Me hoping every contestant will be the next Cod Cheek Omelette.
So… frozen meringue, huh?
Episode 10: White Knuckle Hug
Kicking off the last week of heats was Monica’s Skills Test in which Simon and Casrick had to make Squid Croquettes (PLURAL, CASRICK) and a Garlic Mayonnaise without being put on the domestic terrorist list
neither of them managed to blow the bloody doors off, but Casrick did at least melt Monica’s brain as she watched him try to speedrun a Bechamel sauce
he had at least pre-cooked the squid before mixing it into his Bechamel Porridge whereas Simon thought that would be a very silly thing to do leaving Monica no choice but to cross her fingers and hope she would get to taste at least 1 piece of squid this evening
sadly Simon would not deliver because while his croquettes looked good
but they were completely raw in the middle
and Casrick wasn’t on to much more of a winner as Monica and Marcus had to weigh up whether they would rather fight lots of little raw croquettes or one big raw croquette
he did at least throw on a crispy little tentacle hat to show that he knew how to do at least 1 thing properly
to be fair, both Simon and Casrick managed to prepare the squid perfectly – not that Marcus was giving them any bonus points for that because apparently any plebeian should be able to do it. (I’ve seen the awful things professional chefs have done to seafood on this show so I was impressed, boys)
Swing High, Sweetbread
For his Skills test, Marcus was challenging his two chefs to use sweetbreads and onions to make their very own Chia Pet
luckily for them they weren’t having to make their pastry case for the Sweetbread and Onion Tart because there was not enough time… Philippe would have still tried
and I suppose it’s also worth me getting up on my soapbox to remind everyone that, and say it with me now, sweetbreads are not testicles
contrary to what the state of our politics looks like right now, we are not living in the 18th century when they were testicles – but every year we do inch closer to someone cooking Rocky Mountain Oysters so stay on your toes.
First up was the personification of Saturday Kitchen’s wine-induced idle chatter, Ayesha who narrated absolutely everything she did like she was Marcus Bentley in disguise
Monica absolutely loved it, Marcus however had fully glazed over and was pondering the effectiveness of a lamb’s thymus as earplugs
personally I love her and think she should be given her own 30 minute mid-week gap filling cookery show IMMEDIATELY, mostly because I want to learn more about her restaurant that seems to be the meeting ground for an incredibly ineffective Dungeons and Dragons adventuring party
but she at least passed the DC for Marcus’s Skills Test
the only things that slightly let her down were the onions which weren’t caramelised and the fact Marcus now needs to be treated for Tinnitus.
Lastly we have Cecily who basically Nat 1’d all over the place and was having an exceptionally awful time with this challenge and spent most of it having an existential crisis as she watched time slowly slip through her fingers
babe, stop asking for time calls and think happy thoughts.
The time did end up getting away from her and despite her blanching the sweetbreads and then cutting them up into the bougiest Happy Meal you’ve ever seen
they still were not quite cooked enough but her tart at least looked like a tart, or at least like a collection of things shoved into a tart case which apparently is now all a tart is
she did get very upset with herself, but like the judges said, worse thing have happened with easier challenges – The Chicken Sandwich Incident of 2017, Self-mutilating Woodcocks and of course, the always iconic Cod Cheek Omelette
Cecily may have undercooked a sweetbread, but she didn’t send the judges into a conspiratorial frenzy as to how they could get away with bundling her into a rolled up persian rug and dumping her in the River Rea
Jordan’s Cod Cheek Omelette is my Roman Empire.
After a series of not great Skills Test all four of this episode’s chefs had a little bit to prove to Marcus and Monica (and Gregg but he’s just impressed if you remember his name.) The only chef to truly knock the challenge out of the park was Ayesha who really understood the “signature” part of the challenge with her Middle Eastern menu that showcased an abundance of ingredients and dishes that I don’t think have ever been on the show before which I always appreciate because there’s only so many times I can write about a cannon of lamb and minted peas – FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHITE MEN FROM THE SOUTH-EAST, STOP IT!
