And here’s your annual dose of Cursed Gregg Wallace Content™
Our second lot of cooks are put their paces – this time there’s even more raw meat but fewer tians!
It’s always interesting to see which cuisine will come to define a MasterChef series – we’ve drudged through the first 5 years of British Pub Cooking, we’ve done French and Italian, Indian is starting to feel passé and remember when everyone and their dog was doing the most Caucasian version of North African food? And after 17 series of treating every part of Asia except India as one amorphous blob, it’s truly the turn of East Asia to shine – no longer are dishes tagged with the generic Asian descriptor but we’re actually using their proper, native names – I think they finally learned after The Rendang Incident of 2018.
Going toe-to-toe were both of this week’s fashion designers, Daniel and Steph. Daniel was going Japanese and drawing inspiration from the time his mum made a Chinese Buffet for Christmas (We can talk about that YIKES until the cows come home) His dish is Karaage Chicken (Karaage literally just being the Japanese word describing the process of deep frying) which he was planning to serve with a Daikon Radish Slaw, a Sichuan Pepper Ketchup, a portion of chips and most concerningly a side of Maple and Miso Baked Beans – which fully had the potential to be the disaster of a dish that we’ve all been waiting for.
Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you feel) the cursed baked beans never quite made it to the plate as Daniel watched them swim in their sinister red sauce and decided not to plate them
The rest of his dish was bloody delightful and this is exactly the kind of food that I would order in a heartbeat
It is unfortunate that the chips are concerning shade of Nosferatu white but the chicken is a delight and perfectly cooked with that crispy coating and a succulent centre.
John and Gregg are understandably put out that they never got to try the disaster beans but commend him for his flavour profiles.
His rival, Steph was going Thai with her dish of Pan-fried Sea Bass in a Tom Yum Goong Broth with a single crispy prawn so that John and Gregg can’t tell her she needed more texture
Tom Yum Goong being a type of hot and sour Thai Soup and should not be confused with the Thai martial-arts film of the same name.
Her fish was all mostly well cooked, Gregg of course managed to get the one prawn that had turned into the texture of paper-mache – which is somewhat of a culinary achievement in and of itself. It’s the flavour of the soup that is the biggest disappointment because it delivers none of the promised hot or sour so it’s kind of just fragrant water.
While Daniel drew upon his Chinese Buffet Christmas, Helen was cooking her standard Christmas dinner of Beef Wellington – is turkey not good enough for anyone anymore? She is incredibly confident about managing to cook it in the time limit and the moment Gregg pulled this face I think we all knew how this was really going to go
and lo and behold, a very raw beef wellington, which to be honest I would probably still be quite happy to eat
The thing that strikes me as the most perplexing is the fact she fully embraced chaos and decided to serve her gravy in what is absolutely just a rinsed out jam jar
I don’t know why but I blame Paperchase for this.
While Gregg and John fully avoid the gently mooing beef wellington, they do like her creamy mashed potato and it was hard to screw up roasting vine tomatoes, isn’t it?
Having much more success was Gary, the perfect intersection of a garden gnome and the family friend who you spent your childhood thinking you were related to somehow
It’s the unflappably cheerful demeanour and the tortoiseshell glasses that do it.
His big dream is to one day run a cookery school for kids and families out of a construction container – which has some oddly sinister vibes about it, nothing good ever happens in a construction container, that much I have learned from crime dramas.
His dish is a Pan-fried Haunch of Venison (with a marmite glaze which set Chef Twitter ALIGHT – nobody is too good for marmite you cowards) with that potential landmine of a MasterChef classic – the fondant potato and some crispy Cavolo Nero, a slightly dubious sounding Stilton and Broccoli Puree and of course the obligatory Red Wine Jus which he thankfully serves in a gravy boat LIKE A NORMAL PERSON HELEN
It’s a success on every level, except for the fact that there’s a great big hunk of beautifully cooked venison on that plate and apparently the broccoli and stilton puree was the highlight – why must Gregg Wallace be like this? Also props to Gary for pulling off the fondant potato – I’d sign up for his cookery course, although I hope he at least learns to not cut things while they’re in the pan
Lastly we have Laura the saxophone playing Scottish jazz musician – didn’t have that on your MasterChef Bingo Card did you? Her dish is a generically Indian Spiced Lamb Loin and a Shallot and Coriander Bhaji with Sort-Of Bombay Potatoes. Gregg is very surprised that a Scottish woman would dare cook Indian(ish) food and stray away from the revered haggis to which Laura carefully and gently explains that there are in fact Indian restaurants in Scotland, who’d have thought it?
