Currently, my favourite part of every episode is Daniel constantly looking like he’s staring into an abyssal void. Someone let the boy sleep.
And so we kick off the semi-finals with an abundance of lobster and more horrible things being done to egg yolks!
Memory, All Alone In The Moonlight
We of course start Semi-finals Week with the challenge for the chefs to create a dish inspired by a food memory and everyone has to desperately resist the urge to try and reinvent the Sunday Roast as a variety of different mousses like they’re designing something for the back of the Wiltshire Farm Foods catalogue.
Failing to resist the siren song of a roast dinner was Aaron, who did at least manage to not puree a cut of beef and kept his roast dinner mostly in the form a roast dinner should take – bar the fact his family seemed to have them every Wednesday rather than Sunday. He was going for the not-too-often-seen Roast Pork, using a suckling pig chop and serving it alongside a mix of cabbage and bacon, the usual apple sauce and an onion dressed as the pot of succulents that you aren’t too sure are still alive or not
I’m genuinely shocked that he allowed the pork chop to physically touch the cabbage given the fact he usually arranges everything on the plate like a museum’s butterfly collection.
BUT WAIT! There’s more! Because he even deigned to cook up some proper roast potatoes, which hadn’t been granted a seat on the plate and were instead orbiting it in their little copper pan shuttle
They were there and that’s all that matters.
The dish goes down very well with the judges, I’m a little sceptical about that pork, it’s just very pink but I’m going to assume that’s just suckling pig for you. And as much they love the pig and his calvados sauce, it’s the potatoes they really sing the praises of. Which is understandable considering up to this point the most potatoes they’ve seen has been a smattering of boiled Jersey Royals. The success of Aaron’s potatoes really set everyone else up for failure in the Spuds Department, none more so than John who was serving his Pan-fried Brown Trout with some Jersey Royals coated in a Prawn Oil
the dish was inspired by a camping trip in which a fisherman gave his family a brown trout and they barbecued it – an event that John seems to think is the pinnacle of human existence, Gregg looked distinctly unconvinced
as for the dish, Marcus was very excited about the Jersey Royals in the Prawn Oil because he had never seen it before – but he did brainfart a Prawn and Avocado Omelette coated in Prawn Oil into existence. Sadly for everyone, the potatoes were deemed incredibly bland, both in that they looked like someone had buffered and polished them into a glossy, textureless smoothness and also the prawn oil didn’t really add anything to them, but you know it added *so much* to the prawn and avocado omelette – I’m sorry, I will never stop thinking about that Skills Test. To say John was not best pleased with the critique that his dish was a little bland is an understatement as he looked down the barrel of the camera almost psychically threatening to kill
given his proclivity for foraging, I’d just double check the mushrooms he serves in the future guys.
Joining John in Tater Disappointment was Jamie who was quite frankly doing awful things to them with his attempt to make a melt-in-the-middle potato fondant that thoroughly backfired and came out as a sort of horrible overset Potato Creme Caramel – or if you ask Gregg “lovely and mousse-like” – Marcus however was on a one man mission to send it straight to Hell
the strangely eggy… substance was of course part of a dish inspired the time spent foraging in the woodlands of France with his father, so naturally it featured venison and ceps in abundance and was going to be served in a trio of almost impossible to use bowls that sat on the side of the kitchen looking like someone was preparing for an arcane druidic ritual to bring about the spirits of spring
it’s always a red flag when someone goes all out on a weird serving vessel and sure enough his abundance of venison and ceps was divisive to say the least
The cooking of the Venison Loin is perfect and looks a lovely piece of meat and almost everything else, save for Hell’s Fondant, is eaten with a certain amount of joy. His Cep Tuile and Venison Tartare though is eviscerated by both Monica and Marcus who largely regard it as a waste of very good venison and fancy mushrooms.
