Me after finishing this recap after a weekend that I can only describe as “very not sober”.
Once again, I must apologise for the delay of these recaps – it will only be for this week unless there’s some other holiday this weekend that means I’m 6 cocktails deep before midday. Bottomless brunch, amiright?
The Mother of Invention
With the fake-out audition rounds behind us, we entire more familiar MasterChef territory with the invention test, which still isn’t the invention test I want it to be – how I yearn for the days when they would be given a hamper containing everything to make a perfectly normal chicken and mushroom pie, except there would inexplicably also be a jar of raspberry jam that inevitably some poor sod thinking they’re being Heston Blumenthal would start stuffing inside a chicken breast and calling it Coq au Framboise and Gregg would be forced to take a bite at gunpoint.
Instead we’re still doing the whole MasterChef Market thing where they have most of a Tesco Express at their disposal
and Pookie was going to be taking *everything*
apparently she’s on a one woman mission to defund the BBC from the inside as she grabbed herself that high end ingredient: a hand blender
roasted with a bit honey and thyme, they taste phenomenal.
With her Basket of Everything, Pookie was creating a fusion dish – combining Chinese and Thai flavours with some Mushroom and Oyster Sauce Noodles and some Thai Chilli Prawns, which would also be accompanied by fried quail’s eggs
an addition that John Torode felt *very* concerned about and I finally feel vindicated because I thought I was losing my mind when Marcus Wareing made the professional chefs in the last series of MasterChef: The Professionals make him a Prawn Omelette like it was a perfectly normal and sane thing to do!
The fried egg wasn’t the only accompaniment that gave the judges cause for concern because Pookie had also prepared a pile of prawn heads for everyone to suck on
which is a very common practice in Thailand and something my mother should apparently stop telling me not to do when we’re in polite company. My only qualms with the suckable prawn heads were the slurping noises that for no good reason the sound designer had amped up to goose honking levels
every misophoniac in Britain felt that on.
Gregg and John aren’t entirely sold on the prawn heads, even with Pookie making fish faces at them
but they do like everything else and commend her on the success of combining Chinese, Thai and A Mislocated Fried Egg so successfully.
Much like Pookie sticking with her Thai-Chinese wheelhouse, Laura was keeping things Sri Lankan with a deep-fried aubergine curry and an okra sambol – the latter of which she was doing explicitly because she was finally free of her children who are okra averse. LET. LAURA. HAVE. NICE. THINGS.
The risk with okra is that it’ll turn out slimy, but luckily for Laura this was a slime-free zone
unless we count the way Gregg looked at Haylee the moment she mentioned that she was making lemon curd
but before we unpack that, we’ll return to the safe space that is Laura’s curry
the shine on those aubergines looks *divine* and for the most part John and Gregg are both very impressed, John just wishes that Laura would be bigger and bolder with her flavours. I just feel like they keep lowballing Laura to be honest, but luckily she had a lobster up her sleeve…
Joining Laura in making a vegetarian curry was Rachel who was using Paneer and Cauliflower and then couldn’t decide between a coconut milk base or a tomato base, so she shrugged and did both
the sweetness of the tomato and coconut combination didn’t go down particularly well with John, meanwhile Gregg was happy to champion it as a success. However both of them were not going to defend the fact she had created the dreaded Rice Bludgeon™
personally, nothing thrills me more than when someone manages to turn rice into a weapon capable of blunt force trauma, I for one salute you Rachel.
The last of our main course cooks were Eddie and Lisa who had taken it upon themselves to treat us to a good old fashioned Battle of the Lambs as they both opted for the dreaded lamb rack. This was also the first time we were getting to see Eddie making a savoury dish considering he seemed to misunderstand the assignment in the audition round. His approach to the rack of lamb was to go with an amalgamation of cultures – lightly spicing it with fenugreek and cumin while pairing it with a classic Potato Gratin and an Indian style Lime Chutney, which did involve boiling limes in what appeared to start as a moment of madness
but as upsetting as a pair of boiling limes is, it worked out well for him
and most of the critique of his dish is that everything “melts like butter” – the lamb, the potato, my heart whenever Eddie is on screen for longer than 2 seconds…
While Eddie’s lamb cooking was hassle free, Lisa’s came out a touch raw but much like her pork fillet in the audition round, she managed to rescue it and serve lamb that wasn’t going to give anyone food poisoning
it’s another very successful dish for Lisa and I have to say, her Pearl Barley and Chorizo Risotto looks and sounds incredible – John’s only issue is that it was still a little undercooked for his personal preferences and he wanted more than 4 of the cute little baked radishes but at least she gave him three pieces of lamb.
