How many professional chefs does it take to open a tin of SPAM?
We’re hitting all of the MasterChef: The Professional tropes tonight: tartares galore, new and awful things being done to scallops and professional chefs being flummoxed by every day ingredients.
Kicking off the first of our quarter-finals is a challenge for Dan, Anthony, John and Nico to put together a restaurant ready dish from a selection of humble tinned and preserved foods. Although they said “humble” and yet Nico managed to find preserved confit duck legs
£12.99 at Waitrose by the way.
Sadly the production staff missed the opportunity to have at least one of the cans filled with spring snakes
TaskmasterChef if you will.
It might have helped jolt some inspiration into Dan who had completely HTTP 404’d, muddled around a bit and made like a tired parent at 5pm on a Thursday and cooked spaghetti with a tomato sauce. A plan that Marcus was not a fan of
Sadness in his eyes.
He was at least “fancying” it up with anchovies, capers and preserved lemons as well as making his own pasta. Well, trying to make his own pasta
so with his mysteriously textured pasta dough choking up the pasta mangle something fierce, he was forced to use dried spaghetti which was at least more in keeping with the ethos of the challenge. Unfortunately it did mean that he couldn’t even fall back on the fact he had showcased his culinary skills because his dish was quite literally just pasta and a tomato sauce
I do like that he presented in the style of a Seussian mountain at least? But the sauce to pasta ratio leans a little dry and he gets a real dressing down from Marcus who falls just short of reciting Tyra Banks’s infamous “I was rooting for you!” monologue. But Marcus’s biggest disappointment was the fact Dan hadn’t “pulled from his repertoire” which was basically a way of telling him to cook more Thai inspired food without directly telling him to make more Thai inspired food, which always annoys me as a critique given that a big part of this competition is showing your variety and range, which granted, Thursday night pasta isn’t really doing either, please don’t think I’m trying to die on a hill that Dan’s pasta was a good idea.
Anthony verged on getting similar critiques to Dan with Masala spiced Baked Beans, but he had at least gone a little more chef-y and made a Sumac crouton and a side of panisse soldiers garnished with hazelnuts which now appears to be A Thing
there was also a lime cream that kind of just sat on the side looking ever so slightly too much like mashed potato
The panisse are the only things that get rave reviews because the beans are a little bit too spicy for everyone but Marcus still describes it all as “funky and quirky” because it does sounds like the sort of dish that you’d find on a brunch menu in Shoreditch.
While Anthony mostly just used the SPAM as a garnish for his dish, John was somewhat making it the star of his dish as he fried it and used it to top his Cannellini Bean and Cockle Cassoulet
I don’t know if it’s the most appetising looking plate of food, those nasturtium leaves are certainly doing a lot of heavy lifting in terms of saving it from looking like a collage of Dulux beige samples. But both Monica and Marcus enjoy it and praise him very highly for his selection of ingredients as we as his cooking of them, with the only negative being that the deep-fried artichokes are ever so slightly bitter.
Lastly we have Nico who was essentially doing everything that Marcus was annoyed at Dan for not doing as he pulled from his Gibraltarian roots to create a dish of Duck and Black Garlic Croquettes served on a Spiced Couscous and a Spanish bean stew called Potaje
it’s certainly the most successful dish in terms of sounding like it’s from a restaurant menu, not that that’s hard if you cook anything involving duck. Unfortunately for Nico the croquettes are the only good thing about the dish with his couscous being overcooked and stodgy and there just not being enough time to properly cook down and reduce the bean stew to that rich, unctuous consistency that it needed to be.
A Canned Food Dish Ranking
- John’s Can’o’Beige
- Anthony’s Firy Breakfast
- Nico’s Humble £12.99 Can of Duck Confit
- Dan’s Thursday Night Emergency Pasta
The Critics’ Chamber
The deciding round of the quarter-final is, as ever, cooking for the critics with this week’s trio being Jimi Famurewa, William Sitwell and Tracey Macleod. And as is customary in this round, there are indeed two starters which are mostly just cured, raw meat. This showdown being between Dan and Nico, the former of which was going the fish route with his Salmon Kinilaw – Kinilaw essentially being the Filipino word for “ceviche” and literally translating to “eaten raw”
I think he at least did quite a good job of elevating a ceviche with his Kombu and Coconut Sauce and it all certainly went down well with the judges – Jimi spent a significant amount of time fawning over the compressed cucumber – but they do have some minor issues with the salmon that they all believe to be overly cured but it rather paled in comparison to Nico who had laced his Venison Tartare with enough truffle oil to deal a significant amount of psychic damage to Jimi
I’m honestly mostly in awe of the fact any of the critics and judges could bring themselves to eat it considering that with its rather lurid presentation it did look like the most forbidden Party Ring
aside from the assault of truffle oil, the soy and egg yolk gel goes down very well with the critics who were mercifully spared seeing how it was made
Friends fear that Ariadne is creating cursed content again.
