of re-entering it up front now is because the first half of your YE 2019 FAI Annual here on Broadsheet will focus more on the Governance & Assurance Year the FAI had, so I might as well pick up the pieces of last year’s.

My basis then was an already revised set of statements and by now we are well into extra time with even more injury time to be added with another 2018; restatement on the restatement.

For any year end review to be any use at all, you have to start with an opening balance that is safe, and with a relevant or peer comparison ie 2017.  Both these financial years have now been through the hands of Deloittes, Mazars and now Grant Thornton (Audit.)

For so many numbers of reasons, these restatements must be done.  But I will introduce you to just one, how do you measure your performance without knowing where your starting line is?

I am not going to ignore the restatement just by passing it – the full background is presented sensibly, and in fairness to Grant Thornton, in a clear and efficiently enough to get through it on a phone screen (pg44.) 

You will see there the adjustments go back beyond 2018 and 2017.  Now this would normally be a very touchy trigger for me, especially as there was a well got, resourced and togged out firm originally engaged to take care of the FAI’s financial statements.  This might make you want to wonder but why bother, you don’t get to play the same match twice.

Look forward

Besides, what is probably now a very mundane chore for the new Board and Management, the costs of the old FAI have to be charged into those historic accounts.  How else can they measure their own progress with the organisation.  More importantly, how will you and I know they are getting it right?

That is what the FAI today need to focus on.  Their next five years, not the last five.

Of the 164 recommendations within the Governance Review Group Report, 65 that tackled the more ingrained culturally embedded dugouts were already closed off by YE2019, namely around Board Composition and Board Officer Roles.  (pgs 4 & 5 btw) 

Speaking from experience, these legacy rumps are the hardest to change.  Particularly for the better.  Note to all volunteer organisations – If your rules are not protecting and enhancing your reputation, get them scorched from your rule book, then come up with better replacements

Which if you take a tighter look at last year’s Annual Review – Governance and Strategy – well the complete lack of any presence of Governance and Strategy was where it all went wrong.

That was where it was always wrong, they could have been bringing hundreds of millions in through their doors.  It was not all about generating enough money to stay solvent. (Now you see why I reinstated that first paragraph.)

All that time, year in year out, for decades in fact, being allowed the impression they were in the cosy cradle of signatures from their former external Auditors is all the more disappointing.  But only playing forward …..

Today the FAI is such a very different organisation.  In just one year of facing facts, facing truth and cleaning house, no matter how uncomfortable they made the residents of that former Board, they got it done.  And that’s something.

Now where these 164 came from might be a question; were they from the KOSI Audit that Sport Ireland commissioned, or GT’s Forensic Audit, or Mazars redoing of the previous year-ends that Deloittes finally entered their own doubts over, or a blend of them all.

One way or another that was one hell of a taxi meter running between all these professional billable-hour firms since many of them were obvious, and replications from other well run Volunteer led organisations. Ahem

But for what it’s worth, as a professional courtesy, I am inclined to think there was a strong influence from the Grant Thornton Forensic Investigation myself, only because I know how they work, and I know the type of Report their engagement produces.

One way or another, no matter the architects, the Board obviously adopted the report and pursued its recommendations without lingering. But it does present an opportunity to flag the importance of Independence at Governance and Assurance levels, and since the external Auditors are now Grant Thornton themselves, for everyone’s sake, lets keep it to one engagement at a time.  Just saying.

One of the more remarkable things the 2019 Annual is in the opening pages – in the Chair’s opening line.  The will to turn it around could not get any more protruding than that.  But for doubters, again jog straight up to pg 6, Governance.

This time last year, there was chanting from too many seats in the stands calling for the FAI to be shut down.   The Irish Times claimed death’s door and only the big brilliant Government could save it.

I advocated then, that the FAI was worth saving.  And I still do.

But it was not just all the Government.

I will insist that most of the heavy lifting has come from within the FAI itself.  A whole new board with a vastly different emphasis on its composition has proved that.

Remember this is a Volunteer type board, which is a very hard thing for experienced Directors to empathise with and understand.  It takes years, if not decades to develop an orderly organisation that functions with a Volunteer type governance.  Because Volunteer directors all have different motivations for being there, and it takes time, planning and patience to synchronise all those motives into one strategy.

When it came to it, the bailout that is, the Government were just a part.  Their lenders, Bank of Ireland, who by their very operational nature do not take risks, were very quick to step in, and so did UEFA with a five bar interest free loan.  (pg 23 Going Concern.)

For people in my game, that level of support and endorsement is not nothing.  It speaks to the potential of the Organisation.  Not its past. It should also highlight the level of trust this new Board can command.

Further proof that the FAI was worth working with, and I did back this up last year, was that the FAI has an ability to earn significant income for itself, when it can.

For instance, given the reputation it owned when they opened 2019, its sponsorship income only dipped 5% (€7.6m from €8m.)

For this review I’ll opt to discuss Income deliberately, because I think it is unfair, as well as meaningless for future comparisons on the FAIs progress on how it runs itself.  But only until all the back office functions are running as they should be.  There is a whole lot of operational day-to-day restructuring still to do. So, let’s let them get on with it for now.

But there is something else you can tell from just using their Income value – is how their activity measures up against their rivals/ competitors.  In this case the GAA and Rugby.  A flyby observation will tell you the FAI just is several divisions below our other national sporting brands.

Of course that may level off in 2020 and the year of the COVID-19.  So that’s the ould’ GAA excuse in early.  But there will be no 2019 Annual Report that doesn’t have Covid-19 as a post balance sheet event.

Yet I would have to say this, that FAI have the advantage this year of new streaming fees from wider platforms.  Soccer was always had a natural fan base that didn’t object to subscription fees and pay-per-view arrangements to follow their chosen sport/ team, something that the GAA itself has always struggled with.

Likewise, Rugby has never had the Club structure that promised a fan base that naturally regenerated within its own grounds.

