MasterChef 2021, Episode 11: Twelve Prawn Pile-up

Remember when this was what the MasterChef kitchen used to look like? Just a faux wood nightmare.

It’s the final batch of contestants and I think it’s the strongest group we’ve had all series but I might be bias because there’s a dog-walker.

Signature Dishes

It was only a matter of time before Come Dine With Me and MasterChef crossed over (it’s probably happened before, please don’t write in) and if you thought you recognised Jo, it’s because she was on Come Dine With Me 12 years ago throwing a Spanish themed evening and cooking octopus before it was cool

She won by the way.
She sadly wasn’t reviving her Come Dine With Me tapas menu and was instead cooking just about everything else with a dish of a Fillet of Beef, Pommes Anna (A potato dish that is named after a woman that a chef was lusting after), Mushroom Puree, Chantenay Carrots, Parsnip Crisps and a Bone Marrow and Red Wine Sauce

the fact she got it all done is bordering on miraculous, she’s basically the Katarina Johnson-Thompson of the competition.
While managing to showcase just about every cooking process there is bar making pasta the cooking of her beef did suffer slightly which is a pity because it of everything needed to be perfect.

There has been a distinct lack of pies during this series of MasterChef, only a couple of years ago you could have guaranteed at least every second episode would have two people battling it out over Steak and Ale Pies. Luckily Jane and her perfectly match lipstick, hair and apron was on hand to help us relive those glory days

She’s making a Chicken and Cider Pie – a combination that John seems entirely perturbed by but I thought was a fairly common occurrence? I’m honestly more concerned about the fact she roasted her carrots in a marmalade glaze. But nothing can take away from how triumphant her pie looked

It’s a fully fledged pie, none of that pastry hat nonsense! Hi, I’m Ariadne and I’m a pie purist.
Her pastry is incredible, the only downside is that she cut her chicken thighs up too small so they’ve overcooked and turned a little hard. They both agree that there’s a touch too much cider, which I’ll allow because for some reason Jane also served a cider sauce on the side – give her a Strongbow sponsorship!

While Jane was going quite rustic and farmhouse-y, sweet baby angel Marc was over on the other side of the kitchen basically reinventing the sweet and sour wheel with his take on Sweet and Sour Pork. Besides the use of Iberico Pork the main difference was the fact he was making his sauce out of blackberries, blueberries, Grapefruit, Red Wine and a side of popping candy – which sounds like one of Ben and Jerry’s less successful flavours.
To everyone’s surprise but his own, Marc manages to pull off a truly astonishing dish

John and Gregg just about lose their minds while eating it and dub him “a culinary genius” which had Marc all abash

My humble king.

Marc wasn’t the only one reinventing a dish this episode as Ross Dogwalker (my favourite Star Wars character) was serving up his unique take on the Scottish pub staple, Balmoral Chicken. Sadly he wasn’t throwing a Twix into it or anything and was instead kind of just cramming it all into some very well made Tortellini and serving it with a Bacon & Whiskey Cream Sauce and Minted Peas

His pasta is exceptionally well made and potentially the best of the series so far, it’s just a shame that because of the bacon, the haggis and the chicken skin topper the whole thing is all a little bit too salty.

Lastly we have Lino and Lino’s Hat

Name me a better duo.
His plan is to showcase the flavours of Trinidad and Tobago where he lived until the age of 24. He was doing this was a dish consisting of absolutely mammoth prawns

which he was currying and serving alongside Spiced Butternut, Fried Okra and a Spicy Mango Chutney

I just want to know which devil he sold his soul to to get such big prawns? They couldn’t even get Cruise Ship Mike from a couple of episodes ago 5 decently sized Langoustines!
As for the taste, John and Gregg both love it but have some issues with the fact it does essentially look a bit like a 12 prawn pile-up on the E.A.C.

It was a very strong round for just about everyone, but no one excelled quite as much as Mad Scientist Marc who is the first to get an apron

and he is followed up King of the Prawns, Lord of the Crustaceans and Emperor of All Shellfish, Lino

it’s such a shame because I feel like on a few other weeks all of this lot would have been through in a heartbeat, but Jane, Jo and Ross Dogwalker will all face imminent elimination.

