Celebrity Best Home Cook 2021, The Final: Silencing Pescatarians

I have always thought Claudia Winkleman was at least 1/4 raven.

It’s the final and we can finally know who wil be taking home the prestigious trophy that is a wooden spoon within a bell jar – the perfect lockdown metaphor.

CHOOSE YOUR FIGHTER!

Ed “The Ultimate” Balls

King of the ultimate challenge and apparently the keeper of the keys to Mary Berry’s heart there has barely been a time that Ed Balls has put a foot wrong except for that time he basically served up peas in water.

Rachel “The Fluke” Johnson

Did she at any point in the competition have much of an idea what she was doing? No, not really and yet despite the odds she managed to claw her way through many a round by the virtue of Karim causing his unique brand of chaos.

Tom “The Naked Poet” Read Wilson

The people’s favourite and by far the most quotable of the contestants – I cannot tell you how many times I have said “Especially in teal!” in the 24 hours since he said it – it’s the Bing Bang Bong of the series. Also did a lot of his VTs in the bathroom while presumably nude.

That’s Butternuts!

As it’s the final the order of events has been turned on its head and the show will be starting off with The Rustle Up at the end of which two cooks will face an eliminator challenge and someone will be knocked out leaving only the top 2 to go head-to-head in Mary Berry’s Ultimate Challenge.
This week’s surprise ingredient is the humble butternut which Tom and Rachel were mostly fine and Ed Balls looked like he was about to be sick

and declared the butternut squash “too posh” for him – mate, they’re £1 at Tesco and in about half an hour you’re going to be making a crab and samphire tart.

Once again the larders have been reduced with their egg limit reduced to zero and their cheese, bread and pasta all being taken away and thus practically begging them to make a curry even though their spices had been halved – which is still twice as many spices as I would imagine Rachel Johnson owns. But don’t worry the hazelnuts are still hanging around

I just want good things for them.

Ed and Rachel both immediately set forth to make some sort of bastardized Thai curry because there is some lemongrass and a block of creamed coconut while Tom is absolutely hellbent on making his take on the American classic Pumpkin Pie – there are just the tiny issues of the fact there is no cream, eggs or sugar but what there is honey, which he plans to use as his sweetener in both the pie filling and his pastry. Given the disadvantage of having to substitute just about every ingredient in a pumpkin pie, the near blender related catastrophe

and the fact he plated his pie up in the last minute it actually came together very nicely, even if the pastry was a little rough and ready

there was the only issue that because of the shortage inducing amount of honey he used and what I believe were two heaped teaspoons of cinnamon

the pie didn’t taste very much like butternut and overwhelmingly like you were eating every single Christian holiday on the calendar in one mouthful but at least he tried something different to the other two.

Ed decides that he’s going to use his usual Thai Chicken Curry recipe and just swap in the butternut which he starts off by roasting in the oven and while his usual curry I imagine would have had that subtle green shade, because the ingredients available he ends up with a much less appetising shade of “Dog’s Dinner Beige”

Which the judges at least like the flavours while absolutely refusing to look at it directly like Medusa herself lurks within its murky depths.

While Ed got on miraculously smoothly with the alien butternut, Rachel was drowning in the stuff and making two batches – the first being a roasted butternut curry and the second being plan B which was to just mix boiled butternut into rice which Chris tried his best to not be mortally offended by

It luckily didn’t come to Plan B but it didn’t bode well for Plan A that this was Rachel’s reaction when she tasted it

And she turned to pot and ladled the now waterlogged butternut corpse into her curry to try and combat the industrial amount of ground coriander that she had put in to try her best to make it taste somewhat like butternut again and all she ended up with was a pile of partially pureed butternut that was somehow mysteriously dry

and not a single positive thing was said about it meaning she had well and truly lost The Great British Kinda-Thai Curry Off and was instantly put forth for The Eliminator.

