It’s very important that we have more Women With Knives representation.
Let the Crimes Against Eggs begin!
I’m trying to get this recap ball rolling again after a couple of days of feeling like I was having my soul ripped out of me like a toilet paper dispenser in Nando’s
so bear with me.
For it’s 2022 run, some things have of course remained the same – Marcus is still around, Gregg Wallace is still having to pretend not to know what things like Italian Meringue are in a more demeaning pantomime than anything Buxton could do to a B-list soap star this December and of course the MasterChef branded headphones that I kind of want a pair of are still in play
but there are changes, with Monica Galetti deciding to devote her attention to her business, family and travelling to luxury hotels with the worst person in the journalism industry (Congratulations Giles, it’s quite a feat) we instead we have Anna Haugh who having been pushed to breaking point on Ready Steady Cook several times was naturally the best person – also she pulled this face a lot
and brandished a tiny knife like she was prepared to gut you with it at a moment’s notice
and that’s all I really need from my MasterChef judges.
Anna did get the honour of kicking off the proceedings with her skills test of Smoked Oysters in a Beurre Blanc Sauce – which did indeed unfortunately mean far too many close-ups of oysters which either looks like bogeys or marooned jellyfish and let’s just say them swimming in a yellow sauce wasn’t doing much to help the situation.
First up was Anastasia – you can roll a dice like a game of phonetic chance as to where you put the emphasis because everyone else did. She had fortunately been trained in oyster shucking before and got on mostly very well with it – I think there would have been much more panic in the kitchen if they hadn’t provided them with The Shucking Gauntlet that looked more like they were preparing to having a hawk fly at them rather than preparing shellfish
c’mon guys, where’s the risk? Where’s the thrill? You live by the shucking knife, you lose a finger by the shucking knife!
Anastasia’s biggest issue was her time, having severely run out of it – imaginably because Gregg kept asking her to showcase her past gymnastic prowess by demanding 5 of her 20 minutes be dedicated to performing a full floor routine, so she didn’t really have enough time to plate it up properly, forgoing putting them back in the shells
which Anna was particularly heartbroken about
to be fair to Anastasia (and Parminder) though, I would have assumed putting them back in the shells was a trap because it does strike me as quite a dated thing to do – also I’m sure the oysters regard it as being akin to a Kevin Smith body horror film. Serving vessels aside, they liked most of what she did – the smokiness didn’t quite come through strong enough because she should have smoked the beurre blanc and not the entire room
it was all part of the theatricality.
Parminder wasn’t quite so lucky with the Skills Test draw, his soul completely leaving his body when Anna informed him of the oysters
but while he hadn’t done it before, he had obsessively watched videos of people doing it on YouTube – whether this was as competition prep or if he had found an ASMR artist who specialises in shellfish prep was not elaborated upon but I know what *I* want to believe.
The beurre blanc was the bigger issue for him – he kind of knew the rough idea behind it but the technique got away from him just a little bit with the sauce beginning to split and sensing the rising panic of Marcus Wareing in the pantry, mostly resolved to just chucking even more butter in the pan in the vein hope it would correct itself
it did not correct itself
but if you’re in the market for extremely buttery oysters and very little else, you’re in luck! And yes, of course Anna looked on like a Victorian orphan hoping for some extra gruel when he began plating them up with no shells in sight
she was VERY invested in those shells.
Parminder’s beurre blanc may have been a mere puddle of butter but his oysters were at least perfectly cooked so it wasn’t a complete washout for him and I would say it was largely a successful niche skills test for both him and Anastasia.
