Marcus Wareing just really wants you to know he has blue eyes.
50 Shades of Green.
Of Rice And Bream
We’re back in the world of Fishmongery with Marcus’s Skills Test requiring the two chefs to fillet and steam a Sea Bream to serve alongside a bowl of rice and an Ambiguous Asian Broth™ made with any combination of these ingredients
it’s like a game of Vague Thai Bingo.
Given the general trend of fish prep this series, this was surprisingly good! Stephano and Lucy both made little mistakes – Stephano left a little too much meat on the bone and Lucy was a little heavy handed on her first fillet but neither of them had Anna screaming for mercy in the pantry.
Stephano did also make the mistake of steaming his fish without any of the aromats and his broth was a little simplistic which didn’t add much visual interest to the final plate
some fresh chilli and pak choi thrown in would have made it look slightly like a fish fillet sitting in a muddy puddle, but it tasted good!
Lucy got on much better in that department, both remembering to add some flavour to her fish
and making the broth look a little more appetising
and both of them managed to survive the Rice Discourse, although sadly neither of them managed to make Anna look at their rice the way Anna looked at Marcus’s rice
cooking rice on TV is always a dangerous thing because no matter how you do it, there’s always going to be at least one culinary community on Twitter that will call for your head.
Tortellini Meeny Miny Moe
Anna’s Skills test was for Gordon and Nikita to put together a plate of Goat’s Cheese and Walnut filled Beetroot Pasta accompanied by a Beetroot Vinaigrette – thankfully for them the pasta did come in a premade distinctly plasticine looking lump, which I’m sure thrilled Gordon
however, Gordon was not pleasing Anna or Marcus who both seemed to decide they hated him from the moment he mentioned he owned his own fine dining restaurant (he’s our rival) – that and the fact he started his filling mix by just throwing the whole tube of goat’s cheese and some roughly chopped walnuts into a bowl without much care wasn’t helping matters
and then proceeded to just lackadaisically mush them together with a spatula, but he did at least know what he was doing, even if his tortellini did look a bit like The Flying Nun had accidentally washed her cornette with a red sock
but it was his presentation that earned him the biggest Anna Face™
because it did look a bit like a Christmas wreath that Morticia would hang on the front door of the Addams Family Mansion
but despite the visceral festiveness of the ring of tortellini, his pasta was ok. The vinaigrette however was not up to scratch because, and this does seem hard to do given that it’s literally a French diminutive of vinegar, he hadn’t added the vinegar to it so it was just kind of oniony beetroot juice.
Nikita got on much better with the challenge and despite having only ever made tortellini outside of work, still managed to give us one of the best Skills Tests we’ve seen this series because her dish both looked nearly identical to Anna’s
but it tasted great and she was just incredibly natural and comfortable with being on camera, which again is a big, unspoken part of the MasterChef Challenge – they are after all on the hunt for people who can quickly guest star on Saturday Kitchen if the need arises.
The main courses in the Signature Menus were a fishy free for all, with Gordon more than making up for the lack of unhinged fishmongery in the Skills Tests by skinning his Sole like he was trying to tear up the floorboards
which was not endearing him to Marcus who was quickly beetling off to phone the police in regards to the piscine hate crime he had just witnessed
the thing with Gordon is that he’s clearly a very good chef (obviously, he owns his fine dining restaurant) because his Cauliflower and Sole dish was all technically very well made
many a chef has attempted to serve stuffed fish and failed – but with a competition like this you have to play for the long game, and as Anna pointed out this was basically a Cauliflower Starter and a Sole Main on one plate, and if he had maybe spread himself a little more thinly he could have been looking at a place in the Quarterfinals because his Pistachio and Cherry Mille Feuille, despite looking like a multistory car park that Duplo would sell, also went down very well
no, I don’t know what Gordon’s penchant for plating up food like he’s selling novelty wreaths at the Christmas market is, he just really loves a circle. And weird colours – I’m firmly of the belief that no food should be the same colour as a feature wall from Changing Rooms circa 2001
and yet despite being a shade of green that you’d be able to taste from 100 yards away, it was only “a subtle hint of pistachio” but a very well made mousseline nonetheless and the pastry had a beautiful snap to it.
