The Great British Craft Off is not going great.
It’s the day before the final and we have to lose one chef so the heat is really on – and I say that because they are absolutely filming this on the same day that Bake Off decided it was a great idea to make Ice Cream Cakes in the midst of a 30 degree heatwave.
The Banquet of –
For their first task Alex, Bart, Santosh and Philli are in charge of creating and putting together the menu for the MasterChef Chefs’ Table, which according to the show is one of the most prestigious and eagerly anticipated events of the culinary calendar, ARE WE SURE? I mean, I too would look forward to free fancy food but it’s no Meeting of The Glutton Club is it?
Each of the chefs is in charge of a difference course Alex has the starter, Bart gets saddled with everyone’s least favourite: the fish course, Santosh gets the main and Philli has to wrestle with desserts after successfully dodging them for most of the series.
Alex: The Starter
Alex made things considerably easier for himself by having a dish consisting mostly of raw ingredients – in fact his most demanding element is a pastry tube made of a traditionally Berber ingredient, Brik Pastry – anglicised to Brick Pastry because as we’ve established we’re terrible at translating and it actually meant “Stuffed Dough” because it’s used primarily to make samosa-esque pastry parcels. Brik Pastry is similar to filo but considerably sturdier which is why it could be moulded into a tube
Alex’s main cause of concern is about whether or not his foam will hold long enough to get it to the dining room because for some reason the kitchen and the dining room are a marathon apart. As it turns out it was needless to worry about it because Alex “forgets” to put the foam on anyway and he should have instead been worried about the fact it’s 30 degrees and he’s trying to serve a Fennel Parfait that he has to bung in the blast chiller every 5 minutes just to keep it in a semblance of a shape.
His final dish of Citrus Cured Salmon topped with Caviar, Puffed Potato and a Fennel Puree filled Feuille de Brick alongside Fennel Parfait, Fennel and Olive Oil Powder looks very spring-like and refreshing
Alex is doing wonders for the Fennel Marketing Board.
His dish is also served alongside a “Tomato Essence” which as well as sounding like a D list member of The X-Men who can telekinetically manipulate vegetables is essentially a rebranded “tomato water” that was very popular a few years ago and was made by Alex essentially just squeezing a sack of a tomatoes
It looks like something the Victorians would have used as a stressball.
Everyone is mostly just very glad it’s a cold dish because already they’re all covered in a sheen of sweat and the regret that all the men decided to wear suits is palpable. The one critique is that the tomato essence could have been stronger but to be honest I don’t think tomatoes have much of a essence to give, they’re a very fickle thing – they can’t even decide if they’re a fruit or a vegetable.
And then everyone politely golf claps for Alex’s successful dish and in the corner Gregg is clapping as though Alex just hit the high note in Defying Gravity
Bart: The Fish Course
It’s never fun having the fish course, and I say that as someone who likes fish – even the chefs on Great British Menu deliberately try to lose that round and it’s often a case of the least worst dish winning.
He went a rather expected route with a Poached Lobster with Thyme Buttered Potatoes, Marinated Fennel in a Spiced Lobster Bisque and then in a moment of sheer brainfartedness thought he’d add a Crispy Sweetbread to the top of it
He claims it’s a Portuguese classic but I can find no evidence of Sweetbreads in Bisque ANYWHERE.
His dish is surprising in its technical demand as he has to de-membrane 30 odd sweetbreads (WHICH ARE NOT TESTICALS), delicately remove the meat from the lobster tails while wearing a very fetching pair of Marigolds and carefully arrange a bouquet of lobsters
In order to make the bisque as rich as possible Bart has brought in extra lobster heads and I’m very curious as to how one goes about obtaining decapitated lobster heads. Did he just walk through Billingsgate with a portable guillotine like some sort of anti-crustacean revolutionary?
Even with his time rapidly running out and not enough time to cook the sweetbreads to perfect crispiness he smiles throughout
Not *entirely* sure that’s a happy smile…
The chefs obviously all notice the lack of crunch on the sweetbreads and Michael Caines thought the bisque was too salty – DAMN THOSE EXTRA HEADS! But his lobster was cooked to perfection so at least he didn’t totally waste the BBC’s food budget. Overall the dish falls short of Bart’s incredibly high standard but at least hi Saffron Rouille topped Crostini looked pretty
And as we know, what truly matters in this competition is toast.
Santosh: Main Course
Santosh came into this episode with one thing on his mind- he was going to showcase Nepal and provide and masterclass in the culture, from the moment he walked in wearing his Dhaka Topi it was game, set and match
Can’t wait for Bart to walk into the final wearing clogs.