And finally we come to our desserts where Rishi, the world’s most threatening dentist was flexing on everyone
I would be very alarmed if my dentist ever so much as whispered the word “execution” near me.
For his dessert he was very much taking the Lisa approach and doing *the most* with a set Dark Chocolate Ganache which he was serving with Cardamom Shortbread, Crystalised Pistachios and because The Beeb was paying, he’d thrown as much saffron as was economically allowed into his caramel smear
for an invention test, this is pretty damn phenomenal and the judges go crazy for it with Gregg Wallace threatening to cover everything in saffron caramel, which Is a mental imagine I’m not sure I needed as I try to write this with a slight hangover. To whack out a dish like this in an invention test when a lot of contestants would be happy to skate on by with a panicked Wednesday night leftovers curry (sorry Rachel), it’s *very* impressive even to just have these techniques and recipes in your arsenal. I would almost trust Rishi with the proverbial chicken breast and raspberry jam.
Haylee was also going the sweet route and risking it all on her love of lemon curd and that side of it went fine – everyone raved about the lemon curd. The pastry was a different story because unfortunately she didn’t have enough plain flour (blame Rishi’s shortbread) so she mixed it with self-raising flour the result being a pastry less held together than I am at the best of times – and rivalled her Singular Crumb™ in its crumbliness
but you know, as far as an experiment, I appreciated it, John much less so
And you know you’ve had a rough day in the kitchen when Gregg has to take the time to celebrate your untampered with mascarpone
An Invention Test Dish Ranking
- Rishi Stealing Miso Caramel’s Thunder
- Eddie Wins The Lamb Battle
- How’s Your Prawn Head?
- Laura’s Slime-free Zone
- Lisa’s Narrowly Avoided Case of Trichinosis
- Haylee’s Emotionally Unstable Tart
- Rachel’s Panicked Wednesday Night Curry
We did have to lose someone after this round, with it coming down to a decision between Rachel and Haylee, with the latter of the two having a few more redeemable qualities in their dish and sadly we have to lose both Rachel and Rachel’s Left Eyebrow
she’s been a great contestant for the few challenges we got to see her in and I really do think she has the personality and charisma to really make a go of being a chef.
We’re All Going on a Culinary Holiday
For the final challenge and their last bid for a place in the Quarter-final, the contestants all had to cook a dish inspired by a holiday they had been on – a brief that had been set by Tom Parker-Bowles, who Lisa was *very* excited by
and Pookie was desperately trying to work out why she should know this man in a very nice blue suit
You own a boat Pookie, you should know who he is!
The ulterior motive of this brief has always been to make the contestants cook something outside of the usual MasterChef fare which tends to lean quite British – which thankfully has changed A LOT in the last 2 or 3 years. However, they did also emphasise that they could draw inspiration from a British staycation, which is exactly what Lisa was doing with her take on Balmoral Chicken. She was however changing it up by cooking the chicken and the haggis separately, rather than stuffing the chicken with the haggis like the proverbial Coq au Framboise. And under no circumstances was anybody allowed to say the word “deconstructed”. The tricky part with a dish like this is always going to be presentation, something that I think Lisa has done very well in the last few challenges
It’s not my personal taste in presentation, but it seems to be the popular style amongst chefs at the moment and when you’re cooking for a food critic, it’s probably for the best to crib from that. There’s a mixed outcome for Lisa with her flavours being impeccable, if a little light on the whisky in the Whisky Cream Sauce, although thankfully she had provided them with a much appreciated single malt bribe on the side
the dish though just needed a little fine tuning but certainly showed promise to be a real stunner, even if only by increasing the amount of mashed potato tenfold.
This challenge is always also an opportunity to flex on everyone as it becomes a competition to see how had the Bouji Cruisiest™ holiday, although I’m not sure anyone could beat the casualness with which Pookie told everyone that she had just bought a boat, which she had just spent a lovely summer on and so was going with a Mediterranean dish of Arròz Negre – a dish we last saw when Stefan last year decided to do THIS with it
every day, I have to wake up knowing that a man once stuffed a squid with a mixture of rice and ham paté.
Luckily Pookie wasn’t pushing the boundaries of the unhinged aesthetic and managed to plate up the dish in such a way that didn’t make me think she had been possessed by the spirit of Damien Hirst
squid ink is always going to be a difficult ingredient to work with because making your food vantablack is going to trigger a fight or flight response in most people, but she did a very good job in breaking it up with the fresh looking squid and prawns – which were all cooked to perfection.