Leaving all that aside, what was in front of the FAI when this year started was the one time opportunity they will never get again, a second chance, and the opening to make a fresh faced clean hands appeal to big ticket sponsors; the FAI were not in a position to market themselves to anyone this time last year.

As for going concern, since I have flagged it here and on the Telly over the recent months, it is now firmly confirmed and signed off, and without qualification.

But there is a Grant Thornton warning, albeit subtle and throughout, a very typical Grant Thornton fingerprint actually; there remains material uncertainty- another GAAesque getting the excuses in early maybe, but it is their signature, a function of professional practice I take very seriously myself.

So consider this signed; The FAI has better days ahead, it is still all to play for in the second half.

On a final note on yer man.  Consider this everyone; Page 32 Employees:  The Staffing complement went from 200 to 199 over the year that was 2019.  (.5%) Costs to the P&L went from € 13,241,183 to € 9,926,896.  That’s 30% of a drop or a saving if you like.

Consider that again.  A half of a percent in head count represented 30% of their costs to the organisation.  How’s that for a Value for Money comparison.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Grant Thornton. The report Grant Thornton delivered to the Board of the FAI last weekend was exceptional, and a template on how to produce financial statements.  It was clear, understandable, and business like.  It focused entirely on the business of the FAI and not on the personalities it engaged, there was not one ounce of spin or flash or PR.  So take note RTÉ.

Before ye get the knives out lads.  I can promise ye there will be one department in GTs that will be laughing at that, while another one will be spitting feathers and probably a few bots out too.  Neither are the Audit Dept.  And for the record, in my own history of Financial Control and other Governance roles I have never actually worked with Grant Thornton’s External Auditors.

Two more disclosures that relate to Conflict of Interest.  I do know the former Interim CEO Gary Owens in a personal and private capacity, but I have not had any engagement with him since he stepped into the FAI.

Likewise with Niall Quinn; our previous association was entirely linked with my role in my own Credit Union, and his role with his former school boy club Manortown United, and limited entirely to that relationship.

All that’s left to say is: Hon Ireland.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

Caribbean Rum Cake

By popular demand.

Bring de rum.

Janet writes:

Just in case you’re dreaming of the sun and turquoise waters this is a Christmas favorite from somewhere a little warmer, boozy and lush but not as heavy as puds, transform that dusty bottle of maybe not great rum at the back of the cupboard into something that lasts 24hrs max in our house.


Janet’s Caribbean Rum Cake


Ingredients
:

125 g fine semolina
1 liter of milk
75 g caster sugar
15 sugar cubes or 15 tsp ( for caramel)
3 eggs
75 g of blond raisins
4 tbsp. dark rum ( I like to use a spiced ginger one, I just add ginger and cinnamon to the bottle ( sometimes red chilli) and let it rest for a week or so).

Preparation:

In a saucepan with a thick base, put the pieces of sugar on a medium heat.
Let it melt, shaking the handle of the pan often.

As soon as the caramel turns blond, pour it into a mold (preferably high and fluted, but a loaf tin works grand, silicone is handy for the turnout), tilt it in all directions to evenly distribute the caramel on the bottom and the edges.

Preheat the oven to 160 ° (th 5/6).
Put the raisins in a bowl with the rum, let them swell.

Break the eggs, separating the whites from the yolks. Put the yolks aside for now.
Beat the egg whites until stiff.

Heat the milk and powdered sugar in a saucepan.
When simmering, throw the semolina in and stir with a wooden spoon for about 10 minutes, so that the semolina swells.

Off the heat, add the egg yolks, one at a time, stirring thoroughly with each addition.
Add the raisins , mix again.

Then add the egg whites delicately.
Pour the preparation into the caramelized mold and bake for about 30 minutes.

Take the mold out of the oven, let it rest for 10 minutes, then turn out the semolina cake on a serving dish and let it cool. Serve warm or cold. It’s nice with ice cream, or fresh cream and stewed peaches or pineapple.

Feel free to pour on a little more rum.

Hic.

Previously: Millie’s Chrismas Eve Brownies

Janet’s Steamed Clootie

From top: Noel Fielding (left) and Matt Lucas, of The Great British Bake-Off, ‘Cork Battenburg’; Vanessa Foran

Within the last few words of Bake’Sheet Season 10, I said Bake Off could do with a bit of a shake up, but I can’t deny there was some phewing relief when they got it going this year and that it was so familiar to me; like an old friend broke through restrictions and gave me a hug.  A new location and a new presenter, yet I haven’t actually felt the loss Sandi.

Which I feel bad about, I don’t think Bake Off followers, fans or just stuck under the thumb of the remote controller watchers ever saw the best out of her. A tis what it is.

But t’was a blast from the past that made me want to put this oddball re-meander together.

You may not know this but some of my favourite Bake Offs, since this kicked off here, back then, when t’was just Frilly and all of ye, were actually shows I didn’t write up.

One of those was the Festive special just gone with The Derry Girls.  Here, treat yourselves.

Meanwhile; Sister Michael, and it must be said, and not just ‘cause the girl’s from Cork, Siobhán McSweeney’s Sister Michael boots from her own half that Father Jack off into the scruffy mound of old seat cushions that do’be corned in the suite of feckie religious cranks from the telly.

There I said it and have a Hon de Mná with it as well.

Damn right there is no denying Siobhan McSweeney’s roots when she introduced the Cork Battenburg to the Tent.

When Siobhan was describing her showstopper to the Judges I knew exactly what they were going to get.  And I was already sniggering and kinda gagging, but kinda whistful and weepy when the Hollywood was giving her his piercing blue stink eye, while Prue was the dotie dottie domestic science teacher she assumes when she’s around celebrities and non(ish) bakers. Coorke Battenburg well….

To clarify, to us tis Battenburg, just Battenburg, and the only Battenburg bhoy; and it was what our Mam’s and their Mam’s before them got in when something a bit better than a swiss roll was called for.  The early evening visit from the School Head or the Parish Priest stuff.

So you know the occasion, and naturally it’s the one that arises with eff all notice to put together some decent ham for sandwiches, a flan and some tea brack.