And then came the food, a tour de force in Nepalese ingredients and style. He was seasoning his cannon of lamb with Jimbu a Himalayan herb which apparently tastes like a mix of onions and chives, so in my mind is kind of like a scallion. But the real wow moment is the Black Stone Flower that he is mixing into a Bone Marrow Sauce
Black Stone Flower being a species of lichen that grows abundantly in Nepal and India. But you’ll be even more delighted to know it’s a monkey aphrodisiac and the best part of today’s episode was Santosh trying to say that it makes monkeys horny without saying “It makes monkeys horny” instead just keeps saying “It makes the monkeys hot and angry” – which is exactly what a room full of chefs need as they slowly die from the sweltering heat of a room filled with TV lighting. Marcus is also very excited to taste the monkey viagra which is too much of an insight into Mr. Wareing’s personal life for me.
As well as spicing his lamb with jimbu he is wrapping it in a mustard leaf and steadfastly refusing to put it in the oven despite Monica getting increasingly anxious, annoyed and down right angry
If this isn’t on everyone’s list of TV Highlights of the Year, then quite frankly cancel television forever. It may have been because the oven was slightly preoccupied being the not at all nefarious Bone Oven
Has anyone seen Jono or Dave recently?
Despite playing chicken with Monica over the lamb; Santosh’s Jimbu Spiced Lamb wrapped in a Raisag Leaf with a Fermented Radish Salad, Soya Bean Crumble and a Black Stone Flower and Bone Marrow Sauce is cooked to perfection
It may not be the prettiest dish in the world but as usual, it’s one of the dishes you can almost smell just looking at it.
The chefs go wild for it, Aktar Islam is particularly taken with the addition of a paratha stuffed with mint because it allows him to eat as much of the sauce as possible – did nobody warn him about the effects of the black stone flower? And Michael Caines offers up a critique that I think pretty much sums up Santosh in a nutshell “You exposed my ignorance but delighted my palate” and then he gets the biggest round of applause I’ve ever seen a contestant gets and the pride on his face is too much to cope with
Nothing by respect for MY president.
Remember when Philli last made a dessert and it was that race between either making an apple tart or a chocolate fondant? Well, it turns out that intense chaos is integral to Philli’s dessert making process. I wonder how far in advance they had to think up their menu items because I think if Philli had known that this was going to be filmed in the midst of a heatwave she probably wouldn’t have opted to make a dessert consisting of so many set or frozen items – there’s so many of them in fact that she almost has to bribe in Monica to help her with liberal amounts of bao buns and kirsch.
The main component of her dessert is her Cherry and Salted Duck Egg Bao Bun which she serves in a steaming basket decorated with carnations that Philli joylessly jabbed in there because her time was rapidly running out
Why couldn’t she had brought them in pre-decorated? Alex brought in a whole log diorama that he didn’t have to set up as well as bake a baumkuchen!
The duck egg may sound worrisome but it looks even more concerning
I’m not a strong believer in solid eggs.
As it turns out the salted duck egg was a more of a gimmick than anything else and is completely lost between the cherry filling and the stodgy flavour sponge that is bao dough.
On the side of this, on a seperate plate, Philli is serving a Almond and Cherry Ripple Ice Cream with Wasabi and White Chocolate Ganache, an Almond and Buckwheat Crumble and Shiso and Basil Pesto
I don’t get this as a concept – the bao bun is so far removed from the ice cream that it’s basically two separate plates of food and can’t be eaten together because who wants to eat bao dough with ice cream? And then there’s the basil and shiso leaf pesto which unsurprisingly doesn’t work BECAUSE IT’S A PUDDING.
In what can only be described as a MasterChef miracle, Philli does actually manage to plate up a perfect ice cream, the poltergeist that haunted it has clearly been exorcised, although it did help that Philli had a veritable army of ice cream machines going for her
Bit of a weird Dalek redesign but I’ll take it.
The dish doesn’t go down well with any of the guest chefs and the all desperately cling to complimenting her ice cream like it’s the last lifeboat left. And Philli has to hear them tell her they didn’t like her pudding after she spent 20 minutes running around like a headless chicken and is clearly on the brink of either passing out or committing a terrible atrocity
It’s gutting for Philli and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a MasterChef contestant as upset and frustrated as she was after this – because she’s been outstanding throughout and to serve up your worst dish of the competition to Michelin Starred chefs who never experienced the wonders that were your Korean BBQ Chicken or the Plethora of Pointless Side Prawns must be annoying.
But don’t worry Philli, they’ve got Product Placement Avoiding Beers for you to drink away your problems
Shout out to the production assistant who had to nip around to the shop to get the 6 pack of Peroni because Monica was at her wits’ end.
Memory, All Alone in the Moonlight
For the deciding round the chefs have to create a dish inspired by someone they love and admire – do I have to mention the Hannibal Lecter dish again? Yes I do
Just imagine having the bravery to tell the nation that you as a person admire Hannibal Lecter. There was none of that insanity today, instead most of the dishes were overwhelming in their earnestness and sincerity that I may have cried several times. I would be surprised if there was a singe dry eye in the country after Santosh made his incredibly complex tiffin box based on the packed lunches that his mother made him when he was working on the canal at the age of 12
They asked for one dish and Santosh brought out full 3 course Nepalese tasting menu starting with Fig and Ginger stuffed Okra with Mango and Coconut Chutney and a Potato and Fenugreek Salad
The power of which managed to convert Monica to okra – JUSTICE FOR MALLOW PLANTS!
