MasterChef 2021, Episode 9: Plums With Anxiety

New Gameshow Idea: Masterchef or Casualty?

It’s the penultimate quarterfinal and I think it’s safe to say one of the hardest to judge yet.

Rolling Stoned Fruit

For this week’s quarterfinal they’ve let Jay Rayner out of which ever cupboard they keep him in so that he can set this week’s challenge of creating a dish that showcases and centres roasted stone fruit. It’s quite a difficult challenge that has a lot of pitfalls: reducing the fruit to mush, just serving a roasted piece of fruit and the balance of sweet and sour because stone fruit are temperamental little buggers that can range from anywhere between cloyingly saccharine to levels of tartness that could turn a grown man inside out.

I had fully expected just about everyone to cook with peaches but apparently there was a Secret Society of the Plum meeting that Letitia wasn’t invited to and she’s the only one using them.

Letitia’s dish of Roasted Peaches with Italian Meringue, Amaretti Biscuits and a Lemon Thyme Ice Cream is inspired by her daughter’s love of peaches, although quite how much see still loves peaches after Letitia seems to have spent weeks force feeding them to her entire family so that she can perfect the dish and her cooking times remains to be seen.
It’s a very deceptively simple sounding dish but when you factor in that she’s made an ice cream, her own amaretti biscuits and Italian Meringue it’s really very impressive – more so the fact she stayed so calm throughout given that previously she spent a considerable amount of her time screaming and waving her arms around like she was the mascot of a car dealership.

It’s a lovely looking dish too

like two happy little snails

It goes down a treat with the judges too, and there was some pressure considering Jay Rayner’s penchant for a peach that rivals even Timothée Chalamet’s (gross, Ariadne.) It was a real showcase of not only her technical skills but also her balancing of flavours because it could have easily been extremely sweet and yet nobody complained!

Over in the Secret Society of Plums, Alexina was playing God and Frankensteining together a rice pudding and Tarte Julie – which, as far as I can tell, is just the signature dish of a café franchise in Continental Europe called Tarte Julie. In order to create her Dessert Monster she’s swapping out the usual creme patissiere filling and using bay-infused rice pudding instead – which is lowkey genius and I feel like we need to stop Alexina before she realises she could take over the world.
There is some concern about how the rice pudding will manage to support the plums; I don’t know what kind of substandard watery rice pudding Gregg has been eating all his life because rice pudding could literally support a family of 4 and their dog.
While Gregg fretted about the stability of rice pudding John was worried about the fact there were so many disparate elements going into her dish and he didn’t know how it was going to link up. Mate, she served you lamb and cornflakes – I wouldn’t worry.

And worry they shouldn’t have because it’s stunning. Even before eating it John Torode is quite taken aback by “the singular majesty of the tart” (which is the title of my autobiography).
The highest praise comes from Jay Rayner who in 21 years of being a restaurant critic has never had anything like it – ALEXINA, GET A LAWYER AND A PATENT IMMEDIATELY.

Also making a tart was Kerry except she was keeping the creme patissiere (or trying to, we’ll get to it) and topping it with roasted damsons – which are just plums with anxiety. It’s a sentimental dish as the damsons were picked from her favourite tree named Jack. I genuinely thought she was about to tell us a whole traumatic tale about how the tree had since been cut down and this was the last harvest but apparently the tree is fine! I’ve been watching too much Drag Race, I now just expect every show to have a mid-episode discussion about trauma while looking into a mirror.
It wasn’t such smooth sailing for Kerry as her creme patissiere burns slightly – it’s not quite as bad as Katy setting fire to pasta but it’s a bit of a crucial error when you don’t have enough time to remake it and it’s 70% of your dish

Shout out to what is only the second worst attempt at a spiral that we’ve seen during this year’s competition, lest we forget

I’ll never forget you Aaron!
Back to Kerry and all of the flavours are lovely, her gingerbread crumb and ginger cream are strong but not overwhelming and the Vin Santo (A Tuscan dessert wine historically the favourite for Catholic Mass) really compliments what is a rather measly portion of damsons considering it was a stone fruit centric task.

Bucking the trend of a plum tart is Kent Coast Claire who you will not be surprised to learn is cooking Kent Coast Plums. Her love of cooking with local produce has already earned her the title of “an old fashioned cook” from Gregg which seems a little rude considering her dishes have actually been quite contemporary.
With her Kentish ingredients in hand she was looking to Italy for her inspiration (TRAITOR) and serving her roasted plums with an almond cake that she calls “my cake thing” quite a lot, as well as a damson compote, a hazelnut praline flavoured with Kent Coast Fennel and a Zabaglione which is usually it’s own mousse-like dessert but she’s thinning it out to be used as a sort of custard – which does kind of just make it a Sabayon but we won’t tell anyone that

It’s a very textural pudding – every element is different and it’s absolutely the sort of dessert I would gravitate to on a menu. The judges unanimously love it and praise the balancing of sweet and sour flavours and appreciate the savoury note that the Kent Coast Fennel brings to the dish.

This was always going to be a tough round to judge, Kerry did make it a little bit easier for them and it was an instant elimination for her and they couldn’t really hide the fact that Alexina was instantly going through to the semi-finals

I believe in Alexina Supremacy.
Then because of the fact Letitia and Claire both did incredible jobs they throw them a line and allow both of them aboard the SS Semifinal

Big fan of how the MasterChef semi-finals are shaping up to the be the culinary equivalent of Wonder Woman’s home nation of Themyscira. It does make a nice change.

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