The Cork Battenburg was a pyramid shaped log, shaped by brown and yellow heavy dense sponge layers, with a miserable thin white spread running between.  A Thompson’s Bakery confection (since that Bakery is no longer with us,  a better more accurate provenance would be welcomed btw.)

I have no honest idea what the flavours actually were ‘cause they all tasted the same.

The lot was then slabbed, and I mean slabbed in gawkish cheap cooking chocolate, that was raked front to back top to bottom with a fork.  If it helps at all – picture a Toblerone in cake formation.

The Cork Battenburg could cap a roofing truss.

But what the Cork Battenburg’s arrival into the Bake Off tent also promised me, was that I knew we’d get see to everyone else’s Battenburg some day in the tent, and there it was – the very first challenge of the Covid Bubble Tent Bake Off.

Long windy intro, I know, but it was a flash back, even the smell of the crap chocolate type exterior came back to me so I couldn’t refuse it.

Then came 80’s week, and it all got me thinking, or as Frilly would have said back in the first Season of Bake’Sheet;  tinking

Throughout this entire series here on Broadsheet, I have stuck loyally to the principle that Home Baking is a spectrum of its own, everyone is on it somewhere, from the disasters to the Bake Off winners enclosures.  From those that burn the shop bought Apple Tart that only needed a bitta warming to the five tier Showstoppers with sugar work, tempered chocolate and home made fondant figurines.

Not even a Pandemic could this Season flop.

And I’m loving it so far, but not for the Bakers, my favourite two to watch are gone anyway (Lottie the Panto Producer and Rowan the Panto Queen.)  Although I’m going to lay heavy on Hermine for the outright win.  BTW Lottie was robbed.

I’m loving it for the challenges.

This year they really have made it about everyday home baking.  The resurgence in home baking that lockdown activated; although I question the wisdom of sourdough bread being the first adventure with flour and an oven. Homemade proper bakes is the one ongoing theme of Bake Off’s eleventh season.

This time last year no-one would have ventured a bread week featuring Soda Bread? Or Brownies, or Quiches – the rightly honourable baked beans have even made it into the tent.  All deserving and not a bit out of place.

And that’s what’s triggered me out of my retreat from Bake’Sheet.

So many of this year’s challenges are all about the Home Baker.  The everyday Baker.  The Budget Baker.  The Bedsit Baker to the all Mod Cons plus latest gadget room for a pony Baker.

There was even a Technical that was just pancakes, albeit Hipster flavoured crepes if you don’t mind stacked between a filling you can put together while sitting in traffic.

It might suggest the influence of their sponsors this year, Aldi.  But I don’t care, this year’s season is less showstopper and technical, and all about the basic mainstream of bakes, the bakes that 99.99% of bakers all turn to.

So this is where I am reaching out to all of ye, there is no point in me putting together recipes and hints and mince.  Let’s have a tent of ye.

Broadsheet Things that look like …. Soda Bread, Brownies, Quiche, Loaf Cake, posh Visitor Cake, Occasion Cake, Baking with Mammy Daddy Blended Family Cake, Tray Bakes and Biscuits.  Trifles, Tarts and stuff you can do with Baked Beans.

I’ll start by tidying up Soda Bread with Notions, a Beat Back Covid with Turmeric bikkies and a Flexi Cookie Pastry ye’ll love so much ye’ll hate me for.

Before I go, if I still have ye like, just to say I’m glad to see more balance now between Matt and Noel in the presenting, general chit chat and continuity bits and pieces.  And Covid wouldn’t stop the Hollywood Handshake.

One whinge and that’s that the Producers this year are a bit mean with the recipes they are making available, but one they did release might be worth a Bank Holiday effort, Peter’s Blackberry & Lemon Tart. Now don’t be put off by the skill level its set at, that’s only the bitta sugar work they stuck in to impress The Hollywood.  And if you’re like me you’ll recognise that as the faff stuff that can be left out.

And its called Jelly Art btw, give it a lash here for a fiver – Shop bought Jelly – shur don’t we all………….

And if you’re not wobbling about Jelly, and can split the faff from the full recipe; go for Lottie’s finest moment. No doubt Wobble Cakes will be a challenge in a future Series anyway, so no harm to get ready to judge them like the all the rest of us armchair amateurs.

You all know how and where to get involved in Broadsheet Bakes that look like (working title)

so lets have ye.

Recipes to broadsheet@broadsheet.ie marked ‘Recipe’.

Pic: Channel 4


From top: John Delaney; Accountant and FAI VP Paul Cooke (left) and FAI President Donal Conway at the Football Association of Ireland Annual accounts publication for 2018 last Monday where it was disclosed that the organistaion has current liabilities of more than 55M Euro; Vanessa Foran

Before Kick Off, allow me revise my own FAI Year in Review from earlier this year.

I realised as I was running the rule over the 2018 accounts, that I had no choice but to go back into the now Revised 2017 year to try and establish the real financial story from its corrected opening position.

The first and most obvious observation in the Revised 2017 Financial Statements and Report is how stark, contrite and austere it is to the heady days of March 2019. And its rosy Audit Opinion.

In the same month the flamboyancy of the original Report of 2017 was making its splash , its Financial content was already ordered (by ODCE) to be Revised.

I get that, it’s not uncommon and the report did flag the loan from a Director.  But within a month again, April 2019 – Deloitte’s admitted (and what I had already warned) “proper accounts and records had not been kept.”

Also subsequent to the Balance Sheet date and before March 2019; a mighty Revenue Audit that caught VAT and what I consider to be the scummiest of all employer behaviours – underpayment of Employer Taxes. The expression used is “significant underpayment.” 

Yet further down into the report (detailed fully on page 38 (ii)) we find the still only estimated charge is €2,712,721.00, and the payroll taxes are attached to the former CEO’s PPS number, so at least they weren’t deducting the canteen staffs payroll and spending it on birthday parties.

