Celebrity MasterChef Christmas Cook-off: Salmon Armpits

These Netflix remakes of Hitchcock films are getting weird.

This is definitely a Christmas Special and not at all a suddenly put together contest designed entirely for Janet Street-Porter to win so that she stops sending Gregg Wallace and John Torode threatening letters. Definitely a Christmas special.


The 4 past Celeb MasterChef contestants for the evening are Janet Street-Porter who is seemingly fuelled only on revenge for losing the show almost a decade ago like some sort of culinary Jaws 4. Radio 1 DJ Dev Griffin who I accidentally called Dev Patel on Twitter and I still feel bad about it, I just have Dev Patel on my mind at all times, who doesn’t? The unflappable joy that is Vicky Pattison whose main MasterChef legacy is mostly her trying to buy goat’s cheese from the bemused locals in Tenerife by making goat noises and lastly it’s Christopher Biggins who once set a whole trifle before John and Gregg as some sort of dessert power move.

Be Advent-urous

The first challenge for the celebrities is to randomly select one of the doors of the MasterChef Advent Calendar, behind which is a festive ingredient that they must base their dish around. It’s the closest we’ve ever had to one of the very traditional Invention Tests in which they were given a box of ingredients that would make a very nice basic chicken curry but then there would also be something weird like Raspberry Jam and without fail someone would decide to make a Raspberry Chicken Pie – I long for the days of such powerful brainfarts.

Janet gets mincemeat – the fruity kind, not the meaty kind. Biggins gets stilton cheese. Vicky gets a pair of winter squash because they couldn’t think of 24 festive food items and Dev gets that very traditional festive food… pheasant? IN WHAT WAITROSE UNIVERSE ARE WE LIVING?

Janet is focused entirely on not wanting to do the expected thing with her mincemeat and somehow comes to the conclusion that a North African Harissa Spiced Mincemeat and Pork Filo Parcel is the way to go because North African cuisine often pairs sweet and savoury

which is true, it’s just not usually supermarket bought mince pie filling. And just to push the whole fruity point home she’s serving it with apple sauce and a side of the least saucy cranberry sauce I have ever seen

Ma’am, those are just damp cranberries. John declares it “as sharp as her tongue” – remember a time when Janet Street-Porter was the most provocative and controversial journalist and then Katie Hopkins came along and said “hold my racism.”? We were such sweet summer children back then.

Unfortunately for Janet the round very quickly descended into who can shove the most of their mystery ingredient into a pastry casing. Vicky peels down her Winter Squash and is shocked to find that they are orange inside – you know, unlike pumpkins and butternuts… She decides to roast it up with mushrooms, herbs and about 3 cows worth of butter

She’s a woman after Marcus Wareing’s butter clogged heart. She’s of course making a vol-au-vent the size of a house brick and serving it alongside that culinary classic, the Sprout and Bacon Tower

My favourite thing is that because it’s a Celebrity Christmas Special John and Gregg both have to be very nice about the food and go as far as too compliment the sprout tower that Vicky was so proud of herself for making

Although in 2020 you might as well celebrate even the tiniest of achievements, you brushed your teeth today? Great, have a Mars Bar, you earned it.

Over in the stilton corner and Biggins is frying bacon in maybe the worst way I’ve ever seen

That is an arrestable offence on the grounds of Crimes against Pork.
His plan it to make a Stilton, Fig and Smoked Bacon Strudel by which he means he is badly wrapping his fillings in filo pastry and hoping for the best

Honestly, who has the time to make strudel dough?
Of all of them, I think this sounded the nicest – I’m a fig and stilton fan and I can get on board with bacon in anything but I’m not sure I can manage a whole footlong baton of the stuff

God Bless Biggins’ absolute lack of portion control.

And finally contending with his pheasant at the back of the kitchen is Dev who has decided on making a Pheasant Sausage Roll with Cranberry Chutney and a Mustard Dip

His reasoning for making the sausage is almost certainly because he was trying to dissect a pheasant with no experience or knowledge and that went about as well as you could possibly expect

There’s nothing more festive than poultry mutilation.
To his credit, the sausage did look very nice and he managed to keep them moist despite pheasants being a relatively fatless meat.

