MasterChef 2021, Episode 5: Obligatory Lamb Candidate

I cannot tell you how immensely unnerving I find someone grating a tomato to be.

In the lead up to the second quarterfinal all we can hope for is that nobody decides to use purple potatoes again.

Signature Dishes

With the signature round you would expect the cooks to try and introduce themselves by going all out, showing their knife skills, their ability to make perfect pasta or even adequately cook lamb. Not if you’re interior decorator Michele who decided she was going to roughly chop up an assortment of pork bits and some spuds and mix it with rice and chickpeas

and from there all she had to do was whack it in the oven for 50 minutes and do absolutely nothing else except wash up and have a chinwag with a camera operator.
No bread making. No salad. No pickling. It’s a tactic nothing short of genius. She was of course making Arroz al Horno (Spanish for ‘Baked Rice’)

it goes down very well – you would expect it to given that Michele’s parents run a cafe-restaurant in Spain – there is just the question about how much work she actually did. LEAVE MICHELE ALONE JOHN, YOU DIDN’T WASH YOUR HAIR

It’s been a rough Lockdown in the Torode-Faulkner household.

It wouldn’t be a MasterChef round without someone being the Obligatory Lamb Candidate, and who better to take on the role than Welshman and outdoor sadist, Christian? He is at least breaking ranks and not using a rack of lamb (yet) and is going for the loin which cooks a lot faster – so far so good, right? To accompany the dish he was serving a celeriac puree, potato crisps and a madeira jus. Again, pretty solid sounding dish right? Well Christian thought he would continue to play Lamb Dish Jenga and further add wilted spinach and mushrooms. Getting kind of weird Christian, might want to step back and rethink this Christian. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Olives for no rhyme nor reason

John takes the inclusion of olives as a personal slight but really he should have just been more flattered that he was given properly cooked pieces of lamb while Gregg couldn’t bring himself to try his slices

Lamb 1, Christian 0.

Mike was also risking it all on a big cut of meat with his prosciutto wrapped pork loin as an ode to his Italian heritage which is sweet but it did sound a little bit like he had never said “nonna” in his life before this moment. His dish had John and Gregg both mildly concerned because of the inclusion of a Pea and Apple Puree – fun fact: that’s a common baby food flavour! And if it’s good enough for babies it should be good enough for Gregg Wallace!

It’s pretty much a perfect dish and John and Gregg are now both accidental proponents of baby food. Well done Mike, you’ve started something!

Also drawing heavily from family ties was Beirut born Janine who was cooking her take on Moghrabieh, a tradition Lebanese street food that originally hails from Morocco (The name Moghrabieh literally translates to ‘dish from the Maghreb’ which is the Northwest coast of Africa including Morocco, Algeria, Libya and Tunisia).
The traditional dish isn’t particularly pretty to look at, it’s essentially a bowl of chickpeas and Palestinian couscous mixed with fried onions and shredded chicken so Janine did her best to pretty it up

While it looks perfectly lovely it does come with the downfall that the chickpeas are left being rather bland because they’re mostly steeped in a thin broth with subtle seven spice while all the real flavour is packed into her onions and chicken skin.

Lastly we have IT director Stan who was also taking on a chicken breast but was flavouring it with fenugreek and serving it on a spicy tomato chutney to create his own unique take on a chicken methi. While John and Gregg both love his chicken it’s his tandoori glazed vegetables that truly win the day for him

It’s as perfect a MasterChef dish as they come, there’s no unnecessary bells and whistles, it’s just perfectly executed, tasty food. We truly do have no choice but to stan Stan.

