MasterChef: The Professionals 2021, Episode 12: The Full Hannibal Hog

It’s sophisticated gravy drinking because his pinky is out.

It’s the last of our semi-finals and seemingly a race to see who can annoy Jay Rayner the most!

Say Cheese!

We start the episode as all things should be started: with an abundance of cheese as the bumper crop of quarterfinalists are tasked with creating a dish that puts cheese at the forefront of the plate and because there was an extra chef amongst them, at the end of the round someone would be eliminated – which I think should have been precedent the entire time as it makes this challenge feel like it counts for something more than to just pad out the runtime.

Nobody was more thrilled about this cheese-based challenge than Matt who is facing dairy-induced financial ruin

some people say “I love to forage”, I say “free food is free food.”

He was however playing it cool and was only opting for 3 different types of cheese – coating his pork loin in a crumb made from camembert, hazelnuts and wild garlic while he somehow stuffed a leek with gorgonzola and then made a Mustard and Wensleydale sauce laced with another truffle bribe

it’s a great bit of cookery – the pork is absolutely perfect and the novelty of a stuffed leek certainly got Marcus and Monica excited. The one downside is the fact that amongst everything he slightly lost the camembert in the crumb coating – and to be fair, that did seem like the most gimmicky use of cheese in this challenge, it was never going to stand up against wild garlic.

While Matt stopped at a sensible three cheeses, while also mentioning how much he loved cheese 6 times in the space of 20 minutes, Enrique was making a Béchamel Sauce that could kill the lactosally challenged with but a single sniff as he basically just melted stilton, cheddar, gruyere and Parmesan into a puddle for his Mushroom and Stilton Agnolotti to gently wallow in

when I die, bury in me in that sauce.

Despite the almost overwhelming cheesiness of the sauce, the mushrooms still manage to have their say in the dish and the only real complaint is the fact that his handmade pasta aren’t quite uniform enough for Monica who falls just short of pulling a full Cherish Finden and measuring each individual pasta parcel with a ruler. Just be happy you got agnolotti when someone intended to make agnolotti this time, Galetti.

As soon as they said the challenge was cheese I had two thoughts – the first was that I would personally hand the trophy to anyone that found a way to use the great big octagonal cracker that sat on the display board like a biscuity Clifford The Big Red Dog

and the second thought was that anyone who made a risotto was absolutely 100% doomed – it never goes well, it doesn’t matter how much cheese you subject that rice to, it is a cursed dish in the MasterChef Canon. But of course someone was going to do the risotto, and our poor misguided fool was Samuel who tried his best to fancy up a three-cheese risotto the likes of which Zizzi’s sells with some pickled shimeji mushrooms

it’s just a touch too basic and when you’ve made a dish as simple as a risotto it better taste like God himself spent 40 minutes stirring that pot and sadly it didn’t as in his struggle to get it cooked in time it slipped his mind to taste it before plating it up and the whole thing mostly just tastes of parmesan and very little seasoning.

Having very different plating woes was Daniel who, as we know does tend to specialise in mostly just lumping everything into a bowl, had taken a similar approach to this challenge by kind of just piled his baked aubergine and mixture of ricotta, goat’s cheese and creme fraiche into a heap and then covering it in a salad of endives, pickled hazelnuts, grapes and olives which made it look like a sea slug in full defensive mode

which the judges do at least reprimand him ever so slightly for – but the flavours more than make up for it and that pomegranate, muscat and honey glaze on his aubergine did sound rather divine. It was also nice to see him cook something inventive that wasn’t straight off the menu of the restaurant he works out – he just might need to be more mindful of his plating in the future.

Lastly we have Yasmine who set about making her take on a Matar Paneer, an Indian paneer curry and she was certainly trying to use as much of the paneer as she could

I’ve seen smaller keystones in Yorkshire bridges.

