MasterChef 2023, Episode 14: Miss Nut Gravy

Prayer circle for the new Blog Fave, please.

We’ve all been the forgotten soup before.

Top of the Pot Lucks

For their first challenge of the episode, Grace Dent set the contestants with a task to cook their very best Potluck dish, somehow we were spared 7 different variations of potato salad – a first for any potluck. In my mind, the best kind of potluck dish is something that feels like one part of a larger meal, which is why I think John just making a big child-friendly curry wasn’t quite what the challenge was about

my guy, that’s just a family’s friday night meal?
The fact John’s only source of food criticism is a group of pre-teen girls is slowly coming to bite him in the ass because while Gregg was perfectly happy to wolf down the Ella’s Kitchen™ Korma, John and Grace were a little disappointed by the fact it was sweeter than it was spicier. However they did make sure to lavish praise on his sugar-free mango chutney as though it was nectar of the Gods

there has been A LOT of discourse online about John and what he’s said about Type-1 diabetes and sugar consumption (both praise and criticism from within the diabetic community) – I myself do not have diabetes and I do not know enough about it to possibly weigh in on it and I’m guessing John and Gregg don’t either because every time they talk about his food they take on the same unctuous tone of voice that someone doing a biblical reading for a Christingle sermon does. I think the sticking point for me is the fact he doesn’t talk about his food in a way that makes it sound like he’s enjoying it, it always comes across as though it’s a bit of a slog.

Jack was taking inspiration for his potluck dish from the failsafe of any buffet lunch: Carrot Sticks and Hummus. His solution to making them “MasterChef-y” was to just dump two whole sheep’s worth of lamb chops on them

you’d think that cooking lamb in the MasterChef kitchen would be the biggest obstacle he’d face, but his biggest opponent was Grace Dent’s Anti-hummus agenda

tell me you’ve never been to the wrap party of a student film without telling me you’ve never been to the wrap party of a student film – I did entire runner jobs at university just for the hummus. Jack did manage to convert Grace to the right side of hummus history though

welcome comrade.

I thought the smartest take on the brief was from Diya who created her very own Build-a-Taco station and by the looks of things undid a lot of the damage that Bake Off did to the Britain-Mexico relationship

that depends on how Mexico feels about the chicken mince – the judges loved it, it could still prove to be an international incident but the tortillas looked good, and it did help that she had a proper tortilla maker instead of a Pyrex pot lid and sandwich bag to MacGyver herself some flatbreads.

The rest of the group kind of went with lots of little things on a platter, the best of them being Vijaya’s extremely generous Indian array

the fact she can pack about 3 hours of work into like 90 minutes needs to be studied by CERN – the whole dish is extremely charming and the star-shaped papadams were a cute touch.
Endang very nearly had a perfect platter with her grilled lime marinated chicken thighs and cassava chips

the chicken was perfect but the cassava chips were just ever so slightly underdone – I do think you might also have to give anyone that eats too much of the sambal a restraining order purely for the amount of anchovies going on

it’s me, I would need the restraining order – I’ve never met an anchovy I didn’t like.

The problem you have making a mezze-esque platter is finding a way to present it that made sense, which most people managed to do, I think Fannata’s Ghanaian feast could have used a few more tweaks

or at least just a bowl for the mound of jollof. I am curious as to how she was going to serve up he Groundnut Soup though, because while she built her very own jollof embassy, it slipped her mind to plate up her groundnut soup

I would have just brought up the pot and told them that was how I intended to serve it – it’s a potluck, help yourselves! Here’s a bowl, the jollof’s clearly not using it! I hope the entire production crew at least enjoyed Fannata’s Lonely Nut Soup

but for what the judges did get to critique, they mostly liked – the only quibble was with the fact her plantain was a little bit underdone but the goat koftas were a success, though I do not have the time to get into Gregg shoving umlauts into the word “kofta” right now.

Lastly we have Christina who was making Ras el Hanout Meatballs and Cauliflower fritters which she’d serve up like her platter was a map for her battle plans

The fritter infantry will spearhead in from the east, cutting off the meatball kebab vanguard’s approach to the valley of dips!

As good as the idea and presentation was, none of it was perfectly cooked – the meatballs were dry, the onion undercooked and the fritters, which had real potential to be amazing, apparently didn’t feel particularly cooked either.

