MasterChef 2022, Episode 11: Dejectedly Juggling Potatoes

I think I might just staple this screenshot to my head.

The Recaps are a little delayed this week, but unlike an estimated 30kgs of rice and a certain parmesan crisp, they got here eventually!

Market Challenge

Well, it only took 4 heats before John Torode stopped calling this The Invention Test and it has now been redubbed The Market Challenge, which is kind of funny because this time it ended up being more like a vintage Invention Test than ever before – but we’ll get to Vanessa’s Disaster Tart in a minute.

It’s not really surprising that this episode ended up in so many minor (and major) brainfarts, because just about every available piece of meat was a trap – with there only being enough room for two in the sanctuary of the chicken thighs, the lucky two contestants who managed to score those being Evy and Jamahl.

For his chicken thigh dish, Jamahl was making Jerk Chicken which he was going to be serving with the classic Jamaican side of Rice and Peas – unfortunately he had used the Akeem method of making rice

when he should have only been making enough for two people, he was cooking enough for a family of 5, which unfortunately didn’t manage to cook in time so it never made it onto the plate – but at least he still had his Pumpkin Puree and the Tomato and Jerk Sauce

it’s still a good looking plate of food, sure it’s incomplete but the flavours are there to redeem him of the lack of rice, as is the cooking of his chicken – the only issue for Gregg being the fact the skin isn’t crispy enough for him – which is a brave critique considering the track record of nearly causing international incidents by commenting on the crispiness of chicken skin


As for Evy’s take on chicken thighs, she had roasted them and served them with Butternut Puree, Buttered Carrots, Swiss Chard and a Fondant Potato – and it all looked very good

and while the chicken was very well cooked and she had managed to get a decent amount of flavour into her sauce given the time limit, it was slightly unfortunate that there was a visible stratum of raw potato in her fondant

another 5 minutes and it would’ve been perfect, so it’s hardly the worst fondant potato we’ve ever seen on the show.

So with the chicken thighs being snapped up – everyone else was left to panic and essentially play Pass the Parcel with the whole rabbit that looked like something out of Stranger Things

which did mean that for reasons only known to her limbic system, Bhavina scooped up an entire John Dory to avoid the Ticking Leporine Timebomb

Has she ever prepared or cooked John Dory before? Absolutely not, such was the threat of that damned rabbit.

She did at least had the forethought to go relatively simple with what she was going to do with it – the same cannot be said for her partner in crimes against John Dory, Oli. Bhavina was making a simple mixture of spiced lentils and what was essentially a mirepoix and then decorating the plate with a circle of coriander oil that looked like it was being used to ward off any potentially malevolent spirits

it’s not the strongest dish from Bhavina with the fish being a little overcooked and her vegetables being on the crunchy side and laced with enough garlic to kill any potential vampires within a 5 mile radius of the building. I’m going to be generous and assume the vegetables were purposefully a little on the crunchy side, just for a contrast in texture to the fish, because I can’t imagine that Bhavina undercooked very well diced carrots in 80 minutes – unless she spent 70 of those minutes girding her loins to fillet the John Dory, which is understandable if the case.

Oli’s exercise in John Doryism was similarly unsuccessful and even more baffling as he set about doing his take on an Ambiguously Brazilian Fish Stew, by which I assume he meant Moqueca which is Coconut and Tomato based Fish Stew from Brazil. The problem was that because of the lizard brained panic induced when you stare into the unblinking eyes of a dead John Dory, he was deconstructing it. Which had Gregg pondering his elimination before he had even filleted the fish

as for what a deconstructed Moqueca involves – he had basically just cooked some red peppers and onions in some coconut milk, pan-fried the John Dory and serving it with some Rotis and a brainfart of a Lime and Cream Reduction

on the positive side, his John Dory was treated with a lot more respect than Bhavina showed hers and for someone who had never cooked it before, it was really very well done! But that’s kind of the only redeeming feature because John and Gregg are not particularly fond of his coconuty peppers which they deem to sweet and in need of something a little sharper – which was probably his reasoning behind the Lime Cream Reduction. Or at least I’m just desperately searching for a reason for it to exist.

In order to dodge the rabbit-shaped bullet, James had latched himself to an entire crab – which he was at least on better footing with than Bhavina and Oli with their entirely alien John Dorys because he has prepared a crab before, he’s just never cooked one. I would quite like to know the story behind that because it’s usually “I’ve cooked this thing before, I’ve just never prepare it” before they start going at the shell in a way that keeps Mitch Tonks up at night

He still has nightmares about Megan McKenna smashing a lobster with a mallet like she was King Dedede.

For his crab dish, he was going for the good old Crab and Chilli Linguine, which did mean that he was also having to make his pasta

as Gregg said, it’s a deceptively simple looking dish and one that could easily be overlooked because it’s on the menu of every Fauxtalian restaurant that dares venture beyond Pizza and Lasagne but given he had to make his own pasta and wrestle a crab, there’s a lot of technique and ability behind it – and he had managed to get plenty of crabmeat out of the crab without a single trace of shell, so John was forced to wave The White Linguine Flag and admit that James had won this round

I always knew John was the Napoleon of MasterChef.