It was certainly a step up in quality from the previous episode and John and Gregg do have a solid pool of contestants that they could easily have chosen to take straight through but their final decision it to award early aprons to Mike and Stan

meaning Janine, Michele, Queen of the Life Hacks and Christian all have to cook again

Favourite Ingredient Redemption Arcs

In an attempt to mend his relationship with lamb Christian will be cooking a rack of lamb which he has rubbed in Moroccan spices and confidently says “It’ll be in the oven for 8 minutes and perfectly cooked.” Gregg’s puzzled face said otherwise

Christian really wasn’t helping himself considering he hadn’t scored the fat and thus turning it into a protective layer both preventing the meat from cooking or the fat from properly rendering and as such cuts into the lamb and it is still not too late to resuscitate the poor beast

He does at least possess a bit more logical thought than some others and finishes it off in a pan like a lamb cutlet. It certainly better than dunking it into the deep fat fryer.
Alongside the lamb he is serving roasted vegetable couscous and a salsa verde

His frying at least means the meat is perfectly cooked, there was however no saving the fat which John dangles tauntingly in front of Christian’s face like that scene in The Lion King where Scar taunts a mouse

and if Christian’s look to camera following his plating up is anything to go by he certainly knew how this was all going to go down

but he wasn’t completely down and out because for some unknown reason Michele decided that the best thing to do while she had a 1 in 3 chance of going home was to make a Thai Green Curry when all her knowledge of the ingredients was half-heartedly reading them before dunking a bottle of Blue Dragon’s premade Green Curry Paste into a wok.
As an aside, I thoroughly recommend at least trying to make your own paste once, it’s well worth it – don’t worry the kaffir lime leaves are not as essential as John Torode claims they are. The Lemon grass however? Leaving it out is punishable by death.

Her curry lacks a lot of the oomph that a good Thai Green Curry needs but it seemed like a perfectly pleasant dish, I was confused by the aubergine, it’s not an ingredient I would think it put in Thai Green, especially when she was already using the chicken thighs but John and Gregg seemed fine with it.

Janine also found herself taking on chicken except on her form she clearly hadn’t specific which cut and was thus given the whole chicken

She did end up only using the breasts of the chicken for dish and I don’t think she got nearly enough credit for the fact she obviously filleted the bird herself.
Her plan was to meld Lebanese and Italian cuisines together with a Lebanese tomato salad and crispy Pan-fried chicken that can only be described as Italian in that it was lemony and there were herbs. She was also making roast potatoes which are an odd thing to serve with a salad and the universe seemed to be trying to tell her this

not realising that Potatogeddon was a sign from God for her to stop immediately she continued to plate everything up and it looked nice enough, light and summery – I probably wouldn’t order it in a restaurant but I wouldn’t blame someone else if they did

Gregg thought it seemed like a bit of a mezze which very much came across as him saying it just because Janine is Lebanese – every day he comes closer to just becoming Louis Walsh.

By virtue of the fact they successfully cooked their meat Janine and Michele are through to the next round

While poor Christian now has to go back to Wales harbouring quite the grudge with lamb.
Lamb 2, Christian 0.
Let this be a warning to anyone applying for MasterChef next year: if lamb is your favourite ingredient, don’t write on the form. Lie. Your favourite ingredient is now peas.

The Kind-of-Winners’ Chamber

For this round the cooks will be cooking for a pair of MasterChef 2015 contestants, winner Simon Wood

and Friend of the Blog, #WozRobbed Tony Rodd – the Kricketune of the culinary world

We only respect teeny tiny glasses in this household.

Despite the prevalent trend of Doom by Lamb, both Stan and Mike are attempting lamb.
Stan opting to revamp classic English elements with Indian flavours in the form of a Yoghurt Marinated Indian Spiced Lamb Chops with Curried Mashed Potato, a Mint Yoghurt and inexplicably a Red Wine Sauce

everything is thoroughly enjoyed except for red wine sauce which ultimately detracts from the dish but instead of dwelling on that let’s just celebrate the fact the lamb could in fact be eaten by people.

Mike went down the much more expected, MasterChef-y route with a Rack of Lamb that he had in fact scored the fat, Christian

He was serving it with a Fondant Potato, a Single, Lonely Star Anise Carrot and an ill-advised Beetroot Puree

I just think we as a society need to come to the consensus that putting pureed beetroot next to red meat doesn’t look great.
Once again, the lamb is cooked, that is worthy of a standing ovation at this point – it might not be rested for long enough, but it could be eaten! The beetroot puree divides everyone – I honestly think John was the only one defending it which is probably a bad sign in general.