Over the Kitchen Wall

I’m not a massive fan of this challenge – I get why it makes great television, it just doesn’t feel particularly “MasterChef” to me and always seems out of place in its deliberate attempt to generate comedy like it’s a round on The Generation Game. They are of course split into 2 teams, Janet and Biggins will be making a Spinach Stuffed Pork Wellington with Caramelised Apples and Caraway Glazed Carrots while Vicky and Dev are teaming up to make Hot Smoked Salmon and Poached Eggs on a Potato Pancake with Hollandaise Sauce. Both of these allegedly being festive favourites…?

Slammin’ Salmon

They get a bit of time before the task to devise a game plan and yes Vicky is insisting on wearing the novelty headband they gave her for the entire competition and is beginning to struggle with it

The first thing they have to get on with is starting to smoke the salmon which they are deciding to do for the full 40 minutes and 3 tablespoons of tea – which is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes in under and hour. That salmon is going to develop quite the smoker’s cough.

This at least gives them time to trial and error their way through potato pancakes – which gets off to a rocky start because Dev accidentally adds the cream instead of the milk to it and in solidarity Vicky decides she is going to make the same mistake, except she had already put her milk in and ends up with a very liquidy mixture

They’re first pancakes are obviously a disaster

But I did have great fun watching Vicky trying to flip her pancake that has sealed itself to the bottom of the pan like a limpet

You would think they would then regroup and try to fix their mixture but they just carry on using the same mixture in the vain hope that it will eventually result in an acceptable pancake. The strategy does at least pay off because by the time they get around to their third attempt most of the potato has sunk convened at the bottom of the bowl, giving them a thicker mixture but ultimately a pancake that could glue your mouth shut – which helps with The Gregg Problem.

It’s the slicing of the salmon that rather confounds them as Vicky declares that she “slicing it from armpit to armpit” – you know that famous ancient Roman delicacy – Salmon Armpits, I believe Caesar was particularly partial to them.

In the end their dishes don’t look *dissimilar*

Dev’s Hollandaise is a concerning consistency and Vicky’s fish tastes like you’ve just kissed the boy who smokes behind the school bike shed – but ultimately the dishes are pretty much the same because they made largely the same mistakes.

The Good Sir. Pork Wellington

Obviously they have to get their wellington in the oven as quickly as possible and they fry their meat and Biggins takes great joy in repeatedly asking Janet how big, how brown and how juicy her 6 inches of pork are. But what really got me was Biggins shouting “place the meat slit side up” and then grotesquely pawing at the pork slit

There’s a reason this show airs at 9pm nowadays.

Before rolling the meat up they have to stuff it with a mixture of herbs and spinach – the herbs they struggle to locate and if they were a snake they would have bitten them

Seemingly unbeknownst to them there are a multitude of herbs in the jar but they both grab the entire bundle and just begin snipping it up into their stuffing – I just wish there had been some real wildcard or divisive herb in the bundle like Coriander.
With their pork stuffed it was now time to roll it in the pastry and both of them opt for duvet sized sheets of the stuff

That could insulate a house.

The accompaniments to the wellington go fairly smoothly, they decide not to peel the carrots because Janet is now a health guru and insists they are good for you, forgetting she is on MasterChef where presentation is at least 50% of the challenge.

The only thing preventing their dishes from looking identical is once again, Biggins’s lack of portion control

He is never not cooking for a 19th century miner.
Janet obviously takes their lack of symmetry very well

That’s Biggins waking up with a horse’s head in his bed.
The other problem is the fact Biggins’s pork is just about raw, too raw for John but Gregg has better health insurance and was feeling brave enough to risk the trichinosis – what’s Christmas without one case of food poisoning?

Festive Feasts

The final challenge is for the celebs to make a two course Christmas inspired meal in 2 and half hours.