While Gregg comes to terms with the concept of cultural mixing John is just impressed that Laura has squeezy bottles on her counter
and if that wasn’t giving away the fact she was going to be serving up a very “restaurant-y” dish, then her manoeuvring slices of cucumber around the plate with two spoons like she was playing a game of Operation definitely did
And yes of course her final dish did look like it would be in a high end restaurant in the way that most dishes where everything is put into tiny little stacks does
I think I’m officially over this style of presentation.
Laura though is a very accomplished cook and both John and Gregg love everything she made and her reaction to the onslaught of praise was adorable
so it was no surprised that she was instantly moved onto the third round which meant that Gregg and John still had to choose between Gary, Daniel, Steph and Helen. I say “choose” but the only real option was Gary and we must protect him at all costs
This is a verified Gary stan account.
Favourite Ingredient Redemption
I am genuinely very curious as to whether or not the cooks knew they would only have 50 minutes to cook the dish when they were choosing their favourite ingredients because I cannot imagine that so many people would have chosen lamb if they did – and I think Daniel would have seriously rethought his choice of pork belly, although him trying to cook it whole is absolutely his own fault
and then with only 10 minutes left on the clock and the realisation that his pork belly still runs the risk of giving John and Gregg trichinosis he panics and drops chunks of it into the deep fat fryer
it is truly the stuff of MasterChef legend.
His final dish of a Ginger and Soy Glazed Pork Belly with Lemongrass Rice and a Fried Egg wasn’t quite what he wanted it to be
But at least it was edible and he had balanced some strong flavours and divisive textures very well, but his pork obviously still needed a significant amount more cooking.
Helen wasn’t in much safer territory with her rack of lamb that she was planning on roasting in a herby crust, which meant she did one of my favourite MasterChef tropes and grabbed an entire loaf of bread when choosing her ingredients
It’s just so bizarre and I cherish it whenever it happens.
In the hopes of redeeming herself she was also going for a fondant potato and some creamed spinach – it was very much Gary’s Dish: The Remix.
The fondant potato may have cooked up beautifully and she thought her lamb would have been called all the way through given that its herb crust was crisp and firm but the moment she cut it into it John realised that potential food poisoning was on the menu this evening
And sure enough her lamb cutlets varied in their rawness, one of them was absolutely fine while the other could have been revived by Frankenstein given half the chance
and then just to add salt to the wound she hasn’t properly washed her spinach and John and Gregg’s mouths ended up sandier than your average British beach.
While Daniel and Helen battled against potential health and safety hazards, Steph was doing wonders with her choice of salmon and serving it with a Thai Red Curry Sauce and some Basmati Rice
She had promised them crispy skin but after the dish had sat around for 15 minutes while they set up shots it had lost its crispiness and she removed it but the dish still packed all the flavour that was missing in her Tom Yum Goong, except for the fact John has suddenly decided he hates red peppers out of nowhere – you could have warned everyone before the series started!
Having served up 2 raw pieces of meat it was pretty obvious that Helen was going to be eliminated – Daniel’s pork belly could at least be eaten by most people without fear of hospitalisation.
The Winners’ Chamber
In this round the cooks will be serving a two course meal to previous winners Kenny and Saliha, who you might remember from such hits as that time Hot Kenny cut his finger and had to cook one handed and this picture of Saliha that I am obsessed with
Hang it in The Louvre.
As ever this round is about correcting the mistakes you made in the first two rounds and really playing up to your strengths so Daniel going down the Thai route made perfect sense, what made less sense was the amount of work he had given himself to do with a demanding main course of a Beef Massaman Curry – the ingredients of which aren’t stereotypically Thai due to the fact its origin stems from Muslim traders from India that travelled to the Malay Archipelago. He was hoping on cutting down on the curry’s cooking time by opting for beef sirloin but even then the beef was still tough
but his Massaman sauce was second to none!
Although the only thing that Saliha really praised were the crunchy peanuts in the side pickle
I love it when someone praises the one component of the dish that required absolutely no cooking or prep work.