And page 3 lives up to its reputation – it also reveals a number of cracks in the Governance structure, such as no Internal Audit, no Procurement Policy, and the one that takes my breath away “There was no policy or standard protocol regarding business cases, options appraisal or business justifications.”

In other words, the Board, the Council and the Staff could use the FAI’s cash to buy, pay, spend, acquire, promise, guarantee and dispose without any control mechanisms and safeguards, like purchase orders or even a tender procedure.

This would explain why their former CEO’s additional payroll benefits (see pg 38 (i) but have a stiff drink first) were never documented or fully costed or even approved.

By page 4 is what I suspected here all along, yet big pockets Deloitte’s signed off anyway “… it was noted that not all relevant audit information had been provided to the Association’s statutory auditor.”

And for how many years did Deloitte’s provide the assurance of their External Audit opinion, and the other Assurance Services to the Stakeholders of the FAI?  Answers on the back of a beermat.

Note this: the Board nor its elected Treasurer or its Finance Department or its External Auditors noticed John Delaney was costing an additional € 428,571 per year since 2014 and NOBODY thought to budget for it until 2022.

And yet it was all there, in front of the senior Management, the Auditors and the Directors.  Even today, look at what the FAI think the function of Governance is.

You’d want to be a Siberian Nomad to not be aware of the decades of messing at the top of the FAI, but John Delaney’s employment contract rolling out like this, apparently agreed and signed off without the Board having anything to do with it, is for me anyway, when the Board officially lost control of the organisation.

The established scatty environment already embedded in the FAI allowed his ego to prosper when he joined, so it was only a matter of time before the Board would be answering to a man that dictated his own terms.

It never made sense to me, and I may have commented here or there about doubting John Delaney’s claims that he would be paid likewise in the private sector, it’s sad that nobody really challenged that until it came to this point.

John Delaney brought few skills to and had no capacity to enhance the organisation.  His appointment was flawed from the start.  And people knew that then; yet here we are.

Whatever happens next between all the external investigations, from Revenue, to CAB,  to the next Audit team, the very fact that he held posts that required both the very best of Fitness and Probity standards from himself, it also required he, along with his Chair, had oversight of the Fitness and Probity regime;  yet he still allowed his real cost to his employer be under reported by €428,571 a year.

But John Delaney’s finally finalised total renumeration cost is not what has the FAI in the trouble it is in today; it was his incompetence to run a high-profile multi-activity and very publicly enfranchised organisation.

He got away with year on year failures, by pandering and promises, back-pats and unhampered power building. A blind eye was cast by more than just the Board, but it is the Board that is responsible.

They failed to protect the organisation, they failed to ensure the growth and prosperity of the organisation; and they failed the primary duty of a Director, that of Independence and being Free from Influence.

They abandoned stewardship of the governing body of a sport that contributes to the identity of millions of Irish everywhere.

They were supposed to be the curators of Irish Soccer for their terms of office, yet they humiliated it by not giving it the respect and attention the FAI deserved from its Directors; they mutilated its reputation – and treated it like roadkill.

The Directors over the years they allowed John Delaney to run the organisation into insolvency, may well think they should have been able to trust the endorsement of their External Auditors, with their annual nothing-to-see-here Audit Opinions.  Wrong.

They, and I can respect the role of a Volunteer Director as I walk in those shoes, so I take no pleasure in this, they – those directors should be rightly ashamed of themselves.

For reasons I’ll not disclose, I do sincerely believe that Donal Conway is a man who held the interests of the organisation and the grassroots of Irish Soccer dearly, yet he cannot deny he allowed himself to be influenced and persuaded.

I regret this has happened to a man whose volunteerism and passion for the game he himself nurtured in so many young players will not be the legacy he deserves.

Yet despite all the above, and all around the media, and all the lads liking each other on twitter, I would not be as pessimistic about the FAI’s future and its recovery as everyone else seems to be.

I am of the view that it can trade its way out, it has a unique market and they have it all to themselves; they are still capable of earning over 45 million a year just even at a standstill, and they do get so much right outside it’s Blanchardstown Headquarters.

Therefore, I would propose an order seeking to put them into Administration but then, I’m not sure an Independent Board and an Administrator can be secured.

There are too many moving parts, conflicts and personalities in this story; Shane Ross, the Sports Council especially its Chair-for-Hire Mulvey, even John Delaney and UEFA themselves, the Players past present pro, semi-pro or the now pundits, the Fans, the Volunteers, the Clubs the Leagues the Sponsors and the Employees.

Nor can I ignore the reach of Deloitte’s and the Mainstream Media, or the goo-goo eyes of Politicians of every rank and file.

Before I go, if you are wondering why I haven’t gone into the 2018 accounts for ye; well I just didn’t bother. But at least the opening balances are presented with some confidence.

The year was hit with some exceptional one-off charges, such as the costs of the various investigations and John Delaney’s payroll costs, and you’ll see all these including his severance again in 2019.

I am also mindful that its future will be in the hands of a different CEO who will be allowed build their own team, and a Board that will be ideally experienced Independent Directors who will not be recruited from within.

Running the Governing Body of Irish Soccer is an important responsibility, so let’s make sure we get the best people to do it.

The FAI let us down, but they will always have the Irish Support,.

They just need to deserve it.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

Top from left: Mike Murphy with Ryan Turbridy (back) Pat Kenny, Moya Doherty, John McColgan and Joe Duffy on a special live edition of The Late Late Show broadcast in tribute to Gay Byrne last Tuesday night on RTÉ One; Vanessa Foran

This might surprise you, but I am opening this RTÉ special with something I wrote about INM from back when;

The most important asset I have as someone who works in professional practice is my independence which includes the perception of that independence.

As a director you are responsible for the welfare of the company, followed by the shareholders, and you must make decisions in the best interests of the company, at all times, and you must never allow that be questioned or mistrusted.

Over the last day you have being caught up into a spin cycle about Dee Forbes and RTÉ operations, cuts, sell offs, closures and NUJ crying games.

Yet all I see is a cloud of silt rising from the boots of shop floor employees as it poises a murky veil around the failure of its board.

