MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, Episode 1: Monkfish Hecatomb

I think we might be slightly mixing metaphors there but… I get the gist.

Content Warning: Piscine Hate Crimes.

Right off the top, I am as baffled as everyone else by quite why they’ve scheduled the Monday show as an EastEnders Sandwich but I’m going to be treating it as 1 consecutive episode because apparently I care more about the show than the BBC does. I can only imagine that next series we’ll have to phone and pre-order every second episode off the back of the TV Choice magazine – you get a free Monica Galetti ringtone if you pay in one installment!


As usual we start with the skills test, the first being from Marcus Wareing whose challenge was the deceptively simple Bangers and Mash. We shouldn’t really be surprised that neither of the two chefs fully rose to the occasion considering the 2018 series when 3 consecutive chefs all failed to make an adequate grilled chicken sandwich, and one of them was indeed someone who worked in a garden centre café and should have known better. And, really we only say that they didn’t rise to the occasion because Marcus was expecting them to flambee their onions in brandy

doesn’t everyone?
First up was private chef Dan and his statement facial hair, who is an early contender for My Honourable Series Boyfriend

I fully expect him to be eviscerated in the Critics’ Chamber – EVERY. DAMN. SERIES. BURHAN, I’LL NEVER FORGIVE YOU.
Being a private chef he apparently doesn’t get asked to make Bangers and Mash very often – I fully expect he’s mostly coming on to the show to escape the slow Goopening of his mind – there’s only so many times you can cook a Paleo Eggs Benedict for Gwyneth-Lite in Kensington before you go utterly insane.
Nothing goes particularly right for Dan from his sausages rupturing

which he at least stopped trying to cook in the pan at this point and whacked them in the oven out of shame and so that the camera operators couldn’t film them anymore.
His biggest sin though was the fact that in his flustered panic he strained the onions out of the gravy, which might have given us a rather thin and pitiful sauce but did give us one of the greatest soundbites in MasterChef history

the fact she’s sitting on her own in a cupboard only makes it 10 times funnier.
But his dish certainly wasn’t bad

I do appreciate the authentic greenlessness that was an unstated requirement of this particular challenge – Bangers and Mash is always 50 shades of beige, it’s a British staple for a reason. I think over all he might have had the better dish, mostly because his mashed potato was mashed potato and not whatever lab experiment Nico had created

if they don’t contain that starchy lump it will slowly consume us all – WHAT HAVE YOU DONE NICO?
In his favour was the fact he didn’t strain all of the onions out of his Onion Gravy… and he had pulled off a Grade A MasterChef favourite: The Sausage Stack

sadly even with onions in the gravy the whole thing lacks a certain depth of flavour, I imagine because it’s all slowly being consumed by the very existence of that oppressively gloopy mashed potato.

Ragout to Riches

In a complete departure from the homeliness of Marcus’s Bangers and Mash (Brandy Optional), Monica’s skills test was for the chefs to prepare and cook a fillet of Monkfish and serve it with a bacon and pea ragout. There were numerous pitfalls to be had with this dish – the fact that the ragout needed to be started first to get it all cooked through properly but most threateningly was the preparing of the monkfish and the fact that, like ogres and onions, they apparently have many layers which if not removed will cause the fish to tighten up when cooked.
The first poor unfortunate soul to take on the challenge was this year’s obligatory Superyachter, Lauren, who took us on quite the journey of Monkfish Ruination as she just went full Wolverine on her piece of monkfish

and all anyone could do as Lauren took out her simmering rage on that fish was watch in horror

and Monica was forced to ask the most pressing question

WELL ACT LIKE IT LAUREN. Because right now it looks like you have a long running family blood feud with an entire species of deep sea fish!
And yet, despite seemingly ripping it to pieces and killing it all over again, she still hadn’t removed all of the membrane as it shrunk rather rapidly in the pan

but the monkfish wasn’t the only thing causing her issues as in a moment of panic, most likely because she had finally twigged to the general air of fear and loathing that had consumed the room since she started cooking the fish, she added stock far too early to her ragout and it did look very sad

it wasn’t a great round for Lauren and the only thing that earns her much praise is the fact she fried some lettuce next to her fish

as for the rest of it, Marcus mostly takes issue with the amount of bacon ion display and quite frankly how dare he, the bacon limit does not exist. But really it was Lauren’s skills that came under the most fire – I think she just needed to slow down a little bit and some people just aren’t cut out for a studio cooking environment, that’s fine, I’m sure her café is an absolute treat.

But she’s in good company because her partner in monkfish hecatomb was Dario who was originally from Portugal and helped Gregg realise that people from other countries sometimes don’t speak English – I’m glad this show is an educational experience for someone.
He also failed to adequately remove the skin and membrane from his monkfish but was thankfully a lot less visceral about it all. He did however make the rather baffling decision to then cook everything in the same pan, which Monica just smirked at knowing exactly where this was about to go

because he was also seemingly cooking everything for the same amount of time so the fish kind of sort of just sat in the simmering pan of ragout pulling itself into such tight balls that it looked like it might cease to exist entirely

but you will be relieved to know that his lettuce got a separate pan

I am going to need everyone to stop cooking lettuce though, just for 1 series, it always just looks so sad and wilted!
Much like Lauren, Monica spent most of the time watching Dario cook with a look of unbridled suspicion

it was like she was convinced that ragout was about to beat her up.
The final dish did at least look correct

and his flavours and logic behind it all were sound, it was just a lot of awkward processes and with just a few alterations here and there it would have been a pretty spot on dish.