Her menu started with a risotto which she was making with Freekeh instead of rice, but it’s still a grain so I’ll allow it under a technicality, and she was serving it with a piece of sous-vide cod and lemon gel
and the judges went wild for it, especially Marcus who is unsurprisingly the sort of person that regularly sous-vides a piece of cod at home
and Ayesha’s successes continued with her dessert of a Basbousa (a type of Arabic semolina cake she was soaking in a Somerset cider syrup) served with sous-vide rhubarb, rhubarb gel, smoked almond brittle and a whipped tahini cream
the sheer amount of elements she was having to put together was just a cheat code that allowed her to talk more
she’s got so much charisma, I absolutely adore her and I’m so glad the quality of her cookery holds up just as well on its own. I really do think she has the making of someone very special within the sort of celebrity food world – if only because I think she could cause maximum chaos on Saturday Kitchen, she was basically born to derail Matt Tebbutt.
The other three contestants were a little more hit and miss – Simon was taking truly wild swings with his Scallop main course which he was serving with a strawberry vinegar for reasons only known to himself
and you knew Marcus was extremely eager to shoot this man down from the moment he spoke that cursed combination into existence
and like an arrow from Artemis’s own bow, it was death on impact
Then for all the wild swinging in his Main Course, his dessert was a pretty standard Panna Cotta. I mean, it was flavoured with Fennel Seeds but that’s just a way of saying it tastes a bit like liquorice without putting off anyone who was traumatised by Liquorice Allsorts when they were little – HOW DO SWEETS THAT LOOK SO CUTE TASTE SO HORRIBLE?
If the face pulling over his cough medicine and seafood combo wasn’t obvious enough to tell you that Simon was going home, then Monica choosing this moment, after four weeks, to be a little shady about Panna Cottas certainly was
let this be a warning to everyone trying out for next year – they are BORED of your jiggly milk no matter how good it is
at least Simon had one well received dish though – I personally question the decision to serve the panna cotta in a way that doesn’t showcase how wobbly it is, which is the entire point of a panna cotta but they still commended the texture of it.
Cecily had a similar 50/50 outcome to Simon with the judges really enjoying her Beef and Yuzu Ponzu dish
I’m not as keen on the presentation as the judges were, something about it just looks like leftovers to me but the beef fillet did look phenomenally well cooked – I’m just very curious to know where the rest of it went because this is how much beef she started with
I’m sure the crew had some really good beef and mustard sandwiches on their break.
Her dessert wasn’t quite so well received, Marcus thought the Woodruff Cream tart with a Compressed Apple Jelly was too simple
I mean… maybe? But she just wanted to prove she knew how to make at least 1 tart after the calamity of her Skills Test. I wouldn’t ordinarily defend a Woodruff Tart like this because it reminds me too much of that boy on Junior Bake Off who it turned out was having help with his recipes from Tommy Banks which became abundantly obvious the moment he turned up with a handful of Woodruff to make a cake with. He did not win but I still hold a grudge. Cecily’s reasoning for woodruff was less underhanded, she just wanted something to go with her wild strawberries
they look like a regular strawberry’s evil twin that got locked in the attic and fed a diet consisting only of fish heads.
Lastly was Casrick who sadly did not get through this round unscathed and ended up losing a fight against the deep fat fryer, and had to abandon his crispy chickpea… sausages(?) to the boiling hot depths
thus meaning his dish was just Pan-fried Pigeon and Textures of Carrot which were mostly just 1 texture and a carrot
it’s just really not a good looking plate of food, it looks like it was served up by a begrudging dinner lady in a middle school full of teenagers she hates, and unfortunately for as much time he took to prepare and cook his pigeon, it was still a little on the undercooked and overly cartilaginous side for the judges
his Chocolate Mousse dessert did look like it was going to go better for him because the presentation was very refined and classy
however he’d used too much gelatine in his mousse so it kind of had the texture of a Turkish Delight which is a little bit jarring when you’re expecting a mousse
they did however really like the deep-fried walnuts but that’s really not enough to save a whole dessert.
A Signature Menu Dish Ranking
1. Ayesha’s Technically Legal Risotto
2. Ayesha’s Everything Dessert
3. WHERE. IS. THE. BEEF?
4. Simon’s Flat Panna Cotta
5. Stuck In The Woodruff
6. Casrick’s Textural Nightmare [Dessert Version]
7. Casrick’s Textural Nightmare [Main Course Version]
8. Simon’s Scallops and Cough Medicine
Simon was out the door before Marcus had even tasted his strawberry vinegar and with Cecily being mostly Just Fine and Casrick not really delivering on what he promised, he was sent home which I am selfishly pleased with because my autocorrect kept trying to change his name to “Carsick”.
So this week’s first quarterfinalists were Cecily and Ayesha – the latter immediately having to assume Mother Mode because Cecily looked like the protagonist of a YA novel that just got dropped off on their first day of Dystopian High School
that is a white knuckle hug.
