Cookery queen Delia Smith has taken a swipe at MasterChef for undermining the confidence of aspiring cooks.

Smith, 71, who now runs an online cookery school and recently received a Bafta special award, named The Hairy Bikers as her true TV successors.

Asked whether she worried that shows like MasterChef, the hit BBC1 series presented by John Torode and Greg Wallace, intimidated rather than inspired, she told the Radio Times: "Yes, I would never be a judge on that. They used to ask me but I could never criticise people: my job is to make them feel they can do it."

She said that The Hairy Bikers had taken up her mantle, adding: "They make it funny and yet they make you think, 'I'd like to make that'. That's very clever."

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Smith has criticised modern food programmes for entertaining more than they educate.

"Food isn't theatre and to make it into theatre is wrong. It can speak for itself and it's wonderful and it's beautiful and it's art - it's everything," she said.

"I don't think it needs that kind of embellishment. Our problem is we don't think highly enough of it, and so we think we've got to wrap it up in all kinds of other things."

She added: "We've lost our grip on home cooking. I can see that by the way kitchen equipment shops are in decline.

There are a lot of short cuts but the main problem is that people are afraid to cook."

PICTURES: Scroll down to see what celebrity chefs cook in private..

Smith, who has retired from TV, told the magazine: "Everybody now knows about food from around the world and what chefs do; but not everybody knows how to make an omelette. What is missing is the basics. There's where I come in ... that's what I want to try and do: fill that gap."

The star recalled filming her first series, Family Fare, in 1973 in a tiny weather studio.

"The nearest running water was the ladies' loo so we used to fill two buckets with water - one with soap, one for rinsing - and have them under the counter where I worked," she said.

"They didn't have the money for editing so I had to do 25 minutes 40 seconds all in one go; if I made a mistake I had to start at the top. And they didn't do any close-ups because my hands were shaking too much."

Asked whether she would turn down the BBC if the broadcaster approached her to work for the corporation again, she said: "I'd say, 'I'll sell you what I'm doing. You can buy it and broadcast it in a five-minute slot'. Why not?"

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