It was a challenge of mostly seafood with the only other two chefs to not raid the fishmonger were Daniel and Dan – the latter being the only person to attempt chicken with a dish inspired by the sunday dinners he would eat in his family’s take-away. Making his take on a Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup by creating a course sweetcorn puree and a very much ill-advised chicken thigh sausage which he was serving with sweet pickled seaweed and a Chinese Vinegar Jelly that would melt once the Chicken and Ginger Broth was poured over it. There was of course also a few Crispy Chicken Skin Sails lest he be critiqued for a lack of texture
the critique of this dish was very strange – you obviously can’t ignore the fact Gregg was served some dubiously cooked chicken
I’m not sure that it was raw or undercooked so much as it was just a piece of bloody meat, a regular occurence in chicken thighs, but he could have maybe prepared them better.
But for Monica to critique the dish as being “a dish you have to eat all together to enjoy.” is rather baffling considering that’s how every plate of food should be enjoyed? I get that everything has to be tasty, but Dan had just served you what was essentially a bowl of soup designed to have a bit of everything in a single mouthful. AND THEN, for Marcus to say “It’s not a very pretty plate of food the more I eat of it” while swirling around half a bowl of soup like he was trying to release the aromas at a wine tasting event
No plate of food looks pretty when you’ve eaten half of it! Don’t worry Dan, I liked your ugly soup.
While Dan struggled to make a footing in the Bowls of Nonsense Arena, Daniel was stepping away from bowls and cooking a dish of Lamb and heck of a lot of turnips – the main component being his Esparregado, a traditional Portuguese dish traditionally made from turnip tops and is essentially a lot like creamed spinach. Alongside the Esparregado he had made a cubed turnip salad and a turnip veloute
it’s not a dish that particularly excites anyone and the judges desperately want to like it because it was after all cooked by Inevitable Winner Daniel From Portugal™. However, it’s just not a very well balanced dish with there being far too much of the Esparregado and his lamb just generally not being cooked very well. And Gregg was mostly just upset because the whole thing was a little too wet for him – it would have been perfect in a bowl.
Speaking of bowls of nonsense, Charith, as a call back to his first exeprience cooking non-Sri Lankan food with a group of Italian chefs, was making an ever-doomed risotto which he was trying his best to separate from all the other doomed risottos by using red rice from Sri Lanka instead and serving it alongside a piece of Chilli and Lime Cured Sea Bass topped with a Sauce Vierge made with Bitter Melon and a Curried Parmesan Crisp
it is most certainly not a pretty dish, there’s something almost reptilian about it and it’s a pity because that Chilli and Lime Sea Bass looked pretty, but it’s all weighed down a bit by the clomp of rice. It’s definitely an interesting dish and I think he might have been better off forgoing the parmesan crisp and turning the risotto into arancini for the texture. Not doing the parmesan crisp would have also saved him the shame of Marcus flexing it in front of him to show how not crispy it was
Marcus was very pissy this episode – I personally blame John’s Prawn Oil Potatoes, it was a downhill ride from there.
For his fishy memory, Ryan of the House of Good Hair, was thinking back to a memory where he bled his grandfather’s pockets dry by making him buy a piece of monkfish tail from a fishmonger whose eyes were probably seeing dollar signs. He was serving it, rather alarmingly, alongside a Cocoa Bean Puree, which Monica very quickly swooped in to tell us was a bit more of a gimmick than anything because it wasn’t going to taste of chocolate. Which is both a relief and somewhat of a disappointment because we are overdue a disaster as big as Monkfish and Chocolate Sauce. Instead the cocoa beans would provide more of a vehicle for its seasonings. He was also making an obligatory basil oil and because it was a relatively simple dish in terms of the amount of components, he had to plate it up as interestingly as possible
and yes, when you add googly eyes to it, it does look a bit like an Elven Furby
which is the cute option because without the googly eyes, an erect piece of fish is probably always going to look a bit like a Bobbit Worm
thoroughly recommend looking up *why* it’s called a Bobbit Worm, I shan’t spoil it for you.
Despite the slight ridiculousness of the presentation the judges don’t once bring up the fact they’re looking at a piece of fish with tiny little herb ears and mostly just marvel at the dish’s perfect balance – both the flavours and the fact Ryan really managed to secure that piece of Monkfish Tail to the plate with his puree. Maybe therein lies the future of sustainable architecture?
