MasterChef 2022, Episode 3: Existentialist Bhaji

That’s certainly one way to win MasterChef.

If anyone had “Beef Jewellery” on their MasterChef 2022 Bingo Card, let me know because I will give you £50.

Two Course Power

The change of format this year does make these first few weeks seem A LOT more brutal as by the end of this episode they will have cut 9 chefs down to 2 in just three episodes – I suppose I shouldn’t have used the monkey’s paw to wish for a faster moving series, I apologise to everyone and the their resulting trauma.

The format revamp has meant the rounds have been a bit jumbled with the Critic’s Brief being a Heat Challenge, while the Veteran’s Chamber gets promoted to the Quarterfinal, with the four remaining chefs having to cook 2 courses for both John and Gregg as well as the returning MasterChef veterans: Jane Devonshire, Tim Anderson, Tim Anderson’s Very Nice Jumper and Irini Tzortzoglou

this blog does of course remain an Irini stan account.

First up was Laura who was sticking with her showcase of Sri Lankan food by starting with Deep-fried Curried Lamb Pancakes that she was serving with a chilli dipping sauce – which very much sounded and looked like a resounding YES PLEASE from me

the frying of the pancake is absolutely perfect and the fact they kept their shape should be commended given the amount of samosa related disasters we’ve seen happen in a MasterChef deep fat fryer. But while everyone can marvel at Laura’s pancake origami skills, they’re not entirely enthused by the lamb filling which gets deemed “bland”, saved mostly by the chilli dipping sauce. This becomes a bit of a sticking point for Laura, with John repeatedly telling her “I want more punch!” which, let’s face it, is such a nondescript critique of food that it’s just not particularly helpful and I think this exchange exemplified that

what does “punch” even mean? Flavour? Heat? Chilli? Salt? Depth? And if the contestant is coming away from your critiques, seemingly not really knowing what you’re after then you’ve kind of failed as a judge.

But John vaguebooking Laura’s food wasn’t the only thing that was out to undo her as she almost became a victim of the MasterChef Poltergeist which has apparently taken up residence in the rice cooker

someone get the incense and sage leaves, we have an appliance to exorcise!

The rice did come out alright in the end, with only Gregg commenting on it being marginally undercooked, so I’m willing to chalk that up to witness bias. The rice was being served as an accompaniment to Laura’s Kukul Mas, a Sinhalese chicken curry

which thankfully everyone raves about because Laura did note that it tasted just like her mother’s before she served it. But while everyone comments on the exceptional spicing, the depth of the sauce and the well achieved heat, John Torode had bad opinions

I just feel like he’s really playing into bad tropes and ideas of what food from the South Asia should taste like, which might come from the fact by and large the British population hasn’t had much exposure to Sri Lankan food, I can think of one restaurant in Sheffield that explicitly markets itself as Sri Lankan and I would regard Sheffield as a pretty good city for food, especially for South Asian food. Even in the last series of MasterChef: The Professionals, Charith was noted to be the first Sri Lankan chef to be part of the competition so maybe we have to look at Laura’s food as something of a baby step for the show to finally stop exclusively associating South Asian food as “blow your socks off spicy”. And it might take a couple of years because it took them long enough to stop talking about East Asia as a homogenous continent rather than 8 countries with very different cuisines and cultures

But enough discourse, as we move on to Rishi who was doing an Indian-Thai fusion dish

his starter was a Sweetcorn Bhajia, which was a take on Thai Sweetcorn Fritters that he was serving with two different chutneys: a Thai Basil Chutney and a Tamarind and Date Chutney

I did try to look up the different between a Bhajia and a Bhaji and didn’t get a lot of results, but WikiDiff (a very well regarded website, I’m sure (someone shouldn’t throw stones in her MasterChef recap blog)) hinted that a bhajia might just be an existentialist bhaji

The bhajia simply is. We do not question it.

The dish doesn’t get the rave reviews we’re used to seeing Rishi get at this point – I did think complaining about the corn husks was a little bit petty, unless they genuinely expected the poor guy to dehusk every single piece of corn like some sort of punishment from ancient Greek myth? The chutneys were also divisive in that they didn’t quite get the Thai influence from them and the tamarind and date chutney was too sweet. I’m on record as very much enjoying fried food and sweet accompaniments, so sign me up for a plate of sweetcorn fritters and date chutney, I guess.