Thomas swerved the rabbit by choosing to cook tuna steaks, and if there’s one thing I would absolutely never want to cook on MasterChef, it’s probably tuna steaks because I never know how other people like them and they seem to always be quite divisive, but Thomas persisted with a Tuna Tartare and some incredibly briefly seared sesame-crusted Tuna which he was serving with a Noodle Salad and Crispy Tofu

it’s a dish that doesn’t have as much technical prowess as the others, and it definitely heavily relies on its flavours and textures being well balanced – which Thomas had done incredibly well, even if I have more than a few reservations about that Tuna and Pear tartar.

So with Bhavina and Oli doing awful things to £60 worth of fish, Thomas trying to win friends with tuna salads, James reenacting Jemaine Clement’s scenes from Moana and Evy and Jamahl beating her to the chicken thighs; Vanessa was left staring at That Damned Rabbit – so more power to her for completely noping out of that situation and deciding to do a dessert because after Gordon Ramsay’s FFS Food Show has already given us one nightmarishly awful undercooked rabbit, we didn’t need to go there again so soon

I cannot stress how much of a disaster that show is – I am *obsessed* and yet no, I will never be deigning it with a recap. I have to have *some* standards around here.

It was a sensible choice considering that she had a lot of success in the last episode with her Pacman Choux Bun. Unfortunately The Fear got to her and she needlessly complicated her plans to make a Plum and Frangipane Tart by deconstructing it, though unlike Oli she was sensible enough to not utter the word “deconstructed”. For reasons she couldn’t quite explain, she had decided to bake her frangipane separately and somewhere along the baking process she seemed to realise this was not the best idea so she started dejectedly juggling potatoes

it’s not explained what happened to the potatoes, so I can only imagine that John Torode swooped in and told her that under no circumstances was she allowed to serve her stewed plums with mashed potato and they were promptly confiscated.

It’s kind of hard to really tell what Vanessa’s final dish was given that the frangipane had kind of turned into a muffin and the pastry case was now a decorative dust – and even Vanessa was just hoping for the bare minimum from it

the flavours were good – the orange she had used with the plums worked very well, the frangipane was made correctly (just bafflingly baked) and she had made a good pastry before she had given it its own funeral rites – and Gregg was particularly enthusiastic about her whipped cream. I think what really got to Vanessa was the fact she came in wanting to make a Thai Green Curry and then lost the race to the chicken thighs, so she was really thrown for a loop and she just spiralled as she way overthought the making of a tart. But props to her for somehow finding a way to bake a muffin top without having to bother with the subpar muffin base – I might cast her as a write-in vote for the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

An Newly Dubbed Market Challenge Dish Ranking

  1. James’s Linguine Surrender
  2. Thomas’s Complete Dish
  3. Jamahl’s Riceless Jerk Chicken
  4. Evy’s Chicken and Potato Strata
  5. Vanessa’s Disaster Tart
  6. Bhavina’s Exercise in Vampire Hunting
  7. Oli, Apologise to Brazil.

Someone did have to be eliminated and while I would have put money on it being Vanessa the moment she started practicing her circus skills, at least The Great Tart Disaster of 2022 tasted nice – so really it came down to a decision between Oli and Bhavina – and even though he cooked his John Dory much better, the decision to deconstruct a stew was an unforgivable act of culinary terrorism and so Oli was eliminated

He will now pen a lengthy apology letter to the Brazilian Embassy.

Rice Rice Baby!

This week’s Critic Challenge comes from Jay Rayner who tasked the contestants with creating a dish that made rice the star of the dish… How you feeling Jamahl?

and Gregg wasted absolutely no time in filling in Jay on Jamahl’s rice woes in the last round

Gregg repeatedly merking contestants has become one of my favourite recurring themes.

Surprisingly Jamahl was the only person that was making a risotto this round, when I fully expected at least 3 of them to gravitate towards a three cheese risotto like drag queens to a kimono in a Madonna themed runway

and while Jay would’ve been happy for Jamahl to just make a risotto – he was also making Polenta Crisps, Balsamic Tomatoes, Asparagus and a Parmesan Crisp that failed to materialise to accompany his Three Mushroom Risotto

I fully understand why he added everything else because had he just done the risotto they would probably have told him he was being a little simple with it. But unfortunately the dish seemed to have got away from him and the risotto was just that little bit too dry and the flavour of the mushrooms were somewhat overpowered by the addition of the chilli.