As for The Lamb Battlers’ other dishes, Stan was going for a dessert and creating a Carrot Halva Swiss Roll which looked like it was all going a bit wrong and folding like the infamous Geometric Swiss Roll on Bake Off

but it was just the dry end and the middle bits were rolling perfectly

It’s a very interesting sounding dessert, I would certainly love to try it and would order it given half the chance and showed a good amount of skill beyond just baking a cake.

Mike was instead opting for a starter of Pumpkin and Amoretti Ravioli in a sage butter

It might sound odd but pumpkin and amoretti is quite a popular flavour combination and if you want to try this recipe for yourself you can try it here as feature in La Cucina Italiana Magazine. That’s not a call out of Mike, I just thought someone might like to try the recipe, it went down well enough with the judges! I do think it makes me question how much praise her deserved for being “fine dining” but Tony also made a good point about how the fact there isn’t as much of an opportunity to go out and try different cuisines and flavours, it has somewhat quelled creativity in the kitchen, which could be seen as a negative but I also think it has brought out a significant amount of very talented people who aren’t cooking European food.

Speaking of which, Janine was once again showcasing her Lebanese heritage with a dish known as Sayadiyah – a very traditional fisherman’s meal consisting of a piece of pan-fried sea bream on a bed of turmeric rice and caramelised onions which she served alongside a tabbouleh

It didn’t go fantastically, the fish was hit or miss amongst the diners with some ending up very overcooked and others done to perfection. The rice wasn’t seasoned enough and tabbouleh was overpowering and completely obliterated everything else.

Her last hopes lay in the hands of her Sfouf – the cake du jour of Lebanon. It’s made from semolina flour and flavoured with almonds and turmeric so it’s quite a dense cake with quite divisive flavours and she was only adding fuel to that fire with a Honey Chantilly Cream, Desiccated Coconut and Pineapple

I think the pineapple could have done with being caramelised just add an extra depth to its flavour but I don’t think that would have been enough to convince any of the judges. It’s a bit overly sweet and as Gregg pointed out could probably have done with being soaked in some sort of syrup.
It wasn’t Janine’s best moment but I’m glad she got to show us a couple of Lebanese dishes outside of the usual suspects and she should be proud of that!

Michele was back in Spain for her two course, the main course being a piece of Hake served on a Clam, White Beans and Chorizo Stew

Honestly, it’s just refreshing to hear someone pronounce “Chorizo” correctly. It’s certainly a step up from the Arroz al Horno and she cooked the hake to absolute perfection and made the good call of removing the soggy skin before serving it – this has suddenly become one of John Torode’s greatest bugbears, but he does seem to have forgotten his sudden irrational hatred of red peppers.

For dessert Michele was making a Tarta de Santiago, an almond cake dating back to the Middle Ages. Or she would have been if the EU hadn’t granted it a PGI status in 2010 meaning it had to be made in Galicia and consist of 30% almonds. So what Michele was making was an almond cake with a side of orange flavoured Chantilly Cream that looked a bit like someone had vaporised Christmas Day

People really badly chopping up mint was a bit of a trend this episode, take a look at Christian’s

It looks like he used a hedge strimmer!
The Not-A-Real-Tarta de Santiago goes down much better than Janine’s Sfouf but it too borders on being just that touch too sweet but the baking of the actual cake is enough to convince everyone not to start more Sweetness of a Dessert Discourse.

It was an incredibly strong round and looking back at the previous episode really only Katy should have gone through and then they’d have had no issue taking through Michele, Stan and Mike – Janine just wasn’t up to the same level despite bringing in some truly wonderful dishes.
John and Gregg are willing to go Maverick though and so Mike, Stan and Michele all end up coming to the next Quarterfinal

Let’s just hope there’s less sticky toffee puddings.

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