MasterChef – Sun, July 24 – Who will be final three?

In this quarter-final mystery box challenge and invention test, contestants cook off for a place in the semi-final using ingredients chosen by their loved ones.
Let’s hope Harry, Intense Matt, Glowing Elena (why I didn’t call her Serener Elena I’ll never know – maybe because the judges sometimes pronounces her name Ell-en-a) and Elise had a chat with their loved ones before MasterChef started and teed up lots of parfait ingredients, seafood, chilli and vegies.

We start with everyone getting ready back at the house and they are all so close to achieving their dreams, yadda yadda yadda.
The eliminated contestants are up on the gantry, applauding the frizziness of Harry’s fringe. Three people are missing – hard to tell who.
There are two rounds and the winner of round one is straight through to the semi final. One person from the three in round two is eliminated.
It’s the loved ones mystery box challenge first and they all get a letter from home – and Elise recognises the handwriting straight away. MasterChef loves nothing better than seeing contestants weep as they cook. It’s not quite on the level of Survivor loved ones letters but on the balcony even Theresa is crying. And we learn Harry’s real name is Harrison.
Usually there’s one person who gets screwed over by their loved one in this challenge and this time it looks like it could be Elise. Her box is half full of savoury items (including thyme, which no doubt is growing in the MC garden), and freekeh, which she’s never used before.

Everyone has eight ingredients in their box.
Elise’s fiance chose: Freekeh, gelatine, thyme, strawberries, quail, leek, almond meal, vanilla bean. (And we learn his nickname for her is Vanilla Bean. She’s stunned by the freeken but luckily they only have to use one ingredient – although I’d be worried round two is to use what you already haven’t.)
Glowing Elena’s mum chose: Almond meal, mud crab, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, vanilla bean, apples, bacon, lemons (A good all rounder box).
Harry’s mum chose: Tassie salmon, dry sparkling wine, sesame seeds, avo, lemons, asparagus, chilli, peas. (Surprised no crab of prawns).
Intense Matt’s wife selected: Longan, limes, peanuts, daikon, green papaya, snapper, chillis and Vietnamese mint. (Luckily my local supermarket was giving customers free longan tastings a while back or I’d be scratching my head right npw. They’re like a lychee.)

GE is making crab with cauli and Brussels sprouts and seems to be using many of the ingredients.
IM is doing a fish broth with snapper dumplings, and he and his then fiancee used to travel around Asia eating soup.
Elise is making vanilla and thyme panna cotta (it’s been a while since we’ve seen one of those) but the gelatine her fiance picked is not as strong as her usual variety so she’s taking a punt on the ratios. This could be vanilla custard. Can’t she just yell to Con the panna cotta king for help?
Harry is having a Mimi-style brain freeze and hasn’t started. He’s very sombre in the talking head … he’s either sick of he’s been eliminated.
He starts with a wine granita but still has no idea what his whole dish will be. Time for a George and Gary pep talk. He decides to do salmon two ways, peas and dumplings. Will he even use the granita?
IM’s dumpling skins look glorious. I want dumplings! Elise is making a strawberry jelly to go with her panna cotta (and using rectangular moulds – not the red moulds of death!) and bravely decides to have a crack at the freekeh. Luckily there are directions on the box. She pops it in the microwave and hopes it will puff up. Gaz likes the idea.
GE’s prep is excellent – she has everything lined up in little bowls, chef style.
Elise’s freekeh isn’t cooked enough so she whips up a thyme crumb for crunch and a black pepper tuile and praline. What’s next: spun sugar?
IM is making noodles out of his daikon. We call zucchini noodles zoodles, so does this mean he’s made doodles?
Harry is throwing all kinds of extra elements at his dish to add substance to it, including a lemon curd. Did he burn the lemons, as per usual?
Elise’s panna cotta seems to have set and it looks pretty good.The Brussels sprouts on GE’s plate give an amazing pop of colour. Even if it was a blind taste test they’d know it was her dish.

The judges taste

Elise’s panna cotta: The judges like the look of it. You can tell they like it – and, indeed, Gaz seagulls in to snag the last piece. The pops of pepper and thyme are great. Matt does say there’s a bit too much gelatine in there.

Harry’s salmon with dumplings and granita: Gaz says it looks pretty and sophisticated. “The things that throws the whole dish is that granita of champagne, because it’s raw.” Matt says the pasta is the best they’ve seen in the comp. So, he’s not the winner.

IM’s snapper with dumplings: “Lots of technique. The noodles for me are a hit,” says George. Matt says the fish is well cooked but questions the amount of chilli and Vietnamese mint. Seems like they were just trying to find something to balance the positives.

GE’s crab with Brussels sprouts: The judges adore her arc presentation and Gaz demands extra soz. Here comes the loud angelic music. She’s won. Gaz raves about her soz and while he goes on about “the alchemy of a sauce” the other two polish off the dish. “You bastards,” he says. Ok, I like Gaz a bit more today. Matt says the crab and apple combo was genius.

And the winner of round one is …
GE. She’s through to the semi final. Well deserved but if IM goes home after the next round I’ll be throwing a sous vide machine at the TV. I just have to buy one first.

Round two
They get to choose from types of ingredients, techniques and equipment. They do a knife pull for the order and they all must use the same selection.
Matt lists off some of the options: skewering, candying, juicing, using tea, grilling, aerating …
IM is first and he chooses “liquefying”, which involves juicers and blenders. As he says, this could be used for sweet or savoury dishes.
Harry picks “aeration”, which is whisks and siphon guns.
And Elise picks, surprise, surprise, gelatine.
The guys won’t be happy with the gelatine – time for a savoury jelly?

