Gotta love a niche insult.
It’s the final heat and Marcus Wareing has clearly run out of dish ideas for the Skills Test and is only embracing chaos.
Apparently Marcus Wareing was just very dedicated to truly hellish seafood dishes this week because after the inexplicable Tiger Prawn Omelette on Monday, this episode’s Skills Test was to have the chefs make Squid on Toast with a Herb Vinaigrette which is a perfectly normal middle of the road gastro pub starter and then for absolutely no rhyme or reason other than to make sure the challenge took 20 minutes he decided that alongside it all he wanted them to make him a red wine sauce
Marcus Polonius Wareing, are you ok? WHO IS EATING SQUID AND RED WINE?
The chefs facing Marcus’s seafood brainfart were Gina and Daniel, both of whom at least knew how to prepare and cook squid so we didn’t have to relive the events of Megan McKenna exacting her anti-shellfish crusade while making calamari on Celebrity MasterChef.
It was the red wine sauce making that really set the two apart as Gina, who is Not-a-Vegan™ but works in a Vegan Pub, didn’t quite manage to reduce the sauce down enough and ended up with what I can only describe as a sauce that looked like the bit of a biscuit that broke off in your tea as a liquid
but at least she knew it was a bit of a disaster and more than made up for it with some sublimely cooked squid
and her plate looked significantly more appetising than Marcus’s, largely because it’s not being served alongside what looked like a pool of congealing blood because her sauce had been safely wrangled into a jug.
Daniel on the other hand had decided to trim his squid into little strips and finish it all off by briefly deglazing it with some of the wine which did give his squid an unfortunate pinky red colour and that combined with the green vinaigrette was all a bit The Star Wars Trash Compactor scene
The judges loved it all at least and were especially impressed with how well he worked, mostly in regards to how nifty with a knife he is but I’m sure his wine reducing capabilities were impressive too.
The Final Pear
Continuing Marcus’s trend of just putting things on a plate and hoping for the best, Monica’s Skills Test was to make a Coffee Caramel Poached Pear with a Praline Cream and a Muscovado Crumb – you know, that classic dish? Granted, I am glad that it’s not yet another pear poached in red wine, Marcus apparently used all of it to serve with his squid. The Lord giveth and he taketh away.
The first chef to have to guess their way through the making of a praline cream was Enrique who committed the cardinal sin of not making his initial praline with a wet caramel and so when he blended up his nuts to make the praline they turned to a powder and not a paste. How dare he? Cancel this man immediately. His praline wasn’t the only thing that was a little too powdery as he put a little too much flour into his muscovado crumb
which did mean everyone very promptly stopped calling it a crumb and reverted to “crumble” because what we ended up with was mostly just a deconstructed pear crumble as his pears hadn’t really taken on any of the coffee flavour
and he wasn’t doing himself any favours by placing the quenelle of cream atop his very warm pears which is Marcus’s personal pet peeve and I adore how angry is makes him. Bulls see red, Marcus Wareing sees slowly melting cream.
The last of our chefs was Matt who fully embraced the weirdness of asking people to make a praline cream as though it’s a universal known by turning it into a 7 step process involving far too many frying pans and sieves. But maybe he did know how to make it because he mjust have come across it in his travels around the world that he’s so proud of – specifically only mentioning Australia and centre of the universe: London. You know, the world. Argentina? Hardly know her. Japan whomst? Morocco? I don’t think.
Rather oddly his 7 step praline cream making technique didn’t involve the all important clotted cream and given that Matt is a white man who loves foraging, they of course give him a little guiding hint
NO. Let the man serve you the mere ethos of cream.
As it turned out, it didn’t make much of a difference because Matt’s cream still didn’t have any body to it as he dribbled his beige cream around his beiger pear and crumb
much like Enrique he didn’t manage to infuse his pear with nearly enough coffee but they do deign to call his muscovado crumb a muscovado crumb and Gregg lauds him for there seemingly not being a process he didn’t know how to do. Except for you know, making a praline cream?
Having been subjected to making disaster squid in her Skills Test and wanting to show off the vegan cooking she specialises in, Gina was creating an entirely vegan menu starting with a Thai Red Asparagus and Mushroom Curry which are probably two of the more uncurriable vegetables. In order to elevate it slightly above just being a bowl of curry, she was serving it alongside some shiso leaves and rice noodles
The idea being that you would use the the leaves as a wrap to eat the curry. Well, that was the idea
I absolutely choose to believe that Marcus Wareing would indeed eat a fajita with a spoon.
They really liked the way she served up the dish as well as the heat levels and spicing of the curry but the texture of it was a little suspect with it being quite grainy due to the pulpiness of the ginger she added. Her textural woes only continued into her dessert as her Lime and Cashew Nut Milk Parfait has a similarly weird grainy texture and her mango gel topping hadn’t quite set
which while disappointing, did have a rather satisfying ooze to it when she released the dish from its ring mould
it’s a brilliantly conceptualised dish – a good mix of textures between the parfait, the would-be-gel and the puffed rice base. Flavour-wise it’s a hit too, once again drawing from Thailand with a pandan leaf granita that had mercifully set so at least it wasn’t a complete washout for Gina, it might not have been the roaring success of vegan food on MasterChef that she wanted it to be, but nor was it a total disaster.