Favourite Ingredient Redemption Arcs

Can you believe that amongst 25 chefs having to cook with their favourite ingredients that only 2 of them chose chocolate knowing they were going to make a dish for Gregg Wallace? Everyone really needs to up their tactical game playing in this competition.
Jane is our second Chocolate Championer and is feeling confident after having baked over 40 cakes during her time in lockdown – her neighbours now cower in fear every time their doorbell rings lest it be Jane coming over to offer them their 5th Victoria Sponge that week.
With her chocolate she’s planning on making some sort of Fruit Crumble / Chocolate Cake Hybrid by essentially topping a base of pears and blackberries with a dollop of chocolate pudding

and alongside it the plan was to serve a peanut brittle and a Crème Anglaise both which didn’t really come to fruition with her peanut brittle being a lunk of crystallised sugar and her Creme Anglaise being a little too watery

but John and Gregg seemed happy enough with their chocolate and fruit pudding so at least it wasn’t a complete calamity.

We couldn’t have our final Heat Round without someone revisiting the good old Lamb Rack, which Gregg looked absolutely thrilled by

Taking on the challenge this time was Ross Dogwalker who was hoping to avoid the Raw Lamb Trope by pan-frying it and then roasting it in the oven for 13 minutes, which is 8 whole minutes longer than Stefan The Chaotic Architect did his for.
Alongside it he was serving Honeyed Carrots, Charred Shallots and a sort of Sauce of Many Things including bacon, peas, leaks and the cooking juices of the lamb which he tried his best to put in a ring mould

but as you can guess, liquids aren’t really one for staying in place

His lamb is absolutely perfectly cooked but John and Gregg are particularly taken by the sauce which has all the richness that a lamb sauce needs but without being greasy – it’s a stellar bit of a cookery!

Not to be outdone, Jo was once again doing ALL OF THE THINGS with her favourite ingredient Fish. Just any fish. All the fish. THROW HER INTO THE OCEAN AND SHE WILL THRIVE. Instead of passive aggressively giving her an entire fishmonger’s table of fish, they did whittle it down to a piece of Hake which she was going to be pan-frying and serving alongside so many fennel dishes that she quickly ran out of pans. We love on overachiever.
Her final dish is mostly successful

her fish cookery is excellent with the exception of the jelly-ish skin that she should have taken off but the fact she braised, pickled and velouté’d the fennel is quite an accomplishment.

Seeing as both Jo and Ross really excelled while Jane made a couple of quite glaring errors she had to bow out and Jo and Ross get their aprons

I guess it’s back to lockdown baking for Jane then. I hope her neighbours are ready.

The Winners’ Chamber

For the last of the 2 course menu marathons the cooks will be serving up their offerings to Tim Anderson from 2011

and the icon, the legend, the woman who still hasn’t explained why feta cheese is an extra on the menu of her Mexican restaurant chain, Thomasina Miers

You might know her from such hits as: pointing out to the head chef of a restaurant that his dish was missing a quail egg right before it was going to be served and inventing pea puree and scallops.

The unlikely pairing of Jo and Lino find themselves in a gruelling Battle of the Raw Starters with Lino going for a Seabass Ceviche and Jo offering up a Tuna Tartare.
Lino’s was the simpler of the two with his seabass simply being cured with Grapefruit and Lime Juice and topping it with Pickled Red Onion, it wasn’t the prettiest dish in the world, in fact it looked a bit like Picasso had painted SpongeBob’s friend Patrick the Starfish

Honestly, skip the grapefruit limbs all together and the dish’s aesthetic improves tenfold.
As for the taste, it’s very good and as refreshing as a ceviche should be but lacks texture and could have done with some sort of cracker.

The obvious problem with a ceviche or a tartare is the fact it doesn’t require any cooking, Jo being Jo was circumventing that by serving her Tuna Tartare with a Spinach and Coriander Broth, Avocado Wasabi Cream and the jewel in this hellish sounding crown: a Soy Sauce Cured Egg Yolk

It looks delightfully cartoonish, like a mystical well in a Zelda game.
The look kind of goes out of the window the moment you cut into the egg though and then it becomes wholly unappetising

allegedly her daughter comes home from university and asks her to make this dish for her, I guess most mums should be happy their kids only come home to get their laundry done.
It’s some admirable cooking though and again shows off the fact that despite juggling everything Jo can fit it all in on time. I just, like Gregg, can’t really get my head around the egg yolk, especially not with the broth as well.

