Anna Haugh here, perfecting the art of YouTube Thumbnail Face.
Content Warning: Everything Andrew Did To That Crab.
Having not quite suffered enough watching the last group of chefs filleting trout like they were owed blood a debt, Anna was having Wilson and Emma butcher most of a rabbit – requiring them to remove the liver, kidneys and loins to served alongside morel mushrooms. It all started off so well, Wilson swanned into that kitchen like he was there to steal Anna’s job, ready to stare the Skills Test in the eye and show it who was boss
and he sure went at that rabbit with a certain amount of speed, much to everyone’s excitement. This excitement would not last as he turned his attention to the morel mushrooms, which despite having worked with in the past, he didn’t bother to wash them and Anna looked ready to seek vigilante fungal justice over it
his plan was to stuff the morels with some finely diced liver, but not before he had made a sauce, which is when the real trouble began to set in as he chucked a few big old chunks of premium rabbit loin in the pan for the sole purpose of making a sauce
and while that bubbled away to oblivion along with Anna’s faith in the culinary landscape of Britain, the rabbit loin that was intended to be eaten was steadfastly not cooking and Anna’s day was entirely ruined
all she wanted was some rabbit, and all she got from Wilson was raw rabbit and a newfound hatred for morel mushrooms
Emma had a very similar villain arc to Wilson, with it all starting so well – she loves rabbit, she’s prepped one for a competition before – sure she bisected it across the waist for no real reason other to get rid of some of her anger
but then she started cooking it, which mostly involved just boiling it in stock like she was making a rationing era rabbit stew
and upon seeing her second chance at a nice bit of rabbit sinking like the Titanic in a roiling boil, Anna began looking to Gregg like she was in desperate need of a cyanide pill
and rather appropriately, Emma’s dish did end up looking a little bit like a rabbit that had met a tragic roadside end
her greatest success being the complete fluke that despite not having washed her morels, there was no grit.
Any Old Crab
OH BOY. I didn’t think it could get much worse than the rabbit but then Marcus asked his two candidates to prepare a great big stonking crab for a Sweetcorn and White Crab Veloute with Brown Crab Croutons. Andrew was up first and very much doing anything in his power to not have to touch the crab by busying himself with a set of hefty croutons. Eventually he did have to go to Cancrine War though and I am not exaggerating when I say that Andrew going at this crab is my TV Highlight of 2022 – just furiously knocking at it like a debt collector as Anna screamed in the pantry
and he just kept going, no amount of Marcus shifting uncomfortably in his seat or screeches of terror coming from the stock cupboard was going to dissuade him from bisecting that poor crab like the final instalment of a YA film adaptation
and in the heat of his war against the crustaceans, he got the instructions for what he was making a little mixed up, serving up a Sweetcorn and Brown Crab Veloute with White Crab Croutons
the veloute was a bit of a disaster, he’d not used anything but the sweetcorn and crab so it was a little dull and he’d not passed it through the sieve so it was grittier than Wilson’s morels – and Anna had to desperately try not to laugh when she confronted him about the bisected crab lying miserably on his workbench – mercifully unpictured.
Last up was Mo, who gleefully announced that he’s worked with crab a number of times before, which everyone rejoiced over until it all went a little bit Andrew 2: Crab Smash Boogaloo
apparently chefs are prone to using crabs like those strength testing machines you find at arcades and funfairs.
His questionable use of a crab aside, Mo got on with the challenge pretty successfully in terms of the veloute, which he made correctly and Marcus was particularly pleased because Mo had plated it up identically to his
and because it was all cooked and they didn’t have to worry about a rogue piece of crabshell cutting their gums, they declared it the best thing they’d eaten all day – and it definitely wasn’t because it was the only thing they’d eaten all day.
Pretty much everyone was coming into this round in desperate need of a redemption arc, with Mo probably being in the most comfortable position before promptly leveling the playing field by serving Gregg raw sea bass
and even though Anna’s and Marcus’s fish were cooked, they couldn’t quite get their heads around the fact the warm fish was sitting on a stone cold slab of potato terrine like it was about to be part of some sort of ancient Greek sacrifice to Poseidon
and on top of that, the fennel was a little too crunchy for Marcus and Anna wanted the lifetime supply of samphire that lurked beneath it all to be mellowed with a different vegetable.