His main course was more strictly Indian affair with Buttered Naan being served with a Paneer Kofta and a Kadhi sauce, which is like a thick, sour yoghurt sauce often served with pakoras in Northern India

I think it’s an interesting sounding dish – I hadn’t realised you could make paneer into a kofta so that was an interesting development – the reception it got suggests it might need a little fine tuning though because the texture wasn’t exactly popular

I think my biggest issue with it is that it didn’t seem very generous – the naan obviously gives the dish some bulk, but everyone could’ve done with another 2 koftas because it did seem like Rishi served 2 starters, which to be fair does translate to 2 main courses on MasterChef: The Professionals.

Sticking with India for a moment, Eddie was starting his menu off with a main course of Amritsari Fish and Chips – which his take on a popular Indian street food originating from Amritsar in Northern India

that’s the hurried shot of Eddie placing the dish down, because the “glamour shot” they used of it was a VERY threatening foreshortening angle

You could take someone’s eye out with that thing!

We’ve seen a lot of takes on fish and chips over the years, but I have never seen the judges react to one of them quite like they did to Eddie’s – but as divine as the batter on his hake looks, it’s the chips that are the biggest talking point as the light dusting of mango powder elevates them to planes as yet untouched by the humble chip.

The fish and chips was going to be a hard act to follow, but Eddie had it more than covered with his Ginger Sponge Pudding and Pedro Ximénez Caramel sauce – Pedro Ximénez being a very sweet dark sherry from Spain

it’s a potentially very heady dessert what with the ginger and sherry going on, but the clotted cream certainly helped mellow it all out and it’s another knockout dish from Eddie, who is now Irini’s son whether he likes it or not

which I guess makes her half of Twitter’s potential mother-in-law.

And lastly we have Pookie who was once again going very high concept, which thrills me no end – the more contestants that give their dishes titles that sound vaguely like a romance novel written by Joanna Trollope the better! She was starting with a main course simply titled “My Necklace”, which I’m sure was giving Jane Devonshire nightmarish flashbacks because the last time she was served something that looked vaguely like a necklace you’d see Prue Leith wearing it was… whatever this was that Stefan made

I will keep bringing Stefan up until I have finally processed his madness with my therapist.

Pookie’s necklace was a much more elegant affair though, or as elegant as the phrase “a mannequin neck made of beef fillet” can be – the effect being a little French monarchy in 1793 if you get my drift

very Affair of the Diamond Necklace.

Jane does manage to not run screaming from the room and thoroughly enjoyed the dish, even with Pookie’s warning that it was all meant to be very spicy, which nobody thought it was and John didn’t seem to mind that and didn’t put in a special request for “more punch”…

I will be getting *a lot* of use out of that reaction jpeg.

Pookie was finishing off with a Creme Brulee which she was of course cooking in her own special way, swapping out the usual oven cooking for a bamboo steamer – which is very much a Pookie Experiment as she continues to be the world’s most glamorous Dr. Frankenstein

they don’t come out quite right, I wonder if the bowls she used were too flat and wide which made them cook too quickly and get too hot, which in turn did curdle them

some were definitely much more curdled than others, I think Tim got the worst of them, but nobody can fault the flavours of it, it was more a case of the technique needing to be perfected.

Eddie was clearly the runaway winner of the episode with 2 completely faultless dishes and so advanced to the semi-finals with no questions asked, we love to see it

The rest could have gone either way because while I think Rishi’s menu was the least well received, it’s hard to ignore his track record over the week, which I feel confident in saying has been one of the strongest MasterChef debuts. But both Pookie and Laura had one very good dish each, while their second had an issue here or there. Ultimately it’s Pookie that goes through the semi-final though

it was a difficult first week, and I think everyone in this heat could have made a potentially great semi-finalist so I am very sad to see Rishi and Laura go home, but excited to see what else Eddie and Pookie have up their sleeves!

And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the first of MasterChef 2022’s Quarterfinals and would like to support the blog you can donate to my Ko-fi account HERE!

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