Nobody looks more upset than Gregg Wallace hearing that a dessert might not be ready in time.
I wish I had a favourite Watercress Farm.
We’ve reached Semi-finals Week with 10 chefs, which makes laying out the elimination wall a little annoying but the more the merrier I guess
5 by 2 just never looks right.
Memory, All Alone In The Moonlight
For their first Semi-final Challenge, the chefs had to create a dish inspired by a food memory which is always my favourite challenge because you can usually guarantee that someone is going to go absolutely buckwild with it. Usually. This episode was far too normal – the usual suspects were all at play: sunday roasts, take-aways, your great uncle’s watercress farm, travelling, the lingering trauma of your childhood fear of fish… If I had to do this challenge, I would absolutely base it on the time I ate 4 of Sainsbury’s Pina Colada Mince Pies and was sick for a solid 5 days afterwards, I just need someone else to know the trauma. FEEL MY PAIN GREGGORY, FEEL IT.
Thankfully they were splitting the group in two, the first Blue Group being Chris, Gabriella, Nikita, Wilson and Charlie and the second Red Group being Anastasia,
Daniel Radcliffe circa 2004, James, Theres, Sagar and Owen.
I’m Blue Da Ba Dee Da Ba Di
You can always guarantee that someone will doing something inspired by their mother or a take aways, Chris decided he was going to smash the two together for maximum MasterChef Points – taking the usual Friday night steak and chips (fish and chips found DEAD!) and his favourite Chinese take away and turning it into a Gochujang Beef Tartare and Sesame Confit Egg Yolk
it’s a very pretty looking dish but, and I think it might be because of the glass it’s served on, it does just look a little bit like we’re about to surgically dissect something. The bigger problem for the judges was the fact the gochujang wasn’t registering very much and would have been better as a separate sauce they could apply as much as they wanteD. But it was all very well made and prepared, and in the grand scheme of awful things being done in the names of a confit egg yolk…
Chris’s was good, but doing it in sesame oil, while interesting and very nice on its own, did somewhat overpower the dish.
Gabriella was using some home cooking for her dish, inspired by the fact her’s is probably the only house in Liverpool in which Veal Milanese and Pasta Pomodoro is a weekly occurrence, choosing to serve her breaded veal with Cheese Tortellini which looked a bit like ravioli but I’m not arguing with an Italian about it
it’s not a bad dish, but it probably wasn’t the right presentation for it because the veal had lost its crispiness due to the consomme – but they’re lucky to have got something even half this normal because she did namedrop breastmilk in her chat with Gregg
I want it on record that I’m not manifesting the world’s most cursed panna cotta but I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to see Gregg having to eat one either.
The last of the main courses was from Charlie and the fond memories of his Great Uncle’s Watercress Farm which is a big contender for the most Waitrose thing anyone has ever said on this show. In order to carry his watercress, because sadly he wasn’t attempting to serve Watercress 4 ways (TASOULA WOULD HAVE!), he was also cooking lobster. Mostly because the show had two of them hanging around from when everyone refused to use them for the Oranges and Ginger Invention Test
it’s risky, especially when you’re serving whole tails and claws, but get it right and you can arrange them like you’re trying to build an abstract shark out of crustacean extremities
also there’s a baked potato masquerading as a Side Taco™ which everyone enjoyed very much and heartily praised him for managing to cook with so much watercress and still let the sweetness of the poached lobster come through.
Over in desserts, Wilson was also going with a familial approach, using his Portuguese grandfather as inspiration for his sweet rice dessert, which everyone kept just calling Sweet Rice as though Rice Pudding doesn’t exist, or to use its portuguese name Arroz Doce – although not trusting Gregg “Chuh-Ritz-OH!” Wallace with Portuguese pronunciation was probably a wise decision.
Wilson also did really well to avoid many of the pitfalls of serving a bowl of rice – adding texture with a hazelnut biscuit, honeycomb and a praline stirred through the rice
there was also a Rice Ice Cream on the side which annoyed me for the sole reason that nobody bothered to say “Rice Cream” – WHAT IS THIS? AMATEUR HOUR? Although Wilson was more annoyed that Gregg thought his sweet rice was too sweet
I mean, he probably didn’t need to make the (r)ice cream but it’s MasterChef, you have to overcompensate until Marcus tells you to please, for the love of God, just serve a piece of meat and two veg.
Lastly we have Nikita, drawing inspiration from her time spent travelling around Japan during her GAP YAH. Her dessert was an Umeshu Savarin – whether the plum wine was a heavily featured part of her late-teen travels is unspecified (IT’S FINE, NIKITA’S DAD) but her dessert looked stunning and a little bit like it was about to be ritualistically sacrificed by a fae cult
and it’s nice when something genuinely new and interesting comes along because we haven’t really seen this sort of interpretation of Japanese ingredients before, and she was very deserving of the amount of praise everyone lauded on her.
You’ve Been Red
While the brief explicitly called for a singular dish, Sagar was going to be damned if he was going to be tethered one plate of food, putting together a full on spread of Indian dishes as part of his celebration of the Holi Festival
it’s an astonishing amount of work to have pulled off in the space of time, and even more impressive given the lack of complaints – Anna particularly loving the cauliflower and Marcus raving about the Dahi Bhalla (a deep-fried white lentil dish) and Gregg of course honing in on the Shrikhand dessert, which Sagar had done before but this time it was ~silver~
I was personally very interested in the Patra made from deep-fried Arbi Leaves filled with a chickpea paste and then rather disappointingly nobody acknowledged their existence
but by all means, tell me all about the singular piece of masala cauliflower.