Signature Menus

In order to redeem themselves for their Skills Test Sins, the chefs got to produce a two course signature menu and we’re making a strong start to MasterChef Bingo as we’ve got a Battle of the Lambs on our hands between Nico and Dario. The latter of which risked it big on using both a cannon of lamb and a rack of lamb. Not that Nico was taking this battle lying down as he was skewering a lamb’s heart

I don’t know why but I just really like the melodrama of Sean Pertwee saying “a skewered lamb’s heart” in his gruff, cinema trailer voice.
Unfortunately for Nico, his cannon of lamb wasn’t quite cooked enough for Marcus who didn’t trust it at all despite its thorough probing

Gregg however was happy to eat it and confirmed that it did indeed taste nice and the his seaweed crust was a nice change to the usual herb crust.
Luckily for Nico, Marcus was at least impressed with his cooking of everything else on the plate – I was a little surprised he wasn’t called out for serving them only two slices of the cannon of lamb, although given that it was bordering on raw and Dario was thoroughly lambing them out maybe it was a mercy

as for the presentation, I expected the judges to roast him for the fact it looks like he slammed that rack of lamb down on the plate like an angry medieval innkeeper and completely destroyed a spear of asparagus but Gregg was a fan of it. Somewhere Stefan, my enigma, my riddle, My Muse SEETHES over the disdain shown to his peristeronic murder scene

There isn’t a great deal to say for Dario’s lamb dish other than that he cooked it well because it is the usual herb-crusted lamb served with a pea and mint puree – a mere tomato emulsion isn’t exactly going to help it transcend to new levels of culinary ovine greatness. And sadly his dessert of a Raspberry Mille-feuille faired much worse, mostly because he left himself only about 40 seconds to plate it all up because he was too busy coiffuring his Lamb’s herbaceous barnet

and so the whole thing lacked any sense of refinement and looked a bit like someone on Come Dine With Me circa 2011 trying to make a fruit salad look a little bit more luxurious

but he was also let down by his flavours, with it apparently tasting very little of raspberry and his creme pat not being wet enough for Gregg earning it the title of “a cloggy mouthful”.
Nico at least improved with his dessert of a Goat’s Milk Yoghurt Cheesecake with a Blackberry Gel Centre

I had thought that the gel centre would be slightly more liquidy, especially as he plated the dessert up about 30 minutes before they called time but Monica seemed thrilled by the consistency, in true MasterChef filming fashion though his Bergamot Sorbet was more of a liquid

and Gregg’s expert opinion of the Blackberry Cheesecake is that it tasted of blackberries. A revelation.

In a twist of fate, Dan found it falling upon his shoulders to redeem the general cruelty shown to monkfishkind on behalf of Lauren and Dario as he set about creating a Thai inspired dish of Monkfish in a Turmeric and Coconut Curry with Charred Okra and Thai Aubergines

and he pretty much sailed through to the next round on this dish alone as the judges all go wild for it – both as a delicious dish and as a showcase of his unique style and personality. but he wasn’t done there as he had another Thai dish, this time riffing off Khao Niaow Ma Muang, or Mango Sticky Rice, which did sound amazing but did sadly see the continuation of puffed rice as a garnish

it is still a delightfully pretty looking dish though and the judges appreciate the style and delicateness of it all – praising the fact it’s not too sweet, which is a surprise given the fact it’s a mango based dessert.
I also found it rather amusing that Lauren’s dessert looked a bit like the result of someone at home trying to cook Dan’s dessert and plate it up in a similar style

which is to say that it looks like an alien nesting site.
Marcus wastes no time tearing the presentation to pieces but in Lauren’s favour is the fact her Key Lime Semifreddo is delicious and I would quite frankly like to order a bucket of that ginger streusel. Monica however would like more of the rum syrup, despite the fact there’s two rather large puddles of it on the plate.
Sadly for Lauren the flavours of her dessert alone couldn’t quite erase the disappointment of her main course in which she at least tried to show that she could cook fish

it turns out she just can’t cook fish on television as her seabass is overcooked, as are the accompanying mussels that had spared the ordeal of being turned into a rather sinister looking mussel mousse

I’m going to start writing my manifesto of things that cannot be turned into mousses, starting with any sort of shellfish and mushrooms.
The biggest mystery for Gregg though is the pair of Walker’s crisp sails that she erected on the plate, which to be fair is a sensible puzzlement but I suppose they added texture and fish and potato isn’t an unheard of combination? There was no word on whether they were Salt and Vinegar or Prawn Cocktail.

A Signature Menu Dish Ranking

  1. Just Both of Dan’s Dishes By A Mile
  2. Nico’s Blackberry Cheesecake That Tasted of Blackberry
  3. Dario’s Properly Cooked Lamb Bonanza
  4. Nico’s Thoroughly Probed Lamb Dinner
  5. Lauren’s Tasty Alien Nesting Site
  6. Lauren, Stay 500 Feet Away From Fish Forever
  7. Dario’s Fancy Fruit Salad Stack

With only two spots in the next round on offer it was a no brainer that Dan was going to take one of them

My heart, it soars.
And the second spot went to Nico

so it’s goodbye to both Lauren and Dario, cursed by monkfish!

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the MasterChef: The Professionals’ first episode and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.

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