She obviously realised at some point that she was using only one type of cheese and everyone else around her was bleeding the Sainsbury’s dairy section dry. Her solution to this was to create a flatbread and then throw halloumi on it like she was working in Wahaca

it’s certainly not a particularly dynamic use of cheese – to be honest it’s the peas that confuse me the most but if Yasmine has taught us anything in her time on the show it’s that there’s not a green vegetable she doesn’t like. The judges aren’t exactly full of praise for the dish because it does all seem a touch measly but the sauce was at least big enough on the flavours and the fennel chutney was tasty but cheeseless.

A Cheese Dish Ranking

  1. Enrique’s All Cheese, Token Pasta
  2. The Mystique of Matt’s Stuffed Leek
  3. Daniel’s Ricotta Sea Slug
  4. Yasmine’s Paneer Building Blocks
  5. Samuel, It’s a Risotto.

The chef not making it to the Critics’ Chamber ultimately came down to a decision between Samuel and Yasmine with the final decision being that Yasmine’s use of spices in her curry sauce redeemed her more than Samuel failing to season a risotto and so it’s goodbye to Samuel

at least we’ll always have the Lapsang Panna Cotta, huh?

The Critics’ Chamber

Having scraped through by the skin of her teeth, Yasmine had quite a lot of ground to catch up on the other three who had all managed to send Marcus and Monica into the dreamiest of cheese induced comas. She was starting her menu with a Crispy Egg and exactly three (3) spears of asparagus per person, which is more food than some of the main dishes have had over the course of this series and because she could probably see the imminent oological disaster, she had borrowed a page from Matt’s book and just lavished the plate in truffle

it is of course a dish that lives and dies by whether or not she managed to get the runny yolk and unfortunately, them yolks were solid

but at least the weren’t cured and being served as a dessert.

Due to the fact the eggs were not up to scratch and nobody really wanted to spend three minutes lambasting someone for not cooking an egg correctly, the critics spent an inordinate amount of time heaping praise upon the three spears of asparagus. Silver linings and all that.

For her main course she was drawing on her Jamaican heritage with a dish of Goat accompanied with Jersey Royals coated in a Scotch Bonnet Oil, a curried carrot puree, hispi cabbage and a daintily draped spring onion

I think her presentation of the dish in many ways hindered her – The critics clearly expected to be quite a vibrant and colourful dish (and we could unpack the problematicness of that all day if you want) and so it being served up looking like a roast beef dinner in a gastro pub that’s trying ever so slightly too hard I think confused them all with the disparity. It also didn’t help that the dish, beyond the spicing of the goat, kind of lacked any real kick with the scotch bonnet oil being a particular disappointment. But you know, she can make a jug-lickingly good goat sauce

is it possible to just specialise in gravy making?

Daniel continued to champion the food of his Portuguese childhood with his take on Gazpacho Arjamolho, a type of gazpacho where the ingredients are all left chunky and the whole thing looks very distressing

I almost wish he had served that up just to see what Jay Rayner would have made of it.

Thankfully Daniel’s take involved making a regular gazpacho and pouring that over a sort of salad made of pickled cucumbers, tomatoes, prawns and croutons which was a damn sight more appetising

and everyone pretty much has a religious experience over how good this cold tomato soup is – I’ve never really seen a reaction quite like it on MasterChef, I genuinely thought Jay Rayner was about to cry. And Monica was threatening to go the full Oliver Twist

it really was quite the mriacle that the dish was as good as it was because between The Cheesening and coming to cook for the critics, Daniel looked like he had aged 30 years and not slept for a single second

someone please get the boy a feather bed, some warm milk and a CD of whale song.

Persevering through his rapidly premature 70th birthday, Daniel was hoping to top his almost Godlike gazpacho with a Sea Bass Macanese Curry – Macanese being the demonym of Macau, a former Portuguese colony

I can’t tell you much about what’s in the Macanese Curry beyond everyone alluding to the fact it tastes very similar to a Malaysian Laksa and it being quite lime-y. But his cooking of the whole dish is perfection and it’s almost a pity he didn’t save these for his inevitable final menu.

