MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, Episode 6: Government Rationed Apricot

This is fine dining Monica, you’ll be luckily to get a third of anything.

Are you ready for the word “mustard” to lose all meaning and watch a Duck a l’Orange go through a messy divorce?

I Mustard You A Question

Continuing the theme of the quarterfinals starting off with a theme designed around a poor production assistant having to completely devastate 1 particular supermarket aisle, somewhere in East London there’s a Tesco with absolutely no mustard left on its shelves

guys, there are four chefs, you could’ve bought half of this and still had too much, especially as Elena hated mustard so much she basically did everything in her power to use as little of the stuff as she could, merely smearing a pork loin in Dijon and stirring a quarter of a teaspoon of mustard powder through her sauce

the disdain for mustard that just seeps of this plate is palpable, I’d almost consider it art.

While Elena spent most of the challenge desperately willing mustard out of existence, the others were fully embracing it and just about using every variety on a single plate. And somehow with no less than 12 different types of meat on offer to the four of them, Aaron and Jamie both ended up making a dish with confit sea trout. Both of them ended up having very successful dishes, Aaron’s being ever so slightly better received because Marcus fell in love with his Dijon Mustard Beurre Blanc

I think the dish looks a touch spartan and the fact nothing is touching anything else is deeply unsettling to me, but it does seem to be Aaron’s style – it just conjures images of a crime scene in my head

CSI: MasterChef.

As for Jamie’s confit sea trout, he had garnished it like an RSPB bird hide

Marcus and Monica both very much like the dish and the fact he had used the most varieties of mustards but do think he could have pushed it all just a little bit further and given the whole thing a little more heat, particularly the water cracker which he had added “for texture and quirkiness”… my dude, it’s a water cracker that you lightly dusted with mustard powder, bless you for thinking that’s quirky.

While Jamie lacked heat from his mustard, Charith had no such issue with his Mustard Glazed Pork Belly Curry and Black Mustard and Spinach Dhal

I love that he added mustard cress to his rice just to really drive the whole mustard theme home.

It gets rave reviews and is clearly the strongest dish of the round, if only because it’s the one everyone seemed to actually enjoy eating, the two trout dishes just felt like obligated appreciation, Charith’s curry sparked actual joy.

A Mustard Dish Ranking

  1. Charith’s Curry on Mustard
  2. The Nuptials of Aaron’s Beurre Blanc and Marcus Wareing
  3. Jamie’s Totally Quirky Cracker
  4. Elena vs Mustard: A Losing Battle

Let’s Get Critical

This week’s critical trio are Grace Dent, Thomas Not-Actually-Really-Royalty-Let’s-Be-real-Parker-Bowles and William Sitwell because the man seemingly just lives in the MasterChef back room. Everything ok at home, Will?

As is tradition, there is of course at least one ceviche on offer, this week’s Raw Food Contributor was Charith, who was sticking true to his mission of showcasing Sri Lankan food by pairing his scallops with rambutan and curing them in kithul treacle – a type of palm syrup obtained in a similar fashion to maple syrup.

And with his mustard curry being praised for its spiciness, he clearly took this as an invitation to go all out on the chilli and spice

and somebody should have warned poor William Sitwell

although even with Marcus witnessing Charith sprinkling handfuls of chilli flakes over it, he was still seeing the face of God while eating it

these poor, poor white men.

It is very quickly dubbed the hottest thing that they’ve ever been served on MasterChef, so Charith is building up a nice legacy and I eagerly await him scorching Gregg from the inside out with some rare Sri Lankan chilli from the depths of the Sinharaja Forests. Do it Charith, DO IT FOR THE CLOUT. But despite the heat and the sweetness of the treacle, the flavour of the scallops isn’t lost, which is quite the achievement really.

His main course of Spiced Butter-Poached Lobster wasn’t quite so ferocious and was an interesting combination of cooking styles of culinary backgrounds, featuring a Tempura Lobster Claw, Samphire and a Chilli Coconut Sauce flavoured with Lunu Miris, a Sri Lanka chilli and salt mix with “Lunu Miris” literally translating to, you guessed it, Salt Chilli. And while you might expect the lobster bits to be the obvious highlights of the dish, it’s his potato salad that earns him the most praise

I’m just pleased to see a lobster being treated with respect after the three of them that suffered at the hands of Megan McKenna on Celebrity MasterChef this year, Lest We Forget

Mitch Tonks still has nightmares about this.

Charith wasn’t the only chef cooking lobster as Jamie had a Miso Butter-poached Lobster for his Nikkei inspired starter. Nikkei being the resulting cuisine of the large Japanese population in Peru, and if you want to read more about it (and I thoroughly suggest you do, it’s really quite an interesting history) here’s an article from Food&Wine. In short, it’s essentially traditional Peruvian ingredients cooked with Japanese culinary techniques.
Alongside his lobster he was making a pair of Jalapeno and Aji Emulsions – Aji being a Peruvian chilli pepper. And the whole thing was being plated up a little swampily

it’s all in those tiny little green balls that I still haven’t quite worked out what are, it’s all a little too amphibian.