Pookie wasn’t the only one going for mediterranean inspired food as Eddie was making a sort of take on a Bouillabaisse (which I have still not learnt how to spell correctly) inspired by his holidays in the south of France and in order to give it that little extra something something, he was using halibut because why not when the BBC is paying?
it’s yet another knockout dish from Eddie with everyone praising both his techniques and vehemently praising how “southern France” it feels like they’re Jiggly Caliente creating an orange outfit
it was indeed very Saint-Tropez.
In order to finally prove to John Torode that she could go BIG with flavours, Laura was making Chipotle and Honey Butter-fried Chicken which quite frankly looked illegally divine
and then just because she could she was also serving it with a lobster tail like it was no big deal
the whole thing being inspired by trips she’s gone on to American and I did *cackle* the moment she mentioned that her sister was American and Gregg genuinely looked like he had never heard anything more upsetting
I am so sorry that your sister is *checks notes*…. American.
The dish goes down a storm, mostly because of the chicken which Tom Parker-Bowles could barely keep his fingers off – and yes he was eating it with his fingers
Royal-adjacents, they’re just like us! But her lobster was also perfectly cooked – something she was a little worried about.
Laura wasn’t the only one going down the fried chicken route as Haylee was also making a take on it, hers being inspired by some time she spent in Thailand. The Thai influence mostly being in the Som Tam papaya salad, while the chicken was a slight adaptation of what she ate there and served alongside what she dubbed “an aromatic fish caramel sauce” which should be a red flag and yet for Haylee, I’ll allow it because it all looked PHENOMENAL
I think if I could order any of the dishes, it would be this one and if Haylee ever opens up a fried chicken shop anywhere in the world, I will be there with bells and whistles on. The judges are a little hesitant on it – they’re mostly a little confused about the caramel sauce, I personally love nothing better than fried chicken with a very sweet sauce so it only makes it sound better to me. John however, had some concerns about the cooking of the chicken, which we knew was coming because of the amount of shots dedicated to Chekhov’s Meat Thermometer
nice of him to voice these opinions *after* both Gregg and Tom had just wolfed down several potentially undercooked chicken wings.
Lastly we have Rishi who was combining Nepalese momos (a type of dumpling) that he tried on a trip through the Himalayas, with a Tom Kha soup inspired by the fact he just really wants to go to Thailand. The logic behind the dish was that he tried a dish called Jhol Momo – which are momos served in a sort of very spicy chutney-ish sauce, that he was substituting for the Tom Kah.
The judges had some reservations about Rishi’s dish – mostly that Tom Kha is very much its own beast and not *usually* served alongside something else (except for that time Pookie did it one (1) episode ago and nobody questioned it). I was a little more worried about how the dish would look, with Tom Kah usually being a very insipid white colour (which is also my shade of foundation) and God love a dumpling, but they’re not exactly the most attractively coloured food, but I thought Rishi did a great job of adding some colour and life to the dish with the coconut-crusted samphire and Thai Basil oil
the dish is however a little bit of everything the judges feared in that they don’t quite buy the mushroom-stuffed momos and the tom kha as a single dish but rather as two starters that accidentally got combined as someone got a little overly excited at the buffet. I don’t think it could possibly have been as culinarily offensive as they made out, given that mushrooms lend themselves very well to being in a Tom Kha but after the success in the Invention Test, Rishi did need to be humbled. I would eat the momos and slurp the soup though.
A Holiday Inspired Dish Ranking
- Pookie Owns a Boat
- Laura’s Unfortunate American Relations
- Eddie’s Very Saint-Tropez Halibut
- JUSTICE FOR HAYLEE’S FRIED CHICKEN
- Dumpling Soup By Any Name Would Taste As Good
- Lisa’s DEFINITELY NOT DECONSTRUCTED Balmoral Chicken
Once again, it’s a hard challenge to judge because there wasn’t a strictly bad dish amongst them – in fact I would gladly eat them all but we did have to lose 2 more contestants and because their dishes had the most technical errors we did end up saying goodbye to Lisa and Haylee
I really enjoyed both of them as contestants and thought they made some truly amazing dishes – as I’ve said before, this was an extremely strong group of contestants all of whom seem to have thoroughly enjoyed the experience and you can follow them on Instagram:
and so Laura, Rishi, Pookie and Eddie go on to the first of our Quarterfinals! The recap of which should be up tomorrow or Wednesday – I really do apologise for the delays, it will only be for this week!
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