Gaz says Elise has chosen well by picking something that narrows the choices to favour her skill set.
IM is doing a dessert, a blackberry sorbet with honey nougat, tempered choc and port jelly – sounds like he’s using some of the skills gained in the Alla Wolf-Tasker challenge.
Elise picks an aerated choc parfait (ABC!!!) with an orange sorbet and jelly. Mmm – love Jaffas. On the gantry, dessert specialists Mimi, Charlie and Chloe aren’t keen. “I know Elise is always wanting to do something with parfaits but this is for a place in the semi finals … you have to make sure you’re showing the judges you’ve learnt so much,” says Mimi in a talking head.
Harry is making passionfruit sorbet, Aperol and grapefruit jelly and a coconut something – he needs to work on his enunciation.

The judges come over to Elise’s bench to freak her out. “Why are you doing another parfait again?” Gaz asks. She freaks out because she knows he’s right and he actually comes back to her afterwards to say “I don’t want to put you off, but it has to be said.” She agrees as tears plop into her sorbet mixture. “It’s MasterChef, not Average Chef,” she tearily tells the camera. Then whips out the smoking gun. “Smile – you love making desserts,” Anastasia tells her from the gantry. Because telling someone to “smile” always cheers them up. GE tries to cheer her up from the sidelines.

The judges remind IM how far out of his comfort zone he is.
Matt suggests to Harry he is trying to do too many things at once and Harry bites back: “I’m going to fight for the top three, Matt.”
So Matt moves on to Elise, who is still buckling under the pressure. Everyone on the gantry is worried about her.
Gaz reminds Harry he needs to add something crunchy to his dish, which is all soft textures. D’oh – that’s basic MasterChef, up there with seasoning and tasting as you go. With 12 minutes to go he decides to try and temper white chocolate. Oh Harry – why not just do a quick crumb or toast some nuts? White choc is hard to temper, whereas IM’s dark choc looks lovely and glossy.
So far everything we’ve heard from IM is that he’s happy, so it’s between weepy Elise and Harry.
It’s time to plate but Elise says her sorbet is too icy while Harry’s is not frozen enough. And his white chocolate “chips” are too soft, so he wisely leaves them off. And he hasn’t tested his coconut foam.
IM’s dish looks awesome. Winner pick! Elise’s dish looks a bit clumsy and GE comes over to give her a cuddle.

The judges taste

Harry’s passionfruit sorbet with jelly: “I feel like a shell of myself,” he tells them. His foam (which I’ve worked out is an espuma) is meant to stay fluffy but it melts away. The judges say he made a mistake by keeping the foam warm in the siphon gun. Gaz says it’s more of a pre-dessert cleanser than a dessert and it’s crying out for texture. George says the ice cream is “nice”. Faint praise.

IM’s blackberry sorbet with port jelly:
“You get to that point of the competition where you can’t hide behind a savoury mask any more,” he tells the judges. They love the presentation. George says it’s like something a top chef would make. “The sorbet is spot on,” says Gaz. Matt says he’s like a boxer who’s switched hands midway through a fight and he’s excelled.

Elise’s choc parfait with orange sorbet: “It’s a bit clumsy, isn’t it,” says Gaz. The glaze is dull, the jelly roughly cut. The sorbet is icy and flat and the choc too hard. George loves the flavour of the smoked choc parfait. They’re disappointed but you can tell Gaz especially likes her – he’s come a long way from barking at her in the early rounds of the comp.

The judges decide
And it’s Elise. She’s not surprised. The judges say nice things about her. They don’t show her saying “wongtongs” in the montage – dammit. “I’m going to have my own cake store,” she tells the camera. Harry is a lucky boy.

Bye Elise!
So top three is IM, GE and Harry. we may have to rename IM Glowing Matt – he’s so happy.

Tomorrow night
Gaz tells them tomorrow is a service challenge, They have to cook a main and a dessert for 20 people in the MC kitchen. We see one dish with perfect granny smith batons, so that’s Elena’s.


MasterChef – Wed, July 13 – food truck challenge

The contestants are split into teams to run their very own food trucks at the world famous Santa Monica Pier. There is plenty at stake with the winning team guaranteed a place in finals week.

I love a good food truck. Anyone else watch The Great Food Truck Race, the US show where food trucks drive all over the country and compete in challenges?

I didn’t think Matt Preston’s suits could any pinker, but his outfit is super musk stick-pink today.
They do a random draw and red team is Harry, Brett and Mimi, so blue is Intense Matt, Trent and Elise. (Glowing Elena gets to sit out, having won the grape challenge). The guest chef today is the founder of what is apparently a successful food truck empire, Guerrilla Tacos: Wes Avila.
They have 2.5 hours to prep two items for at least 200 people.
Luckily for them they are actually cooking outside of the food trucks in a kitchen bigger than some restaurant kitchens. IM suggests BBQ chicken as one dish.
Harry wants to do a soft shell crab taco and here he goes again, using someone else’s recipe, doing a burnt lemon soz they had at a restaurant in San Fran.
Over on blue, they decide to do soft shell crab as well but – uh oh – red team has used all the soft shell crab (there weren’t that many to start with). But blue doesn’t know that because they are busy chopping up chook.
Red’s second dish will be a corn and guac salad with corn chips. Chef Wes thinks it sounds more like a side dish. They decide to add prawns.
Wes like’s IM’s chicken dish but he warns them to check they have enough crab and, uh oh. They have to do seared tuna with avo, corn, jalapeno and pineapple instead.
Red team spends a bit of time discussing whether the prawns’ poop chutes have been cleaned. They decide they already have. Does this they haven’t?
The teams use the trucks to grill their chook and tortillas and fry their corn chips.
It’s taking Harry ages to peel the prawns and now he wants to skewer them. This is where Brett needs to go rogue and just tell him “no”. After the initial crab hiccup, it was smart of blue to go with tuna, which just needs slicing and a quick sear.
With 15 minutes to go, Brett steps up and allocates everyone tasks. Good one, Brett – you sort out Gen Y.
On blue team, IM wants to give everyone a quarter of a chook with some slaw, but Elise – good on her – speaks up and says that would be a nightmare for the punters to eat standing up. Too true. He listens and chops it into smaller serves. Please let the chicken be cooked.
Red team decide they don’t have time for the tacos and it will just be soft shell crab with salad – good call.
IM is loving working in the food truck and Elise is bantering with customers – nice to see happy people in an MC challenge.