An Arbitrary Butternut Dish Ranking

  1. Tom’s Butternut Christmas/Easter/All Saint’s Day Tart
  2. Ed’s Beige Curry
  3. The Waterlogged Corpse of Rachel Johnson’s Butternut

The judges discussed the pros and cons of Ed and Tom. The latter had at least been adventurous and unexpected but ultimately that wasn’t enough to beat the fact Ed made something that was discernibly butternut-y and it was Tom vs Rachel in The Eliminator.

Critique-embouche

If we thought the crab ravioli was Angela being sadistic, then this was Angela going full Elizabeth Báthory (too niche a reference?) as she was tasking them to make a Croquembouche made out of 28 filled choux buns and a spun sugar decoration in only 80 minutes which is practically begging someone to horrifically burn themselves.

Given that neither of them had ever made choux buns before they do an incredibly good job of it and causes them no trouble whatsoever, other than quite possibly giving rachel cramp as she strikes a Herculean stirring pose

They weren’t given any particular measurement of how big the choux buns needed to be, the obvious thing would have been to measure out the pastry and divide it by 28 BUT WHO HAS THE TIME IN 80 MINUTES, and Rachel ended up piping hers a little small

but the fact she even got around to piping them is somewhat of a miracle considering she didn’t know if these were piping bags or not

I absolutely want to know what else she thought they might be considering they were laid out on the table for her.
The smallness of the choux buns then did affect how easy it was to fill them with the cream filling

But it was the caramel that causes the most problems as The Caramel Curse passes from the Bake Off Tent to the Home Cook Lodge? (What are we calling this place?) Although to call it “a curse” and not “Tom didn’t read the bloody instructions” is unfair to me as Angela clearly and concisely wrote “do not touch or stir the sugar water mixture while it caramelises because it will seize” and what did Tom do?

And not just the once, he made is caramel three times and not once did he end up with the correct consistency as he frantically tried to dip his choux buns into the rapidly seizing sugar like he was Indiana Jones trying to make it through the gradually lowering door.
While Tom fought against his caramel nemesis Rachel was duking it out against the one item of safety gear that the production crew has insisted they wore

I imagine the health and safety officer was having kittens as Rachel frantically began flicking her molten hot sugar everywhere without a care in the world for it went

LET IT RAIN STICKY SWEET CHAOS.
But bless Tom despite his almost entirely solidified caramel he was still trying his best to create spin sugar and ended up some barely discernible strands

While Rachel completely gave up on the idea of delicate strands and just draped veritable rope of caramel across her pyramid

Tom managed to mostly achieve a conical shape with his Croquembouche and had the superior buns. It was also a bonus point to him for the fact he had put the caramel on the correct side of his choux buns, unlike Rachel who had misidentified the top of her choux buns meaning the cream filling had melted and her Croquembouche was now just a squat monument sitting in a slowly forming creamy puddle

And thus it was curtains for Rachel who honestly seemed a little bit excited

and departed with a comment that I understand was meant to be about commending Ed and Tom for challenging gender stereotypes within the home kitchen (again, I think we’ve moved passed this being a genuine issue?) and ebcause she was obviously still a bit upset about leaving came across as a little bit pointed

and so for the final round 2 Celebrity Home Cooks remain

Nitpicking and Picnicking

For the last ultimate challenge Mary wants them to go all out for a 10 person picnic and create four different dishes: one meat, one fish, one vegetarian and one dessert. It turns out that vegetarian dish just absolutely doesn’t matter and quite honestly if you’re going to bring a fish course to a picnic you deserve to be cancelled and put on the no-fly list. Yes, I am silencing pescatarians. PICK A LANE.