The critics however disagree with me and think it’s one of the most beautiful plates of food they’ve ever seen, but they also really liked Aaron’s second crime scene of the day so I’m not going to entirely trust their opinions on aesthetics to be quite honest.
He had forgotten about making his saffron tuile but nobody particularly minded the absence of any crunch because the whole thing was cooked so beautifully, and I imagine the watermelon cubes added at least a little bit of something to chew on as well as relieving them of some of the heat from his emulsions.

For his main course Jamie was taking us back to 2006 with a main course that felt distinctly like it belonged on Great British Menu as an ode to Britain’s poultry farmers. I mean he was brining guineafowl, using far too much hay and serving his sauce in an egg, surrounded by hay, under a cloche full of smoke

and just to drive the whole nest/bird theme home, he had cured a single egg yolk and carefully placed it on a potato nest

I’m just pleased he stopped there and didn’t serve the whole thing inside a birdbox while a soundtrack of birdsong played in the background.

They don’t seem to mind the gimmicky trappings of the dish (admittedly it’s better than NOTHING CAN TOUCH ANYTHING) but they did seem tentative to overly praise the dish, I imagine after the uniqueness of his starter, it’s a little hard to get overly excited about fancy roast dinner. Which was also kind of Elena’s own undoing, starting with a main course of very square beef, confit potatoes, butternut puree and a peppercornless peppercorn sauce in what was a cacophony of beige

My kingdom for a single pea.

It’s a dish that’s hard to get overly enthusiastic about in amongst all of the others being served to you and it didn’t help that none of it was particularly well seasoned – the beef being overly seasoned and the sauce lacking anything at all. Grace Dent mostly lamented the lack of crispiness to the potatoes but, and this might just be me being plebeian gastronome, I don’t think a confit potato was meant to be crispy? I’m sure it would have benefitted the dish for it to have SOME texture SOMEWHERE though.

She continued to champion “home comforts”, mostly defined by being able to eat something with a spoon apparently, with her pudding of an Apple Crumble. BUT! Because this was MasterChef: The Professionals she was doing unGodly things to this poor dessert staple. I think the most unforgivable thing being the fact she had replaced the delightful stodge of custard that should legally accompany a crumble at all times with a custard foam

at least there was a lot of it, I guess?

As well as the custard sacrilege she had cooked the apples and crumble separately and the crumble, according to William Sitwell, was less of a crumble and more of a glued together granola. But it was her over-egging of the dessert with an apple granita and tuile that was more cardboard than biscuit that did her in

given that’s she’s spoken quite a bit about how much she hates doing pastry and desserts, I can’t comprehend why she’d choose to do one for this round considering she could have quite comfortably done a starter and a main course. You make one good popcorn parfait and suddenly you think you’re François Massialot. At least they liked her caramel sauce?

Calm down Gregg Wallace.

Lastly we have Aaron who was cooking a dish consisting mostly of mackerel and apples for his starter

IS IT? Is it really? Where? I would quite like to know because the very thought of fish and apples together brings me out in a cold sweat, it just does something to me, and there was A LOT of apple hiding under that mackerel

I suppose I should just be happy that he permitted his ingredients to touch one another.

The dish is a little divisive, they all appreciate the aesthetic of the dish and while most of them get on fine with the whole dish, William Sitwell isn’t entirely convinced by it. I regret to inform you that William Sitwell and I are on the same wavelength, God help me.

As for his main course, he was pulling a bit of a Susan Harper and making Duck a l’Orange but substituting the orange for apricot, sadly not going as far as replacing the duck with beef mince though. I dare you Aaron, serve Richard Branson a plate of Boeuf Haché aux Abricots.
Once again with Aaron everything was served utterly separated from one another like someone had dissected a plate of food

I also can’t quite believe he got away with serving less food for his main course than he did for his starter? Marcus, SAY SOMETHING. You have the power to put an end to this.

Everyone does very much enjoy their one (1) sliver of duck, a morsel of charred chicory and their government rationed apricot. The latter of which, is lovely in its vanilla booziness having been steeped in almond liqueur but all agree that it does not belong on the plate, socially distanced as it is. Marcus was ok with it, he just needed something a little more acidic to cut through the cloyingness of the apricot sauce.

A Critics’ Chamber Dish Ranking

  1. Charith’s Sri Lankan Ceviche
  2. Charith’s Potato Salad with a Side of Lobster
  3. Jamie’s Lobster sans Tuile
  4. Jamie’s 15 Year Late Great British Menu Entry
  5. Mackerel and Apple is a Classic Now
  6. Aaron’s Self-divorcing Duck a l’Orange
  7. Elena’s Cacophony of Beige Beef
  8. Elena’s Crumble of Crumbled Hopes

With Charith and Jamie having unanimously strong rounds it was pretty obvious that the two of them would be moving on to the semi-final, and sure enough they both did

but it wasn’t as though Aaron had had a bad day in the kitchen, his stuff might have been a little bit divisive but it was all well cooked and sure enough he also passes on through to the semi-final

which must have been a little gutting for Elena but her two dishes for the critics just didn’t match the high bar that the others had all set and cleared. May she continue to hate pastry in peace.

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.

Leave a Reply