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MasterChef roundup: A mango failure and a triumphant truffle cake

Becca Day-Preston
4160064 low res masterchef 300x200 MasterChef roundup: A mango failure and a triumphant truffle cake

(BBC)

Last week’s confusing knock-out round launched us headlong into the semi-finals, which was a bit of a shock to the system after five long weeks of heats. Suddenly, there were only four hopeful amateurs in the MasterChef kitchen, leaving nowhere for iffy cooking to hide.

Wednesday’s round saw Saira, Natalie, Dale and Larkin split up and sent to professional restaurants, where they would each be tasked with serving a dish during service and would then have to tackle one of the establishment’s signature dishes. At Michelin-starred Benares, Saira struggled with a lamb curry dish but managed to faithfully reproduce the head chef’s fish dish (albeit with a portion-control issue). Over at Launceston Place, Dale was consistently scatterbrained, leaving at least one element off his carrot salad starter every time. Larkin and Natalie shone, both seemingly feeling instantly at home in professional settings suited to their passions: Natalie was in Trinity’s contemporary British kitchen, while Larkin was placed with 2010 MasterChef finalist Alex at The Hole In The Wall, where he learned a thing or two about reining in his experimental tendencies.

Back in the studio, the final four cooked two courses for John and Gregg. Saira’s vindaloo went down well, but her dessert was a bit confused. Dale served up a tough, dry suet pudding that seemed to upset Gregg quite a bit. Larkin’s stir fry was served in a ‘bowl’ made from the deep-fried skeleton of a fish. A MasterChef first, surely?

On Thursday, the hopefuls were told to make a fabulous main and dessert, which they had to serve up to surprise guest judge Marcus Wareing, the kindly-eyed, razor-tongued MasterChef boogeyman. Natalie managed to pull off a chocolate fondant, which followed an excellent main, while Saira didn’t do too badly either. Dale and Larkin, however, fell apart, both serving up terrible razor clam mains and awful desserts. Larkin’s was the worst, with Wareing declaring his main “appalling in every way” and refusing to eat his dessert, a failed soufflé in a leaky mango skin. It really was quite sad.

The next challenge was a dinner at the Savoy for 12 Bond girls, including Britt Ekland and Eunice Gayson. They all managed to do fairly well, though John was visibly annoyed at Larkin’s simplistic lemon tart.

Come Friday, we felt as knackered as the final four looked. Three hours of Masterchef in one week is enough to put anyone off their celeriac puree! They were tasked with cooking a three course meal for twelve of the UK media’s most formidable critics, including Jay Rayner and The Independent’s own Amol Rajan. Natalie’s sea bream starter was incredibly popular, while Saira’s was declared “a total shambles”, which seems a little harsh, but her little chicken cake didn’t look tasty at all. Larkin had an absolute horror show of a day, serving up a beef and black bean main that prompted Jay Rayner to remark “lots of things have died, including my hope” and then dropping his final chocolate soufflé on the floor, causing that “nooooo!” from John that we’ve been looking forward to all series. Natalie’s slightly wacky rabbit and cockles main was described as “very memorable”, which is lovely.

Dale and Natalie, having excelled at the critics’ lunch, were shoo-ins for the final, and while Larkin’s general failures over the space of two shows were egregious, we had a bad feeling that it would be Saira saying goodbye. We were right, too. We’re not sure about the fairness of kicking Saira out: she didn’t do brilliantly, but she also didn’t muck up half as catastrophically as Larkin. Still, it turns out that incredulously shouting “WHAT?!” at iPlayer doesn’t change anything, so Larkin stayed.

Plat du are-you-sure? Larkin’s hair-brained idea to serve a soufflé cooked in a hollowed out mango. We weren’t sure, John and Gregg weren’t sure and, as it turned out, neither was the soufflé. Marcus Wareing refused to taste it. Oh dear, Larkin.

Gregg-ism of the week: “There’s a lightness to your clam.”

One to watch: Natalie. Without a doubt, the part-time DJ has become our MasterChef fave this year. She’s a perfect blend of talent. Humility and humour, and if she doesn’t win on Thursday, we’ll eat Larkin’s horrible mango soufflé disaster. In a hat.

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