Things didn’t get a great deal better for Mo come his dessert but he had been quite ambitious with his Dark Chocolate Delice that was so big it even intimidated Gregg Wallace
and again, some of the elements just hadn’t worked, his aerated chocolate was just a ganache and the salted caramel meringues, which sounded lovely, had lost their crispiness.
The Rabbit Wrestlers, Wilson and Emma, found themselves stuck in another showdown as they had both chosen to do duck for their main courses – Wilson’s being the more successful of the two plates
they really raved about the maple syrup celeriac but did think the skin of his duck needed to be crispier, with Emma having the opposite problem and having incinerated the skin of some otherwise perfect duck
it’s a pretty classic duck dish – simple potatoes, cherry and orange sauce and some asparagus with a lot of it being very nice but the red wine jus was lacking in substance and seasoning, but I did prefer the style of her dish over Wilson’s minimalism.
Wilson managed to keep the momentum going in his White Chocolate and Strawberry dessert which sounds like it’ll look very elegant and then it showed up in front of the judges wearing what looks like a statement goatee
and in a round seemingly sponsored by macerated strawberries, Wilson’s certainly garnered the most praise, however despite The Second Coming of Macerated Christ, Marcus was having issues with the chilli sauce that Wilson had perhaps been a little heavy handed on.
As for Emma’s dessert, she was making a pretty classic Brulee Tart which she was struggling with a little bit, the heat of the kitchen affecting the pastry, but also she had maybe been a little aggressive with the baking beads because you could see their indentations in the walls of her tarts
they were a little ~rustic~ looking but there was still a certain charm to her dessert
it looks like the sort of thing you’d be served in a coastal café by a woman named Agnes who has owned and run it for 50 years, knows all the names of the regulars and doesn’t trust tourists or anyone under the age of 25 one bit, which probably isn’t quite the MasterChef brand they were after. But costing Emma the most points was the fact her tarts just hadn’t set
but Anna made sure to be very complimentary about the rhubarb compote and how in theory it’s a very good dish, it just wasn’t right for a 90 minute time crunch while you’re also trying to pan-fry a duck breast and navigate an interview with Gregg Wallace.
Andrew arguably had the most ground to catch up after Hulk Smashing a crab and he was certainly taking a risk with his main course in which he was playing the role of Marcus Junius Brutus and deconstructing a Caesar, choosing to also throw out the chicken in favour of lamb
I can’t say it’s a dish that particularly excites me in terms of both its presentation (which looks like the result of a fussy eater at a buffet) and concept – I m still the president of the Stop Cooking Lettuce Initiative but the judges all raved about how good and daring it was – I will grant him that the egg looked amazing – but he hadn’t quite got the fat of the lamb rendered down enough.
His dessert was a similarly risky option – macerated strawberries and a panna cotta, the risk being that he was flavouring the panna cotta with tarragon
the risk… paid off? They kind of mostly admired the ballsy nature of choosing to do something different and interesting with a panna cotta, although of course Marcus was pining for some vanilla.
A Signature Menu Dish Ranking
1. Wilson’s Red Duck Redemption
2. Andrew’s Tarragon Gambit
3. Wilson’s Bearded Dessert
4. Andrew’s Deposed Caesar Salad
5. Emma’s Red Duck Redemption
6. Mo’s Intimidating Delice
7. Emma’s Leaky Tart
8. Mo’s Sacrificial Sea Bass
It was a very hit and miss episode for everyone so choosing who went through did feel a bit like blindfoldedly throwing darts at a dartboard – the only real solid decision was on Wilson getting through
and Emma leaving which meant they had to either take Mo on the promise he showed in a difficult Skills Test or Andrew on the basis that he seems to design dishes based on selecting “Random Article” on Wikipedia, ultimately choosing to embrace chaos and keep Andrew
he is however not allowed within 10 feet of a crab for the remainder of the competition.
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