The judges taste

Red’s soft shell crab with fennel salad: Wes is a bit sad they didn’t do the taco. Gaz says the crab is well cooked and the lemon soz is yum.

Blue’s tuna with pineapple and corn salsa: Matt says it’s a bit old school but suits the beach on a sunny day. George reckons it’s a bit simple and Wes says the pineapple wasn’t consistently chopped. (Two women in the crowd note the blue team chefs were “gorgeous”.)

(Meanwhile, IM is worried no-one is ordering his chicken, instead wanting the more exotic tuna. If I was offered free food I’d pick tuna over chicken, too.)
Blue’s bourbon and ginger chicken with apple slaw: “You’d be rapt if you got that,” says George of the portion size. Matt says it might be hard for others to eat. Wes says it’s juicy and delicious. They love it.

Red’s charred prawn with corn salsa and tortilla chips: Gaz loves the fresh flavours but George isn’t eating his prawn. Gaz has to drag the reason out of him, for dramatic effect. Poor Georgie has a pooey prawn. Wes had poo, too. They’d love it otherwise.

The judges decide
Well, they ain’t giving it to the in the poo team.
Matt tells them the three things that bring people unstuck in the MasterChef kitchen are: bones in fish, undercooked chicken (did IM’s heart miss a beat just then?) and leaving poop chutes in prawns.
So, yes, team poo loses.

Tomorrow night
It’s elimination time and Mimi, Brett and Harry are in black, cooking under the eyes of Curtis Stone “to keep their food dreams alive”.

Beetroot alert
Note: None of the dishes tonight used beetroot. Hopefully someone will do beetroot two ways tomorrow to make up for this glaring omission.


MasterChef – Sun, Jul 10 – San Fran trip

The MasterChef Australia competition travels to California for the week. With just a map in hand the contestants must track down the mystery box ingredients from local San Francisco produce shops.

Don’t forget to vote in the new poll for MasterChef final three.
According to Wikipedia (so it must be true), this is the rundown for the last few weeks of the show:

We start with the Qantas plug with Elise and Trent living it up in business class – the reward for having won the last challenge. No footage of the others crammed into cattle class.
All of a sudden they are strolling on a clifftop past Alcatraz. “It’s an absolutely mint day,” says Intense Matt.
George is looking extra stubbly today but Matt Preston is wearing a new cream blazer and waistcoat combo.
They learn today is a mystery box challenge, with each person contributing one item of local produce they buy somewhere in San Francisco. Harry and Brett end up at a fishmonger scoffing down calamari, oysters and crab. Trent and Elise stumble upon a farmers market – no way did a producer tell them to head there. Trent goes for citrus while Elise finds a dreadlocked farmer to sell her vegies. She wants to choose a veg that has multiple uses. No doubt it will be beetroot.
IM ends up in a fancy chocolate shop where they wrap they blocks of chocolate for you and he’s right – no-one would have picked him to choose bacon. Glowing Elena is sent more to a deli type place and is sniffing around the fennel pollen – will she pick it? No Mimi airtime.
They head back to the outdoor MasterChef kitchen, with views of the Golden gate bridge.
The mystery box contains: Mimi – beef shortribs, GE – fennel pollen, Brett – fennel goat’s cheese, Harry – crab, IM – 100 per cent Ecuadorean choc, Trent – tangelos and Elise – golden beetroot. They have 60 minutes and the usual staples of butter, flour etc.
IM is planning to do Korean short ribs with roasted beets, tangelo and beet relish with grated choc, served on flatbread.
Trent is doing a dessert of smoked choc mousse with tangelo granita. Ooh, fancy. Trent is really getting into smoking stuff. But he’s having drama melting the choc as it’s 100 per cent cacao. Luckily he fixes it by folding some smoked cream through it.
Elise is, of course, doing dessert: a choc brownie with a golden beet and tangelo sorbet.
Mimi is grilling her shortribs and serving them with beetroot and a fennel cracker.
Harry is making what he calls crab benedict while GE is making a crab and beetroot salad with the veg done several ways, including a beetroot puree with fennel pollen.
Brett is doing fennel pollen ravioli (it’s a while since we’ve had ravioli on the show, after the initial glut of them) stuffed with goat’s cheese.
IM is in his element cooking street food and we get talking head reiterating his food truck dream. He’s getting heaps of airtime so could well be winning this challenge.
Now Elise is having the same choc dramas as Trent and she’s using silicon moulds, but the red moulds of death obviously weren’t tucked into the Qantas jet cargo hold. Elise’s brownies are a bust and she’s trying to hold back the tears in front of a crowd of tourists. “It looks like absolutely crap,” she says in her usual blunt manner. At least George comes over to put an arm around her and give her a pep talk. She gets back on track and plans a few last-minute elements to bulk out her dish.
Trent adds a microwave sponge to his dish as an afterthought, even though he thinks it’s too dense.
Again, Mimi has disappeared from the edit. And Harry didn’t get much time.