You may think that it’s current board weren’t around when ridiculous salaries were being signed off, and their mandate for news and current affairs programming got riddled with propaganda, and you might be inclined to rebut me with it’s not their fault.

Yet you would be wrong, the board and every single one of its directors assume the responsibility of Stewardship and Governance when they accept the baton in a Going Concern entity.

Stewardship and Governance of both a State Asset and a Responsibility.  RTÉ got the gift of their infrastructure and their licence to operate as they liked for free.  RTÉ are responsible for public service broadcasting, specifically news reporting and current affairs; and its board of directors are responsible for RTÉ.

They have failed.

Over the weekend just past, I attended an event where the PRA and the Central Bank gave presentations about Governance and the roles and responsibilities of both Directors and Board Oversight/ Supervisors.  I accept regulated financial institutions are not the point here, but Governance is, and one very simple but significant point the PRA were keen to establish was about Relatives.

Relatives on a board of directors, or relatives of senior management, or indeed employees at any level within the operations of the organisation, or relatives of material suppliers, contributors and stakeholders on a Board of Directors is bad Governance.

It is harmful Governance and it puts organisations at risk, and way beyond what we should accept as a naturally occurring consequence of our feckless attitude to Conflict of Interest.

The jobs-for-the-boys norm we’ve all adjusted to can be blamed for the damage to this Country and its future, yet in RTÉ we are being charged a licence fee to watch it from our own front rooms.

RTÉ is not a family business.

Stop whimpering over job losses and the end of an era, it is time to accept that its failure, and it happened on our watch, that its failure starts and ends at its Governance level.

I don’t care how sexy it is to talk about Dee Forbes’ salary and car allowance, its board of directors at some point bred a Celtic Tiger culture into the organisation that it hasn’t shifted, it’s like the crash was only something that happened to other people, so they just tipped their hat at it by reporting it as it unfolded for ten years.

Over this week we are been fed reels and reels of archive footage containing Gay Byrne and maybe some of us might have dawdled some thoughts about what RTÉ might have been without him.  Or indeed this Country.  We could still be watching reruns of the Papal Visit while Fr D’Arcy hosts the Late Debate.

So let me say this; those great moments in television and the trigger for change they were to become don’t deserve to be used as cover for the abject and shameless failure of RTÉ.

The failure is both Financial and Operational; and it was all under the jurisdiction of its strategic level decision makers, its board of directors.

They agreed the current Strategy while Dee Forbes is employed to implement it.

Look up and note again what I said about relatives; Renewing RTÉ for the next generation was doomed to fail by page three; RTÉ will be outward looking, creative, respectful, sustainable and accountable, collaborative and transparent.

It’s hard to know if they had their fingers crossed when adopted it into the minutes, or whether they were laughing, or whether they were just too full of themselves for their next appointment to know it never stood a chance.

I commented on their Financial Statements here for Year Ends 2016 2017 and 2018 ; and I think I can get away with saying that everything I flagged here over those three columns is coming home to roost today.

Yet that expensive looking strategy wasn’t just a road map for RTÉ and DG Dee Forbes, it was also a promise to us, the Licence Payer, The Viewer, The Citizen, that they were going to get it right and do right my us.

We’ve all been had. 

And there is no gaudier example than the Late Wake Tribute last Tuesday; the current Chair of the RTÉ board and her husband, right in the centre of proceedings.

I don’t begrudge them a bit of their success so don’t pick on it.  But I do take their very presence on our national screen to lick themselves while Moya Doherty chaired the organisation into what ye are seeing today; and she was paid to do it.

I am particularly irritated by an itch that can’t be scratched; RTÉ served all those it employed and engaged, fattened flattered and flaunted, far better than it served any of us, its strategy or is mandated function.

RTÉ are supposed to answer to its Licence Payers and its viewers, and most of all its Public Broadcasting Mandate.  And it doesn’t.

So when DG Dee Forbes says the future of public service broadcasting is at risk, I find myself insulted. Do not blame the source of over half your income (YE18 56%) the Licence Payer,  for the collapse of the organisation both financially and operationally.  

Look again at that Renewing RTÉ for the the next generation , the most important Strategic Plan in the lifetime of the organisation, that within two years has been replaced by “A Plan.”

So even when it was developed, adopted, and probably got a fancy launch; it never stood a chance.  You really have to ask what sort of projections they were playing around with when the Board developed that Strategic Plan and signed it off.

The weekend ahead is going to be filled with Gay Byrne eulogies and RTÉ crisis management spin; and most of it from people who would either qualify as Relatives or Related Parties.

So from this someone, who is a no-one really, but can promise you independence that you could stir your tea with; here is my RTÉ Reboot Receipe

  • All Board and Board Oversight (if any) should be Voluntary

  • All Board and Board Oversight are banned from any programming, unless it is Board / Governance related reporting

  • All Department Heads have to go, and agree not to seek further opportunity from the organisation

  • Relocate the entire facility in Montrose out of Dublin 4

  • Immediately ban News and Current Affairs staff/ contractors from appearing in any Entertainment Division programming, and vice versa.

  • No outside employment for any staff member engaged in any programming department and or division

  • Future HR Ban on employment of Relatives and Related Parties unless signed off by external Auditors

  • Salary Cap of 145K for senior management

  • Dump everyone on over €100k on the wireless, and cap Names; Tubridy, O’Callaghan etc to €225K

  • Move all sports, both News & Current Affairs, and Special Events onto Network 2 & 2fm; SpórTÉ or something

  • Ban on all purchased content from other Television Networks.

  • No series renewal unless export market identified

  • RTÉ 1 and Radio 1 to be main news and current affairs, and special event telly, ie Debates, Toy Show, Elections; introduce more music.  Ban on employees working both divisions, unless engaged in special event, and signed off by two senior producers and DG.

Can it be done; of course it can.

Vanessa Foran is a principal at Recovery Partners.

