And you all laughed when I said we could replace John Torode with Basil Brush.
It’s finals week which does mean the challenges do become increasingly difficult and more like extensive 40 minute adverts for high end restaurants.
Oh happy days! They haven’t got rid of the “make a dish inspired by someone you admire” round AND they’ve definitely told people to stop making a twist on the roast dinner your nan used to make every sunday because I hate to break to you, you’re nan isn’t special, everyone does that. And I think this change definitely made for much more interesting dishes, sadly nobody went quite as unhinged as Steve in 2017 who was the one responsible for The Hannibal Lecter Plate
to be fair if I had to do this challenge I would probably do a dish inspired by Guillermo del Toro which would end up looking similarly nightmarish.
This lot went for much more sophisticated inspirations and Sarah was a woman after my own heart as she drew inspiration from Californian photographer Ansel Adams, whose landscape photographs are basically visual ASMR. Arguably the most famous aspect of Ansel Adams’s photography is the fact it was all in black and white and I was a little bit excited to see Sarah trying to pull a Pookie and dye everything black using squid ink to create the sweeping landscapes of the Sierra Nevada out of mashed potato and roast chicken. However she was being much more sensible and was taking the clarity and crispness of his high contrast photography as the basis of her inspiration – realising it as a consommé. She was also continuing her championing of Scottish produce by taking the similarities between California and Scottish seafood including razor clams, langoustines and mussels
she hadn’t completely forgone the squid ink though and use it to make a tuile that was delicately draped across it like the veil of a widow whose second husband just mysteriously died
I’ve never wanted to be seduced and murdered by a dish more in my life.
She did have a minor hiccup in that her consomme hadn’t perfectly clarified and while it was a little bit post-washing up water in colour, the seafood was at least utterly perfectly cooked and the presentation had a stark simplicity that really did evoke the same vibe as Adams’s photography
they’re basically the same thing.
Sarah wasn’t the only person pandering to my interests as Eddie was drawing inspiration from the film The Lunchbox which is such a good film and everyone should absolutely watch it – I think it’s available on Amazon Prime at the moment and it comes on Netflix every couple of months – so keep an eye out! And as well as cooking buttered duck, Eddie was also delivering a TED Talk
can Eddie set up a service where he sends you an inspirational quotes to your voicemail every morning? It would greatly improve the start to my day. Or you know, just give him a show on Radio 4?
But back to Eddie’s food and the aforementioned Buttered Duck which resulted in a series of unfortunate typos in my notes… but Bittered Dick is a good drag king name. It was a bit of a risk changing up the chicken for duck considering duck is significantly richer and balancing it with a similarly rich, creamy sauce was going to be difficult
But I’m not sure anyone was surprised that Eddie pulled it off phenomenally? The man can do no wrong – the hair truly is big and full of secrets, and potentially a very talented little French rat chef?
John was pretty much rendered speechless by the whole dish and could only offer some vintage dank meme energy
if you have never seen the Boom Goes The Dynamite sports broadcast, treat yourself to some A Grade mortification.
Gregg however was on hand to offer some actual critique and was specifically excited about his Jerusalem Artichoke Chaat – which, were dubbed “a great little snack” which is correct, because that’s what chaat is, but when Gregg says it, it always makes things sound akin to pork scratchings in a dimly lit pub that still hasn’t invested in a card machine and smells a bit like it’s cleaned once a month with a damp rag and nothing else.
Radha was also making her take on an Indian dish with her jackfruit biryani that was inspired by Rudyard Kipling, and definitely not Hulk Hogan
Kipling’s poem If- was particularly prescient to her experience in the competition and she’s also elaborated further on the concept and how she identifies with Mowgli from The Jungle Book due to her dual heritage and the struggle to find that balance and fit in. And because this is Radha, this dish was obviously an ode to roundness too
I’m really grasping at straws to keep this laboured running joke going, just go with it, there’s only 2 episodes left after this because the BBC finally realised they were doing the maths wrong and 7 times 3 isn’t 24 afterall. Who knew?
If you’re wondering quite how the pastry disc comes into things, traditionally biryani is made in a clay pot that’s sealed with a pastry lid and I think that was quite a clever way of introducing a bit more texture to what could have been a very soft dish otherwise. Gregg was also particularly complimentary of the raisins and pomegranates on the top – and as a proponent of raisins, I’m glad to hear it.
The biggest talking point of her dish though was the Masala Lassi, which Radha very valiantly tried to get everyone to pronounce correctly but Gregg is seemingly doomed to forever pronounce it like someone is serving a well-seasoned Rough Collie
Gregg can’t quite get his head around it, and a savoury drink with the texture of a smoothie does sound a bit of a mind bender but John appreciated it and how it adds a respite to the spice and heat of the biryani.
Ioan’s inspirational person was Tom Daley both for his sporting success and work within the LGBTQ+ community. The main focus was on his success at the Tokyo Olympics which were last year and somehow not 3 years ago? Time? Who needs it? Because of this, Ioan was going with Japanese flavours and influence – infusing his beef fillet with Sake and Miso, a wasabi pomme puree and a Kombu and Shiitake Jus – and then he was also a deep-frying an oyster and serving some carrots and beetroot
the omission of a knitted potato waffle is a tad glaring.
