MasterChef 2021, Episode 10: Queen of The Fluke

Ah yes, the Working From Home motto.

We’re kicking off the last of the MasterChef Heat Weeks with all of the MasterChef tropes: LADSLADSLADS, ill-advised flavour combinations, buttery biscuit somethings and a chocolate fondant. If there was raw lamb we’d have had a full house!

Signature Dishes

In a rare and yet welcome break from a Lamb Royale, we instead have a battle of the Fish Stews and Accompanying Adjacents. Don’t worry, there is still lamb.
Our Shellfish Showdown is between retired Jacqui who is only doing the show because she can’t get back to her holiday home in Lisbon and Magdalena and her superior eyebrows

We respect the artform of eyebrows on this blog.

In order to prove herself as a part-time Portugueser Jacqui is making her own unique take on the Cataplana – the main difference being that she was too scared to ask the BBC to buy her monkfish and it’s also not really even a cataplana at all because it’s not cooked in a cataplana, which is the one defining feature of a cataplana. Strictly by definition what she made was a lovely Caldeirada

It’s all very well cooked and flavoured, with John particularly falling for her “sympathetically cooked sea bass” – I like to think she gave it a full eulogy as she fried it.

Magdalena had a tough ask going toe-to-toe with Jacqui and her consecrated sea bass but she was trying her best with her Pan-fried Tiger Prawns with Wilted Spinach and a Bisque Sauce. Except it wasn’t really a bisque sauce beyond its colour as her thickening agent was cornflour instead of rice which kind of makes it more of a fish gravy, which sounds as upsetting as it was to watch her what-we-shall-generously-call-a-bisque merge with the water leaking out of her spinach

I don’t really get the addition of the spinach, potatoes or something with more substance would probably have worked better – spinach in a watery sauce just isn’t it

That being said, Gregg liked that her spinach was properly washed, which is fortunate for Magdalena because she didn’t even so much as rinse it before whacking it in the pan

Queen of the Fluke.
Her prawns are well cooked but lack sympathy I guess, and the sauce is quite week and thin.

This episode’s Obligatory Lamb Candidate was Baz, who is this year’s Designated Laddish Rogue that Gregg can be friends with up until maybe the first episode of finals week when they realise he has just been alternating between cooking lamb and beef for 5 episodes.
His story about how he came to love cookery is lovely, his two year old son was born with a rare hear disease and he cooked to deal with the stress – any normal person who react with the sympathy that Jacqui showed her sea bass, Gregg on the other hand is not a normal person and gurned his way through this story

Shout out to whoever edited this and didn’t think to use other shots of Gregg looking slightly more pensive.

As for his rack of lamb, Baz is coating it in a Sundried Tomato Crust and serving it with Pickled Courgette, a Salsa Verde, Whipped Feta and a Fondant Potato. Did I miss the phase of lockdown where everyone learnt how to make a fondant potato? Did it happen before or after The Banana Bread Period?
Baz’s dish is incredibly accomplished

even the trimming on the bones of the rack of lamb is absolutely perfect AND he managed to cook the lamb properly so they might as well have just given him an apron and told him they’d meet him in the quarterfinal there and then.

Oliver was also looking like a prospective Friend of Gregg the moment he opened up with the fact he grew up on a pig farm in Yorkshire – sounds humble and salt of the earth enough. Then he dropped the fact he ate kedgeree for breakfast at school and now we will have no choice but to eat him when the revolution starts.
Inspired by his Boarding School Brunch of kedgeree, Oliver was making his own take on it and serving it with an Onion Bhaji and a Chip Shop Curry Sauce

I shall not lie, I would probably order this given half the chance and John and Gregg seemed mostly pleased with it. Gregg thought the fish was dry and John thought the bhaji was slightly bitter because Oliver twice fried it – whether or not this was a negative I’m not entirely too sure – it’s very hard to read Ol’ Man Torode these days.