The judges taste

GE’s crab and beet salad: George says there is a definite “look” to her food. Gaz says it’s clean and fresh. “I love it,” says George.

Elise’s beet and tangelo sorbet with fennel and citrus crumb: Gaz tells her it looks fine but she’s teary anyway. He likes the sorbet. “Show everyone here in America how good you are,” George tells her.

Trent’s smoky choc mousse with tangelo granita: You can tell from the edit they are going to hate the sponge. George loves the smoked mousse. But Matt says the sponge is “bleagh”. Gaz says he’s worried for him: “You haven’t found your identity yet in the competition.”
Mimi’s beef with crackers and beetroot: She gets a few words about it being tasty.
Brett’s ravioli: The cheese dominates the crab. It is, however, delish.

Harry’s crab benedict: It looks great and it’s fun, they say.

IM’s beef ribs in flatbread: He’s worried it’s street food and not fancy enough. They are so going to love it. And, yes, they love the colours and he gets the tinkly piano. Thumbs up from Gaz: “The hairs on the back of my head just went ‘ping’.” George takes the leftovers out to the crowd to try.

The winner is …
Yep, it’s IM, which was bleedingly obvious from about eight minutes in. Next up is a parade of farmers walking in carrying giant baskets of local produce. IM’s advantage is to pick one ingredient to be the challenge “hero” and he goes the beef. Brett will be happy. They can use any of the local produce, plus staples, and have 60 minutes.
If they win this one they get fast-tracked to the final challenge of San Fran week.

Elena is making a borscht-inspired sauce, using red cabbage and betroot, calling on her Ukrainian heritage. Matt is respecting the produce by not cooking it, for a carpaccio. Trent is going back to the hearty rustic cooking that is more his style, doing steak, mushies and creamy kale.
Elise wishes she was doing dessert but sucks it up to cook steak with smoked leek, pickled onions and jus.
For once, the judges aren’t thrilled with GE’s dish and look disdainfully at her soz of beetroot and beef bones. “I think you’re just making it mucky and dirty,” says Gaz. “It looks like a witches’ brew.” Ouch.
Harry is the first one to pull out the sous vide machine, so his steak will be perfectly cooked. Brett is doing the caveman rib eye on the bone with a smoked parsnip puree, which we’ve seen a few times.
Mimi is going with a walnut theme, crusting her rib eye with it and serving it with a walnut pesto and walnut butter.
IM makes parsnip chips to go with his raw beef but needs to trick it up some more.
Mimi pulls her T-rex haunch from the oven and reckons she’s overcooked it. And, yes, it’s no longer mooing.
IM is adding some sauteed mushies and a smoked, confit egg yolk to his dish. Trent is happy with his self-described “caveman food”.
Elise is doing her dessert-style plating for her dish and you know the judges will adore it. She’s getting the underdog comeback edit.
Mimi and Brett aren’t in with a chance – they haven’t had enough airtime, and Harry isn’t far behind.

The judges taste …

Elise’s steak with smoked leeks: The pretty plating gets a “woah”. Gaz says she has a great chance of getting into finals week. Matt loved the soz and the balance of the elements. George tells her she needs to embrace her savoury side.

Trent’s caveman food: “Everything taste as it should do,” says Matt. The judges are happy he’s “cooking from the heart”. Meanwhile, on the sidelines the tourists are shivering in their hoodies while our contestants are stuck in their T-shirts for continuity.
GE’s teak and veg with borscht-inspired soz: Gaz actually loves the soz but thinks it doesn’t go with beef. Matt thinks it would suit duck or pork more.
Harry’s sous vide steak with mushies and onion soz: They like it.
Brett’s rib eye with pickled beetroot and smoked parsnip puree: Gaz loves the puree.
Mimi’s walnut beef: Night has fallen by the time Mimi’s dish is tasted. Poor thing looks nervous and cold. Gaz thinks it’s not as overcooked as she feared. It’s delish. Matt likes the walnut theme.

IM’s carpaccio with smoked egg yolk: Again, the edit is doing the “it’s a risk thing” to make you think it will be a disaster. Gaz says the dish shows confidence and maturity in looks alone. George says he respected the produce. Matt says the yolk “derailed” the dish slightly.

The winner …
..and the person who will be fast-tracked to the end-of-the-week challenge is out of Elise (and George gives her a loud “yes” – and not a “yes, George” yes) and Trent. And Trent gets it! Good one, Trent. “You could seriously win this competition,” George tells him. Much as I love Trent, at this stage, that would be a bit of a surprise, as the edit has painted him as more of a steady cook than a risk taker.

Now, please let them put some jackets on and go back to the hotel for hot showers.

Tomorrow night
They have to replicate the dishes of a Domenique Crenn, who’s won “best female chef in the world” awards. Yay – a female chef who’s not Kylie Kwong on the show. She’s so fancy that when you go to the website for one of her restaurants and click on “menu” you just get a poem. George would love it. But maybe not so much vegetarians wondering if there are any meat-free dishes.


MasterChef – Tues, July 5 – immunity challenge

The three contestants who did well with their apricot chicken reinventions – Elise, Brett and Harry – are competing for a chance to go up against a chef. We’ve had some weak offerings in immunity pin challenges this season, so hopefully this will be better than usual.