The beef fillet did look phenomenally well cooked so it was a little unfortunate that he didn’t have the time to fully rest it, however the bleeding out was marginal and Gregg and John acted like it was Joe Swash’s duck all over again.
John and Gregg did appreciate that Ioan had tried to show them something that he hadn’t done yet with the Japanese influence but the flavours were all a tad polite and he could have pushed them a little further. The presentation was a bit of an issue for them, I think it was only a comparative issue, because it’s a perfectly fine looking dish but when you have Eddie’s tiffin boxes, Radha and Sarah’s perfect circles and Pookie crafting a lifeboat out of a salmon fillet, it does perhaps fall a little short.
I do wonder if making a savoury dish was compulsory, because I feel like Ioan’s inspiration might have been better realised as a dessert – just go ham on the gold leaf!
Speaking of Pookie’s salmon-y lifeboat, her dish was a dedication to the RNLI because her husband once needed their help and while Sarah wasn’t going to craft a landscape out of blackened mussels and squid ink rice, Pookie was going to go as literal as she possibly could, and not happy enough with the fact the plate she was using was blue, she was continuing her dedication to dyeing rice blue
the presentation is once again, very theatrical and wonderfully charming in its sincerity, but she did have a slight mishap with her salmon fillet as when she took it off to rest before plating she accidentally put the tray on the hot hob, which did mean it got a little caught
but she’s far from the first person for this to happen to, lest we forget Katy last year managing to burn her tortellini by doing exactly the same thing
those hobs are a MENACE.
The dried out salmon aside, the choo chee sauce (a thick Thai red curry) she made to accompany the salmon was very good and sounded lovely, as were the dumplings she made, which were certainly well filled
I for one am sick of ordering dumplings and getting a 1 part filling to 4 parts dough ratio – so everyone, be more Pookie about your dumpling rations.
A Inspirational Figure Dish Ranking
- Eddie’s Lunch Box Office Smash
- Radha’s Dedication to Mr Kipling (Non-cake)
- Pookie’s Misadventures at Sea
- Ansel Adams in Technicolour
- Tom Daley’s Bronze Medal
There was an elimination to be had after this round with the decision coming down to being between Pookie, Ioan and Sarah – and at this stage in the competition it’s tough to lose anyone and sadly it was Ioan we had to say goodbye to
he’s been a great contestant this year, it’s always nice when someone is just so unabashedly enthusiastic to be there and experience the whole thing – and he gave us some phenomenal dishes, like that Espresso Martini dessert with the melting spoon is one for the MasterChef history books, so he’s certainly left a mark and if you want to see where he goes from here, because I’m sure there’s a bright food future for him, you can follow him on Instagram at IoansCookBook.
And Now, An Advert for The Ballymaloe Cookery School
For their first Post-Ioan challenge the Top 4 were being taken to Ireland to visit the late great Myrtle Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery School where they were being given an introduction to Irish cuisine by her daughter-in-law Darina Allen and her brother Rory, the latter of which is an alarming glimpse into Tom Fletcher’s future
but I also have a tendency to just think all bespectacled white men look the same, it’s their cross to bear.
They were divided into groups of two with Eddie and Radha going on a whistlestop tour of the Irish coast to pick seaweed and be introduced to incredibly ugly fish
and Sarah and Pookie got to mill about the kitchen garden and meet some cows
and Pookie is now the Avril Lavigne of the farmyard
she’s but a hot pink streak of hair away from recording a banger of a pop-punk album. Olivia Rodrigo won’t know what hit her.
And with their new found knowledge of Irish ingredients they had to produce a 4 course meal for 8 guests including Myrtle’s Daughter Fern and Rachel Allen who is merely relegated to the role of Family Member like she’s been expunged from the family tree and only talked about in whispers behind covered mouths
the fact she’s Celebrity Chef first, family member second is very funny to me only. But to be fair it’s a bit of a mouthful to list “granddaughter-in-law”.
Aside from the nepotism, they had also invited a local food producer and John and Gregg were obviously going to be on hand too, although they weren’t in the dining room, imaginably because John was embarrassed that he had cut himself shaving
it’s a good thing he hasn’t commented on anyone’s knife skills this series because I never would’ve let him live that down.
Each contestant would be in charge of a different course and had been given a specialist ingredient to highlight – Sarah was taking on the starter with artichokes and the very fun to say Gubbeen Cheese, vegetarian Radha had been saddled with everyone’s least favourite course: fish, with everyone’s least favourite fish: mackerel, Pookie was taking on the main with the ever predictable Irish Lamb and Eddie was seeing out dessert with apples and butter and steadfastly resisting the human urge to make a crumble.