Rollingnews

Yesterday: Everything Must Go

From top: Great British-Bake-Off  2019 Winner David Atherton with Paul Hollywood (left) and Prue Leith; Vanessa Foran

Here we are, finally final, where the 2019 Season’s Baker’s dozen shifted down to three.

My tent pole since Cake week, Steph Blackwell’s final can be summed up by the state of her Technical – the girl just completely slumped like that congealed smelly cheesy mess; except her fringe.

If anyone knows how her hair managed to stay so imposingly straight and perfect, please do let me know.  I only have to boil a kettle to have my own hair turn to candy floss.

The most awkward baker to watch this year, Alice, made the final even more uncomfortable with her own personal drama running alongside her, the only support I could summon was an impatient Grow Up ffs.

And the one I couldn’t get behind all season, like I barely had a decent word to say about the lad, David Atherton is the 2019 Bake Off champion. But I’m happy to reintroduce a quote from Jimbo here last Sunday; winners are always grinners

There was so much off about this year’s final, yet there was so much right about it too.

I’ll run with the good bits first, mainly the integrity of the Judging.

I have never been shy about vouching for the Hollywood’s view of the world, but I can’t provide any better proof than this year’s final outcome.  And in fairness Alice even out of all her own anxiety about her Mammy and Daddy, summed it all up best when she said David just blew them away.

He wiped the floor with his fellow finalists over every step of that Final Weekend, even if his Signature was considered too boozy, it was up against two other cakes that didn’t set off any fireworks either.

David is the first finalist not to have a Star Baker to stand on, and he cleaned up.  Even his apron was immaculate.

Neither Paul nor Prue flinched in favour of the previous weeks or demonstrated any favouritism or sentimentality.

This is why I know Bake Off will always be safe, despite the many criticisms of this year’s season in the Tent, and I have a few myself, but for sure and for absolute certainty, we can always trust the Judges to remain free from bias and judge only what is put in front of them.

Before I introduce some of my own moans about Season 10, I want to mention a few highlights, particularly from the final.

I must stand up for the best chocolate feature cake anyone can bake, the BFG.

The 70’s gave us the fillums Jaws and Saturday Night Fever, back-to-back heatwaves, Concorde, LCD screens, even the Bay City Rollers.

Who the hell is anyone, and even Paul Hollywood is at it, think they are to sneer at the Black Forest Gateau like it’s a bad school photo?

I bet those same people don’t look down their noses at Charlie’s Angels; (and just for my pal Neil off the Telly) what does Star Wars remind ye of?  Strikes, Corporal Punishment in Schools, The Pope’s ’79 visit; my ass it does.

Looking down your nose at the BFG is a snide dig at those of us that don’t need high-brow foodies to tell us what we should like’ and besides, the BFG’s inventor lived well into his 90’s so there must be some goodness in it.

I am thrilled that I can pin up here Steph’s own signiture BFG.  It’s a fabulous recipe and it’s even set to easy.

Also, don’t go mad running around and spending money on Kirsch, just drop into your nearest Polish Supermarket and you’ll have your pick from plenty cherry liqueurs for under twenty quid; enough for twenty BFGs.

I am also thrilled this year’s final gives me another great home bake standard recipe to pin up onto Bake’Sheet; Lemon Pound (kinda) Cake.

This was the main sponge in David’s Picnic Basket Showstopper the other night.  Ok – I don’t know what lemon spice is either, but you have an immediate work around.  I can’t recommend a better home bake loaf cake standard, and I’m kinda glad it came from the Bake Off final and from the winner I had no time for all the way through.

So, the season, overall.  You know I hate to say it, but I think it could have done with more scrappy ah shur’ its only cake Selasi and Norman style bakers.

There were far too many distractions this year, between Henry’s Ties, the silly skits from Noel and Sandi, and all the tears, week in week out bloody tears; too much frump and feck all craic.

In my own opinion, I think the producers interfered a bit too much with the atmosphere, especially placing more scenes of the Hollywood looming and prowling silently around the tent at the bakers in the final cuts, and the miserable level of the Handshakes (four in total btw) we got to cheer about.

I also think the age profile, while no demonstration of skill or ability, didn’t help, it is after all light entertainment even if its a form of reality telly, it’s still telly.

There were no carefree happy go lucky give it a lash jacks, the young ones this year were all too serious, high achieving and you know what?

Humdrum pretty much sums up the majority of the bakers this year.

But to repeat what I said earlier, I think Bake Off while still in the hands of Hollywood and Prue is safe; but it does need a shake up in the format; I personally would love to see guest Judges for a segment like the technical element; specialists like a chocolatier or a regional speciality we may not be familiar with; Russian Cream Crackers or something.

Maybe it’s time to reintroduce the History Segment, I particularly loved being introduced to the Red Cross Doughnut Dollies in WW2, especially when I followed it up myself and learned that many were Irish girls, it actually joined the long finger of script projects.

I wouldn’t touch Noel and Sandi either, but I would reduce the skittish slapstick two handers; there are totally unnecessary and cut into the time available to the producers that were at the expense of Sandi’s natural gift for elegant sartorial continuity joiners that we want to see, and for Noel’s comfy shoulder to cry on.

In the GAA we say there’s always next year, so until then, or maybe not, I will leave ye with what also came attached to what Jimbo said above Who care’s if they’re insufferable …..

Its cake.

Pic: Channel 4

From top: smug David impressed in the Technical on last night’s Great British Bake-Off on Channel 4 but came second; Vanessa Foran

I don’t know if I’ve said this here before, but I wouldn’t be a veggie cake person.

Ok if you were to put a bit of carrot cake in front of me, I’d be polite.  But I wouldn’t make one, clearly that’s the fault of my own palette, and as recently as last weekend there I came across a recipe from Haiti, Sweet Potato Loaf that includes three spotty bananas and maple syrup in the line-out of ingredients; sincere apologies to the Caribbean bakers – but lads that makes no sense to me, it like asking me to stir washing power into my mash.

If I’m being parochial and closed minded here, yeah, I’ll wear that hat. But for now I’m here only to talk about cake.