This is Elise’s first crack at an immunity pin and she reckons she can grab it, but Brett is firing on all cylinders at the moment.

The mystery box ingredients are cauliflower, venison, bay leaves and elderflower cordial. And they get 20 minutes. Or if they decide to use the second, smaller box, they get 40 minutes and but have to use what’s under there (it turns out to be quandongs), plus an ingredient from the main box. And there’s a third box (with mastic) which gives them a total of 60 minutes. Brett sticks at the first box while the younger and less wise contestants go the whole hog. Harry doesn’t recognise the mastic. Elise has used it before – she must be a superfan.
Why does MasterChef keep trying to make mastic “happen”? Does George have a mastic plantation at an ancestral farm in Greece? Next to his giant tweezers factory.

Elise is using the mastic, quandongs and elderflower cordial to make a tart and mastic ice cream.
Harry is making quandong and elderflower pavlova but has yet to work out how to use the mastic. He’s got a thing for pavs – he made one that was not well received in the Christmas-themed Nigella Week immunity pin challenge.
Elise is masticating over how much mastic to add to her anglaise for the ice cream when George actually gives some helpful advice for once. He tells her the flavour will intensify once the mixture cools.
Both of them are making quandong jam. Brett has enjoyed 40 minutes of thinking time while Elise and Harry cook and has exactingly planned his dish. He’s doing cauliflower several ways, including roasting the leaves in the oven. It will go with pepper-crusted venison with a bay leaf butter sauce. Yum!
Harry takes his “pavs” out of the oven and his little meringues are browned while his bread-and-butter-plate sized ones aren’t cooked. Couldn’t he have done a meringue-topped brookie?
Harry things his use of elderflower syrup stuffed up the pav texture. He decides to use his mastic in a custard.
With five minutes to go Brett has cooked his venison and cauli puree. He looks cool as a cucumber.
Elise’s ice cream has worked (hooray – not ABP) but the mastic is very strong. Harry decides to do the bleeding obvious and turn his flopped meringue into a Mess.

The judges taste

Brett’s venison with cauli (20 minutes): Matt says the venison is beautifully cooked. It’s delicious. “Bloody good understanding of food. You’ve come a long way,” says Shannon.

Harry’s Mess with quandong jam and mastic custard: Harry pretends he’s in with a chance but knows deep down he’s got Buckley’s. George loves the jam but the meringue is sticky and gluey. Shannon says he’s done his best to save the dish with his plating up.

Elise’s quandong tart with mastic ice cream: “That’s beautiful,” says Gaz of the tart, with its vibrant red topping. Shannon praises the textures of the pastry and ice cream and says she was brave to go for the final mystery box.
Yeah, telling someone they are “brave” is code for “it’s not the winner”.
The winner is …
Brett gets it for great food in only 20 minutes. He’s thrilled. Good one, Brett. At the start of this comp I would have said you’d have been eliminated by now but you’ve proved me wrong.
He learns he’s up against mentor Shannon – who cracks up as Matt Preston talks him up in the intro.
Tonight, there’s no time advantage for the contestant. Both have 60 minutes and an open pantry. Seems a but unfair that Brett doesn’t get a little leg up.
Gaz tells Brett to focus on his strengths, saying he makes great sauces and purees and likes to hero a protein. Brett is doing lamb rack with parsnip puree.
Shannon decides to braise something in the pressure cooking and initially seems a tad nonplussed by not having a theme. He’ll do lamb two ways with pickled veg.
Poor Brett is chopping bones for his jews when he cuts his thumb, which will put him behind. Shannon is doing some fancy kind of mustard cream to put in a siphon. He talks about all the things that could go wrong with it, but then it works perfectly.
Brett is a little flustered after having to call for the nurse, knocking stuff over, including throwing his crispy shallots on the floor. He’s leaking blood out of his blue glove, poor bugger. “The first day I’ve ever cut myself in the MasterChef kitchen has to be today,” he notes.
Now he has to trim his lamb rack without full use of one hand.
Shannon has his shoulder braising in the pressure cooker while he panfries the loin then pops it in the oven. He tells Gaz he’s worried about the timing of the braise but no doubt it will be fine. He heads to the garden looking for a bitter herb to go with his dish but doesn’t head back the minute his timer goes off. By the time he gets the loin out, he says it’s cooked more than he wanted. The herb he grabbed was chickweed. I’d never heard of it so thank goodness for Wikipedia\
Shannon checks his lamb and Gaz gives it the seal of approval – he was worried about nothing. Shannon pops over to peel some asparagus for Brett, good lad that he is.
Shannon takes the lid off his pressure cooker but his lamb isn’t tender enough. “It’s a disaster,” he says. But then he finds some little pieces swimming in the stock that are fine. So that’s twice you’ve predcited a lamb disaster tonight, Shannon, and both times it was much ado about nothing. Now he gets cracking with his soz.
Brett is plating up and Gary seems to be giving helpful advice.
Shannon, super chef that he is, has laid out all his garnishes on a baking tray in orderly fashion. He finishes his dish and runs round to Brett’s station for the last few seconds.

George and Matt taste

Brett’s lamb with smoked parsnip puree and enoki mushrooms: George says it looks beautiful and thought has gone into it. Matt loves the flavours. He’s frenched well. Neither ones mentions that the blood from the lamb has stained the parsnip mash from not being rested enough.
Lamb with mustard, onions and fresh herbs: It looks very modern but Shannon’s mustard cream is now a puddle. Perhaps that’s what he meant it to look like. Matt says it’s classic French flavours. Hmm, could it possibly have been cooked by someone whose restaurant is called Vue de Monde. Matt thinks the braised lamb doesn’t really add anything to the dish.