The Kings of Tarts
For his Skills Test, Marcus was asking his two candidates to make him a Fruit Tartlet filled with berry jam, creme patissiere and topped with Italian Meringue – the one concession he was granting them was that they didn’t have to make the tart case as well but the pair of them could have really done with an extra 4 arms each – especially Nathan who proceeded to try to do everything at the same time which I’m going to say is the reason he brought what might be the most cursed Creme Patissiere I’ve ever seen on this show – going wrong from its very inception when he started with whole eggs
and then while his mind went blank he was possessed by the idea to just dump all of his cornflour in a completely empty saucepan
and then just to give it some company proceeded to dump his milky scrambled egg mixture into what was to become Hell’s Saucepan
as we could all tell by the rising panic and concern as Marcus repeatedly hit the CODE RED button under the desk, this was never going to become Creme Patissiere and was doomed to be Sweet Scrambled Eggs and so Nathan banished it in the freezer to set and imaginably hoping that one of the Icelandic Yule Lads might swap it out from a real Creme Patissiere as a festive treat – it wouldn’t be the weirdest part of Icelandic Christmas Folklore.
Sadly Kremþjófur was not available and Nathan had to scoop his Terrible, Horrible, No Good Custard into his tart case
and then hide all of his sins beneath a thick layer of Italian Meringue that he had thankfully managed to competently render in amongst the ruins of everything else
and everyone very valiantly got over their fear of the custard that lurked below to actually try some of the Horror Tart
and do you know what? Power to them and I hereby absolve everyone of the oyster close-up sins because this is what Nathan’s tart looked like in macro
if he ever wants a change of career, he has a job in creating B-movie horror films with every film graduate in the UK.
With Nathan very much treading the path of chaos, I wish I could say William was wholly on the path of law and order and while he was definitely more organised and not trying to cook everything like he was an octopus, his Italian Meringue didn’t get off to the best start as he was trying to seperate the eggs with hands shaking at a solid magnitude 4 and dripping quite a bit of yolk into the bowl and it took three whole men to hold Anna from bursting through the walls of the pantry to save him
there’s only so many egg-based horrors she can witness in one day, thankfully William course corrected and knew he had to clean out the bowl and start all over again, as well as knowing that a creme pat is best made with just the egg yolks – he did however forget the cornflour, meaning Anna did have to wait in a state of feline readiness in the event he just dumped all of it in there and she need to leave an Anna-shaped hole in the wall
but he didn’t and merely resigned himself to serving up a very watery custard
which he was apparently very willing to stand behind and topped with an extremely stingey amount of meringue
and he earned the extremely high praise of “It’s edible” from Anna, which wasn’t entirely surprising given there’s no actual video evidence that she or Gregg ever ate any of Nathan’s Fruity Omelette Tart. WHERE. ARE. THE. RECEIPTS? SHOW. ME. THE. RECEIPTS!
The format is the same as ever, with the final challenge before Anna inevitably bundles Nathan up into a bag and leaves him in an alleyway like an unwanted cat is for the chefs to cook a 2 course signature menu consisting of a main and a dessert – William causing Marcus a great deal of consternation with his main course because he’s from the Isle of Seil and was cooking venison and it’s a very well known fact that venison cannot travel across the 22 metre long Clachan Bridge without bursting into heretical flames
it’s simply witchcraft that he cooked it so perfectly! The gnocchi seemed a slightly odd accompaniment but I can’t say I wouldn’t order the Venison and Wild Garlic Gnocchi dish – could have maybe done with one extra slice of Venison and a few more gnocchi though.
As for his dessert, he was kind of transmogrifying a Banoffee Pie into a White Chocolate and Tonka Bean Panna Cotta with Caramelised Bananas and a Singular Ginger Crumb
he had planned to make some sort of elaborate sugar work cage to go over it but it hadn’t really worked which is why the whole thing looks a bit like Miss Havisham as a dessert.
The judges all liked his flavours but it was a little hard to call the Panna Cotta a Panna Cotta given that it behaved more like a set custard
but good flavours count for a lot in these early stages.
While William shunned the call of the sea, Nathan was fully embracing it with his minimal Turbot and Cockles dish, served in a Rice Wine Vinegar Dressing, which wasn’t so much a dressing as it was a puddle
and I think we all knew how this was going to go the moment Anna pondered if he was going to go to overboard with the rice wine vinegar over a shot of him completely upending the bottle of rice wine vinegar
Chekhov strikes again!
