This remake of Love Actually was unnecessary.
It’s the final Quarter Final which means next week we get a format change – SWEET MERCY!
Fruits of the Forest
The invention test was to create a dish inspired by the forest and they could choose from woodland meats such as pheasant, pigeon, venison and rabbit. Wisely nobody chose the rabbit because remember 3 years ago when they got like 50 complaints because they made Louise Minchin and Sid Owen badly cook a rabbit? Everyone opted for the faceless venison loin except Paul who went for the pigeon.
Truly stomping over his contestants in Venison Wars: The Made for TV Movie of the Year was Bart who whipped up a Roast Loin of Venison with Sautéed Girolles, a Parsnip and Nettle Puree with a Red Wine and Madeira Jus, and that jus was nothing short of pornographic
The colour, the shine, the flavours? It was a dish that was truly worthy of the final. And to think Bart is being wasted locked up in the basement of some business tycoon’s luxury Chelsea apartment, it seems unfair that only a select few are enjoying his food. #FreeBart. But Bart was lucky with the brief – he was apparently raised in the forest – whether it was a Romulus and Remis situation or not remains to be elaborated upon but I don’t think you get this sinister a grin without being raised by wolves
Carla did not have the same advantage because of the lack of forests on The Isle of Mull – or at least on her end of Mull. She went a bit of a different with her venison and opted to serve it as a Venison and Blini Stack with a Plum Chutney and a Wild Mushroom Croquette:
It’s a bonkers plate of food because it’s too big to be either a canapé or a starter and too small to be a main course and it time travelled from the 1980s. Her reasoning is that it’s “for lumberjacks” because after all the lumberjacks do have to eat something at their Annual Lumberjack Cocktail Party and Charity Dinner – it’s the jewel in the crown of the timber industry social calendar.
In Carla’s defence, it was all cooked very well it’s just a bit lacking in woodland vibes and also it might serve her well to keep the lumberjack fetish on the downlow – don’t be horny on main!
Our last stop on Venison Island, Canada is with Jamaar who is determined to give me a heart attack one of these days – when he firsts takes his venison out it looks extremely raw:
luckily he had enough time to get it to a good medium rare for his Roasted Venison Loin, Pickled Shallots, a Celeriac Fondant and Sauteed Cavolo Nero with a Sloe Gin and Juniper Sauce:
I think it’s unfortunate for him that he and Bart made such similar dishes because I think he would have garnered more praise if he hadn’t followed such a knockout dish. There’s a few mistakes – his celeriac fondant is a little hard in the middle and doesn’t ooze butter, and we know how much Marcus loves butter
I WILL NOT LET THAT GO.
He at least nailed the brief and wasn’t catering for some fringe society cocktail party.
And now to Paul and his Pigeon. After last week in which he was criticised for putting an entire farmers market on a plate he was trying his best to scale things down and simplify – it went as expected:
He did at least show some self control and only had the one sauce and didn’t have an onion inelegantly stuffed with cheese, we love to see personal growth. The dish still looked incredibly busy, as you would expect from a 9 part plate of food
It’s competently cooked though, the only real complaint being that there was too much of the very sweet chutney and that he was too miserly with the bacon in his barley – but it certainly wasn’t wowing anyone or reaching any lofty culinary heights and you could probably find something similar on the menu of a fair few gastro-pubs across Scotland
UNLEASH THE CRITICS
The critics for the final Quarter-final are Jay Rayner and Grace Dent, because they owed Grace a few real slap up meals after forcing her to eat a Bone Marrow Creme Brulee and Jay Rayner had no Twitter spats scheduled for the afternoon.
With both Jay and Grace having tasted some of the best dishes that have been served so far this group really had their work cut out for them. I wonder where Charles Campion is? I miss Twitter going wild over the fact he is the spitting image of Peter Griffin from Family Guy.
First up to the plate was Carla, who was pretty mcu starting off on the wrong foot by opening up with a to-camera bit saying “I’m not going out to impress the critics.” That’ll be the Canadian upbringing coming through. She was once again struggling with her time and so her starter of a Benedict-Style Seared Pigeon Breast with a Poached Egg, spinach puree and Skirlie with a Maltaise Sauce had to once again be plated in her signature style that makes everything look like it’s been hurled at the plate from across the room
I think her main problem is that she uses massive plates for dishes that are quite small which puts pressure on her to fill it out and thus we get strange style choices like the abundance of flowers and everything being at least 3 inches apart like their social distancing.
I will also admit that her “Benedict-style” did go over my head at first and I had wondered if maybe Pope Benedict was a fan of pigeon and it was only when everyone started talking about breakfast that I clicked. I didn’t have to tell you that and yet I did. I am my grandmother’s granddaughter.