And we are talking about High End Grand Patisserie so I’ll not be making apologies for stating that David and his beetroot and parsnips and his smug yoga grin should have been sent home.

He might as well have made soup out of his ingredients, and that’s just not playing by the rules of Patisserie Week.

But it’s not his fault nor the Judges’ that I didn’t rate last night’s semi-final since the show for me the moment it dingled into its theme tune was a bit dysfunctional; I’m those ties scratched my nerves as they walked across the green into the tent.

This homage carry-on has become a thing now, and I don’t like it.  Let the viewers follow up with the baker who was sent home, give them a follow, buy their book and leave it at that.

The silliness of it can be grasped easily by any on-looker from the intensity of each bake last night; even from a crumb of sweat you could sense every one of those four semi-finalists was ravenous for the nod, the handshake, the Star Baker, The Win.

None of them were genuinely sad to see Henry the Tie man go. So, stop with the wish he was here’ing. It’s dog eat dog in that tent, so stop letting on it isn’t, its unfair to the great bakers that have come and gone, cried and celebrated there over the last ten years, and its unfair to us the viewer. Ok, rant over.

One thing about the real business of the Bake-Off Semi Final that I want to make sure I mentioned today, was the Signature.  They made it look stressful, fecky and out of reach for the average baker, but they barely had an hour and a half, whereas we’ve got all day and over night in our own kitchens.

Sablee pastry isn’t as fancy as it sounds on the telly nor in Rosie’s recipe; its basically a sweet desert pastry for tartlets so start there.

I think a dome finish can be achieved by any baker’s skill level, and I wouldn’t dream of loading one with the range of combinations Rosie had in hers; mint and raspberry, yuzu, lemon and white chocolate.  But then I’m not putting it in front of the Hollywood, nor am I in their shoes.

Yet Steph has proved time and time again that less is more in the Signatures, (like last week’s onions) and I’m going mad her recipe hasn’t been made available.  But I’m sure we can figure it out.

Start with the tartlet, and here one I made earlier, and off we go with jam, lemon curd mousse maybe, and a bitta’ glaze.  In fairness to our Star Baker last night, Alice’s Chocolate Orange dome tarts are definitely worth a crack.

You might have some interest in the Technical yourselves, but it was of no use last night for Rosie who won but still ends up with Joe Brand on Friday nights Slice.

I tried to enjoy the Showstopper which to be fair ended in a spectacular display when they went before the Judges , and I appreciated learning something new that could be easily attempted at home with the sugar glass; but Alice’s labour pain face was too much – especially when she stood in front of Paul and Pru, it made Cake look painful. 

Actually, I’m already cringing about the Final; but as some of us know about labour pain it’s all easily forgotten.

So our Finalists, Steph Blackwell, Alice Fevronia and the veg meh, David Atherton combine to compete in the youngest (average) age Bake Off Final in its ten years.

I’m going to break with Bake’Sheet tradition here, as it’s my second last one anyway, and infuse a few spoilers because I think ye might want to have a pen and paper ready next week.

Signature will be a Chocolate Cake, and the Technical is a Souffle so expect there to be different starting times and one by one Judging, so nerves in the tent will be like dried seaweed and cracking to the touch.

The Showstopper is a Bake Off favourite, an Illusion Cake, but without any tricks, it must created from three elements only; Cake, Biscuits and Bread.  So while Alice was biscuit week Star Baker she’ll miss using her brightly coloured slash glass for dazzle, and this might prove true, David meh; I don’t care.

I’d like to say good luck to all in the final, but actually I mean, good luck to us the watchers; I’ll not cope with Alice’s crampy labour pain face, or  David’s smirky smuggy vegan grins.

Feck em Steph!  Prove me right girl!

Pic: Channel 4

 

 

Steph (top) who was Star Baker on last night’s Great British Bake-Off on Channel 4, watched and reviewed by Vanessa Foran (above)

Heatwave week in the tent; and I can honestly say I was sweating with them.  I nearly had the teenager get me a wet tea towel just so I could join in with the bakers.

An unusual look back this week – well unusual to the format ye might have come to expect here on the Bake’Sheet, and in two respects; one the Technical, I thought it was brilliant, whereas I’m normally meh and I’ll leave it up to yourselves about it.

I never heard of the Warka /Brick pastry before, I thought until I started putting this together earlier that it was the Hollywood’s gentle scouser accent for Water pastry.

Before I go on, let me record a bias with ye; I actually do have an personal interest here because I use Filo pastry a fair bit, Frilly’s Chicken Pie is all about it in fact.

As ye well know I follow the word of Mary Berry like a die-hard true believer – I buy my Filo, but you know what? I’ve every intention of giving this a go.

OK, so we saw they had some specialist kit, but both items, the flat pan and the broad flat pastry brush are easily improvised from what we have in the press anyway; most of us that would be glazers probably have a collection of pastry brushes, and shur who doesn’t have some from of pizza tray?

A word of advice about last night’s Moroccan Chicken pie, Paul Hollywood’s recipes must be followed to the exact mill, degree and second, don’t even think about deviating. But I found loads of stuff on YouTube plugging Warka pastry How-To’s that will take you through it so you won’t be alone.

The other element that wouldn’t be the norm for me, was who went home.  I wasn’t predisposed to picking out any of the three on that step; Rosie , Alice or Henry the Tie man, whereas I’d normally be more inclined somewhere.

In many ways a case was there for any of the three, and with what has been broadcast so far, Rosie could be considered likely as she is the only one without a Star baker notch, and yet I could never deny that she is as good as any other Baker to reach a Bake Off Semi final.

I didn’t have high hopes for Henry at the start of the season, but he was a great contestant, and full of personality. Last night, even in the heat he didn’t wilt, or fail to be a great addition to the Bake Off alumni.

Nonetheless lads, Henry is leaving with both a Hollywood handshake and a Star Baker, so in keeping with the programming technical conditions applied last week, he is currently second runner up GBBO Season 10.