The scores
Brett: George 8 (even though we didn’t hear any criticism), Matt 9. So, Shannon’s won, then. And, yep:
Shannon: Matt 9, George 9
Poor Brett – that dish looked so much better than some of the dog’s breakfasts we’ve seen in past immunity challenges.

Tomorrow night

It’s a service challenge at MasterChef HQ and there are four teams of two, using ingredients from north, east, south and west. The bottom two teams will be up for elimination. The preview shows the teams are:
Green: Glowing Elena and Chloe
Yellow: Trent and Elise
Blue: Brett and Harry
Red: Mimi and Matt


MasterChef – Thurs, Jun 23 – elimination

Cue sad music as the contestants get ready for their elimination challenge. Elise mentions it’s her seventh time in black – maybe the universe is trying to tell you something, Elise?
Whoever survives tonight is through to the MasterChef Top 10.

Mimi has been absent from the edit for a while, so if she suddenly gets a flashback we know she’s in trouble.
George says tonight’s challenge is a twist on the classic time auction.
Five pantries will be revealed, one at a time, every 15 minutes.
Whoever takes the first pantry gets 90 minutes to cook with those ingredients, plus staples. Wait another 15 minutes and you get to use both pantries but only have 75 minutes to cook. Oooh – will they all go for the 60-minute mark? If they wait for the very last pantry they will only have 30 minutes.

The first pantry is just a mass of herbs. No-one moves.
Pantry two is vegies and at first it looks like no-one will bite, especially meat lovers IM and Trent. But in fact both boys and Karmen go for it.

Karmen is making a mille feuille with basil ice cream and candied tomatoes. I hope it sets – she’s had a few last minute hurdles in the MC kitchen with elaborate desserts.

Trent is making pumpkin rotolo with cauli puree while IM is cooking roast carrot tortellini with confit leeks and roast tomato and burnt butter sauce – how good does that sound.
On the sidelines, Elise and Mimi are hoping for some desserty-type ingredients, like fruit or chocolate.
The third pantry is revealed … it’s fruit – fresh and dried. Elise is stoked.
Mimi wants to “think outside the box” and she wants to make baked rhubarb and a beetroot parfait. That’s it – parfait is thumping panna cotta in the “another bloody” stakes.
The final two pantries contained poultry and fish.

Elise is looking a bit brain freezey, as happens to her sometimes, but she decides to make apricot ABP with passion fruit curd and a thyme crumb. Theresa shouts down the helpful advice to put her moulds in dessert. Uh oh – are they the red moulds of death? We get an Elise flashback so it does not bode well for her.
But here comes to Karmen flashback – yikes!
George pops over to Trent’s bench to screw up his nose at the fact he is boiling his pumpkin in water. Don’t look now, George, but I don’t think he used giant tweezers to place the pumpkin in the pot, either. Trent chucks his boring pumpkin and grates some more to fry with butter and milk.
Elise decides to add a strawberry and thyme coulis to put inside her parfait. On the gantry, the onlookers are talking up Karmen’s weaponiness.
IM starts rolling his pasta and the sheets look silky smooth from the get go.
Here comes a Trent flashback – aargh. He wants to open a restaurant with a vegie garden out the back. He’s been the only one tonight to get a flashback where his “food dream” is explained. So, Trent’s going.
Here comes Matt Preston to distract Mimi while she’s cooking beetroot caramel, and she has to spatter some on his hand to shoo him away.
There’s so much chat from the gantry tonight – “what are you making?”, “will you need to be put that in the fridge?” – are the judges just lounging around out the back watching TV?
No, here comes Matt to scare Elise that she has too many flavours on her plate. Those judges sure love seeing a panic-stricken Elise. But she sticks to her guns.
Karmen’s pastry looks quite layer-ey for a rough puff. Hopefully it cools down in time.
No-one’s pulled out the smoking gun tonight, so that honour falls to IM, who gives his leeks a puff.
With three minutes to go, Karmen still hasn’t plated up as she’s hovering at the freezer, waiting for her pastry to cool. I’m with George for once: “Come on, Karmen!” She gets it on the plate and it looks good – can’t blame her for the trickle of tears that follows.

The judges taste

Trent’s pumpkin rotolo with cauli: “I’m stoked,” he tells the judges. They like the inviting look of the dish. The judges are smiling. George says it has a meatiness to it and he loves the rich, buttery sauce.

Karmen’s tomato mille feuille with basil ice cream: We already knew Karmen’s parents don’t want her to go into cooking but I think this is the first time we’ve heard her dad is a chef, who never wanted to be. The judges like the golden brown look of the pastry and the taste but her ice cream is a puddle by the time they eat. “I think Karmen may have a problem,” says Matt. Her ice cream is not basil-ly enough but they don’t understand the use of the meringue.

Intense Matt’s roast carrot tortellini with confit leeks and burnt butter sauce: [Geez, IM is a master of puttig shredded fried stuff on his dishes – it looks delish.] George tells him his plating up looks great. “How absolutely delicious,” says Matt Preston. “He’s gota beautiful dish that just sings,” says Gaz.

Elise’s charred apricot parfait with a passionfruit curd: It’s not the prettiest dish and Matt oddly puffs out his cheeks as he eats. “You know what it reminds me of? fruit Loops. There’s confusion there.” George thinks she needed to simplify the ingredients and ditch half the fruit. Matt and Gaz think she has the makings of a great dish.