Anastasia and Theres were both using their mothers’ Sunday Roasts as inspiration for their dishes, Anastasia opting for the tried and tested Roast Chicken approach and attempting to add a little something-something to it by adding roasted rhubarb to the mix
her rhubarb gambit did not pay off, with Marcus and Anna both questioning her sanity while rapidly pushing the red panic button under the table. BUT! Her gravy was good, and it needed to be because her chicken was a little bit overcooked, Theres had the completely inverse problem with her Lamb being undercooked and under-rested meaning it was profusely bleeding all over the plate
and doing that horrible thing where the blood made a beeline for the palest thing on the plate and just melded into it
but there were parts of Theres’s dish that were very well received, although it’s perhaps a bit damning that on a plate involving lamb the best thing is the hispi cabbage wrapped in apple.
It wouldn’t be a Memories Challenge if someone didn’t go for something involving foraging, and just as hope seemed to be dying, Owen started pan-frying a flock of squab pigeons
which he was serving alongside a celeriac fondant, mushroom fricassee and candied hazelnuts
it was a very good plate of food and one I would certainly order if I saw it on a menu, you know… if I moved in the social circles that go to restaurants with pigeon on the menu.
Lastly we have James who was putting on a very brave show for the round
this is my favourite approach to this challenge since “my father gave me a lobster for Christmas” – more dishes about childhood trauma please! Although James might be newly traumatised by fish because his scallops and cod were both quite undercooked
but before they cut into them to expose the fact that, like James until the age of 18, the pan had barely so much as made eyecontact with the fish, his dish looked very nice
and the judges loved everything about the dish, save for the accidental ceviche and Marcus said eating it was like being in Spain which is the highest praise you can earn when there’s a lump of chorizo on your plate.
Going straight on to the next episode were Nikita, Sagar, Charlie, Owen and Wilson which meant that Chris, Gabriella, James, Theres and Anastasia were all having to cook again.
The Leftover of All Invention
In order to find out which two chefs would be eliminated they were being put through another invention test, except this time their ingredients wouldn’t be whatever the production crew could get their hands on at the nearest meat market, they would instead be using each other’s leftovers, of which most of the vegetables ended up in Theres’s broth pot
her plan being, as you could probably tell from the pot o’veg, was to celebrate vegetables, but her final dish lacked any real sense of warmth or flare to make it not look like anything other than a plate of leftovers
I just don’t think Theres’s style of cookery translates very well to having to whip up a dish with no prep time, but she had tried to fancy it up up splitting the Every Vegetable Going Broth with a chive oil, but had gone from splitting it to making a natural disaster
it’s like the BP Oil Spill all over again!
Gabriella had decided to forsake her Italian ancestors and was instead creating an Indian inspired dish of a Dahl and whichever scallops James had been too scared of to use
and it was very well received from the judges, with Marcus’s only complaint being that she should have given them more of the onion bhajis, except I don’t think she could – I think the rest of the onions were in SOMEONE’s broth – you were lucky to get a carrot salsa on your flatbread, Marcus
I don’t know if she needed to make the flatbread, but it’s a round of desperation you might as well fling leftover spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks.
Also going for James’s leftovers was Anastasia who got whatever was left of his cod loin and served it atop a Butternut Pearl Barley Risotto
as far as risottos go, it’s a very nice looking risotto, so that’s Bowl of Rice Pitfall No. 1 cleared, unfortunately it was a little downhill after that because the pearl barley was still a little hard and she unfortunately hadn’t been able to get much of the butternut flavour into the dish – but there were other positives
never let anyone doubt your crispiness.
For his dish, Chris was taking a step back and concentrating on what he’d want to order off of a menu, pouncing upon Owen’s pigeon like my neighbour’s cat and coming up with a very successful Pigeon, mushroom and celeriac dish with a madeira sauce
and if any of that sounds familiar: NO IT DOESN’T! And that sound definitely isn’t Chris bundling Owen into the Skills Test pantry
it’s not my favourite style of presentation, but they also don’t have much time to think about that so three things on a plate it is! And three very successful things – I don’t love that the celeriac rolled pigeon and mushroom looks like a depressed springroll, even if I do highly identify with a depressed springroll
but it apparently tasted very nice and his pigeon was perfectly cooked and rested which is the more important factor here.
James was the only chef going with a dessert, choosing to make an Apple and Rhubarb Tart, getting the pastry case into the oven a little later than anticipated and generally just causing Anna a miserable amount of stress
but he got a fully baked and very nice looking tart out on time
and Gregg raved about it – the balance of sweet and sour, the crumbly, buttery pastry and the salty kick from his salted caramel. Then Anna tore in and pointed out the egg whites in the meringue hadn’t been cooked properly
YOU COULD HAVE TOLD GREGG BEFORE HER PILED A WHOLE TART INTO HIS MOUTH, ANNA!
Chris and Gabriella had both very much redeemed themselves of any faults in their earlier round and were safely through the next round, ultimately being joined by James, meaning Anastasia and Theres were the two chefs being sent home
I’m mostly sad Theres couldn’t make her style work for the more spontaneous challenges because she has, up until this point, cooked some of the most interesting dishes so far.
And so, 8 semi-finalists remain
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