A Potluck Dish Ranking
1. The Pro-hummus Agenda
2. Look Mexico, it’s all good now, yeah?
3. Vijaya’s Temporally Compact Platter
4. Endang’s Platter of Two Halves
5. Neglected Soup
6. John’s Friday Night Dinner For 5
7. Christina’s Platter Warfare

I was worried that they were going to eliminate Fannata over her abandoned soup, and I think they might have in any other round, but given that her platter still kind of worked they granted her mercy and with everyone else’s offerings being technically well cooked, the weakest link was clearly Christina who was eliminated

has anyone updated Rosemary Shrager’s wikipedia page?

Spice Spice Baby

For their last grab for a place in the quarterfinal, the remaining 6 contestants had to cook a dish that showcased their ability to manage spices – which given has been a major compliment that the judges have routinely given to Diya, it was safe to assume she was safe as houses and she very much didn’t disappoint with her Butter Chicken Thali

she’s fast becoming one to definitely watch for the final, which does mean I have just upped the likelihood of her suffering a quarterfinal disaster by about 40%

good thinking.

While Diya showcased the Indian food of her parents’ Gujarati roots, Vijaya continued to draw from her own upbringing in Hyderabad with her Biryani Dum – which you might remember was what Eddie cooked for his winning main course in last year’s final

and if you found the phrase “Nut Soup” particularly upsetting in the previous round, take a deep breath and welcome to the stage, Miss Nut Gravy

Vijaya at least called it Salan Gravy but John was determined to say “Nut Gravy” as many times as he could. It wasn’t Vijaya’s best showing – the chicken in her biryani was just a little bit dry and the whole thing did look like it had been chucked at the plate and presentation does become a sticking point at this point a lot of the time. Endang also found herself getting dinged for the presentation of her Nasi Longtong (which has strong drag name potential)

it’s an interesting dish and one we’ve never seen on the show before as far as I can remember, with the rice being cooked by wrapping it in a banana leaf and boiling it

which does result in a rather unnerving looking cylinder of rice

but I don’t think Endang’s final presentation was actually that bad? I don’t really know how else you would serve that dish up – but at least it was all very well cooked and wasn’t quite the “dessert with some cod” that John feared it would be with Endang using spices from the sweeter end of the spectrum.

The last of the savoury dishes was from Fannata who was once again eager to showcase the unique spices used within Ghanaian cuisine and all she really had to do to improve over last was to remember to plate everything up, so in terms of that: job well done!

there were however some fundamental errors with the cooking though – some of her potatoes were undercooked and the fat in her steak was unrendered. John and Gregg also didn’t respond overly positive to the flavours, Fannata having spiced the steak with a spice mix known as Yaji – a groundnut based mix used throughout West Africa – and this has been an issue we’ve run into a few times, where African Cuisines don’t have as much as exposure within the British culinary scene (it’s slowly getting better) and so their more unique flavours and ingredients perhaps jar a palate that is unfamiliar with them, which is a bit of a shortcoming within the MasterChef judging panel.

On to the desserts with the spiced rice pudding making its annual appearance from Jack, who was at least jazzing it up with a cinnamon spiced pineapple and a cardamom tuile

John and Gregg loved it, which I was a little bit surprised by because they lowballed him so much over his chow mein that I was sure they’d call a rice pudding too simple too.

Lastly we have John with his Apple and Ginger Puddings, which were stubbornly refusing to come out of their moulds due to stage fright in front of their audience of one

he did eventually manage to demould them without the puddings ending up looking like they had gone through severe trauma

and it was another very successful pudding for John, although I did find the colour and consistency of his caramel sauce to be a little questionable – it just looks a bit gluey to me

but it tasted good and had the smack of ginger that’d promised.

A Spiced Dish Ranking
1. Diya Supremacy Continues, Apace
2. Welcome to the stage, Miss Nasi Longtong!
3. John’s Shy Puddings
4. The Annual Spiced Rice Pudding
5. Vijaya’s Biryani Flung
6. Technical Difficulties Please Stand By

There was a pretty clear bottom two in this challenge and as much as I’ve enjoyed them and the food they’ve cooked, it was pretty fair that Vijaya and Fannata found themselves eliminated.

I know Fannata had real ambitions of working in restaurants so I hope there’s someone out there who saw the talent and potential in her to take under their wing. And I wish Vijaya all the best as she continues to destroy the concept of time.

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