Nico’s main course of Salted Cod with Kombu-buttered Kale was at least a lot more pleasing – both aesthetically and gustatorily
it’s a very light dish, which I think is merciful given that the critics are having to eat 8 plates of food but to me it’s not a plate of food that makes sense after a tartare but I’m not sure how much the judges actually care about that? His cooking of the cod and accompanying mussels was absolutely perfect. Also, shout out to the subtitler who used the wrong “mussels/muscles” in the captions
calm down E.L. James.
As for Dan’s main course, he was embracing his mixed Irish and Chinese heritage and cooking Soy-marinated Beef Sirloin with Spring Onion Mashed Potato, Pak Choi and Crispy Lotus Roots with absolutely no accompanying sauce but much like his Panicked Pasta, he was serving it like a bit of a junk mountain
I just enjoy that the two crispy lotus roots look like the wheels of a discarded, rusty bicycle.
The lack of a sauce was never brought up by the critics and I think with the moistness of that beef, the mashed potato and Pak Choi generally being quite watery, it wouldn’t exactly be a dry dish but Marcus needed something to gripe about I guess.
Having been unable to big up his foraging skills in the tinned food challenge, John was going all out for his menu and somewhere there’s a blackcurrant bush with absolutely no leaves left as they’re all currently in his sauce that was accompanying his Roasted Lamb Neck, Potato Rosti and Obligatory Fancy Roscoff Onion main course
the critics are all rendered momentarily speechless by how good the dish is but William Sitwell did eventually manage to gather himself and offer yet another cursed comment about how the blackcurrant leaf sauce was “like a lotion.” which is a highly unappetising turn of phrase.
John went from strength to strength with his dessert of a soufflé inspired by a Cherry Bakewell Tart that was filled with a cherry jam and topped with a shortbread biscuit which everyone was concerned would affect the rising however…
I mean, it’s not exactly baking ice cream into a soufflé levels of culinary wizardry (Alex, I think about you every day) but I’ll give it 2nd Best Magic Soufflé. There’s absolutely nothing negative said about it and it’s very swiftly subbed a masterwork and the most delightful thing Monica ate all day.
Lastly we have Anthony who in all honesty made two of the most baffling dishes I’ve seen on MasterChef – they were just thoroughly confused and not even in a big bombastic kind of way that at least makes them fun, these were overwrought and very much felt like a young chef that’s not quite sure of their culinary personality. He was starting with that MasterChef favourite – the Scallop and was hasselbacking them and stuffing them with macadamia nuts
which everyone promptly says “I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before!” and well, there might be a reason for that because nobody really enjoyed it and the general concensus is that the macadamia nuts would’ve been better off as a topping. I’m not really sure how much faith Anthony himself had in this dish considering he was doing the whole smoked cloche gimmick that feels very Great British Menu circa 2015
and it wasn’t even a tea smoke or seaweed or something that might compliment the flavours it was just regular old woodchips so I can only imagine it smelled like a campfire when they lifted the cloche.
His main course wasn’t quite so gimmicky but was equally strange and disparate with his roasted poussin served alongside a spring roll stuffed with Swiss chard, tandoori poussin leg and mousseron, which are mushrooms and not a Pokemon
it’s just a weird, incomplete plate of food – like a very picky eater’s scavengings from a conference buffet. It’s at least all well cooked though, not that anyone particularly appreciates having to eat it. I can’t even think of what would have brought the dish together, it’s just a real non-starter. I think Anthony is definitely one of those chefs that would probably have made a good run for the final had they been on the show in another 2 or 3 years time because he’s clearly very knowledgeable and skilled in the kitchen but his dish conceptualisation is a little lacking in experience.
A Critics’ Chamber Dish Ranking
- The Second Best Soufflé In Town
- John Really Stuck His Lamb Neck Out
- Dan’s Main Course, Saucelessness and All
- Nico’s Very Light Cod
- Dan’s Overcured Salmon
- Nico’s Forbidden Party Ring
- Anthony’s Hasselback Scallops
- Anthony’s Buffet Scroungings
One thing was incredibly obvious and that was that John was the undeniable winner of the episode and so he’s our first semi-finalist of the series
and really it was then a choice about whether Dan or Nico was more worthy of being forgiven for their overcuring. I was sure I was about to lose My Honourable Series Boyfriend to the critics once again and yet My Boy™ made it
May the sauce be with him.
I’m gutted for Nico to be honest and I think he’ll go down as one of the chefs that probably would have had a good shot at going further had he been on any other week.
And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the MasterChef: The Professionals and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.