While most of the group had tales of fond family meals or reminisced about playing mushroom roulette in Foret du Landais – Liam was swinging in with an anecdote that truly reached Peak MasterChef as he recounted the tale of his father buying him a lobster for Christmas
and I imagine before Liam could imprint on the gifted crustacean, they cooked it up for Christmas dinner. There’s a Santa Claws joke in here somewhere that I steadfastly refuse to drag kicking and screaming out of The Dad Joke Bag, but he was making a tempura lobster claw as well as serving it with the obligatory luxury caviar
the best part of this whole dish was the way Sean Pertwee introduced the dish which made it sound like we were holding a funeral for a lobster
and now Liam shall read and extensive eulogy to add to the atmosphere of crustacean grief. RIP Mr. Pinchy II, he was a good lobster, he was a kind lobster and he died as he liked to live: deliciously.
The dish mostly goes very well for Liam, his tempura batter, which he had pipped over the lobster after having put it through a cream whipper did look phenomenally crunchy
and his cooking of the lobster tail was a touch of the divine. The only thing lacking was some seasoning in his sauce and any flavour in the carrot puree – although whoever is looking to the carrot puree on a dish of lobster might need to rethink their priorities, it was a glorified garnish.
And while everyone else talked endlessly about being bought £80 worth of lobster for Christmas or calling their grandfather’s bluff over monkfish, Matt came in and said he never ate foie gras and lobster as a child which you would think was about to lead into him making a dish that championed the diversity and deliciousness of perceived “cheap” foods and also allow him to showcase more of his foraging. But no, he was cooking lobster as a nod to the first time he tasted lobster. But he wasn’t going to be merely poaching it like Liam did his, no this was Matt who, lest we forget, isn’t like other chefs! So he was making his own unique take on a Lobster Thermidor, which as a warning does involve doing dreadful things to an egg yolk
yes, his take on a lobster thermidor did involve hiding an egg yolk within his lobster mix, which he also was not going to be putting back into a lobster shell but into a baked potato skin – AS! GOD! INTENDED!
There was at least a piece of poached lobster though, he couldn’t completely gamble his place in the competition on an egg yolk lurking in a Potato Cup’a’Lobster
Marcus loved the theatre of the hidden egg yolk, look the West End was closed a LONG time, we have to take the theatrical crumbs where we can get them.
It’s kind of hard to make of what Gregg thought of it though given his facial expression and his slight scream when he burst the yolk
I think that’s a positive reaction from Gregg?
A Food Memory Dish Ranking
- Liam’s Christmas Lobster
- Ryan’s Little Elven Monkfish
- Matt’s Potato Cup’a’Lobster
- Aaron’s Pork and Floral Onion
- Dan’s Ugly Soup
- Jamie’s Druidic Sacrifice
- John’s Villain Original Story
- Charith’s Take on the Ever-doomed Risotto
- Daniel’s Unloved Lamb and Turnips
With everyone having fondly relived their memories, all that was left to do was decide who go through to the next round immediately and which 5 chefs would have to face-off for redemption, with one unlucky contestant being eliminated.
The safe chefs were Aaron, Ryan, Matt and Liam – meaning Dan, Daniel, John, Jamie and Charith were all going to cook again.
Just As I Suspected: Trash.
In order to be redeemed in the eyes of Marcus and Monica (and sure, Gregg, I guess) the five chefs would have to make a single dish using the leftovers from the previous challenge, which did indeed mean there was a mad dash to scavange as much of the leftover lobster as possible. The chef winning that race and walking into one hell of a sandtrap was Jamie, who had managed to find a whole lobster claw back there
I imagine one of the production staff was gutted that they weren’t getting to take home that behemoth for a free luxury dinner.
He’d also managed to snag himself some monkfish tail with the plan being to poach both that and the lobster and serve them with some confit vegetables and a bisque. The bisque going on to cause him quite a bit of grief because as you can imagine squeezing any amount of flavour out of 2 (two) langoustines heads is quite a bit like trying to squeeze blood from a stone.