Forging ahead with his brand of foraging and having freshly raided Kew Gardens’s Rare Prehistoric Herb Patch, Matt was featuring Spignel, an ancient fennel ancestor, as a glorified garnish on his starter of Roasted Scallops and Green Strawberries which looked a bit like a pebble beach

the dish for the most part is received very well and the combination of the scallops and strawberries is lauded as quite genius. However, with foraging having become a very fashionable gimmick within the fine dining trade, I’m sure the critics have been subjected to all manner of herbs and tree barks over the last 2 years and so his spignel, which just tasted of fennel, was mostly met with dismissive eyerolls. Things didn’t get much better on that front with the Costmary herb he was featuring in the sauce that went over his main course of Roasted Lamb with an abundance of greenery and a trimming of painstakingly arranged pickled paradoxical leek seeds (my new band name)

is it a visually impressive dish? Yes. It is a dish that is trying way too hard? OH GOOD GOD YES. And nothing sums it up more than the fact the costmary in his sauce didn’t really add much beyond a slightly bitter end note. Perhaps using Enrique as a guinea pig hadn’t paid off

I always knew it’d be a forager who kills the first contestant.

Having surprised his brush with herbal death, Enrique made a starter featuring Carabineros Prawns, which according to the first google search are “ONE OF THE MOST COVETED PRAWNS IN KITCHENS WORLDWIDE.” – I imagine the capital lettering is absolutely necessary, everyone is just very excited about these prawns. And if you’re wondering what Carabineros means, it’s the name used for Customs Officials in Spain who once wore red uniforms and the bright red prawns inherited the title.

Alongside his very red prawns which he was confiting in beef fat, Enrique was serving a Romesco Puree which are things that apparently excited Monica very much and after being denied a second bowl of gazpacho she had gone from Oliver Twist to Joey Tribiani


And the dish was certainly a lively looking dish, making full use of the prawns’ red colour

I think there was potentially a more modern way of plating this, something about the four piles of prawns’n’puree seems a little dated to me but nobody really talks about that because they all just about dive in as soon as that plate touches the table – raving about the cooking of the prawns and the depth of flavour he managed to get into the romesco puree.

Sadly for Enrique he didn’t quite manage to follow the high of his starter with his main course of Brined Pork Chops, Braised Pig’s Cheeks, Blood Puree, Crispy Rice and Hispi Cabbage

It sounds much more unhinged than it is because there has been Black Pudding Puree made on the show quite a few times but if you get the opportunity to say “blood puree” you might as well go the full Hannibal hog. And he certainly wasn’t trying to make it sound or look any less unhinged by serving it with the crispy rice swarming it looking every bit like the pile of maggots they always do

Enrique, a lesson in optics please.

It was only the second funniest part of the dish because I did rather enjoy him wrapping the pig cheek in cabbage like someone hiding a dog’s medication in cheese

and really he needed to try and trick people into eating it because the pig cheeks were a little dry and the brined pork chops were just that little bit too… what’s the word?

atta boy!

A Critics’ Chamber Dish Ranking

  1. The Transcendent Gazpacho
  2. Very Tired Daniel’s Curry
  3. Enrique’s Highest of Highs
  4. Matt’s Pebble Beach Scallops
  5. Matt’s Costmary Gimmick
  6. Yasmine’s Not GOAT Goat
  7. Enrique’s Lowest of Lows
  8. The Second Worst Thing Done to an Egg Yolk

With Daniel practically on the cusp of being canonised as The Patron Saint of MasterChef it was a no-brainer that he was going through the semi-finals

the framing of this shot is the most unsubtle allusion to a series winner that I’ve EVER seen, it’s like something from a Steven Moffat mini-series.

Similarly a no-brainer was the fact Yasmine was going home – after all the hard and fast rules of MasterChef are that if you do anything bad to an egg yolk it’s curtains for you.
So it came down to either forgiving Enrique for some pretty bad pork cookery or taking Matt through and just hoping whatever else he swiped from the head gardener of Kew Gardens works out better for him. I would personally have taken Enrique through, I find his food much more appealing but the final decision is Marcus’s and Monica’s and it’s Matt that gets to go through to the semi-finals

I wonder how many roast dinners he can reinvent?

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