The Myth. The Legend. The Pookie.
The sauce is lovely.
I apologise for this being slightly late, the BBC hid the episode somewhere on the Iplayer website like a Tumblr ARG – Hey pea brain, you teleport? (a reference for nobody except me.)
A Two Course Race
The Quarterfinals work as they always have – serving a two course menu to a returning trio of past contestants as well as John and Gregg except this year they decided that instead of just two people going on to Semifinal week, they were going to take three of them because between the Quarterfinal and Semi-final Week we now have Knock-out Week – which begs the question as to whether the quarterfinal is actually a quarterfinal, you work it out, I didn’t go to school for maths.
This week’s judging table was made up of last year’s finalists: Runners-up Pookie and Radha as well as Champion, Eddie
Radha is a vegetarian which did mean that Twitter had to have the same conversation it does every time there’s a vegetarian judge on the panel – and it’s really not that serious, there are 4 other people to offer critiques about how well the fish is cooked, just let Radha live her life as Premier Sauce Critic, because as it turns out most of the main courses were just meat and a sauce – and that is not Radha’s fault.
Seafood was the popular choice for the main courses, the only contestant bucking the trend being Matthew who decided to branch away from Caribbean cuisine – which I completely understand feeling the need to do but maybe save it for the semis when Gregg and John ask for it.
But anyway, Matthew’s European Adventure began with a Chicken Ballotine and an attempt to bring back the sophisticated plating of his first Ackee and Saltfish dish, it wasn’t quite as successful
there are many things that it resembles: an ancient Sumerian fertility symbol, a poster from your year 7 sex ed lesson, An Ood but personally I just see Edvard Munch’s Scream
the presentational brainfart aside, the dish wasn’t winning him any awards – the ballotines had at least worked but could have been filled more generously and sadly the
Potato Mousseline Bit Of Mash wasn’t as smooth as it needed to be.
Matthew continued his adventures in bonkers plating with his sticky toffee pudding – Gregg looking particularly pained as Matthew daubed his plates with caramel Xs like a plague doctor marking the houses of the infected
there is nothing easier to serve than a sticky toffee pudding – you literally turn it out of its mould and cover it in sauce – job’s a goodun. But noooooo, Matthew had to cut into tiny chunks and serve it up like he was catering for a game of Hungry, Hungry Hippos
but truly the moment I lost it was when he added the two blackberries to either side of his scoop of ice cream and it became Snoopy
the thing is, each element apparently tasted great but despite the charm of the Snoopy Ice Cream, the scattered building blocks of the artist formerly known as Sticky Toffee Pudding ruined the indulgence of eating a sticky toffee pudding.
Falling on the right side of presentation was Vanessa who was opening up with her Fish Ambotik, a hot and sour fish curry from Goa thickened with grated coconut
there was also a “Vanessa Salad” on the side which everyone started saying with such confidence as though it was a well known side salad named after a prima ballerina and then it just turned out that Vanessa hates lettuce so it was mostly herbs and Bombay Mix – Radha loved it.
The perfect cooking of her fish curry was a tough act to follow and she was playing with the metaphorical fire that is a Chocolate Fondant
it does look a little bit too much like the poo emoji for me to feel truly comfortable in its presence and you would think that the fact it was collapsing inside of itself would mean that it was going to be an oozing mess (apologies for that phrasing) but alas, dry as bones
it also wasn’t earning her any points that she’d promised them a hint of miso in the fondant and it wasn’t coming through despite the fact she’d lumped two tablespoons of it into the mixture
I really thought the issue was going to be that it was *too* miso-y.
In my last recap I mentioned that I thought Terri’s food in the other two episodes felt a little uninspired and predictable – I tend to zone out the moment someone serves a duck breast and Hasselback potatoes – so I was very happy to see her bringing more of a point of view with her Nori Coated Cod and Horseradish Creme Fraiche Sauce
it does come across as more of a starter to me – I think it needs something a little bit substantial to go with it than a veil of rice cracker but what she had served felt very refined and was perfectly cooked.
Much like Vanessa, she was going for a risky dessert, hers being a Passionfruit Souffle that worked out perfectly for her
and it’s no easy feat, especially in the MasterChef kitchen when you’ve got Gregg actively shouting at your desserts like a drill sergeant
John Torode has well and truly had enough – he can’t cope with the headaches anymore, he’s built up a tolerance to Paracetamol.
Lastly we have Nickolas who was having to wrestle a whole octopus into a pressure cooker and very much losing the battle
octopus is a controversial choice, by all scientific accounts they are too intelligent to eat but evolution really screwed them over by making them so delicious, I think I would find it hard to order one in a restaurant these days. And I say that as someone who had a reputation at the fishmonger for swooping in on a sunday afternoon to buy a really damn cheap octopus and then cooking it in front of my rather horrified flatmates.
Nickolas’s octopus dish was drawing from the Central and South American cuisine his mother taught him while growing up – the one (1) tentacle being served with an Ancho and Chipotle Jam on top of Maize
I’m personally of the opinion that tentacles should always come in pairs and they easily could have considering Radha wasn’t having one and had to be happy with her porridge and chilli jam cursed breakfast combo – but the solitary tentacles were at least cooked perfectly.
For his dessert Nickolas was going with the tried and tested Tarte Tatin, which did mean that my favourite character of the series, his roaming French accent, was back in action
it’s not perfect and could have done with a few more minutes in the oven to bring a richer colour to the caramel, but given that in the order Nickolas was following Matthew, Gregg was just happy that his nod to plating aesthetics was just a flower
Gregg, you do not have to fill every moment of silence – it’s fine to just let the room breathe sometimes.
A Quarterfinal Dish Ranking:
1. Terri’s Passionate Souffle
2. Vanessa’s Ambotik and Eponymous Salad
3. Terri’s Piece of Fish and Sauce
4. One Tentacle, As A Treat
5. Nickolas’s <French_Accent> Tarte Tatin </French_Accent>
6. The William Wallace of Sticky Toffee Puddings
7. Edvard Munch’s Chicken Ballotine
8. Vanessa’s Chocolate Fon-didn’t
Given that she didn’t put a single foot wrong, Terri was straight through to Knock-out Week and given that his mistakes were only minor, Nickolas wasn’t too far behind her. As for the other two, Vanessa at least had one excellent dish under belt whereas Matthew had gone rogue and attempted to Tate Modern his way through, which wasn’t working and he was eliminated
I’m gutted for him and I think it’s a testament to cook what you want to, not what you think you should – I would just like it for one Caribbean cuisine focused contestant to make it far enough to cook for more than Ackee & Saltfish, Jerk Chicken and a mango & coconut dessert.
But, we do have our first contenders for Knock-out Week
Knock-out Week better involve crossing a pool of water by jumping across 4 giant red balls.
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