Lastly we have Ting who is making a dish inspired by her parents and their native Hong Kong and no matter how many times she corrected him, Gregg always said “China” because apparently he hasn’t been paying attention to anything that’s happening over there in the last year.
Her dish is Braised Pork Cheeks with Egg Fried Rice and Pak Choi, which does mean the potentially possessed pressure cooker is out again. Luckily for Ting she manages to appease whatever poltergeist is hanging out in it and her pork cheeks are perfectly cooked

Unfortunately for her the rice is extremely undercooked and her black bean sauce is too sweet and not salty enough

Pretty much.

With Jacqui winning the Fish Stew Showdown it’s an immediate pass to the Winners’ Chamber for her

and joining her is Baz and his Bantz

meaning that Oliver III of Driffield, Magdalena and Ting are all cooking again.

Favourite Ingredient Redemption Arcs

Finding herself in yet another Seafood Tussle is Magdalena, except this time her weapon of choice is a Sea Bream and her opponent is Lord Oliver of The North-East and his Superior Northern Cod.

Magdalena is serving hers with a Tomato and Olive Salsa and some Fried Fennel while also frying her Sea Bass in enough butter to summon Gregg out of nowhere

Gregg sneaking up behind people and asking them about butter quantities is an alarmingly common occurrence these days.
It did at least prepare us for the fact her dish was going to be extremely oily

but the fish was beautifully cooked if slightly lost between the clash of the salsa and the fennel. I think she could have both on the plate, she just needs significantly less salsa – I imagine with the olive and the capers is brought a lot of necessary saltiness.

Oliver had a much more successfully composed dish with his Pan-fried Cod, Parsnip Crisps, Asparagus and a Parsnip and Potato Puree all finished off with a Chilli Hollandaise Sauce that had John very sceptical but ultimately converted

so converted in fact that John wished there was more of it on the plate, and looking at the plate there is quite a significant puddle of the stuff there – more than enough to get you through that piece of a cod.

The last of our trio is Ting and her battle to make do with some chicken thighs – it’s been a good year for chicken thighs as people at last seem to realise their superiority to breasts – #YearOfTheThighMeat.
Her plan is to marinade it in yoghurt with such a generic spice mix that the show couldn’t even be bothered to incorrectly call it tandoori chicken and then serve it alongside cucumber ribbons, a raita and a flatbread

Both of the judges rave about her chicken and its flavours but it all falls apart with the flatbread that she made the mistake of cooking in an oiled pan so it’s quite soggy and John spends a significant amount of time waving it around like he was trying to surrender during The Flour War of 1775

that and the only thing I could think of while he was holding up the bread was Lady Cassandra O’Brien.Δ17 from Doctor Who


Even though Oliver and Magdalena may have had a few mistakes each it wasn’t quite the unforgiveable shame of messing up two loads of carbohydrates and so Ting is sent home while Magdalena and Oliver advance to the next round

It was a fair outcome I think, I have no doubt in my mind that Ting is superb home cook and that this was just not her day.

The Semi-Winners’ Chamber

For the final round of this heat the cooks will be serving their two course meals to 2010 Winner Dhruv Baker

and his runner up, Alex Rushmer who is looking a lot like Tom Hanks in Cast Away except with a very nice caridgan

I wonder if a cardigan makes for better company than a football? Less likely to float away too.

The first to serve up was Jacqui and she was setting a very high bar for everyone to clear, both because of her dishes and because she was on time. Although it’s beyond me as to why John was so surprised considering her first course was essentially raw Iberico Pork with Chimichurri and a Roasted Tomato and Pepper Puree

It’s a lovely dish and everyone except Gregg absolutely wolfs down the raw pork – I imagine Gregg has been burnt a few times by raw meat.
As good as the dish is, it is only slightly elevated above a ceviche or a tartare.
At least she went all in on her main course of Pan-fried John Dory served with Potato Rasam. Rasam being a style of soup originating from South India and usually made with a fruit known as a Kokum, tamarind and Jaggery (raw cane sugar) which makes it very sweet and tart.
Once again she’s on time

It’s not the most beautiful dish to look at but it’s intriguing and it’s always nice when somebody cooks something new to the show.

