Don’t worry Monica, these Skills Tests are almost over.
The final week of Quarterfinal heats is here – it feels like it’s been 84 years, and truly they’ve run out of skills tests as we venture into “Just make us a breakfast please” territory. It’s not quite a chicken sandwich but it’s almost there.
Marcus Wareing’s Very Big Breakfast
Hands up everyone that today learned we’re meant to pronounce the word “rosti” like you’re doing a very bad Sean Connery impression.
Marcus’ Skills Test is for the chefs to make a potato rosti – imagine being one of the chefs who had to butcher a whole chicken, cook its breasts and then got in trouble for not displaying the butchered chicken like a morbid jigsaw then watching this and finding out your competitors had to grate and fry potatoes? I’d be LIVID.
The rosti had to be served with bacon, tomatoes and an egg of their choosing – be it poached, scrambled or fried – I do very much wish that someone had just served a an unpeeled hardboiled egg in the most deliciously passive aggressive manner. But Alas Otis opted for a fried Egg and Carla, who thanks to Covid had to close her restaurant down and is now employed as the guardian of the lobster pots on The Isle of Mull
She opted for a poached egg – which she wanted some vinegar for and Gregg told her that “a poached egg would work without vinegar” and I genuinely thought that Carla was about to turn Gregg into vinegar.
Otis’s and Carla’s rostis couldn’t differ much more – Otis, who at the beginning of the round, gave a very exact rosti making method that he sounded very confident in but then he decided to mix the yolk of an egg into the grated potato which he then squeezed through a sheet of muslin, which certainly begs the question “Mate, WHY?”. He also made his rosti VERY thick because he was shoving several potatoes into an egg ring
This obviously meant it didn’t cook all the way through but the true calamity of Otis’s breakfast was his bacon which he turned into fossilised dinosaur hide
His egg had also caught on the bottom and taken on the appearance of the sad eggs you find at a 2 star hotel’s breakfast buffet – it was certainly not his finest culinary hour.
Carla’s rosti on the hand was very flat which meant it cooked in seconds flat but because she was being so attentive to her eggs and bacon she lost track of it and ended up a touch scorched
Marcus said it would have been fine had she added “a little butter” to the pan, let’s take a look at Marcus’s “a little butter” shall we?
That’s 3 cows worth of butter right there. Overall Carla’s was fine, she just needed to be more present and attentive in the kitchen – and also maybe serve less tomatoes:
That’s a truly cursed breakfast ratio.
Monica’s Tempura Mussels and Nonsense Aioli
Monica is really testing the chefs this week by making them make a bunch of tempura mussels – which is not that big an ask of professional chefs but it’s her nonsense aioli that’s the big question mark. She wants a very traditional “real” aioli made without eggs, because apparently Aioli Trutherism is a thing we have to contend with now.
First up is Reese, who I had expected a bigger disaster of than what actually happened based purely on the very long pause and fear behind his eyes after Monica told him to make the tempura mussels
He knows exactly what to do – even how to work the fancy new £100 blender. The only issue he really has is his quantities and measurements as he Goldilockses his way through an Aioli from too little oil, to too much oil and never really finds the perfect medium – I guess baby bears just really hate garlic aioli.
The same goes for his tempura batter that ends up being too thin and wet to coat the mussels and they sort of just end up as a slightly gungy mess that looks a bit like Vincent Van Gogh’s missing ear
Reese’s partner in Tempura Based Crimes is Bart, the private chef for a family in Chelsea, and you can certainly tell it’s a family from Chelsea because the dish he plates up in his VT has not a carb to be seen
That is less of a meal and more of a desperate cry for help.
Surprisingly Mr. Chef To A Family of Millionaires does not know how to work the £100 Bamix Blender – but I suppose he’s probably more used to the £300 SwissLine version – how dare us poor folk inconvenience him. Bart doesn’t ever really get to grips with the blender and ends up with a rather lumpy, luminously yellow garlic dip, so it’s no wonder he tried to hide it behind a parsley façade
The batter for his mussels is very good though and he manages to achieve the correct texture despite the fact his mussels sunk and stuck to the bottom of the fryer’s basket. “IF ONLY HE HAD DONE A TESTER MUSSEL!” Marcus scrawls in the pages of the diary that he keeps hidden beneath the floorboards of the Villa Diodati.
It wouldn’t be MasterChef Signature round without a doubling up of ideas and finding themselves in a Great British Hake Off are Reese and Carla. The first of which is showcasing it in a rather expected manner of pan-frying it and serving it with Fancy Onion Rings, Pickled Mussels, Jersey Royal Fondants and a Smoked Bacon Sauce:
The hake, despite being on the periphery of cremation is remarkably well cooked – the Jersey Royal Fondants however are very hard because he only simmered for like 12 minutes and he really should have realised he needed longer when Gregg reacted thusly when he told him how long he as going to cook them for
That is the face of a man that has known the disappointment of a raw tater far too many times in his life. Even if the potatoes had been well cooked his dish was still to much of a cacophony – the smoky bacon, the sharp pickle and the strong fishiness – he needed to both take something out and add at least one neutral flavour – it’s quite an achievement that he managed to make what is ostensibly a fairly boring dish such a clash of flavours.
