MasterChef 2021, Episode 7: Official Government Pasta Recognition Board

I think this face pretty much sums up 70% of what happened in this episode.

The third week of heats and I think John might have finally found his nemesis as things get bloody.

Signature Dishes

In a turn of events we don’t have a single cook trying to wrestle cooking a rack of lamb or an entire slab of belly pork into a 75 minute time slot which certainly made for some more relaxed viewing. For the most part… My heart did sink when a rack of venison was taken out by Aaron, who looks like every chef on Great British Menu

so he has the aesthetic down at least!
He obviously draws a lot of inspiration from his fine dining experience – knowing how to cook venison on this show is one hell of a flex – and was pairing his roasted rack of venison with a Duchess Potato, everyone’s favourite faux-posh cabbage: Cavolo Nero (if they sell it in Tesco it’s not posh), caramelised pairs and a red wine and chocolate sauce.
The plan for the sauce was to spiral it out using a cake turn table because that’s what everyone on MasterChef: The Professionals did 2 years ago and this went less than well for Aaron

I admire the optimism of a man that can look at his watery sauce and think he can turn it into a stable spiral.
As for the final spiral-less dish, it turned out well enough

Get the champagne out, the red meat is cooked!
His Garlic Duchess Potato quite frankly sounds divine and John and Gregg both commend him for the excellent cooking of the venison while completely ignoring the pears. The sauce’s bitterness lets him down a bit, as does the cavolo nero that he didn’t trim

John acting like a 5 year old that just discovered the veggies that their mother snuck into their dinner <3.
Gregg was honestly just happy to have finally found a possible LADS!LADS!LADS!LADS! Friend for the series – he’s been pining for one for 2 weeks now.

There are few skills in MasterChef that garner more praise than the ability to make your own dumpling wrappers or pasta – gone are the days that a contestant would be allowed to rock up with a bag of fusilli and call themselves an aspiring chef.
As a nod to her upbringing on the Amalfi Coast, Sofia was making Scialatelli pasta – a thick ribbon pasta that has a ruffled effect (the word ‘scialatelli’ roughly translates to ‘ruffled’). It’s one of the more modern pasta shapes with it only being recognised as an official variety in 1978. The thought of there being an Official Government Pasta Recognition Board and Italian housewives posting them random pasta shapes to be vetted and tested for authentication brings me no end of joy.
Sofia was jazzing up the usual pasta recipe by using milk instead of water and flavouring it with Pecorino Cheese which John and Gregg were sceptical about but promptly changed their mind after she told them not to upset her Nonna

it’s a deceptively simple dish that required a lot of very deft preparation in the pasta making as well as the cooking of her mussels and clams – all too often on this show Gregg and John end up with a mouthful of mollusc-y grit.

While Sofia used her pasta making skills for good, Zane was using his dumpling wrapper making skills for only evil and chaos by fusing together a Prawn and Coconut Curry that teetered on the line of either being inspired by Indian cooking or Thai cooking – he couldn’t decide. Not happy with that just that confusion he was putting a Chinese style Pork and Prawn dumpling in the middle of it where it sat like some sort of arctic seabird blown off course

It’s a delightfully absurd dish where the curry tastes nice and the dumplings are very well prepared, but together they’re exactly the brainfart we’ve been waiting for – and to think he was going to throw a roti on the side just because he could.

Keeping things much more streamlined was Kent Coast Claire, she’s from the Kent Coast and she really wants you to know she’s from the Kent Coast and will only cook things that can be found on the Kent Coast. Her dish is a Spider Crab and Parmesan Tart with Samphire, Pickled Radish and Rapeseed Mayonnaise

I’m not sure if you can find spider crabs on the Kent Coast, please don’t write in.
Despite the risk of possibly ending up with crabby scrambled eggs because one man’s tart is another man’s quiche, she pulls it off with aplomb and neither Gregg or John have a single complaint to make about it.