As was expected, it was much too sharp for the more delicate fish and asparagus but Anna was keen to defend his cookery of the turbot with her piece being perfectly cooked while Marcus’s smaller portion had somewhat suffered.
Nathan’s last hopes of survival lay in the hands of his dessert which was an incredibly troublesome Beetroot and Chocolate dish, plated up in a way that deeply upset me to the point I actually can’t commit its sins to writing without feeling like I was doing myself a disservice
Nobody was particularly keen with Gregg mostly struggling with the fact he was having to chew through entire chunks of beetroot and it feeling like a savoury dish while Anna mostly wished she could taste anything other than beetroot. I appreciate the attempt to try something daring and interesting at least – I’ll be honest, I’d take a million of these shots in the dark over another perfectly safe vanilla parfait and fresh fruit that plagued us all last year.
Given that Parminder primarily cooks Indian food, he was of course treated to a full interrogation from Gregg the moment he dared to tempura something and use Shiso Leaves in his dish – although, fair play to Gregg if he was just making sure that he wasn’t making Tandoori Sushi like that one guy from many moons ago whose name has mercifully been lost to the sands of time. As it turns out Parminder is just a well travelled and culinarily adventurous man as his Shiso Leaf wrapped Cod showed
I do also hugely enjoy that despite how smart the dish looks, it also looks slightly like a deconstructed frilled-necked lizard.
It was by far the most impressive dish of the day, with perfectly balanced flavours and a sauce that Marcus likened to drinking silk – the fabric and not the non-dairy milk range.
For his dessert, Parminder was making Shrikhand – an Indian strained yoghurt dessert which he was flavouring with Saffron and in order to add a pit of texture was serving it alongside some Kataifi Pastry and a pile of gooseberries
Anna was particularly impressed with the control he had shown over his use of saffron and not falling into the trap of using as much as he needed to achieve the bright yellow colour – I imagine the BBC budget also helped limit the amount of saffron he put in.
Lastly we have Anastasia with her main course of Duck and a Parsnip Threeway – Anna still hasn’t learnt the art of not saying “threeway” when talking about someone doing something three ways and I love it a lot
it’s an impressive bit of cooking with the duck fat being well rendered and rested so it wasn’t bleeding all over the plate and the parsnip puree, crisps and dukkha spiced parsnips were all different and interesting enough to have been warranted doing them three different ways.
While everyone loved her main course, her Raspberry and Chocolate Dessert was a little more divisive
both Anna and Marcus were quick to praise her Pickled Raspberry Coulis as a thing of pure genius worthy of being immortalised on the roof of the Sistine Chapel – while Gregg seemed baffled by the praise and wanted significantly less of it, with Anna and Marcus watching his critique with unabashed embarrassment
the intense “we had to bring our little brother to the party” energy is extremely strong this year.
My only critique is that it looks better if I put googly eyes on it
His name is Herman the Hippo and he bathes in the blood of his enemies.
A Two Course Menu Dish Ranking
1. Parminder’s Portrait of a Lizard in Fish and Leaves
2. Anastasia’s Parsnip Threeway
3. Parminder’s Saffron-scented Control
4. William’s Off-island Venison
5. Herman The Hippo
6. Mrs. Havisham’s Fancy Banoffee Pie
7. An Entire Bottle of Rice Wine Vinegar Later
8. A Shot (I definitely wrote Shot) In the Beetroot Dark
Parminder easily sailed through without any questions from anyone
and Nathan was very much crossed off the Christmas list the moment he turned around post-beetrootening which left them to decide between William or Anastasia and because this is the first episode and it has to be a feel-good event, both of them were taken through because they simply could not pick
I would have probably just taken Anastasia, because as talented and good a chef as William clearly is, he seems entirely too anxious for this competition and I worry for him.
On to episode two which looks promising as Marcus bellows “That’s not cooked!” at a just about entirely raw whole chicken – it’s back baby!
And if you’ve enjoyed this recap of the MasterChef: The Professionals’ first episode and would like to support the blog, you can leave a small donation via my Ko-fi HERE.