Mimi’s beetroot parfait with rosemary shortbread and beetroot caramel: Matt thinks it looks fun. They “oooh” as George pours the soz. Gary goes for a second slurp. They love the salted beet leaf and the whole dish is delicious.
So, it’s the return of Mimi and Karmen and Elise are in trouble – unfortunately, most likely Karmen.

The verdict
Mimi, IM and Trent get pats on the back. And the person going home is …

Oh dear. Poor Karmen. A quiet achiever gone. Hopefully she picks up a gig with Reynold.

Where is she now?
She plans to launch a dessert bar in Perth later this year.

So, for those playing along at home, what pantry would have made you stop cooking?
Next week: It’s Heston Week. The dessert girls should do well with the complicated recipes. The Melbourne Observation Wheel challenge looks fun.
And a reminder for those who watch it that Offspring starts on Ten on Wednesday at 8.30pm (yes, it should have finished last season but I’ll be watching anyway).


MasterChef – Thurs, June 16 – elimination challenge

The losing team from the Curtis Stone challenge now faces elimination.
Elise and Trent are up due to coming the raw prawn, while Nicolette and Chloe did not listen to Curtis Stone because they are young and know everything.
They must cook a dish inspired by sea shells or autumn leaves WTF …

I really hope Elise makes wontons that look like sea shells, just so I can hear her say “wongtongs” one last time. No doubt Chloe will make some kind of smoked parfait with caramel sauce.

Here we go … Footage of them getting ready at the MC house but only Trent gets to speak.
“I’m not ready to go home .. this is the time to keep fighting, etc etc” from various contestants.
There will be two “jewels”, says George, with the loser from each to compete in the final “jewel”. Elise is up against Nicolette and Trent V Chloe.
Nicolette and Elise get the sea shell inspiration and Elise looks totally bamboozled. Chloe seems excited to get the autumn leaves theme.

We get Chloe’s back story about living in the country and eating chicken with her husband and – hang on – what – she’s married? She’s 24! She’s doing roast chook on the crown with onion puree and veg leaves. Glad she’s not making a dessert.
Trent is using beef eye fillet with kale, garlic, salsa verde and red wine butter sauce. Now we’re getting Trent’s back story. He’s from Batlow, which is an apple-growing town that offers gorgeous scenery in autumn, although it’s bloody freezing there in the Snowy Mountains.
Then we get some of Elise’s childhood photos of beach trips and hear she got engaged near the sea – both of which are allegedly inspiring her to create a dessert of strawberry parfait (someone had to do parfait!) and champagne jelly, coconut sand and tempered chocolate.
Nicolette is making poached meringue with lemon and strawberries, with a sand and the meringue apparently representing the sun. Matt Preston wanders over to tell her she needs to make the sea shell inspiration more obvious.
Trent is smoking butter to use in his red wine sauce. But he’s never done it before, and George and Gaz – encouraging as always – saunter up to scare him that it might not work.
Nicolette decides to listen to Matt’s advice (unlike with Curtis last night) and is placing her “sand” in a scallop shell with the meringue in the middle as a pearl. She’s making lemon curd centres also so we hear again about her dear departed grandad who had citrus trees.
Elise is trying to temper chocolate in a rush and she’s no Zoe – if she stuffs it up the judges won’t turn a blind eye. She stands in front of the open fridge door to cool her choc.
Trent wants to add more smoke to his dish (a reference to the smell of burning leaves in autumn) and decides to do the “fill a cloche with smoke” trick.
Chloe seems to have waited til the last few minutes to start her sauce, but that could be a trick of the editing.
All the dishes look pretty good and “cheffy”.

The judges taste

Elise’s parfait with coconut sand: George loves the presentation and it tastes delicious. “So toasty and crunchy,” says Matt. Elise will win the inspiration contest.

Nicolette’s poached meringue: The meringue is delicious and light but Matt says the lemon dominates the dessert. So, she’ll be in round two.

Chloe’s chicken with onion puree and autumn leaves: The judges love the look and that she hid the chook under a pile of leaves. Matt and George fight over the last bit of sauce. Gaz says it nails the brief and her soz worked.
Trent’s beef with beetroot and kale: The judges have to turn around so they can’t see him filling the cloche with smoke. The judges pretend they are worried the smoked sauce won’t work but they would have tasted it before when he was making it. After a few bites, Matt grabs the sauce jug and tips it all on the plate. “You’ve just nailed it,” says Gaz. “That is spectacular.” “This plate of food is so beyond your years,” says George. Matt says it’s one of the 10 best things he’s eaten this year. Woo hoo – good one, Trent.
But what does this mean for golden child Chloe?

The judges decide
Elise wins her “jewel” and Trent wins his “by the barest of margins, according to Matt.

Round two
The second round is all about what’s under the cloche so the lid is lifted and it’s … an empty plate? But George lights a match (must be getting whiffy after eating all that food) and chucks it on the plate to get …

Ooh, it's fire.
Ooh, it’s fire.