While the previous four kept up with the trend of doing quite modern-style things with fusion twists or stylised presentation, Letitia who Gregg honest to God called Patricia despite the massive honking LETITIA name badge on her shirt

was throwing it all back in more ways than one with a vintage MasterChef deconstruction of everyone’s favourite 80s relic The Black Forest Gateau! And clearly she had no idea how to scale a recipe down to a 2 person portion so made 2 whole cakes

She is an inspiration and an icon.
Because of the size and density of her cakes they didn’t have a lot time to cool and were melting before her very eyes

Big Mood.
She did still manage to plate it all up though and there was some genuinely good culinary skill in her dish but presentation will inevitably be her undoing because this looks like Mothra

Gregg is in heaven because finally someone has fulfilled his dreams of being served just about an entire birthday cake, so well done on that front Letitia! John meanwhile is already going slightly cross eyed after a single kirsch laced mouthful. COWARD.

It was certainly a mixed bag from everyone with two clear winners in Sofia and Claire who are both given aprons

which means Aaron, Zane and Letitia will have to cook again.

Favourite Ingredient Redemption Arcs

It was too good to last but lamb is inevitably back on the menu with Zane as he decides to take on the unique and sadistic Gladiatorial fight that is trying to cook any sort of lamb within 50 minutes. He did at least have the forethought to cut it into chunks because there was absolutely no way that he was going to be able to roast this galumphing piece of meat in under an hour

and while his curried lamb chunks were cooked, they hadn’t managed to reach the perfect tenderness but his skills at making a very rich and highly flavoured curry sauce are very much there

even if it was slightly tainted by the leaking salsa.

As for Letitia, the newest Saint in the Christian canon, she was dealing with a plate of prawns that she was going to be making prawn fritters and promised to serve alongside a mystery accompaniment that she put off making until the final five minutes despite the fact Gregg was standing across the counter from her screaming “SAUCE!” while she slightly malfunctioned

In the end the mystery addition was a mere lemon mayonnaise that she made under unyielding duress from Gregg

Who then had the audacity to say he would have preferred a plate of chips as though it clearly wasn’t intended to be a starter portion.

Bringing in dessert was Aaron with his attempt at the slightly-less-risky-than-lamb Chocolate Fondant that he had only made “once or twice” and I don’t believe him for a second – he has an entire chocolate fondant graveyard under his patio.
Alongside his fondant he is serving a salted caramel sauce (because apparently it’s 2019 again) and an orange cream that he didn’t have the foresight to recognise that it would just melt when placed on his fondant

I’m sure most people would be fine with it, I just don’t like it when a dish arrives partially melted, it’s a slight anti-climax.
As for the interior of the chocolate fondant it’s not nearly melting enough although Gregg is desperate to scrape some sort of ooze out as a justification of not sending his new Lads In Crime best friend home

Like drawing blood from a stone.
As with his venison dish before it, all of the ideas are there with Aaron, he knows what works together and what doesn’t, his techniques are just a little bit slapdash and I have no doubt that the stress of the studio got to him slightly.

When it came to who went home it was definitely only a toss up between Zane and Aaron because Letitia aced this round and in the end it’s farewell to Zane while Letitia and Aaron are granted the privilege of wearing a MasterChef apron

I think it was the right decision although I’m intrigued by what else Zane had in his arsenal of dishes designed by blindly throwing darts at a recipe book.

The Winners’ Chamber

The extra set of judges brought in for the final round are vintage 2009 champion Mat Follas

and Shelina Permalloo

who is serving nothing but looks.

