MasterChef 2023, Episode 22: Sisyphus’s Potatoes

By democratic vote, this is Right Said Fred now.

Turkey, are we still good?

Confidence is Turkey

Congratulations to all of the finalists for managing to survive the first challenge of their adventure abroad: landing sober enough to not be a production liability (ALLEGEDLY)

Reece, you will always be famous to me.

Although I think a stiff drink wouldn’t have gone a miss in their first Turkish challenge – catering to the locals of Kuzguncuk while outside in a community garden surrounded by dogs that looked big enough and hungry enough to at least eat Chariya if she let her guard down for too long

so just add “the swirling storm of Cerberi” to the trials Chariya faced in the preparation of the Hamsili Pilav that makes The Labours of Hercules sound like a cake walk – starting with the fact she had to individually fillet hundreds of anchovies

because if you thought Cornwall’s Stargazy Pie was the weirdest fish pie the world had to offer, Turkey would like you to meet the Hamsili Pilav in which there is no pastry, it’s just a mosaic of tiny fish desperately holding in a rice filling

I’m so intrigued by it and really want to try it but I think the only way I could manage that is actually going to Turkey because I imagine “a protective shell of anchovies” is a hard sell to anyone who hasn’t grown up with it. John seemed to enjoy it, or at least he seemed to have a religious experience upon tasting it

God is a woman an extremely flat anchovy.

Chariya was partnered with Anurag, who was in charge of making 2 kinds of Gozleme, which are stuffed flatbreas, one filled with feta and spinach & the other potato and tomato

and of course Gregg was quick to compare them to “a spiced pasty” because… of the shape? Can we go to Naples next year, I need Gregg to eat a Calzone and tell me it tastes like an Italian Cornish Pasty.

Terri and Omar both had dishes that I was more familiar with, although I had no idea how they were made and it’ll be hard to ever order Kibbeh again now that there’s guilt over knowing there’s 40 minutes’ worth of kneading gone into them

Gregg called them “Turkish Scotch Eggs” and if Elon needs a crash test dummy for his next exploding rocket, I might have a suggestion. SIR, not everything needs to be like something else! [The call is coming from inside the house.]

Luckily Terri was able to cope with the kneading marathon because she plays rugby and has the biceps and hooker stance (not like that) to prove it

my noodle arms ached just watching her do it, but it was worth it because the Kibbeh were well received

mostly

I am *this* close to starting a petition to have John and Gregg replaced with these two Turkish women, they’re the perfect Good Cop, Bad Cop duality.

Terri’s Kibbeh were quite a demanding recipe so Omar did step in to help her and well, this was as much a lesson in Turkish cuisine as it was a lesson in tempting fate

and thus the greatest Turkish War since One That’s Long Enough Ago For Me To Make A Joke About It (so… The Ottoman Interregnum of 1402?) began as Omar took on Turkish cuisine, and he was armed

it was just a pity that the one that went wrong was the one that required him to spend an inordinate amount of time finely dicing chunks of beef with his big sword, but his chicken ones were a success

Gregg did not liken it to Turkish Nando’s. Although I know it’s on the cutting room floor somewhere.

T-irksome

Having (narrowly) avoided being fed to the dogs of Kuzguncuk, the contestants were upgrading to Istanbul’s first and only double Michelin Star restaurant, Turk, helmed by Omar’s latest Fine Dining Nemesis, Fatih Tutak

as with every professional restaurant kitchen experience the contestants were each in charge of their own course, each dish coming with it’s own unique emotional baggage – Fatih’s mother’s dumplings, emblematic Turkish lamb, the only Turkish dessert anyone knows (until later) and… Omar’s latest source of emotional trauma

the Michelin Star trend of trying to make your food look like a delicacy from Naboo is one of the worst things to happen to food, because underneath that potato blanket is a perfectly good piece of sea bass

IKEA assures me it’s a 50% wool and 50% viscose blend that is machine washable up to 30°C

As we’ve established over the last two weeks, Omar does not thrive in a high stakes professional kitchen with any sort of bulk preparation, which is understandable and I would very much be the same but it is a shame that so much o the latter half of the competition hinges on those skills being essential. He was a bit slow with the prep and suffered a further set back when he burnt his potatoes

I get it, Fatih’s restaurant has a reputation and the only thing that gets burnt in it are the eyebrows of whoever manages the charcoal grill but I was one slightly aggressive hand wave away from throwing him in the garbage myself

once Omar had managed to overcome Sisyphus’s Potatoes he did really well and managed to perfectly cook the fish on his first attempt – I imagine it was slightly easier using a proper charcoal grill and not the first budget portable grill production had found when they landed in Turkey. So it all ended well for Omar and as they say, there’s no use crying over spilled potato blankets

I want to know if you can order extra blankets at this restaurant like chips in a gastro pub.

Following Omar’s duvet day sea bass was Chariya with a take on the Manti Dumpling which has been on the Turk menu since day dot and is based on the recipe used by Fatih’s mother

it also looks like food.

