MasterChef 2023, Episode 8: Irish Fajita

it is an 8pm slot, after all.

I will accept chocolate-based bribery.

Once Bitter, Twice Sour

For their first brief the remaining contestants were having to create a dish centred around bitterness and sourness, this particular brief being set by Leyla Kazim who I have no qualms in declaring the best critic on the show’s roster – as much as I love a man that looks like he could have led an insurrection in 1605, Leyla has an extensive collection of pretty earrings and good opinions

but if Jay Rayner ever shows up in a pair of pearl earrings it’s over for everyone else.

Most of the contestants opted for desserts, with Owen and Mirel being the only two to go for savoury dishes, which was nice to see from Mirel after his success with the chocolate cake in the previous episode. For his vegan dish he was making a clear vegetable soup, featuring bitter melon which I’ve heard of but never realised looked like an exhumed cucumber

there were a few concerns with his dish, mostly down to whether a collection of mostly raw things in a bowl with a Beetroot and Chicory Broth was enough cooking for a cookery competition

and as someone who subscribes to the fact you don’t win friends with salad, I would normally agree

however Mirel was using risky and interesting ingredients – it wasn’t your bog standard ceviche or tartare which honestly should get you jettisoned the moment you lay the plate down, so I’m willing to let that slide because it still had a novelty to it, and I have to applaud someone who uses tofu’s inherent blandness to their advantage.

For his savoury dish, Owen was making a Cod and Tamarind Curry which looked really good

and received rave reviews all around, which he treated like he had just received a standing ovation for his performance as Violetta in La Traviata at the Palais Garnier

I love him. He has won my heart.

In the dessert section we had a pair of Duelling Tarts – Linda and Ngoneh both opting for lemon tarts to capitalise on the sour elements – John very much signposting Ngoneh’s elimination by stressing how difficult it is to make one big tart than lots of little tarts. Ngoneh not making matters better by trying to line her tart case with a 12 tog sheet of pastry

and sure enough the base was too thick and the whole thing just looked a little bit too ameteur compared to everyone else’s

and she’d also had a bit of a nightmare with her vanilla ice cream that was trapped in a sort of demi-butter limbo

it was not a good day in the kitchen for her, but she smiled her way through the whole thing.

Linda, having gone for the easier to pull off miniature lemon tarts had a much more successful dish

the judges were particularly charmed by the nostalgia of the raspberry sherbert she’d sprinkled on the plate

ok, calm down Dr. Seuss.

Most of the contestants seemed to choose Bitter or Sour for their dishes, Thuy however was trying her best to hit both the targets with her Raspberry and Chocolate Brownie

it wasn’t the most successful dish for Thuy, the brownies were quite dry and she might have been better served by making one big one rather than cooking them in individual muffin tins, but she was hoping for a few extra brownie points with some under the table chocolate bribery

Babe, you’re going to have to try harder than that when you’ve got Miles in the kitchen plying Gregg with the hard stuff

1 Tequila, 2 Tequila, 3 Tequila, FLOOR!

Aside from the tumblers of margarita, Miles was making a dish that I would be far too scared to order if I saw it on the menu: Kefir Panna Cotta with Balsamic Strawberries and a Fennel and Black Pepper Hazelnut Crumb

I am just unconvinced by balsamic vinegar in desserts, the judges loved it but his Basil and Lime sorbet (which looked a bit like one of the Ents from Lord of the Rings) was the stand out of the whole round

sounds like Orc ischief to me.

Lastly we have Michelle who was making a Spiced Ale Cake with Whisky Cream and a Plum Sauce

by all means it was a very pleasant dessert, however she must have known she was on to a bit of a dud in terms of the brief when she kept describing it first and foremost as “spicy” but more damningly it was just a little too mellow for Leyla and John. Gregg however was thoroughly pleased with how beer-y it tasted

yeah it does

5 tequila, 6 tequila, 7 tequila, FAINT!.