That’s followed by a Saffron Rice Bundle served in a Crab Curry Sauce and a Puri Bread
And by this point I’m an emotional wreck because Monica is in disbelief that she’s privileged enough to get to taste food this incredible and then the off-brand version of Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol kicks up and I am officially GONE.
Then we arrive at pudding, the emotions somewhat subsiding because Gregg takes over the critique of his Carrot, Chocolate and Raspberry Pudding with Paan Leaf Ice Cream
If you’re wondering what Paan Leaf is it, it’s a type of palm leaf mostly used for wrapping food in but can also be chewed like tobacco.
It’s a knock out of a dish and honestly, he probably deserves to win off the back of this alone – I’ve never seen the judges so lost for words, other than that time someone made a Cod Cheek Omelette but that was for VERY different reasons.
Bart and Alex were both making dishes to honour their late grandfathers.
Bart is fondly remembering the time he caught his first eel with his grandfather – who amongst us doesn’t remember our first eel catch? And in order to hopefully have more luck this time he has brought along his fairy wand
This is the only boy wizard I support.
With his wand at the ready Bart rustles up a pretty stellar Pan-Fried John Dory with Pine Nut Puree, Orange Roasted Celeriac, Puffed Amaranth and Pancetta Crunch, Concasse Tomatoes and Caviar Butter Sauce
I will be very happy when Caviar Sauce stops being a thing – or just the trend of putting chunks of things in sauces comes to end. Also, this dish should have been what he served at the banquet – it’s stunning, albeit simple, but really elegant and well cooked.
Alex’s fond memories of picking blackberries on his granddad’s allotment lead him to making Duck Breast and Hispi Cabbage on a Blackberry Gel with Pickled Blackberries, a Braised Duck Leg and Cabbage Parcel and Batons of Pommes Paillassons finished with a Blackberry and Duck Sauce
If the food failed to land with the judges he could always just spin the dish and hypnotise them.
And then in order to bring the story of the dish to fruition he serves it with a Side Bush
It’s certainly a twist on Philli’s Pointless Side Prawn.
The dish is unaminously loved – to me it looks like it’ll skew a little too sweet – that’s A LOT of blackberry components on one dish with very few other flavours to combat it.
His duck cookery is perfect and the process of double poaching it turn achieve Maximum Crispiness certainly payed off for him – and what Alex does best is know how to plan for a time limit – he knew the duck would take a lot of time and effort and really simplified the accompaniments to a refined elegance.
On the other end of the kitchen once again struggling with her timings and workload is Philli, who at least isn’t have to arrange flowers this time and isn’t sweating profusely although she is struggling to get her fish cooked and earning death glares and pained concern from every angle
It’s unfortunate that Philli went so neutral in her inspiration with her physics teacher who happens to have taught Heston Blumenthal who she is ripping off and creating her version of his Sounds of the Sea dish – the big change being that she’s using speakers and not headphones. I’m sure Heston didn’t have ‘Nduja and XO Sticky Rice either but still, it’s a bit weird.
I also think that given Philli has spent the entire competition talking about her travels in Indonesia and Japan and how incredible it was, that she would have chosen someone from that time and I’m SHOCKED the producers didn’t prompt her to purely in terms of creating a concise narrative for her on the show.
She’s of course still sticking to her East Asian wheel house by making a Turbot on the Bone with Roasted and Fresh Lotus Root, Baby Turnip and a Ssamjang Sauce
And no, they do not address the fact Philli’s fish is leaking.
Ssamjang is a Korean paste made of fermented soybeans and red chillies usually served with food wrapped in a lettuce leaf – (Ssamjang being an amalgamation of the Korean words for “wrapped” and “paste”). There’s also a trough of Japanese Sticky Rice with clams, Pickled Vegetables and an ‘Nduja XO Sauce
And then on top of all that there’s a very lonely Tempura Oyster just sitting all alone in a massive bowl of shells and seaweed frothing with dry ice
And all this time seaside noises are blaring out of a pair of Bose speakers – and not once is there the sound of a petrified child screaming in sheer terror as a seagull tries to steal their ice cream. That’s the real seaside experience, screw your pleasant waves!
Her side dishes are significantly stronger than the main turbot component which is undercooked in the middle and she gets a bit of a dressing down for being slightly chaotic in the kitchen and Marcus all but told her she was on her way out.
The judges go back and pretend to deliberate on who should go home – the only other option besides Philli is Bart because his Fish Course at the banquet was so poor and perhaps his John Dory dish was a touch simple. But really it could only be Philli going home – she’s had a very good run and like so many before her just struggled a the final hurdle.
It slightly lessens the blow knowing that anyone at this stage of the competition is almost certainly guaranteed a very good career in whatever part of the cooking industry they go into.