While Gina drew from her love of Thailand, Matt was drawing from his love of picking random leaves in the countryside and just hoping for the best and like many foragers before him, he was putting a twist on the roast chicken dinner. But unlike the foragers before him, this one actually might have been rather successful, but was of course served in the obligatory ancient sacrificial circle
One can only break the mould *so much*.
The judges go pretty barmy for it, especially the yarrow mousse that he had put under the chicken skin, which personally I found to be a wholly upsetting sight
and I’m sure their raving about the dish had absolutely nothing to do with the fact he covered the dish in a whole week’s pay worth of truffle
“A little hint of truffle” said Marcus as the MasterChef ingredient budget writhes and screams on its deathbed. No wonder there was a tinned food challenge, well done Matt you defunded The BBC.
The foraging theme continued into his dessert where he was showing off another of his favourite British leaves
Plot twist: Angelica is the name of his wife. Some people say “foraging”, I say “burying bodies in the woods.”
The angelica was being used in a granita to accompany his buckwheat custard filled buckwheat sponge and rhubarb compote
much like with his main course, the judges are all rather smitten with it and lavish praise upon the harmony of flavours with the sharp rhubarb, the malty buckwheat and the grassiness of the angelica, which was allegedly a compliment. And given the fact the footage of Marcus, Gregg and Monica all eating the thing was accompanied by the instrumental version of Breathe Me by Sia (no, really) Matt is absolutely a finalist.
Leaves were very much en vogue for this episode as Enrique was steaming his salted cod loin in fig leaves to give it a vaguely coconutty flavour
it’ an unusual dish in that I don’t think I could place it as being of a particular cuisine with the very Spanish salted cod combined with a lemongrass veloute and pak choy – it’s just a very original sounding dish and the judges respond incredibly well to it despite having some reservations about where the pak choy and lemongrass would come into play.
His dessert was much less successful in terms of its aesthetic, mostly because his strawberry set custard was a truly upsetting shade of mauve the likes of which you only see on NHS waiting room walls – that’s Heather Bloom 4 over on the Dulux colour finder by the way
and I’m not sure white strawberries are ever going to excite me, what did though was his leche frita, which was basically tempura panna cotta and quite frankly the fact Spain has been hiding this from us for YEARS is… I was going to say a hate crime but we probably deserve it for the whole Spanish Armada incident. LOOK WHAT YOU DID ELIZABETH, YOU ROBBED OF US OF YEARS OF FRIED MILK. Couldn’t have just embraced diplomacy, you had to leap straight to fire.
The judges do at least enjoy all of the flavours and revel in the fun of eating tempura panna cotta, thereby mocking me and my lack of it in my life right now – I genuinely stared at a recipe for 10 minutes afterwards contemplating whether it was worth the fire hazard that would be deep frying anything to try it. Don’t worry, I decided against it, my family is safe.
Lastly we have Daniel who was drawing inspiration from the food his grandmother cooked, his main course being a take on Mackerel Alimado, a dish from the Algarve
The judges love the presentation, personally I think it looks a bit like someone melted a troupe of clowns and all that remains of them are their garish colours and red noses but this does seem to just be his plating aesthetic given his introductory VT
and hey, who doesn’t love some dedication to bowls of nonsense?
Going by the judges’ reactions and the fact Marcus describes it as “majestic” I would say Daniel’s main course was easily the dish of the episode – apologies to the world’s most expensive and quirky roast dinner, mackerel wins again. Thankfully this time with 100% less apple.
For his dessert, Daniel was attempting the riskily simple Rice Pudding which is almost always met with the same resounding “meh” as a risotto always is – it’s hard to elevate a bowl of delicious stodgy rice to anything beyond a bowl of delicious stodgy rice. However Daniel’s Saffron Rice Pudding which he had enriched with an egg yolk went down an absolute storm
and it is nice to see an egg yolk being put to good use and not for pure evil
I, and all of ovum-kind, never forgive you Nic.
The judges love the rice pudding so much that the show was actually willing to allow him to utter the words “Rice Krispies”
and if that isn’t the ultimate sign of a MasterChef winner, I don’t know what is! That and the fact his food seems genuinely original and of a cuisine we don’t see very much on the show so I eagerly await to see what else he brings to the show – especially if the restaurant he works at’s Instagram is anything to go by.
A Signature Menu Dish Ranking
- The Very Concept of Tempura Panna Cotta
- Daniel’s Bowl of Melting Clowns
- Would You Like Some Chicken With Your Truffle?
- A Transcendent Rice Pudding
- Enrique’s Well-leafed Cod
- Matt’s Ominous Angelica Pulp Pudding
- Enrique’s Pudding sans Tempura Panna Cotta
- Gina’s Textural Vegan Woes
- Gina’s Textural Vegan Woes 2: Cashew Nut Boogaloo
It was a tough round to judge and really the only chef who had a poor showing in the signature menu round was Gina. And so, rather guttingly because I really think she’s a very talented chef and could have a great career as a TV chef given how natural and charming she was on the show, Gina is very quickly cut and Enrique, Daniel and Matt all go through to the quarterfinal
quick, nobody talk about optics.
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