Magdalena’s timings weren’t quite as sharp as Jacqui, her newfound nemesis, as while cooking her Asian-glazed Salmon with Herby Rice and Pak Choi she completely forgets to grill the pak choi and throws it onto the grill for a token few minutes before plating it

Dhruv and Alex, completely unaware of the mishap then proceed to rave about the fact her Pak Choi is raw and brings a refreshing crispness to her very soft salmon and the rice. Magdalena continues to be The Queen of The Fluke.

Already being 5 minutes behind, Magdalena ran into further timing issues and proceeded to make her Chocolate Fondant dessert at such a leisurely pace that halfway through its cooking time she is was told that she’s late again. She’s fine with it though and certainly doesn’t reach the same state of existential dread that Alicia and Pineapple Upside Down Cakes did.
For some reason she doesn’t turn it out when she plates and serves it more like a mousse or a soufflé

although I think we know why that was

I love that John and Gregg just about refused to eat it because the pudding is quite clearly raw and over in the next room Alex and Dhruv are wolfing theirs down at a rate of knots and only complaining about the fact the fruit was entirely unnecessary and that some cream wouldn’t have gone amiss.

Magdalena’s dishes were kind of ordinary within the MasterChef Oeuvre – I think we’ve even all made that exact salmon dish at home numerous times. Oliver however had decided to dub himself “a bold and brash innovator” which is some sort of way as describing himself as the sort of person who serves up a cursed square of noodles

on top of which he has piled some Crispy (read as dry) Pork Belly and a Chilli Vinaigrette.
It doesn’t go down spectacularly well because the pork dish he was cribbing from usually takes 4 hours and he had 1, so the pork didn’t have much time to soak up any juices and is incredibly dry but more’s the point is that he served geometric noodles.

If you thought the square o’noodles was bad, Oliver has one hell of a treat in store with his main course of Pressure-Cooked Octopus with Avocado Salsa, Croutons and Honey-Mustard Tomatoes all finished off with a grating of Parmesan Cheese for no other reason than that he could.
The main issue (other than everything about the tomatoes) is that octopus usually takes well over an hour to cook, especially one this size

My dude, you’re cooking The Kraken.
The other issue is that ethically we probably shouldn’t eat an octopus given their extremely high intelligence levels – not to resurrect the My Octopus Teacher discourse or anything.
Surprisingly Oliver’s tentacles (I read that several times to make sure I wrote it correctly) were well cooked despite them wiggling about all over the place and John and Gregg looking on in unadulterated concern

and you would think that with the avocado and those ungodly tomatoes that that would be enough to draw the line but according to Dhruv, his breaking point was the light scattering of pine nuts over the top of it all,

which is like saying your favourite instrument in the orchestra was the triangle. THERE ARE TOMATOES COVERED IN HONEY, DHRUV!

With Oliver sticking a flag is own unique Isle of Insanity, Baz was taking us to a much more stable shore with his Fillet of Beef with Pomme Puree (that’s French for Fancy Mashed Potato), Cavolo Nero, a Madeira Sauce and whatever the hell Tobacco Onions are

They sound like something Don Draper came up with in the final series of Mad Men because the writers had run out of weird ad campaigns for him to run.
It’s a lovely looking dish and goes down incredibly well with everyone, and the fillet didn’t bleed all over the plate which is a nice to change to the usual Holby City-esque sights that we see.

His pudding however is divisive as once again we find ourselves faced with Crumble Discourse and the ratio of crumble topping to fruit, the correct answer is 80% crumble, 20% fruit. I will not be taking suggestions at this time.
Baz opts for a much more conservative 50/50 split on his crumble to fruit

Although while everyone else is perfectly happy and accepting of it, Gregg grumbles away that his doesn’t have enough fruit in his

I just like to think that every day we get a step closer to someone just serving up nothing but crumble topping and calling that a dessert. It has to happen eventually.

With everyone having cooked the judges deliberate for a mere second before unanimously deciding to send Oliver home in a glorious blaze of pretentiousness – he has solidified himself as a MasterChef Legend in my eyes.
They then proceed to have a pretend debate about whether or not they should keep Magdalena, Baz or Jacqui with it being painfully apparent that Magdalena was going home for her timing issues and so Baz and Jacqui are this week’s first finalists

I liked Magdalena but I think it was a fair decision.

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