Chariya continued to glide smoothly on through the turbulence of another professional kitchen with her only slight error being that her tomato tapenade needed to be reduced down some more, so she had a great time

if Omar snaps and becomes the Joker of the fine dining world, I would simply not blame him

All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.

After Chariya we had Terri who probably got on best with the whole thing, not making a single tiny mistake at any point and producing perfect grilled lamb

I’m glad she’s done so well in these professional kitchen challenges considering she’s so into the whole fine dining thing – I couldn’t deal with another Hannah on Glow Up who spent 5 weeks talking about how much she wanted to work in special effects makeup and then completely bombed the challenge in front of one of the BBC’s most prominent special effects artists.

Seeing out the menu was Anurag with the dessert and his Mandatory Mishap being that he unfortunately upended one his Inside Out Baklavas, making it an Inside Out Upside Down Baklava

which only made it look slightly more normal because they were specifically designed to look as much like an Xenomorph egg as possible when the right way up

in this case the facehugger was a tiny tube of filo pastry submerged in a pistachio foam and all of it was wrapped up tight in a milk skin which apparently doesn’t have a tog rating high enough to have registered as a milk blanket. As well as the Baklava there was ice cream served like you’d tried to clean the butter off your knife

I just don’t know if I should ever be able to describe food as “a scraping”.

I, Ambassador

For their final challenge in Turkey, the finalists were getting to cook dishes of their own design for a dinner party being held by Kenan Poleo, the British Consul General

and in attendance were the international dignitaries *checks notes* the two mentors from the previous challenges and the three judges from MasterChef Turkey, which includes my new tv crush: Somer Sivrioglu and his tiny little knife earring

I just think he’s neat.

The British-Turkish relationship may have somewhat suffered at the hands of this dinner party though, and not just because Terri was using Turkish Airline’s economy class meatballs as her inspiration (because I know the BBC did not pay for business or first class)

the dish does look good, but it also may count as an international incident depending on how the Geneva Conventions qualify a MasterChef judge being served little parcels of raw meat at a meeting with the Consul General (Guillaume Henri Dufour didn’t think this far ahead and that’s on him)

“It’s just like a medium-rare burger!” offered John Torode to lessen the damage at the detriment of making Terri’s Turkish Meatballs sound like someone’s Gourmet Burger Kitchen order – I did like the sound of her hummus sauce though, I wasn’t aware that such a thing existed, but I do devour a tub of hummus before it could ever make its way into a different sauce.

Anurag was next with the fish course and serving sea bass (sans potato blanket) with a bit of an Indian/Turkish fusion twist

the general feeling was that it didn’t strike the diners as being particularly Turkish so much as it was Modern Indian – perhaps he should have added a potato blanket, then he could have at least put John and Gregg’s minds at ease over the alleged world ending partial tearing of his sea bass skin

you cannot convince me that these two haven’t realised their time is nigh and are getting as much practice in before their debut as the Buxton Theatre legacy hires as Widow Twankey.

Omar was on mains and I imagine a little more at ease because the kitchen at Pera House doesn’t look like a professional kitchen so much as it does a B&Q show kitchen

but he was determined to conquer Turkish food once and for all by going for a lamb dish, showcasing lamb in three different ways: a tartare, a kofta and a stuffed Cabbage leaf

the fact the tartare had to be served on a separate plate did feel like an obvious sign he should have nixed it and just concentrated on his other two elements, which had both suffered a little bit at the cruel hands of time – the cabbage leaf and lamb stuffing both needing a lot more cooking and his Kofta being a touch too dry – but on the plus side it wasn’t being fed to the dogs. Omar might be though if the slightly unimpressed wait-staff having their shift extended by 5 minutes are anything to go by

she’s absolutely the brains behind their operation – the other two are just the muscle. Someone check Pera House’s silverware, just to make sure it wasn’t ransacked while everyone was distracted.

On dessert duties was Chariya, who was doing a duo of desserts, one being the expected Baklava although hers was shaped a bit like a devil’s toenail fossils

she had dubbed it “Clown Baklava” and she better trademark that because everyone raved about how good it was.
As for her second component, it was the rather mystifying Tavukgöğsü, which is a sort of Blancmange-esque dessert that was considered a delicacy amongst the Sultans of the Ottoman empire. All of this is rather burying the lede because what makes a Tavukgöğsü a Tavukgöğsü is that it’s made out of poached and de-flavoured chicken breasts

or at least you better hope they’ve been de-flavoured by the time you serve up your little chicken pudding

admittedly they do look better than a pudding made out of chicken has any right to and everyone loved it, there does after all have be a reason it’s stuck around for 1900 odd years considering Potato Salad Jelly didn’t make it out of the 60s alive

where’s THAT MasterChef challenge?

There were no eliminations this episode, so we’ll found out who’s not making The Finals Week Finale in the next episode

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