Episode 11: Potentially Rat-driven Genius
Kiss and Cavatelli
For her last Skills Test of the series, Monica was asking for a bowl of Cavatelli pasta served with chicken oysters and Cime di Rapa, which is a leafy green and not an Italian grime artist
and the two chefs Monica was hoping could pass their Niche Pasta Pop Test (Italy you cannot just keep making and naming shapes, I’m cutting off your geometry privileges) were Tristan and Lindsay who are basically the same man in light and dark mode
MasterChef: The Professionals has a type.
Lindsay was up first and had no real idea what Cavatelli was but knew it needed to be shaped in order to soak up some of the sauce, so the guy just started hand building tiny bowls
and that meant there was no uniformity amongst his pasta shapes which was almost as disappointing to Marcus as watching him burn butter
at which point we’d lost Monica to a buttery smog
In the end, Lindsay’s chicken oysters were half cooked and his pasta looked a bit like a bowl of prosthetic old man ears
and there’s only so much a generous helping of parmesan can help however there was no cheesy smokescreen for Tristan to hide behind because of his dairy allergy, which did mean Marcus could cuddle the butter in the pantry
naturally Gregg travels around with a pocketful of cheddar ready to go at any given moment
Tristan had more success with his pasta, or at least he managed to make them all look the same but they did look alarmingly like some sort of caterpillar
congratulations you beat Naples to creating Lucciotelli, named after the fact it looks like the Glo Worm doll every nursery school had in the 90s
Tristan was keeping it all together pretty well, he’d made a few errors in the cooking of his chicken oysters but the biggest faux pas in the judges’ eyes was the fact he didn’t mix the pasta and the oysters together, he just drizzled the sauce over the pasta, thus defeating the very purpose of Cavatelli
and God forbid Marcus and Monica ever have to mix something in a bowl themselves.
What’s Yours is Pineapple
Seeing out this year’s series of Skills Tests was Marcus’s dessert which looked like a once great looking dessert had been dropped from a tremendous height
that sugary smear of blunt force trauma is a pile of rum poached pineapple and a sabayon – which it turns out does not look nearly as fancy as it sounds. And there was also toffee popcorn because Marcus needed to make sure this challenge lasted 20 minutes and the margin for error in peeling a pineapple and frantically whisking egg yolks is too small. We waited all series, but I think we eventually found the Tiger Prawn Omelette of the series – this is not a real dish, it’s just a series of hoops to jump through like a culinary efficient poodle.
First up to the plate was Tom and if this MasterChef gig doesn’t work out for him, he’s already got the part of Alfredo Linguini in the West End musical production of Ratatouille that TikTok almost willed into existence during the pandemic because we were all going insane
but it looks like he’s going to be a formidable opponent in this competition, if only because he’s the first chef that has ever smiled at the thought of having to make a dessert
even the pastry chefs that come on act as though they’re only doing it because they’ve been tricked and punished by some sort of feywild trickster god. His only minor misstep was that he hadn’t quite cooked his sabayon out enough, not enough for everyone to insist they weren’t going to eat the middlingly raw egg yolks though
but Marcus was mostly just delighted to have a chef that worked methodically and kept everything under control. This would not last long because I-Lin was seemingly on a one woman mission to cause Marcus as much misery as possible as she sped through the challenge at a rate of knots and stepped on every tricksy little rake she possibly could
she somehow managed to use the wrong pans for just about everything, forced one of the PAs to go on a wild butter chase
and made a sugar-free sabayon which means she had just served slightly tepid boozy and entirely savoury egg yolks poured over her pineapple
obviously she’s my favourite – I see a lot of myself in the humming ball of anxiety that became to be known as I-Lin.
Much like the last episode, most of the chefs coming into this round had a fair amount to prove to the judges (what a final set of heats to end on) – the only one sitting pretty was Tom who just continued to be a force of potentially rat-driven genius with his two signature dishes, starting with an admittedly not wildly inventive Lamb and a Trilogy of Broccoli
I’m just glad to see main courses where at least a few of the ingredients touch one another are coming back into fashion – I was also relieved he went to extreme lengths to disguise the cylinders of raw lamb
tartares can be very nice but they are never pretty and chefs often make that mistake.