Carla, his Hake Rival, went for a more jumbled approach, with her Pan-fried Hake, Spiced Octopus, a Sambal and a Hake and Octopus Wonton with a Lime and Coconut Sauce
Gregg goes Full Farage and wonders how on earth she could be pairing 2 North Sea fish with a Sri Lankan sauce – HOW DARE SHE. It’s not like Sri Lanka is an island nation with an extensive array of white fish and a cuisine that frequently uses cuttlefish. I had personally expected something a little more wild from Carla, especially after she told us she once made a cream cheese thickened with the sap of a tuberous begonia which sounds like something that would get you tried for witchcraft in the 1700s. But her dish was perfectly lovely. The wonton sadly doesn’t get the respect it deserves – I would happily order just a plate of those, I don’t care how dry they are I just never want a wonton to feel unwanted.
It was difficult to separate Reese and Carla based on their mains so it really came down to their puddings, Reese going for a beloved Dark Chocolate and Whiskey Panna Cotta with a Brandy Snap and an Orange Sorbet – the dish was inspired by his love of getting absolutely sloshed on Christmas and eating a whole Chocolate Orange in 1 sitting – he’s the Christmas Prince we all deserve. Unfortunately the panna cotta doesn’t set, but never fear the Brandy Snap is here to hide all of its sins
The galaxy brained bravery of that move, truly a MasterChef icon. It sadly lacks in whiskey-ness but his orange sorbet is a treat and could be used a reading lamp
After her Rather Rustic Rosti, Carla really needed to showcase a sense of refinement and elegance in her plating and a dessert is the perfect opportunity to do so! She promised that her Pink Peppercorn Meringues with Rhubarb Compote and a Galangal Cream would be just the prettiest thing you’ve ever laid your eyes on:
And to many people the mass decapitation of the French aristocracy was beautiful.
In Carla’s favour are the fact she handles the balancing of some tricky flavours very well and the dish is certainly inventive – it’s just a touch unfortunate that it looks like the ghost of Marie Antoinette is back with a vengeance.
Carla’s dessert was far from the only massacre though:
DID OTIS STAB HIS GENOISE SPONGE TO DEATH? He claims that his peculiar presentation was down to the fact when his Lime Leaf and Pistachio Sponge rose it looked a bit like a boob
THAT DOESN’T MEAN YOU RIP IT APART LIKE A MASTROPHOBIC BEAR!
It wasn’t just his presentation that lacked, the matcha cream cheese was weak, the sponge tasted of almost nothing and the less we say about the blood red raspberry gel the better.
It was unfortunate that his fairly bad dessert followed an equally weak main coarse of an undercooked Spiced Cannon of Lamb with Celeriac Puree, Garlic Roasted Spinach and a Rosemary Crumble:
his spice coating on the lamb was very good but the rest of it just seemed a little rushed, he hadn’t peeled the celeriac properly and the dish was cursed with the hex of being dubbed “Rustic”.
Lastly there’s Bart who you certainly couldn’t describe as rustic with his very modern Roasted Crown of Duck with Hispi Cabbage and Hazelnut Puree:
Hazelnuts are very much enjoying their moment in the spotlight this year. (and barely a whisper of a carb to be seen – that’s essentially 3 Walkers crisps on his plate)
He does however pair it with a Cumin and Mango jus, inspired by his travelling in Egypt, which is fine, duck and fruit are marvellous together but something about pouring a jug of brown sauce and rather large cubes of mango is not very appetising:
The judges go wild for it but in a dish with such star ingredients as duck, cumin and mango, for Marcus to say the best bit was the hazelnut puree seems a bit of a slap in the face.
His dessert of a Mascarpone and Lime Cream Stack with a Blackberry coulis and Fennel Sorbet was equally well received, even if it did look like a pagoda sinking into a hellish abyss
that’s a concerningly black sauce. It very much reads as the sort of a dessert that someone obsessed with ” Wellness™ ” would consider a treat but everyone else would look at it and wish they’d ordered the chocolate and whiskey panna cotta instead. But I can’t dismiss the skill involved in both his dishes and that he was obviously leagues ahead of everyone else so it was no surprised that Bart went through
The fact his happy face looks like he has plans to cook human flesh in the near future is a touch concerning.
And with Otis being kicked out immediately to serve time in jail for first degree cake-slaughter it was between Reese’s promise and Carla’s inventive use of flavours, with them eventually deciding to keep Carla
She better make that tuberous begonia cream cheese for the critics or none of this has been worth it.