With only 2 places up for grabs (although this is clearly a moveable feast) the competition turned into a 3 way battle for Best Fish Dish with all three of them women deciding on a seafood main course. Kent Coast Claire was obviously serving Kent Coast Sea Bream with Potato Croquettes and Confit Fennel

The Kentishness of the fennel and potatoes remains to be seen.
It’s a very pleasant looking and sounding dish, a good mix of textures – she clearly had a very good understanding of food and what people want to experience while eating. The cooking of her fish is also perfect with delicate flaking skin and well crisped skin – nobody could have asked for better.
Sofia didn’t fair as well with her Amalfi Coast inspired dish of Sea Bass with Chickpea and Potato Puree and wilted spinach

It’s quite a sad looking dish – there was meant to be an additional tomato salsa but that never materialised because she didn’t have time to marinate the tomatoes as she wanted – she could have just chopped up some cherry tomatoes though. But nothing was ever going to save the fact she served Gregg a piece of sea bass that could be returned to the ocean for another chance at life

It certainly didn’t live up to how promising her starter course of calamari with anchovy and mustard mayonnaise was

It was like two different people had cooked her dishes.

Letitia’s fishy offering was a little different to the light nature of the others. She was making Jerk Salmon with Coconut Rice and once again the Mac’n’Cheese side dish returneth! Although I am sad to tell you that there are no Vienna sausages in it, but there are 4 cheeses!
John Torode had a bit of an issue with the addition of the Mac and Cheese, which mostly seems to be about the fact serving it alongside rice means Double Carbs™ and makes a pretty off comment about it

I just don’t appreciate it because I don’t believe for a second he would have made the same comment if a man were to cook a dish that happened to have two carbs on the plate.
But while John consults the food pyramid Letitia is practically engaged to her macaroni cheese and Shelina has already ordered a second portion. Clearly only women appreciate the power and necessity of macaroni cheese, the unexpected feminist icon of 2021

I’m sure John was grateful for the token piece of broccoli.
Everything is perfectly cooked and while everyone revels in the macaroni, John stands on the sidelines with a disapproving glare and eats his sad lonely piece of broccoli like a good boy.

Letitia and Kent Coast Claire both opted to make desserts rather than starters with Claire going more sophisticated with a Lemon Verbena Milk Pudding and Kent Coast Sea Buckthorn Curd

This is so petty but I hate the bowl she served it in, it’s too steep and you can’t really make the pudding out. It is a very interesting pudding though and it’s always nice when someone makes something outside of The Big Three: Vanilla Panna Cottas, Chocolate Brownies and Chocolate Fondants.

Letitia’s dessert was French Toast made from Hard Dough Bread – a Caribbean favourite that has a very firm texture and a slight sweetness – alongside it she was serving a rum cream, lime and mango curd and macerated strawberries

It was a joy to watch Letitia cook – she has so much charisma and personality that amongst everyone else being overly chef-y it was a breath of fresh air to watch her just about dance while making her dessert. It was like watching someone make something in their own home, which is kind of what has been missing from the last couple of series.

Speaking of being too chef-y… We have Aaron who started off fairly strongly with a Battered Duck Egg with Asparagus and Chorizo

the batter is a touch thick but the eggs are mostly cooked to everyone’s liking, Mat’s falls a little short and offers up a potentially very useful screenshot for future use

Much like Sofia, it was his main course that did him in and it was death by water bath as he went about making a sous vide fillet steak served with mushroom puree and some roasted veg. There were some tell-tale signs as to how this was going to go, starting with the revelation that the jus he was making was just going to be the juices from his water bathed steak – no reducing, no red wine, no stock, no nothing. Which yes, does mean that Aaron essentially poured slightly tepid blood over the plate like this was an episode of What We Do In The Shadows

and of course, the classic addition of the Erect Root Vegetables that make every plate they sit on look a bit like a model map of an medieval village in Dorset. You can really tell how exhausted by this style of presentation John is as he watched it unfold and just stared into the abyss

Me too John, me too.
As you can probably imagine, nobody was very keen on the blood sauce or the slightly raw vertical vegetables. It wasn’t Aaron’s finest hour and it was bold of him to try some more advanced cookery techniques and I hope this doesn’t discourage him from pursuing a career in food because he clearly has a genuine love and passion for it.

Due to their disappointing main courses it’s Aaron and Sofia who are sent packing and Letitia and Kent Coast Claire become the first of this week’s quarterfinalists

I have everything crossed for Letitia because at this point she’s 80% of the content of these recaps.

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