The plating of the dish is divisive – Marcus takes particular issue with it while everyone is happy to appreciate the chaos because it tastes pretty stellar.
Her main course of a Crab and Smoked Cheese Baked Cheesecake was much less successful because after all it is a baked crab cheesecake
I imagine it was pungent all on its own and then she burnt the base of it – adding the smell of a woodfire to the equation
While we’re here, what do you think she made the base of her cheesecake out of? Because judging by her workbench, she was absolutely just using Jacob’s Cheddars
It’s certainly a bold move that I can appreciate.
She was serving it alongside a brown meat stuffed spring roll, which she tried to call “A filo cigar” and Monica was having NONE OF IT because we only have enough room for one Asian appropriator and Philli has the job more than covered. None of it went down particularly well except for the salad but as we know
Paul followed Carla and had presentation problems of his own even though he declared that the black batter on his Squid Ink Tempura Octopus would “look very pleasing on the eye” what it actually looked like was a casualty of some sort of Lovecraftian cosmic war
WHY DOES IT FEEL LIKE IT’S LOOKING AT ME?
He was pairing the massacred leviathan with a Tomato and Saffron Jam, a Malt Vinegar Gel and Miso Glazed Razer Clams, one of which made a very valiant effort to escape this fate worse than death
As you might have guessed the flavours were AGGRESSIVE, and it didn’t help that he had put a house brick of that tomato and saffron jam on the plate
I demand he serve this dish to the Queen immediately and we film her reaction for a viral video. Can you imagine her dry-heaving as she tries to eat the malt vinegar gel that almost turned Grace Dent inside out? Screw The Crown, that’s the royal drama that I want!
His main course of Seared Halibut and Wasabi Crushed Potatoes with Chorizo, Samphire, A Crab Meat Stuffed Potato Skin and A Caviar Sauce (gilding the lily again) was a much better balance of flavours, however that didn’t matter because his grave was dug when he manhandled the halibut so badly Marcus actually had to shout at him
which is probably why he was so flustered that he forgot to stir his Caviar Beurre Blanc Sauce prior to serving it which meant all of the caviar was stuck to the bottom like tea leaves
But at least he could read his fortune like some sort of piscinic haruspex.
It did get better from there as #FreeBart took to the stage with his Poached Lobster and New Potatoes with a Poached Egg Yolk and Finely Grated Bottarga
Bottarga is a lump of dried and cured fish roe and looks a bit like a weapon that could cause severe blunt force trauma
But Bart’s dish is a sensation – the lobster verges on the raw side but it was intentional and because it’s such a novelty on this show everyone goes wild for the fact Bart just boiled potatoes – no fondanting, no roasting, no crushing, no spicing, no crisping, not frying, just nothing. Sometimes simplicity really is key.
Bart’s next course was a little bit lumbering, his Sea Bass with Onion Puree, White Asparagus and Chicken Bone Marrow Jus felt like it could maybe have done with a couple more rounds of testing
The white asparagus, which looks a bit like someone serving severed fingers in a latex glove just don’t grab your attention and seemed superfluous to the dish, despite the dish being relatively simple. But it’s the sauce that causes the most consternation, what with its giant lumps of bone marrow just floating around in it like malevolent Minecraft creatures
This trend of serving sauces with big lumps of things in them needs to stop immediately, it’s just not appetising.
Lastly there’s Jamaar, who after his middling Invention Test reviews felt like he was a bit on a back footing but he came in swinging with a Honeyed Duck Breast and a Miso Glazed (Humble) Hispi Cabbage with Mooli, Cherry Chutney and a Five Spice Duck Sauce
Despite the duck being there it’s the caramelising of the miso on the cabbage that’s truly the star of the show but as a whole the dish very much works with one another.
Earlier in the series Jamaar had said that desserts and pastry weren’t his strong point so I was very nervous when he said he was going to be making a a soufflé. Chefs struggle with them at the best of times – I would know I once ordered a Pistachio Soufflé and it took the chef 4 minutes to make and delayed our puddings by about 20 minutes. It was entirely worth it and unarguably one of the best desserts I’ve ever had in my life. And so I would be very intrigued to try Jamaar’s Peach Soufflé with Almond Streusel and Earl Grey Ice-Cream, it just sounds and looks like heaven
He was also clever to jazz it up by putting the peach compote at the bottom of the ramekin – it adds a level of excitement, it may not quite be the soufflé with an ice cream centre that Alex made in the 2018 series but it is a very good soufflé and I think this speaks for itself
It was a very obvious decision to eliminate Carla and Paul – they just hadn’t brought it this episode and so Jamaar and Bart advance and do the most adorable elbow-5 to celebrate
WHAT KINGS. May they stick around for a while.
My ideal Final 5 at this point are Victor, Bart, Jamaar, Santosh and then it’s a toss up between Jono and Aaron.