He did seemingly realise that he was making a beeline for The Weakest Bisque and in order to inject some flavour, ANY FLAVOUR, into it, he was lacing it with horseradish because I imagine that’s all that was left. The end result being a fairly standardly pretty dish with an alarmingly textured bisque
My dear sir, that’s a paste.
It’s not a very well balanced dish, with the vegetable to fish ratio being WAY OFF and the flavours, while all nice, do not mesh together very well – particularly the lemon marmalade and the horseradish
Jamie’s only real chance of survival were in the hands of John who was attempting an Ever-doomed Risotto, but making things harder for himself by making it with potato instead of rice at which point a risotto very much stops being a risotto and just becomes a bitty stew. But for the first time in MasterChef history, Marcus actually likes the potato risotto! Whether that was because he actually liked it or John was still giving everyone death glares over the Prawn Oil Potatoes remains to be seen. What the judges were less keen on is that in a traditionally British chef’s immortal fear of serving up anything vegetarian, he proceeding to just lump a great big pork chop on top of the risotto for absolutely no reason
although it did mean that we got to hear Monica uttering the phrase “The lazy pork chop” which would have been the recap title but I’m jealous and bitter that I didn’t get to type it first.
Also going for a rice dish and actually keeping it a rice dish was Dan who was doing his take on nasi goreng – a Malaysian fried-rice dish predominantly flavoured with Kecap Manis, a very sweet soy sauce. The judges do note that it’s hard to make fried rice into an elegant dish but Dan had his super secret plan. Which yes, was to make The Rice Boob
although he did at least have the sense not to serve it so that his sesame confit egg yolk stood atop it, baring itself to the world like a yolky nipple, he had garnished with some crispy shallots for modesty
in order to add his spin on the dish he had added cured tomatoes and compressed cucumber (a food that still eludes logic to me) which divides the judges – the only one of which who likes it is Monica, while Marcus and Gregg both would have just been happy with the egg yolk to provide the necessary sauce for the dish. He certainly redeemed himself though, and probably for the best that he didn’t attempt any meat cookery.
Charith also went vegetarian with his Pumpkin Curry featuring a soft boiled egg, which was thankfully soft-boiled enough for Marcus Wareing
eggs have been very hit and miss this series, you could reasonably place a bet that one of these days Marcus is going to crack into one and a tiny duckling is going to roll out, imprint on him and bingo, bango, Marcus Wareing’s a duck mother now.
I was a little worried about Charith, mostly because he was serving his curry alongside what looked like couscous moulded into the shape of a sardine tin
there’s just something a bit pedestrian sounding about “and couscous” when Sean Pertwee says it but the judges really like the way he had seasoned it and it did look lovely and pillow-y. His curry was similarly well flavoured and you could certainly tell that Charith was much more comfortable cooking a more discernibly Sri Lankan-style dish than his previous risotto.
Lastly we had Daniel who conducted himself through this challenge as though he genuinely thought losing it would mean death
and I would like to know if they have assured him that Monica isn’t going to call out his name and reap his soul with Death’s own scythe. But also he might have been a little worried for his place because the further he went through the challenge the more times he had had to say the phrase “a fish scotch egg”, which is a truly cursed thought in my mind and I love fish and I love a Scotch egg. But if his fishy picnic egg did divide the crowd he was hoping to claw back some points with a whole bowl of romesco sauce
as it turns out, the egg was universally loved and the romesco sauce deemed a little lacking in depth and smokiness – sadly nobody had left their cigarette butts in the leftovers pile.
A Leftover Redemption Dish Ranking
- At Last, A Well Cooked Egg! Also A Curry.
- Dan’s Elegant Fried-rice
- Daniel’s Fishy Picnic Egg and Nicorette Romesco Sauce
- John’s Lazy Pork Chop and Not-a-Risotto-Risotto
- Jamie’s Lobster Pitfall
With Jamie having walked right into that luxury food pitfall and put significantly more pressure on himself to make a dish seem luxurious, the only real choice was to eliminate him and his glorious cheekbones
and so, 8 chefs remain!
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