A Bitter and Sour Dish Ranking
1. Completely Unbiased Owen Supremacy
2. More Tarts Are Better Than One Tart
3. Balsamic Vinegar: A Friendly Debate
4. A Collection of Things In A Bowl
5. The Premier Irish Fajita
6. Can I Interest You In Some Extra Chocolate?
7. A Lone Tart

Apparently we’re back to eliminating only 1 contestant after this round – Thuy better be thanking her lucky stars – and sadly that person was Ngoneh

as I;ve said, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her presence on the show, she brought dishes and ingredients to it that we haven’t seen much of before and was extremely charming the whole time – nothing but respect for MY Miss Congeniality.

Get Stuffed

For their last bid for a place in the quarterfinal, the remaining 6 cooks were having to create their best stuffed or filled dish which is quite a difficult brief because it adds a very fiddly element to the whole thing, but Thuy was not shying away from it with her Har Gow – prawn filled dumplings on egg noodles with a pork and chicken broth

anyone who makes perfect dumplings in the stress of the MasterChef kitchen probably deserves a medal. The only slight complaint John had was that the broth was a bit too subtle but really that feels a bit like looking a gift dumpling in the mouth.

Miles was continuing his trend of doing MasterChef Firsts, or at least I can’t remember anyone else making their own sausages on the show? But these weren’t just any sausages, they were being elevated with Thai flavours – Hannah’s influence

and sure enough with sausages on the menu everyone went for the lowest hanging innuendo fruits

and yet somehow nobody giggled over the fact a main ingredient in his Bang(kok)ers and Mash was Morning Glory

and by “nobody” I do mean, I did.

The judges didn’t seem to love it – they admired the amount of work that had gone into the dish, although perhaps a little bit too much with the mincemeat being a little overworked – John making sure to critique it as though he was a scandalised nun

maybe there’s a reason nobody ever makes sausages on MasterChef, everyone gets a bit worked up.

While Miles continued on with his inventive schtick, Mirel was taking a break from his usual avant garde style to cook something more traditionally Romanian, opting for Sarmale which are stuffed cabbage leaves usually baked in a tomato sauce for about 2 hours. Mirel only had 90 minutes to get them rolled up and baked which lead to his cabbage leaves still being a little bit tough

and they didn’t quite live up to the contemporary plating standards he’s kind of set up for himself and John and Gregg weren’t enamoured by his use the spice Yeni Bahar, which as far as I can discern is just the Turkish name for Allspice, so I can maybe see why too much if it could be a touch unpleasant.

Michelle was also out to showcase her heritage, opting for Northern Irish favourites Lamb Kidneys and Potato Bread to create what I can only describe as the very first Irish Fajita

this is a beautiful, beautiful brainfart of a dish and Future-Michelle would very much like to know why Past-Michelle decided to make The Last Mouthful of a Posh Fry-up when pies were RIGHT THERE

apparently Past-Michelle was just in her Rectangular Slices of Bread Era

the positives at least were that she had perfectly cooked her Devilled Kidneys.

Owen continued his run of incredibly successful dishes with his pork loin stuffed with cream cheese, mushrooms and spinach

I’m worried I’m too attached to him because that does mean he’s going to go out in the next episode as I seem to jinks the very nice men of the world and Owen doesn’t deserve that so for the record, I HATE HIM

that should get Fate off his case.

Lastly we have Linda whose entire MasterChef journey was nearly stuffed when she sent her pan of Arrabiata Sauce across the floor

I am genuinely shocked by how few times we’ve ended up with a sauce strewn all over the kitchen and yet somehow we’ve had two completely unrelated mushroom tiramisus served in the same series before.

Luckily Linda hadn’t lost all of her Arrabiata although there clearly wasn’t quite enough left but they weren’t going to penalise her too harshly because her Arancini were perfection

Linda is a fascinating contestant to me because she gives intense First Boot energy and yet is just about cooking circles around quite a few of the other contestants.

A Stuffed Dish Ranking
1. Thuy’s Gold Medal Dumplings
2. The Arrabiata Fiasco
3. Bang(kok)ers and Mash
4. The Premier Irish Fajita
5. Samarle, Some Aren’t, eh?

In a surprising turn of events Miles found himself teetering on the verge of elimination as John and Gregg weighed him up against Michelle and Mirel – ultimately deciding that he had at least pushed himself a little harder than the other two so Michelle and Mirel were eliminated

and you can catch them as The Pink Ladies in Grease The Musical at Dominion Hall this June.

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