Their main courses couldn’t have been more different with Lino wanting to showcase the flavours of Trinidad by making a Creole take on a Chicken Supreme by spicing his chicken with Trinidadian Pimento Peppers which was ultimately his undoing. The tendency is for people to envision Creole cooking as being incredibly spicy because it’s usually associate with the hot sauces and Cayenne spicing of Louisiana Creole. Lino however, was doing Caribbean Creole, which is VERY different and milder, playing more of a juxtaposition of sweet and savoury. Pimento peppers rank only 1 step higher than a bell pepper and 2 steps lower than a Bird’s Eye Chilli on the Scoville Scale, you could quite comfortably eat one raw. So it’s no wonder that they got their Chicken Supremes and thought they weren’t spicy enough

Although I am VERY interested in that Rum, Pimento and Coconut Oil Gravy, I will not rest until I have had even the smallest taste of it.

Fancying her luck Jo was taking on a lamb loin for her main course, and was very excited to get on with it as she burst back into the room after serving her starter

Her main course, much like her starter, is just about everything on a plate as along with her successfully cooked lamb loin she is serving Shallots, Girolles and Black Olives and then for some reason decided that it would be the best idea to serve it on a Parmesan and Truffle Risotto

Her lamb is obviously spot on, although John still looks at it in mild fear

but the risotto throws everyone off a bit, it’s such a disparity from the rest of the dish which honestly probably would have been fine without it.

The other two cooks, Marc and Ross Dogwalker, are both on a mission to showcase their heritage and favourite cuisines, Ross going Full Scottish and Marc taking us on a journey through Hong Kong.

For his main course Ross was cooking Venison with a Cauliflower Cheese Puree, Crispy Kale, Potato Wedges Turmeric Cauliflower and a Red Wine Jus

Unfortunately he runs a little overtime with it and can’t thicken up his jus to the desired consistency but everything else is pretty much spot on. I think he shouldn’t have bothered pureeing the cauliflower cheese and just nixed the turmeric roasted cauliflower all together and maybe saved himself some time to make the jus, because I think there is a very good dish there it was just slightly over complicated for this occasion.

For dessert he was making that not-Scottish-at-all-French-Classic Clafoutis (That’s CLUH-Foo-Tee if you’re correct, CLAH-FOW-TISS if you’re Biggins and Clah-fih-tee if you’re Thomasina Miers). It’s a bit of a train wreck for Ross as his lemon curd doesn’t thicken up even under the Paddington-style Hard Glare he gives it

but it’s the clafoutis that really lets him down as he swaps the cherries out for the much juicier, leakier blackberry and bakes it in a very tall ramekin

whereas a clafoutis is usually baked in a very open, flat dish

so sadly his mixture didn’t really cook properly and was further hindered by the fact the juice from the blackberries added way too much moisture, so the centre is kind of an eggy nightmare

It just wasn’t Ross’s finest hour.

Marc was in fighting spirits this round and swinging his piping bag around like the niftiest cowboy in London

His Hong Kong showcase began with a main course of Typhoon Shelter Prawns – the explanation of which the show butchered. It’s a dish originating from boat dwellers who would set up shop in public typhoon shelters and serve predominantly crab but prawn was common too. Besides the locality to Hong Kong, the dish is mostly characterised by the fact it is fried in enough garlic to kill an elephant

I suppose at least we’re going to once and for all prove if Thomasina is in fact a vampire that never ages or not.
Alongside his garlic entombed prawns he is serving Shrimp Fried Rice and a Pak Choi and Mushroom stir-fry and absolutely no sauce

the lack of a sauce was a mistake but all of the other components have such bold flavours that I don’t even know what sauce you would serve with it – he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

His dessert was a very interesting sounding blend of Madeleines and Bubble Tea. The bubble tea element being deconstructed into an Earl Grey flavoured Whipped Cream with some Tapioca Pearls on the side.
He was unfortunately another victim of The Sauce Gremlin that decided to inhabit the kitchen for the afternoon as his cream wasn’t cool enough to thicken and had to be served as a lukewarm tea cream on the side

It just doesn’t look complete and I think maybe Madeleines weren’t the best choice for this, they don’t sit right on a plate and I don’t know if dollops of whipped cream would have helped it aesthetically. They’re also a touch overdone but the bitterness of the slight scorching does kind of compliment the tea and is luckily mellowed by the cream and tapioca. There’s definitely a very good dessert there, I think it just needs some tweaking to take it to the level that Marc is clearly capable of.

It was a turbulent round for almost everyone with hits and misses across the board but ultimately Marc and Jo showed that little bit of extra flare in their dishes and they make up the final two spots in the quarterfinal

I feel really bad for Ross and Lino because they would probably have been put through in 1 or two of the other weeks, I’m mentioning no names STEFAN’s PURPLE POTATO RING.

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