I shall never know peace until I have the answer.
Content Warning: Clingfilm.
Pop Up Wars
It was the return of the Pop Up Challenge, with Sean Pertwee announcing that this was the first time the chefs were being allowed to cook outside of the MasterChef kitchen, like a group of inmates in a high security prison being let out on day release.
They were back in the same location as last year, except it’s now known as The Big Penny Social but you knew it was the same place because they were on the same rickety tables, although at least nobody had a food mixer causing a Magnitude 7 tablequake this time
and as usual they were cooking for the big names in the Pop Up World, including Adam Purnell who I enjoyed purely for the fact they way they introduced and credited him reminded me of when Max the Springer Spaniel appeared on BBC News
on the other side of the Menace to Good Boy Spectrum, was the owner of Filthy Buns who seems to be responsible for bringing a Biscoff Burger kicking and screaming into the world from whichever cursed dimension it belongs in
at least they afforded the biscuit a modicum of anonymity, I hope it can go on to lead a normal life.
We may not have got a biscoff burger in the flesh burger but we did get Artichoke Toffee courtesy of Wilson and his apparent love of artichokes… and butter
this did get me thinking about what the most expensive dish on MasterChef has been because I would guess Wilson’s £6,862,597 worth of Lurpak must be right up there, with most of it being used to make a beurre noisette to cook his cod in, and in order to help his cod loin keep its shape, he had wrapped it in clingfilm which was taking up a lot of his plating time and triggering Marcus something fierce
that Thai Green Clingfilm was his ‘Nam.
In the end, Wilson discovered these newfangled contraptions called “scissors” which helped him speed up, plating up 20 very lovely looking dishes
aesthetically, it’s not really hitting the Pop Up mark for me, and maybe that’s my own preconceptions of the ~genre~, but I prefer a looser, freer style of plating but there was artichoke toffee on the plate so I’m not surprised that it looks like a museum piece. Flavour wise, it was mostly well received – Marcus was sad that the entire Gregg Wallace sculpture of butter didn’t make the dish taste of butter and Zoe Adjonyoh thought it only hit one note, which is the risk you take when you make a dish out of 5 artichokes and a fish.
Nikita was once again drawing from her time spent travelling east and south-east Asia, this time riffing off the Vietnamese dish Bun Cha – a grilled pork and noodle dish – her biggest change being to swap out the usual minced pork for Iberico Pork Chops because apparently Wilson’s dragon’s hoard of butter hadn’t broken the budget enough, But it also meant she was making more work for herself because she was having to barbecue the pork chops and cut them up, a decision she underestimated the time of and thoroughly regretted
THEY HAD KNIVES AND FORKS NIKITA, THEY HAD THEM THE WHOLE TIME
but hey, Nikita might have hated the whole process and looked like she was going to stick the pepper grinder where Marcus didn’t want it if he told her to hurry up one more time
but the diners were thrilled with her Bun Cha, deeming it the dish of the day pretty emphatically
so she can rest safe in the knowledge she didn’t ruin 20 portions of Iberico Pork.
Chris was also on barbecue duties with his Tandoori Lamb dish, but while Nikita catered to each Iberico pork chop individually like some sort of luxury pork nanny, Chris was giving it come big Your Dad In The Summer energy and just running a sort of tandoori lamb creche, charring it all in one big go
and when he wasn’t doing that he was suffering some sort of ancient Greek punishment and being forced to make raita gel for eternity
Cucumbers are 96% water, that’s more than a jellyfish and jellyfish are at permanent risk of just dissolving into the ocean at any moment! His Sisyphean endeavour did come with a momentary stumble as the gel didn’t set but he managed to sort it out and served his dish up in full – complete with samosas and curried butternut squash
despite forcing the lamb rump against the coals like he was trying to get them to pay him back a debt in Game of Thrones (timely reference), nobody really got that chargrilled, smokey flavour on the lamb but they thoroughly enjoyed everything else with the samosa probably being the star of the dish.
Lastly we have James who was cooking a Vegetarian dish inspired by his plant-based partner, his Brussels Spouse if you will (you shouldn’t.) Deep-fried Tofu (or Toff-ooo if you’re Marcus at sporadic moments throughout the episode) made up the bulk of the dish which also featured Glazed Oyster Mushrooms, a chilli sauce, Crispy Onions and I regret to tell you, pickled daikon noodles in place of regular noodles (I am sorry Nigella Lawson, you’re attempt to reclaim of the spiralizer from fake noodles was in vain)
the pickled faux-dles sound a little odd with everything else to me, but the diners seemed to enjoy them and the singular complaint from one guy was that it could have all been a little bit hotter because there always has to be that one guy
A Pop Up Dish Ranking
1. Nikita’s Own Personal Hell
2. James’s Veggessaince
3. Chris’s Tandoori Lambecue
4. Wilson’s Artichoke Chokehold
Your Just Desert Islands
For their last attempt to make it into Finals Week the chefs were back in the MasterChef Kitchen, creating their Desert Island dishes, which had to come with a backstory about who you wanted to be trapped on said island with. Chris however had enjoyed his taste of freedom and was back at the barbecue supervising his lobsters and making extremely British small talk
he was going for the luxury of a lobster because his dish was for his culinary mentors, Raymond Blanc and Gary Jones, telling a story about how he bumped into the former in Paris one time – it’s all very Emily In Paris.