I did think Tom might be in a little bit of trouble with his dessert because he was making a relatively simple tart mostly just because he could then say something like this on television
Marcus however didn’t go nearly as hard on his tart as he did on Cecily who had at least thrown a novelty herb at hers
I think it’s fair to say Tom is a pretty safe bet for the final if not the winner – Marcus just has that twinkle in his eye whenever he looks at him. Things could not be more the opposite for Lindsay who was having to play 20 questions over a bowl of custard because nobody could quite believe that for your grandstand on MasterChef: THE PROFESSIONALS someone would make what amounted to mostly a bowl of custard
and then his shortbread went wrong and the custard hadn’t set so it was even more of Just A Bowl of Literal Custard – not even the fun ~whimsical~ rhubarb elements could really save him from that fate
and truly the despair started to set in as he realised he should have gone with the Metaphorical Custard
God I hope he gets a complimentary 10 sessions on the MasterChef Therapy Couch – the poor guy deserves it because his main course of Stone Bass and Mussels was very good
the only thing they really complained about was the fact it was too small (TOM SERVED YOU TWO SLIVERS OF LAMB AND WORLD WAR 2 RATIONS OF BROCCOLI, BE CONSISTENT!) Personally I think the bigger sin was that it looks like the worst Animal Crossing villager, Ribbot
friends fear she’s trying to start niche drama for attention.
Lindsay wasn’t the only one making questionable dessert decisions because Tristan was putting forward an all time great MasterChef Brainfart that he had SO MUCH misguided confidence in and hearing him explain the concept of frozen meringue to Michelin Star holding Marcus Wareing like he was a guy in a hipster coffee shop telling you about a deepcut from J.D. Salinger’s bibliography is a new height for total lack of awareness
“I don’t know if you’ve heard of it.” – IT’S JUST MERINGUE YOU PUT IN THE FREEZER FOR 5 MINUTES BABE, YOU HAVEN’T INVENTED ANYTHING! This is like Elon Musk thinking the Hyperloop had invented the subway, you’ve just made cold, barely edible meringue
the flagrant audacity of him to think he’d been real slick with this dessert which also included the incredibly underrated doughnut
OH NO, you’ve opened Pandora’s Box of Classism! CLOSE IT, WE CAN’T DO THIS DISCOURSE AGAIN! I REFUSE!
Unsurprisingly Tristan’s menu had started with quail – the man speaks in italics, you knew it was coming
for some reason his quail was on some sort of covert reconnaissance mission and had camouflaged itself within a garlic leaf
the dish did sound lovely and I loved the presentation of it – it’s just hard to be thrilled about it when you know there’s a bowl of rapidly thawing questionably raw egg whites just around the corner – it truly is the Whiskey Cured Confit Egg Yolk of the Year. It’s about time Egg Whites became the victim.
Lastly we have I-Lin who continued to move around the kitchen like a bee with restless leg syndrome as she set about making her Taiwanese Beef Noodle Consomme dish which she was very keen for everyone to know was her favourite dish in the entire world
so immediately I was highly invested and willing to go to war to defend her if they dared to not like it
I do think the judges sold her a little short on this dish – the consomme is absolutely crystal clear and extremely well made, they did think it didn’t have enough flavour of the Taiwanese spices in it, which sure, but at least gas her up about the quality of it!
Then much like Tristan and Lindsay it all went a bit tits up in the dessert with the judges liking the general idea behind her Strawberry and Matcha dessert but absolutely none of the textures were even remotely correct
the sponge was too dense, the macerated strawberries were too watery and the jelly was basically a giant Fruit Pastille [tone indicator… negative?] But it looked pretty and you can see there’s a lot of very good pastry skills in that panicked brain of hers, I think she was just someone who got thrown by the studio environment – she isn’t the first and she won’t be the last.
A Signature Menu Dish Ranking
1. Crouching Garlic, Hidden Quail
2. The Broccoli Trilogy
3. A Not Too Simple, Simple Tart
4. Ribbot, A Portrait in Seafood
5. Justice For I-Lin’s Favourite Soup!
6. Lindsay’s Literal Bowl of Custard
7. I-Lin’s Bowl of Bad Textures
8. Tristan’s Horrible Doughnut
9. Literally Anything Else
10. Tristan’s Frozen Egg Whites
This was a doozey – The judges did decide I-Lin was going home first and Tom was through easily leaving them to debate over whether they send Lindsay home for apparently not trying hard enough or punish Tristan for The Meringue Debacle. Tristan’s main course REALLY saved him though so he and Tom were the last set of quarterfinalists
and together they make 1 Tilda Swinton.
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