With making the curry eating into so much of his time and Daniel’s timekeeping skills already being questionable at best, his intended starter of Langoustines with Griddled Pak Choi, Tempura Seaweed and a Yuzu Ponzu Sauce got more and more pared back and ended up just being slightly damp pak choi with two sad langoustines
It’s like something out of a depressing 1950s diet guide.
It didn’t help that the only component of the dish that anyone was looking forward to was the tempura seaweed that never made it onto the plate and his langoustines may have been in the throws of depression but at least they were well cooked!
Following in the footstep of Old Ross The Tian Man, Steph was making things distinctly easier for herself by making a starter of Tuna Tartare, which at this point in the franchise should be outlawed under penalty of instant elimination, they can try and upsell it by saying “She made a cracker!” and that she cut her tuna like a pro but it’s still just a tartare
although apparently a very pretty one because Saliha thinks it looks like a piece of jewellery – whoever is buying her jewellery, stop immediately.
She continued down the route of seafood with a main course of Pan-fried Cod, Charred Hispi Cabbage, Roast Potatoes and Pea Puree flavoured with coconut, ginger and coriander
It’s not a very vibrant dish, the coconut really kills the vibrancy of the pea puree and the grilled hispi cabbage can join Daniel’s pak choi in griddled vegetable hell. But, in Kenny Tutt’s own words “The cod is pin perfect”
not quite the phrasing but a good effort!
The Asian flavoured pea puree was a divisive subject though and I think the final verdict was “don’t do it again!”.
Laura was finally (after 1 dish) deciding to return to whence she came by honouring Scottish cuisine in the best way she could, there’s a generous pouring of whisky
and of course the ceremonially cracking of the alien egg sac we call Haggis
the plan being to make a Fillet Steak served with Mashed Potato, Crispy Carrots, a Haggis BonBon and finished with a Whisky Pepper Sauce and in order to ram the whole Scottish theme home she was dressing her fillet steak up as Merida from Brave
It’s a lovely sounding plate of food, everyone is a bit iffy on the sauce and the fact there isn’t enough whisky in it but my God, look at how utterly perfect the steak is
That’s exactly how I like mine!
For her dessert Laura was making everyone’s risky favourite – the panna cotta, although she wasn’t worried because she’s an expert in the wobbly physics of a panna cotta after owning up to being The Phantom Wobbler of Scotland and while everyone pondered how she was going set them in time, she was sticking them in the freezer
Why has nobody else ever thought of this?
Obviously the risk is then that they over set or freeze to the mould which they had a little bit which meant a couple of them only came out in wobbly fragments
Don’t worry, she gave that one to Gregg anyway.
On the side of her Vanilla Panna Cotta she was serving a peach puree and a sugared peached as well as spun sugar which didn’t go quite to plan a she spun thick circles that looked less like a delicate nest of spun sugar and more like the aliens from Arrival were trying to communicate with her
but she made do and served up a reasonable plate of food
She needed to bring all of the components closer together because at the moment it does look a bit like a war general’s campaign strategy spanning the map of Europe.
It all tastes perfectly fine with the only real criticism (other than John and Gregg’s failed demouldings) was the fact it could have afforded to have been even peachier.
Lastly we have Gary who was making the most confused dish of Herb Crusted Salmon on a Sun-dried Tomato and Goat’s Cheese Risotto with a vegetable pickle on the side that looks like a child tried to colour in The Union Jack
and while he described this nonsense of a dish Gregg had the audacity to drag his hands down his face as though he was in the throws of ecstasy
and then moments later declare that it was a weird sounding dish from the beginning – YOU ENCOURAGED THIS MR. WALLACE!
Once everyone had got their heads around the fact Gary was essentially serving them leftovers from three separate suppers they got to tasting it and while everything was mostly fine individually, together it was confusing and his risotto rice was still too hard.
With his lead from the first round rapidly slipping, Gary’s hopes lay in his Nectarine and Amaretto Clafoutis (pronounced CLUH-FOO-TEE if you’re correct and Clah-FOW-TISS if you’re Christopher Biggins and wrong)
It’s a perfectly lovely dish – there’s nothing wrong with, but clafoutis is kind of an easy dessert to pull off – it hardly offers the white knuckle thrill of whether a panna cotta will wobble or not.
Despite his head start in the final round Gary doesn’t quite pull through enough to continue in the competition
I’LL MISS YOU GARY!
Our next set of finalists are of course Laura and Steph
YEAR OF THE WIMMIN!