Dev goes the most traditional and decides he can absolutely boil, glaze and roast this ham in 2 and half hours

He mostly does manage it but the last 30 seconds of his time are spent frantically running around the table with gargantuan slabs of gammon in his hands

I have a similar tactic when loading my dinner onto my plate – as much ham as you can carry – it’s the only good bit of Christmas dinner! His rushing does unfortunately mean his plates of Honey Mustard Glazed Ham with Roast Carrots, Celeriac Puree and an Apple Butter Sauce are a touch uneven

He also makes the mistake of not giving the bigger plate to Gregg – you’ve been at this rodeo before, how do you make such a rookie error!?

His main goes down just fine but it’s his dessert of a Gingerbread Latte Tiramisu that truly wows everyone

It’s a fairly simple dessert but he did also make the ginger cake himself which was a nice touch.

Vicky was reimagining the classic turkey dinner as a Turkey Wellington (are wellingtons the new black?) which she was stuffing with a Sage and Onion and srving it alongside the pointless addition of a Pistachio Crusted Carrot seemingly just because she was on MasterChef and had to add something ~fancy~ to the plate

There’s also a Red Cabbage Puree that was dolloped onto the plate and then repeatedly hit with the spoon in the hopeof creating a splatter effect, except it’s clearly so stodgey that it just absorbed all impact like Muk from Pokemon

It’s somehow the best part of her dish though, which might say more about the wellington than it does about the puree.
For dessert she has decided to cross the streams and produce the unGodly amalgamation of a Gingerbread Cookie and a Mince Pie

I’m both horrified and want to eat 7 of them.
I also love that Vicky put cookie dough and mincemeat together and genuinely thought what the dish needed more of was sugar and paired it with a Salted Caramel Butter on the side.

Biggins also went the poultry route and decided to roast a whole duck – he managed to reign himself in and not serve the whole duck though, we love personal growth. Instead he badly butchered it and served up a plate of Roast Duck Roast Potatoes, Carrots and Sprouts Sautéed with Bacon and Onions finished with Cranberry Gravy, and he specifically calls “Cranberry Gravy”

And on the black plate the cranberry gravy looks particularly sinister

I feel like a swamp monster could emerge from it at any second.
John and Gregg do their best to compliment him but it’s pretty evident that the duck is bone dry and in desperate need of a gravy that you can pour instead of just watch slowly congealing on your plate.
As is the case with everyone, his dessert is much better. He’s making a Fig and Raspberry Clafoutis

pronounced “Cluh-Foo-Tee” and not “Clah-FOW-Tiss” although I do wish they had just carried on calling it a ClahFOWtiss. It’s basically a sweetened Yorkshire pudding batter filled with fruits of your choice, the name “Clafoutis” literally being derived from the Occitan verb “Clafir” meaning “to stuff”. *play the Etymology with Ariadne jingle here*
Gregg and John both really like it, although that could have been the lethal amount of amaretto in the clotted cream her served on the side.

Lastly there’s Janet who is doing everything she can to not be traditional so that she can claim the crown she’s been thinking about non-stop for almost 10 years. You know, some of us just go to therapy, other’s go on national television and cook a Puff Pastry Venison Pudding with Seared Chicory, Caramelised Carrots and Gravy

What ever helps you out.
It is quite the achievement though, there is SO MUCH that could have gone wrong with those puddings, we all saw the Sussex Ponds on Bake Off! And to pull off two of them in one go is quite magnificent.
Because of the demand of her main she went very simple for dessert with a Damson Fool and Biscotti

I would now supply you with an etymological history of the word “Fool” except nobody knows where or how it came into being within the context of the dessert, but we do know it was the original trifle!
It’s worth pointing out that there is absolutely no footage of Janet making those biscotti biscuits that look suspiciously like Sainsbury’s Almond Thins

They compliment her presentation which seems excessive – it’s just a tall glass of faintly stirred together mush – it’d be pretty hard to to anything else with it.

With the show seemingly being put together entirely to finally put an end to Janet Street-Porter’s DECADE OF ANGST she is obviously declared the winner

I did somewhat expect it to all suddenly glitch out and reset like some sort of Black Mirror episode where this was all just an elaborate new form of Virtual Reality Therapy. You can have THAT idea for Charlie Brooker.

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