So what harm to him, besides, I’d say he’s going to be great craic on Friday night’s Extra Slice.

I only land on it occasionally, and the part I like the most are the its meant to be a insert etc cake and they ended up with this.  But I will be setting the box for this one.  I think a star has been born.

Hon’ the Steph, and wasn’t she there in it again from the Signature. You know what she does so well? She gets the most out of an ingredient.  Like last night, she wrung out those shallots for everything they had to offer in her Tarte Tatin.

The girl has a flair for pastry, its so naturally inherent that she doesn’t even recognise it.  I don’t for a moment consider her self doubts about her prospects for Pastry week as a blaggard to lower expectations.  She’s just naturally gifted, and shur didn’t we see evidence of this hidden talent back twenties week.

This is a good time to chip in a bit about Tarte Tatin, at home here, it’s a use up stuff before it goes off bake, and there’s no work in it.  But I never considered a savoury version.

So this is another plug for a bake that any level home baker can accomplish.  Buy your puff, and onions which are always included in your shop anyway, come fully loaded with sugar and will naturally caramelise.  I’ve done Onion Tarts before but not in a Tatin formation. I will now tho’

Having dumbed down the Tarte Tatin there, let me strut now for a bit; from the intro to the Judges and the fancy drawings, I already had my fingers crossed that Henry’s Crab and Spud recipe would be put up; and it’s our lucky day.

Especially as only two recipes were given away to us this week, the technical is a formality and lucky us, goodbye Henry’s; which I suspect will be hacked by many, and not just the home bakers, but chefs and bakeries up and down this Country will be having it too. 

I’m not going to bother pestering ye with commentary about last nights Showstopper, only to say that we’ve seen stacked pies before, and S8 finalist Kate’s recipe for Potato Curry Pie deserves to be plugged again.

David has finally broke his streak with a win at the technical, and yeah, he is an alright semi finalist; but I’ve been with Steph all the way from Cake Week, so it would probably break my heart for it to end.

It looks like a Patisserie Semi Final, and do you know what?

I expect Steph and Rosie to progress while David and Alice rattle those stools with their squeaky bums.

So same time same place; ’till then Bake!

Pic: Channel4


 Steph (centre) won Star Baker for the third time last night with her’choff-ee’ lava bombe (top) on Channel 4’s Great British Bake-Off, watched by Vanessa Foran (above)

I could easily have been in that tent last night with the running commentary that was going on; Ah Priya that looks like a faded Wexford Jersey …. too many nuts Steph

You’ll already recognise why I’m singling out those two. It was absolutely Priya’s turn to go no matter what she got up to last night.

In fairness we’ve all had good days and bad bakes, yet each sending off to the Extra Slice this year has kept in sync with their rankings; well with my 1-13 anyway.

Even if the Handshakes aren’t.  Jesus Christ give her a handshake ya bollix. 

Would you have preferred a Hollywood handshake or your third Star Baker?  Well if it’s of any use to you, I couldn’t tell you what I’d pick either, but I do think the Hollywood was being a prick about it last night; and he has only given out two over 18 by x no. of bakers so far.

Even if her Signature Eton Mess Meringue Cake had already placed her in the running for Star Baker, Steph was definitely short changed by the Hollywood for her showstopper Bombe just as much as she was last week with her Sour Lime Cocktail Cake.

And now, since we’re entering the business end of this season in the tent, a quick bit of Star Baker revision wouldn’t do any harm.

The Three-in-Row Star Baker was previously achieved, in season five, the Ice Cream – Freezer gate one, Richard got five in total, and his last three were consecutive.

An important note to add about this little Bakeoff’ricity is that he didn’t win the final.  Nancy did. Who oddly enough, only got one Star Baker, week one – Cake week, which is exactly where Alice is.

So, Steph keep it to together girl.

Speaking of keeping it together, Michael was definitely in better shape last night. So I’m still singling out Steph and Michael for the final, and maybe Alice – based on previous like

A quick word about last night’s Signature It’s great to see every day bakes being featured; especially ones that can be adapted, tarted up or dressed down, no matter what the occasion or what’s in the press.

Meringue is every baker’s best shout when caught short; the only problem with Meringue is that it’s fussy about who it works best with.

So David and his Cloves should have a clatter from Paul.

Actually you could tell desserts weren’t his thing anyway, and you know, I’d say he was already planning his work out to shift those Meringue Cake calories –

And that makes him a Fake Baker in my book; send him home next Paul.  I don’t care if he’s got a handshake.

You can’t call yourself an amateur home baker and get to this level without being one of us; it’s all about desserts and the treats, and the sugery chocolately creamy stuff, and always, always worth the calories.

A quick note specifically to the still-not-convinced about home baking and the Bake’Sheet monologues; Meringue is just two ingredients; egg white and sugar; in a 1:2 ratio, that you bate until white glossy and lickable (although I wouldn’t.) And par for the baking bit, 120° for 120 minutes.

The oven is never too hot for smallies, and you can stuff it, paste it, fill it, or crumble it with anything you like.

Speaking of crumbling – Eton Mess is my new name for Brexit.

Onto the technical.  Ah so what; posh fancy pants trifle.  But Prue’s receipe does break down into nice elements, like that Streusel is something you might want to keep for that whenever occasion we keep promising ourselves with.

The Bombe Showstopper has been dabbled with before in the tent, and like the Signature, this can be dolled up or down, depending on the occasion or your mood.  Skill level or ingredients don’t really control the effort or the outcome.

All in all, it was a good week in the tent because all the challenges can be attempted by all and any level of home baker; and better again, no kit is really really needed beyond a bowl, a mixer, a tray and an oven.

Unfortunately there isn’t much to offer this week by way of recipes; but given the challenges – Meringue, Trifle and a cold Dessert Bombe, I don’t think it would stop anyone from giving a Meringue Cake a lash while Lorenzo passes over.

Next week is another original; Festivals, so I suppose anything can happen inside a tent at a festival.

So ‘till then; BAKE!

Pic: Channel 4