MasterChef 2021, Episode 15: Fine Dining Vultures

Who amongst us isn’t?

It’s the last episode of Semi-final Week and with three critics to impress there’s a lot of pressure on the final 6 contestants!

The Critics’ Chamber

For the final round of semi-finals week the contestants will have to cook a dish for three of the MasterChef Rotary Critics: Grace Dent Again, Jay Rayner and a Now Covid Safe Jimi Famurewa

I will never get bored of the comedically large 3 person table.

They did have to only cook 1 dish but Mike decided to throw caution to the wind and served two dishes on one plate.
I think he had probably originally intended to just cook a straightforward Risotto alla Milanese – which is a risotto made by cooking off the base ingredients in bone marrow and then spiced with saffron. It’s a rich, hearty dish but does look rather simple when you just serve up a bowl of very tasty, very sloppy yellow rice. Mike’s solution to this was to then basically serve the risotto with a whole second dish of Rib of Beef with Buttered Girolles, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and a Rosemary Jus

there was also a Parmesan Crisp and some hurriedly grated on truffle too because Mike is Mike.
Honestly the fact he always does so much absolutely perfectly in the time limit is incredible. He’s like a culinary Terminator. But it is unanimously agreed that the plate is overly large.

Mike wasn’t the only one making a big deal out of bone marrow, in fact Laura was making it the star of her dish and serving it alongside a, in her words, “side dish of fillet steak” – which I’m not sure is true considering the steak was bigger in quantity than the bone marrow that yes, she was serving in the bone as though the critics were a trio of fine dining vultures

Astounded and impressed that Grace Dent didn’t scream in fear as she remembered having to eat Jono’s bone marrow crème brulee, lest we forget her struggle

The judges were a little cool on the dish, they liked her creative ideas but Jay Rayner longed for even just an ounce of texture to go with it because the bone marrow is kind of sludgy

apparently the celeriac croquette wasn’t good enough for Mr. Rayner. SOMEONE GET THE MAN A SALTINE.

While the Bone Marrow Battle waged on, Madeeha and Tom were in Fish Face Off with Madeeha opting for a dish of pan-fried Sea Bass, Potato Straws, Crushed Minted Peas and an interesting salad made of Fennel, Mooli and Cucumber as well as a spiral of Tamarind Sauce

It’s at least the most successful spiral we’ve seen on the show so far, not that the bar was very high considering the previous efforts

her dish goes down very well with the critics and judges alike with Grace going as far to say that the salad is the best thing she’s eaten all year which means it was either a very, very good salad or Grace Dent had the worst 2020 of us all.

Nando’s Tom’s fish dish was slightly more polarising. He was drawing inspiration from his Eat, Pray, Love adventure through India and everyone’s favourite 2017 past time: Brunch! This combination brought forward a dish of Pan-fried Halibut with Tomato and Coconut Granola, Triple Cooked Chaat Masala Chips and a Curried Hollandaise Sauce that he had whipped to give a mousse-like texture

The critics love every part of it but aren’t quite sure of the dish as a whole and Jimi had to swallow his pride and tell us that the granola is surprisingly pleasant. I’m so sad that Alexina never got to serve the critics her lightly spiced breakfast cereals. John and Gregg on the other hand like most of the dish but the chips are crumbling apart

I’m sure they were a touch soggy but John is really grinding it down. Chips are not indestructible potato superheroes.

with The Bone Marrow Battle and The Fish Face Off going on, Claire and Alexina were left to have a Dessert-based Duel. I say “duel” it was a bit more of an absolute curb stomping on Alexina’s part. It very much felt like Claire had exhausted the entire Kentish coast of all its natural resources and was left only with rhubarb with which she was making a galette and by galette, I barely mean a galette, all she did was lie her rhubarb and pistachio puree on a bit of pastry that I’m going to assume she made herself

It’s more of a Mille-Feuille Bungalow.

This was then accompanied by custard that was swirled around on her plate as though she was trying to communicate with Amy Adams

as you can imagine this resulted in a fairly meagre amount of custard that everyone was mortally offended by because unsurprisingly a bit of a puff pastry and some unsauced rhubarb is kind of dry.
It was a very strange misstep from Claire because while her previous dishes have been relatively uncomplicated they’ve had a sense of style to them, this dessert looked like the kind of thing you make in 5 minutes in the summer because it seems too hot for a crumble

and I’m sure it seems a little worse than it was because Mike is over in the corner being a kitchen-friendly T800 and Alexina is making the second best soufflé we’ve ever seen on the show.

I say “second best” because I for one am still hung up on the fact Alex in MasterChef: The Professionals 2018 baked ice cream into the centre of his soufflé and I think about it at least once a day. Alexina, while not giving us ice cream wizardry, was hiding a slice of rum-soaked cake in the bottom of her Dark Chocolate Soufflé and serving it alongside a Passionfruit Sorbet – the flavours being based around the flavours of the signature “Mogador Macarons” by famed pâtissier and chocolatier Pierre Herme. My favourite part of the episode was Alexina telling John and Gregg that she had worked with Pierre Herme and then very quickly clarifying it as “All I did was sell macarons!” How long before we have a genuine scandal that a professionally trained chef gets into Civilian MasterChef?

There was a moment of worry when her soufflés didn’t seem to be rising but she took the time to glare at them until they kicked into gear

I wonder if Pierre Hermé taught her that trick?

Luckily they do rise properly and they could not look more resplendent

it receives unanimous glowing reviews from both the critics and the judges – it’s nice to see Alexina back on track after the slight blips in which she almost melted Marcus Wareing’s brain.

It was kind of obvious how this was going to go down as they had Claire and Tom on the chopping block because he had given them a single soggy chip and ultimately Claire is sent back to the Kentish Coast

I really liked Claire’s approach and I do very much hope she gets to publish her Romney Marsh journal one day. You can follow her on Instagram at Claires_Kitchentable.

And on a more serious note, the show ended on a tribute to food critic and MasterChef megalith, Charles Campion who died late last year

He was a cornerstone of MasterChef and by all accounts a joy to work with and his presence will be remembered and sorely missed.

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