Evy was also going relatively simple with her dish of a Rice stuffed Tomato – you might as well get some vegetable stuffing practice in before you hit the mass catering challenges. The biggest obstacle she faced was with her consomme which needed to be perfectly clear and taste as much like a tomato soup as she could possibly manage – which she came out very well in the end, and you can also tick off “tiny perspex teapot” off your MasterChef Bingo Card

it’s a very elegant dish – Evy does this sort of stark simplicity extremely well – I would be very curious to see her art to see if it’s at all similar.
The elegance of the dish aside – the judges are all mostly pleased with the flavours – she had all the necessary flavour in the consomme, which is a big old win, but the rice she stuffed her tomato with could have used just a touch more seasoning – and the accompanying parmesan crisp is the best Jay Rayner has ever tasted

I hope the BBC pays for Jamahl’s after care.

Bhavina was also going down the Soupy Brothy Route with her Sticky Rice Balls that she was going to serve in Rasam – a spicy mostly tamarind based soup originating from South India

John and Ray both absolutely love it and commend her on the fact her rice balls didn’t fall apart in the soup as well as her perfect balancing of some quite powerful flavours – as someone who has fallen foul of Tamarind many a time, I was very impressed. Gregg however was not quite convinced of the dish – dubbing it “just a bowl of soup” which I thought was a little dismissive but I’m not sure I expected much more from a man who questioned how on earth she could possibly know how to make the dish because she’s from Northeast India.

The last of our main savoury dishes comes from Thomas who was drawing inspiration from his father and making a dish called Yam Rice (or Taro Rice) which he was serving with Pork Belly, Lotus Roots and a Carrot that John for reasons unknown couldn’t resist making a very topical Frozen joke about

needless to say, the joke fell rather flat because it’s literally just a carrot – and given how much Thomas had talked about his emotional connection to the dish, it was maybe *not* the best time to be reminding everyone about the continued existence of Josh Gad as a voice actor.

It’s clearly the dish of the episode with Jay Rayner waxing lyrical about how accomplished and beautiful the whole thing – while John and Gregg struggle to give critiques because they could barely stop eating it for longer than three seconds. It was a lovely moment for Thomas and I’m so glad it went as well for him as he deserved it to go.

Alongside risotto, the other dish I expected to make a pronounced appearance in this episode was Arancini – and luckily James was more than willing to oblige. Although James isn’t like other cooks, no he’s an ~inventive~ cook so his Arancini were going to be Dessert Arancini

they were going to be a mixture of rice and coconut, which he was serving with a Coconut and Yoghurt Sorbet, a White Chocolate and Mango Mousse as well as a rose that he was painstakingly building out of mango and Jay was doing nothing to hide his contempt for

James however was undeterred from his mango floristry

it’s a mostly good dish – all the flavours work very well together and the contrasts between the sweet mousse and the sharper yoghurt sorbet was great. The arancini are for the most part positively received, they are a little bit on the dry side and Jay Rayner suggests serving them with chocolate sauce next time as though the White Chocolate Mousse just doesn’t exist

I would have been maybe interested in seeing them served in a syrup, a bit luke Gulab Jamun or coated in it like South African Koeksisters. But as far as a novel dish goes, it was a very successful one.

Lastly we have Vanessa who was once again returning to the Dessert Well, although at least this time she had a plan and didn’t have the corpse of a rabbit looming over her shoulder whispering for her to start juggling potatoes again. She was doing the duty of making a Rice Pudding, specifically Sholeh Zard which is an Iranian Rice Pudding flavoured with Saffron, Rose Water and Cardamom – which all require very careful balancing. Much like Jamahl and the gilding of the metaphorical risotto lily, she was also serving it with a Barberry Pie and a Cardamom Cream

the necessity of the pie and cream are debatable, but given Vanessa seems to be marketing herself as a pastry chef, you might as well just ram home your brand while you can. Jay loves the dish and praises the flavours and consistency to the heavens – it ticked every box for him. John and Gregg were a little more lukewarm on it, with Gregg particularly griping about the fact he couldn’t taste much saffron (there’s only so much a BBC budget can buy, mate) AND THEN SAID THIS

That’s a Big Ol’ Yikes from me, babe – maybe we stop talking about the Middle East like it’s some sort of made up land full of magic and occultism? Just a suggestion.
The disparity between the critiques of Vanessa’s dish was a little mystifying to me – John and Gregg seem to have very weird expectation in regards to flavour sometimes.

A Rice Dish Ranking

  1. Thomas’s Rice Full of Memories
  3. James’s Dessert Arancini Business
  4. Evy is a Consomme Professional
  5. Vanessa’s Dessert Recovery Scheme
  6. Jamahl’s Gilded Risotto

I thought this was one of the more successful Critic Challenges – the only person who had a real dud of a day was Jamahl and so he was sent home without much debate

and the decision of who else to eliminate came down to being between Bhavina or Vanessa – which is a terrible turn of events because they are certified Favs but ultimately the decision was made to send Vanessa home

I really enjoyed her on the show, it’s always nice to have someone who is so willing to cook a dessert (sensibly or otherwise) and if you want to see what else she creates, you can follow her on Instagram at Vanessa_MakesPastry.

And so, this week’s quarterfinalists are Bhavina, Evy, James and Thomas. And that review will be up tomorrow – sorry they’re a little delayed this weekend, there’s a lot going on!

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

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