As well as his barbecued lobster tails, he was tempuraing the claw and serving them with a mango puree, a mango lassi and a mango cannelloni which was just mango wrapped in more mango because Chris loves to wrap things up, lest we forget
he’d had more time to think about his Ode to Raymond though and the dish looked very beautiful
it did suffer some of the same faults as his earlier lamb dish in that the lobster wasn’t smoky enough – I think he was just being very careful not to overcook the lobster, which paid off there because it was beautifully cooked and while Marcus and Gregg were happy to chow down on the whole thing – Gregg fully demolishing the plate – Anna thought there was too much mango, and maybe it didn’t need the lassi, but Gregg needed the lassi
I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him so focused and content?
Wilson was also going with a seafood and fruit combination as an ode to Tom Hanks in Castaway entirely because the volleyball was called Wilson and tonight Matthew, Wilson was going to be the reincarnated volleyball
unfortunately he didn’t do something quite as unhinged as painting the face Tom Hanks gave the volleyball in the film onto the plate in a raspberry coulis
instead he was just taking us on a tour of his fantasy island
it’s ok Wilson, you can just say you played endless amounts of Animal Crossing during Lockdown like everyone else.
The resulting Scallops and taxonomical illustration of the fungal kingdom was extremely well received by the judges
and they were a little bit hesitant about the pairing of mushrooms and scallops which a quick google search informs is absolutely a very normal thing, Gary Rhodes was doing it in 2006 when the BBC thought Scallops were a relatable Christmas party food?????
the only thing to divide the judges flavour-wise was the Scallop and Burnt Pineapple Ceviche, which Gregg found a little bit too sweet but he was also an entire lassi down at this point.
James was also going for cinematic inspiration and I’m sure hoping a little bit that this challenge meant that whoever they namedropped would actually be brought in to eat their food, because he had some very pressing questions for George Lucas
I was hoping that James was setting this up and his actual dish would be Han Flakes, Princess MuesLeia, Alpine Grano-Lando Calrissian, JarJar Bin[please stop.]
Unfortunately James wasn’t going balls to the wall on the puns and nor was he trying to reconstruct C3PO out of chocolate (Bake Off, don’t you dare.) and his dish was actually quite normal, being made up of a very simply fried piece of Brill (playing the role of Princess Leia) and a Scallop Mousse filled Squid Ink Tortellini (playing the role of Darth Vader)
the addition of the cucumber does at least make it look slightly more like something that they’d serve you at the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge restaurant, and Wilson got very intense about it
there’s just something inherently very funny about the dish inspired by Star Wars being described as “Sexy” – s though that piece of Brill had been taken captive by Jabba The Hut
is this doing anything for you Wilson?
Breaking swiftly from the unhinged, everyone loved the dish and commended James for cooking the Brill so simply, Anna had earlier worried that he’d overcook it and make it…. chewy
very disappointingly, I don’t think she meant it as a pun because Anna has the face of someone who has never seen a single Star Wars film
she watched half of The Phantom Menace in 1999 to try and impress a boy but fell asleep halfway through.
Following James serving up his best dish of the series was a tough act but Nikita did extremely well with her championing of pigeon inspired by Stanley Tucci, also imaginably in the hopes that if she said Stanley Tucci’s name enough he’d walk into the room like Beetlejuice
sadly we remained Tucciless – WHERE IS THE BUDGET?
Her dish was very good – the pigeon was perfectly cooked (and rested) and anyone who makes a tartlet as a side dish is after my own heart – side pastries, get into it.
A Desert Island Dish Ranking
1. In A Galaxy Far, Far Away…
2. Stanley Tucci, Where Are You?
4. I Have A Blanc Space Baby, And I’ll Write Your Name
it was a really difficult judging because all of them did so well and the way they talked about their dishes it seemed very much like they would just take all four of them through (and it would have been very deserved) but it had to come down to the narrowest of margins and by the smoke of his barbecue, sadly Chris was eliminated
but better to go out being told you did extremely well than to be told you were a complete disaster – not many people on MasterChef can say that for themselves.
And so, we have our first three finalists and we’ll see who joins them…
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