“We’re bringing something different, and fingers crossed people will say ‘thank God’”

Rylan Clark-Neal returns to host a second season of Ready Steady Cook

Let’s face it, home cooking has been a bit more like ‘Ready Steady Cook’ than usual in the past year. Most of us have found ourselves frantically grabbing pots and pans to put together a meal using the odd tin or packet left in the back of the cupboard and a couple of stray veg in the fridge at some point.

Ready Steady Cook presenter Rylan Clark-Neal remembers when the show relaunched after a decade off-screen last March. “People were genuinely making meals out of a tin of beans, some pasta and an old pair of pyjamas. And then it was like, ‘don’t worry babe, Ready Steady Cook’s on!’”.

Now the show’s back on BBC One with a second series, and the chefs will be creating more 10- and 20-minute recipes using budget storecupboard staples – and having fun along the way. We spoke to Rylan about what he loves about the show and what he’s been up to this year.

You’ll notice some differences

So how has filming been during lockdown? Instead of a studio audience, it’s the three Ready Steady Cook chefs that aren’t competing in a challenge who vote for their favourite dishes this year. For Rylan, there’s one benefit to this: when they’re cooking, and they’ve “got 28 pans on the go and they’re trying to make soup out of a cardigan”, there’s not much time to chat. But “when they’re not cooking they’re more at ease” and they can have a bit of banter.

There’s a new chef, Jeremy Pang, in the line-up too. It’s safe to say Rylan’s a fan. “There was 10 seconds once when I went, ‘there’s a lettuce’, and I turned and there was sweet-and-sour ribs with blah blah blah, and I’m like ‘what is going on?’. He’s just a wizard in the kitchen and it’s so lovely to have him on the team.” Pang joins Romy Gill, Akis Petretzikis, Anna Haugh and Ellis Barrie in the Ready Steady Cook kitchens. Sadly, series one chef Mike Reid couldn’t fly in from Australia due to the pandemic.

Social distancing takes place off-set as well and on. “People working in make-up... are in PPE, it’s crazy and sad”, Rylan says. But “I just feel so fortunate I can still work – I go between my apartment and the studio, apartment, studio”. He adds, “one change that’s been tricky is we’re all very huggy and we can’t be like that now”.

Chefs Jeremy Pang, Akis Petretzikis, Romy Gill, Ellis Barrie and Anna Haugh (left to right).

What have we got to look forward to on the show?

It might be easier to do our weekly shop now than it was when series one launched, but Rylan reckons lots of us are feeling “bored of cooking the same old thing every week”, adding “we’re bringing something a bit different, and fingers crossed people will be like ‘thank God for that’.”

The chefs have lots of ideas for quick and easy dishes using everyday ingredients. “We’re not sitting there cooking a full lobster with a bottle of Champagne”, says Rylan. “It’s more like “some lentils we found in the back of the cupboard and a butternut squash. If you can find something new to do with that chicken breast you put on your online order or that broccoli that always turns up, that’s great.”

He says he’s picked up lots of tricks from the Ready Steady Cook chefs, like “there’s nothing more annoying than dicing an onion, just don’t do it, peel the onion and grate it”. Any favourite ingredient combinations? He mentions flour and “sorry, yoghurt?” in a dough, saying he’s had flatbread, gyros and even samosas made of it.

What’s Rylan been cooking since the last series?

A Celebrity Masterchef finalist, Rylan’s been cooking up a storm since filming series one. He’s made a few meals for his mum, Linda, a regular on Channel 4’s Celebrity Gogglebox and Radio 2’s Rylan on Saturday. “Mum’s in our bubble as she lives on her own and I care for her, so she’s popped round once or twice for some dinner. She likes it when I do a roast.” It turns out the main draw is his Yorkshire puddings. “She goes, ‘I only want one, I only want one’, but I know I have to make four others ’cause you’ll see her get up and go to the kitchen to get another one”, he says.

So what’s Rylan looking forward to most about the end of lockdown? “When we can have people round”, he says, “but to be honest I probably won’t even cook, I’ll just get takeaway, ’cause I’ll be too busy having a good drink”.

Watch Ready Steady Cook on BBC One on weekdays at 3.45pm from March 1st, or catch up on iPlayer.

Can you make Yorkshire puddings to rival Rylan’s?