Nikita was keeping her pasta-making skills going with her Laksa-inspired starter of a Lobster Raviolo (that everyone correctly called a raviolo throughout)
the dish being a node to her travels around Malaysia, which she did after Mopeding down the length of Vietnam – which I would very much enjoy seeing as a 4 episode travelogue if the BBC is looking for shows to commission. It was definitely the dish of the episode with everyone fawning over her cooking of the lobster and the richness of the prawn-head sauce.
She had a bit of a stumble with her dessert because the orange jelly layer on top did make it look a bit like a bowl of potted liver with the thick layer of butter on top
which is very cognitively dissonant from the Chocolate and Dessert they were actually eating – the whole thing being inspired by her sister’s love of Jaffa Cakes and with Nikita drawing inspiration from travelling and her family, Marcus looked just about ready to give her the trophy there and then
the last time I saw anyone looking at anything like that was Anna watching Marcus cook rice.
Luckily for Nikita, the flavours more than made up for the lack of aesthetic success – Marcus was certainly happy with the balance of flavours and smoothness of her ganache while Gregg was just about moved to tears. Anna however had a slight issue with the setness of her jelly – I can only imagine that Nikita did it purposefully because the jelly in a Jaffa Cake is quite set.
While Gordon’s main may have been a tale of overcomplication, Stephano was going in completely the opposite direction with his Hake and Bouillabaisse Glazed Carrots with a Cucumber Broth
it’s just a little bit insignificant and as the judges pointed out, it seems bizarre to go to the lengths of creating a bouillabaisse to then only lightly gloss everything in it – and cucumber broth just sounds like it’d taste like a sneeze.
His dessert at least sounded more interesting, going with a Cherry Clafoutis and serving it with Red Wine Poached Rhubarb, Salted Ricotta and a Rhubarb Coulis, unfortunately though his timings got the better of him and there’s only so long you can pointedly ignore Gregg calling time before you’re forced to serve just half a clafoutis that had the energy of a sub-par school dinner an outraged parent posts on Twitter as a call out post
it did taste nice though but the missing components were unignorable and in a round where everyone actually did quite well, it did make him the weakest of the bunch.
For her main course, Lucy was going with a piece of pan-fried Halibut, which is an easy way to Marcus’s little heart but the most interesting part of her dish was the Halibut Kiev she was serving alongside it and not least of all because it sent Twitter into a meltdown because she pronounced it as “Kyiv” (which is technically the authentic pronunciation)
the Kiev, made from the halibut trimmings, was a really good way of using up any excess fish, but they had sadly dried out a little bit
but the rest of the dish was damn near flawless and the slight lack of garlic butter wasn’t exactly detracting from it also came with a jug of fennel veloute (of course split with wild garlic oil).
Lucy was championing her love of local and foraged ingredients in her dessert, of course featuring Macerated Strawberries which are fast becoming The New Singular Crumb, only inching us closer and closer to the inevitable Masturbated Strawberries Blooper (the unofficial episode title). As well as the Macerated Strawberries, she was making a Basil Creme Patissiere and a Strawberry Financier Cake, the latter of which she had been practicing A LOT, building up quite the stockpile
I just enjoy that it makes her sound like she’s an anticapitalist vigilante taking out the financial sector one financier at a time. But by day, she makes very lovely desserts
it’s slightly easier to get on with that shade of green than Gordon’s more melanistic shade, with Lucy’s dessert making a close contest for Dish of The Day, and certainly being Dessert of the Day with Anna being very fond her slightly acidic jelly that balanced out the sweetness of everything else.
A Signature Menu Dish Ranking
1. Nikita’s Bid For a BBC Travelogue Series
2. Lucy’s Communist Strawberries
3. Gordon’s Homemade Christmas Wreaths – £12.50 each
4. Nikita’s Jaffa Cake Paté
5. Kieving Up Appearances
6. Gordon’s 2 Courses 1 Plate
7. Half A Dessert
8. Back To Bouillabaissics
I would say the only really obvious decisions here was that Stephano wasn’t going through and that Nikita and Lucy both would be definite Quarterfinalists
the biggest conundrum was How Do You Solve A Problem Like Gordon? Because there was a very legitimate argument to put him through too – his cooking was good, he just needed to smooth out his ideas a little, sadly for Gordon this was the 4th week of heats and the good will had evaporated so he wasn’t going on to the quarterfinals. I would personally love to have seen what he’d do with an Invention Test though.
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