For her starter Sarah had somehow extrapolated from a Cauliflower Cheese to a Gubbeen Cheese Saboyan, Roasted Artichokes and a Raisin Puree all of which would be served in a tart case. The service got off to a little bit of a rocky start as Sarah’s tart cases just weren’t cooking and had already been in 12 minutes longer than she thought they’d need, at which point John just began to stare at nothing in particular as the sound of Thomas shouting “2 more minutes, chef!” began to echo in his head
understandably the pressure of it all got Sarah into a bit of a flap (or as much of a flap as Sarah who is so chilled she might as well be a gecko can get into) and while she had Eddie putting together the world’s most panicked mixed leaf salad she had to try and de-tin the incredibly short pastry cases, which was not going brilliantly
but she persisted and valiantly tried to forge them back together again with her gubbeen saboyan
it does sound like a bit of an odd dish but it also feels like it’s distinctly from the same family as her Sweetcorn Custard, so it’s nice to see that Sarah has such a strong culinary brand, which I think is key to going far in MasterChef and beyond.
The DIY bathroom tile disaster of the presentation aside, everyone raves about the taste of it and Sarah may be responsible for starting a Gubbeen Cheese cult
I too worship at the cheeseboard alter. Our Gouda who art in Heaven, Hallowed brie thy name. (sorry mum)
After such a rough time, I would have been perfectly ok if Sarah had wanted to stand in the middle of the kitchen garden and curse her lungs out, it turns out she is a better person than I
but there was always this option
I would have hecked and decked all over.
Radha was next and taking on quite the task with having to cook her first ever fish course – and shout out to the conspiracy theorists who have now decided that Radha is the professionally trained culinary spy because they’re sure she’s lying about the things she’s never cooked before. And it’s like… she’s literally a vegetarian? And I get the impression she was probably raised a vegetarian? So it’s really not that big a stretch to believe she’s never touched a mackerel in her life.
Obviously there was the obstacle of getting the seasoning right, so she was having to grab Pookie every now and again and aeroplane food into her mouth to check salt and pepper quantities
and with the mackerel having eventually reached a Pookie approved level of seasoned, Radha was making it into fishcakes which is disappointing because fish balls were an option and Radha was probably our best hope of making India Fisher say “Fish Balls” which is on my MasterChef Bucket List.
As well as the fishcake, Radha was doing crushed peas, a salad of miscellaneous things picked from the garden and a poached egg which she was making by wrapping them clingfilm like goldfish at a funfair, a tactic that gets 5 points deducted from your breakfast score on Four In A Bed
and she did almost have a bit of a disaster when the eggs came out a little raw and she proceeded to wiggle her finger around the in the slightly raw egg white
so thanks for that contribution to the Curséd Egg Gif Archive.
The eggs were at least stable enough to get a second clingfilm-free poaching and her dish was served up in its entirety, complete with a caper and black olive butter
and it’s as acclaimed as a mackerel fishcake could possibly be – it’s stable, it’s nicely crisped and browned and of course her eggs still had a runny yolk. I think she did as well as you could hope for from someone who had, for the first time, had to pull the bones from amongst the flesh of a fish.
Radha wasn’t the only one taking on a first in the kitchen, as it turns out Pookie had never cooked lamb before – I can’t quite say whether or not she cooks paper on the regular though (shout out to “loop warm temperature”)
the doors John Torode had opened
I’m honestly surprised that in 18 series of the show that more sheets of instructions haven’t gone up in flames.
With her lamb Pookie was of course wanting to bring in some Thai influences, opting for a Thai Green Curry because it’s green, but while she was using certain Thai ingredients like lemongrass, she was also using herbs and plants from the garden to try and recreate the flavour, which she seemed to achieve very well in the end, almost a little too well for some people. And from the greenness of the curry, she eventually decided that she was also going to recreate the Irish flag out of root vegetables
I think, personally, I would’ve served the curry sauce in a jug on the side because as lovely as green curries are, they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing shade of green. But crucially it also tasted lovely and she had cooked and butchered her first piece of lamb absolutely superbly.
And lastly we have Eddie who despite almost explicitly being told to make an apple crumble was not going to take the bait and was instead going for the French classic Mille-Feuille. And I apologise to every patissier that has endeavoured to keep the legacy of Vincent la Chapelle alive but I do think we have to, as a society, eventually accept that Mille-Feuilles are not good desserts – that’s my spiciest MasterChef hot take.
However, Eddie had chosen to do the Mille-Feuille and Gregg was very full of hope for him
so the presentation eventually got away from him but the dessert did still look good in that sort of small rural pub that does triple portions kind of way
and everyone loves it, and it absolutely wasn’t influenced by the amount of whiskey in the caramel
and while they like his apple elements, it was his ice cream infused with Sweet Cicely, a herb that tastes of anise, that caught the eyes of the dinners with Darina wanting to the recipe for it and I hope Eddie put a £50,000 ransome on it.
Over all, I think there was a definite improvement over the semi-final restaurant service challenge – everyone communicated better and the dishes were better conceptualised so it’s good to see everyone improving, we’ll see quite how far that goes in the next episode where they risk being called idiot sandwiches by Gordon Ramsay.
And so, our Top 4 go to the penultimate episode…
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