The fish dish somehow becomes a Battle of the Quiches, although Ed is calling his a Tart because he is desperately trying to keep up that anti-posh façade of his, it’s fine Ed, I think the working class has finally embraced the highfalutin quiche.
Ed’s take is one massive Crab and Samphire Quiche Tart which causes him no end of issues while making the pastry as it repeatedly tears and crumbles before his very eyes

While Tom was taking a more time consuming route and making 10 individual Salmon Quiches which gave his pastry much less room to rip and tear while trying to put it into the tart tins.
Tom’s entire approach to the challenge was to make a series of individual items, which was probably for the best given the social distancing circumstances. It also made plating up for Tom a little bit easier as his quiches could be lifted up with ease

and once again he is commended for his ability to make such thin pastry as well as the velvety texture of the custard filling.
Ed’s plating up was a little more hazardous as he decided the best approach to this was to just gently slide his quiche tart off the counter and onto a cake stand

Bravery worthy of a Victoria Cross.
The judges all similarly love his tart, although I am very sceptical about his choice to layer the bottom of it with three crabs’ worth of brown meat – that is a potent quiche tart.

Of course Tom’s idea for a savoury meat dish at his ideal picnic would be a Gruyere Scone and Chicken Liver Paté. They didn’t go quite to plan as while Tom was busy unceremoniously throwing his quiches into a picnic basket he forgot about his scones in the oven and they ended up just a touch too brown

and hard enough for Mary to tap out a little percussion solo on. As for the paté, it was as concerningly coloured as you would expect a chicken liver paté to be

It’s an inescapable fact that chicken liver will never look delicious no matter how good it tastes.
I wish I could tell you what Tom’s vegetarian dish was but sadly it was completely cut from the episode as though it had had serious allegations made against it, all I can tell you about it was that it contained red cabbage

And you can’t even say the scones are vegetarian because there’s animal rennet in gruyere cheese – bless his socks, that salad must have been awful for them to not give it a single mention.
Ed’s at least got a moderate amount of screen time even if it was just charred broccoli and asparagus with a few token almonds and pomegranate seeds scattered on top of it to try and make your vegetarian friends feel like you cared

The judges don’t make a single remark of it and the only review of it is Ferne later yelling “THIS SALAD IS BANGIN’!”

His main course was much more adventurous as he set about cooking 20 lamb cutlets with a herb and spice marinade and they did look delicious

and we beautifully pink in the middle and I think Ed ended winning off the back of these alone even though the judges were head over heels for his what they called “Banana Cake” but was absolutely just banana bread with icing on the top of it

Which in my books should be an arrestable offense. What maniac ices banana bread? And don’t you dare try to pass it off as a Banana Cake like Mary Berry did, Ed himself called it “banana bread” – it’s 20 years in The Clink for him! I also assumed he might had done something a little more special given that even by the point they were filming this banana bread had become a meme.

Continuing his theme of individual portions Tom was making a series of mini chocolate orange cakes, and you could tell he meant business because this is the most threatening he has looked all series

He’s the fastest bag slinger in West London.
He had a similar problem to his coffee cake a couple of episodes back in that the oven was probably too hot and had created a very prominent peak on his cakes

which he then did not bother to trim and if anything took the liberty of accentuating even more with his decoration

At least they tasted nice and orangey – although it would be hard not to with the amount of orange curd he has smothered them beneath.
It was a joy to see him getting so much praise his food because it’s clear how much he enjoyed the process, I get the feeling he genuinely misses catering for his friends, and he of course get one last balletic twirl from him

I can’t wait for his inevitable Strictly booking.

While the judges go and deliberate on how best to announce Ed Balls’s win the contestants are all once again reunited and of course Gareth comes into the room singing a verse that sounds like it could have been written by a Drag Race queen

I cannot believe he was only around for 2 episodes, what a travesty, I long to know what his celebration cake would have been.
Desiree is also back despite lasting a whole 1 episode and has to unfortunately come face to face with 1 massive quiche and an army of smaller ones – luckily there were no strawberries.

The judges are finally ready to announce their winner and of course it’s Ed Balls, I’m sure everyone called this from day one

He gets genuinely very choked up and clearly meant a lot to him which was very sweet, but there was absolutely no way he was going to lose from the moment he tossed off his suit jacket like he was a mobster going in for a Hit

and Tom didn’t mind a jot about losing he was just happy that he got to serve someone coffee and cake for the first time in months.

And so, that’s it for the first series of Celebrity Best Home Cook, I’m glad the recaps have gone down so well amongst a lot of you!

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