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MasterChef: Pheasants, blackberries and we finally learned what samphire looks like!

Becca Day-Preston
masterchef 300x168 MasterChef: Pheasants, blackberries and we finally learned what samphire looks like!

(BBC)

Last Friday’s quarter final saw experimental Toby fail to impress with his ‘spherical’ crème brulee, and Jill was sent home by virtue of a lacklustre duck, while Farhana and Sophie did well to impress past winners Dhruv, Shelina and Tim, and progressed on to the semi-finals.

Wednesday started us off with a new gaggle of hopefuls, who all paled into the background with the appearance of larger-than-life Bertie, who we think should be applauded for managing to make it into his 40s without reverting to Albert or Bert. He was not applauded for his cooking, though, particularly when he threw rabbit and turkey into his chicken pot pie, which ended up smelling of cheddar.

Faring a little better in the first round were Shivi, who was saved from her disappointing mince and mushroom invention with a tasty chicken pie, and Dave, whose posh burger and chips in the invention test had Gregg and John at hello. Unfortunately for Bertie, and a young man called Neil, who tried to impress with a cottage pie, the game was over.

In the pro kitchen at Bistro 51, Helen, Dave and Shivi were tasked with all manner of tasty delights, though Dave’s mushroom-crusted sea bass looked a little too, well, crusty. As professional kitchen rounds go, it wasn’t very eventful. Luckily, the contestants’ final bid for attention was much more interesting, with Shivi serving up a beautiful floating islands dessert that had Gregg clamouring for more while John was a little unimpressed. Dave looked sure to go home, with his weirdly presented curry ballotine, but Helen ended up getting the boot thanks to a not-at-all-sticky sticky toffee pudding. Indeed, ‘twas a wise Gregg who said “if you promise someone sticky toffee pudding you are duty bound to provide it.”

On Thursday we were greeted by another handful of young pretenders, including the swaggeringly confident Chris who announced that he believed he would win the whole thing and who, John suggested, looked like he’d been in training for MasterChef for a good year. Chris turned out a pretty perfect chocolate fondant in the invention test: a MasterChef Holy Grail if ever there was one. Also impressing in the early rounds were Larkin, whose take on John’s palate test chowder was more of a seafood fricassee, and Tess, who knew her way around a roast pheasant. Not faring so well were Emma, who insisted “I cook so much better at home!” and Sarah, who proudly announced that she’d catered her own wedding and her brother’s, and then proceeded to serve up pheasant with a big eggy tortilla. Strange to say the least. They were both sent packing.

At Brasserie Joel, Tess, Chris and Larkin were thrown in at the deep end, with Larkin handling tempura mozzarella, a dish that made fried cheese look classy, with aplomb and Chris pan-frying a multitude of duck breasts. Tess floundered with the seared scallops which was surprising because usually it’s the meat option that gets contestants into trouble in the pro kitchen.

Back in the MasterChef kitchen, Larkin set about a brilliant fusion menu, delivering beef tartare starter and an arty tower of sea bass, dumplings and vegetables in a consommé, and confirmed himself as one to watch. Chris failed to build on the impressive foundation of his chocolate fondant, delivering a starter of samphire with crab ravioli that just wasn’t crabby enough, and a venison brick with huge slices of carrot on the side. Tess also struggled with her ravioli (also served with samphire) but, in the second surprise decision in as many weeks, it was Chris who ended up taking the bus home not Tess. Just goes to show, if you enter a reality TV competition saying you’ll win it before the first challenge, well, you probably won’t.

Gregg-ism of the week: “I do love the flavour of the inside of your pie.”

Plat du are-you-sure?: Sarah’s pheasant with tortilla- as John observed, “egg and pheasant isn’t a classic combination…”

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