Does this mean even more smoking guns? They have 60 minutes to cook. Chloe could try and redeem herself with another bombe Alaska after her grainy meringue in the immunity pin challenge. But no, she’s doing toasted cinnamon buttercake with port-poached figs and a toasted marshmallow coating.
Here comes the smoking gun – she’s smoking the cinnamon quills for her cake. “I want this so bad [sic],” she says, taking a leaf out of Zoe’s grammar book.
Nicolette is making smoked white choc mousse to look like a log on a campfire and vanilla bean marshmallow.
I’m just happy no-one is making a parfait sphere.
Chloe has put a massive cake in the oven – why isn’t she using a smaller pan? It turns out ok, though.
Nicolette is talking a lot about the setting of her mousse but that’s not the problem – they won’t come out of the moukds. She blow torches the heck out of the moulds and they start to melt. Nicolette starts crying and Gary and George rush over to the cuddle her … not. – She’s only 19 after all. George gives her the abrupt prep talk “don’t lose it now … look at me .. yes, George, yes, George.”.
And that’s about all we see – that was a quick one.

The judges taste

Nicolette’s grilled peaches with smoked white choc mousse and toasted marshmallow and toasted macadamias (just call it “firepit”, Nicolette): The judges tell her how talented she is. They think it looks good. She’s grilled the fruit well and Matt likes the smoke and salt in the mousse. We haven’t seen much back story, so she could be safe .. if Chloe wasn’t one of their faves.

Chloe’s cinnamon buttercake with maple meringue and port figs: Chloe is worried her flambe won’t work but it does. “It’s exactly the brief,” says George. “Oh my goodness – how delicious is that,” says Matt.
So, Nicolette must be going home.

The eliminated contestant is …
Oh god – enough with the loud dramatic music! We know it’s Nicolette. And it is. The poor girl is devastated. JYou’re 19, Nicolette – just go get an apprenticeship and you’ll be right. And you’ll never have to listen to George maddeningly make you say “yes, George, yes, George” ever again.

Bye, Nicolette!
Bye, Nicolette!

Where is she now?
Nicolette is planning a series of dessert degustation events. She has also completed work experience with Anna P and Reynold. (So, who hasn’t worked for free in Reynold’s kitchen?)

Next week
It’s the invention test relay. That’s the one that was a disaster last year when hostie John changed the dish halfway through and made his team-mates – and the viewers – want to drown him in his white choc veloute.
We get a preview of Brett saying “I’m going to have to change it up” and a horrified Tiny Topknot commenting “Brett’s gone rogue”. Should make for good viewing.


MasterChef – Mon, Jun 13 – elimination

The bottom three contestants from the invention test face off in the elimination pressure test. Contestants have just two hours to recreate two of guest chef Ross Lusted’s signature dishes.
Ross appeared on MasterChef last year as one of the immunity challenge guest chefs. His squid and corn dish beat Jessie’s beef and beetroot dish, scoring 10s from George and Matt and an 8 from Cranky Pants.

It’s Elena, Elise and Zoe in the firing line and we are getting a lot of Elena telling emotional stories about her Nanna. Please, don’t send Elena home when we’ve only just started seeing her make the edit.
Anastasia is there at the side of the kitchen in her power apron, as she has some yet to be named power tonight.
Here comes Ross Lusted with two small cloches and Anastasia gets to pick which one the bottom three will cook.

Chicken dumpling, silken chicken and ginger fried rice.
Perfumed stone fruits with elderflower and peach biscuit.

She picks the dessert and Ross says it’s the trickier of the two. It includes nectarine syrup, a see-through Indonesian biscuit made using bicarb (it looks like a super-fine brandy snap) and burnt peach butter made by burning peaches on a hibachi. They have two hours to cook, then five minutes to plate up the dish for the judges.

It looks like Elise has not recovered from her frying challenge brain freeze and she’s panicking, rushing through the recipe, making mistakes. Ross reckons her biscuits will be rough. Her mixture is looking dodgy and Ross comes over to tell her as much. She decides to strain out the lumps and push on.

Ross wanders over to Elena’s bench and says: “That’s the best batter we’ve had all day.” But she’s behind the other girls and is getting a little panicked.
Elise is starting to crack as well and having George bark “Snap out of it” doesn’t help.
Zoe decides she will just make half the sorbet recipe – a move that elicits a frustrated “argh” from Brett on the gantry.
They have to grill 1cm peach slices on the hibachi and Elise’s are of varying thickness, while Zoe’s are much more even. Elena is way behind and not thinking. She’s worried her poaching liquid isn’t boiling, so Brett rightly tells her: “Put a lid on it.”
And then she starts crying and walks to the side. Now, who was that nice chef a while back who came over to give a crying contestant a cuddle? We need him back. Ah, chef Jason of the quail afternoon tea, who was so nice to Brett when he had an emotional moment.
You can tell everyone on the gantry wants to run down and hug her, because George and Gaz are nowhere to be seen. More back story about her grandparents’ stonefruit orchard and she pulls herself together.
Ross says Zoe’s burnt peaches look great, whereas Elise’s are super charcoaled.
And he tells her that her cake is also too dense.
Zoe has been doing really well up until now but her reduced syrup looks very caramelly. Each contestant has to use a massive deli slicer to shave their cakes to create biscuits. Ross supervises so they don’t chop off their fingers.
Elena gets ahead of herself and starts slicing the fruit she’s not meant to cut until the five minutes of plating up. This could mean she loses some of the fresh taste of the fruit, which includes blood plums – my fave.

The judges taste
Elena: Ross says her presentation is beautiful and precise. The sorbet and wafers are great. But cutting the fruit early means she has lost some freshness.
Zoe: During her plating up time she realises her over-reduced syrup has set and the editors allow a muttered “shit” to air. She chucks it in the microwave so she can at least get something on the plate but it looks very globby. By the time George does his serving up it turns to toffee again. Her sorbet isn’t quite right – she overchurned it because she did half the mixture. The rest of the dish is great.
Elise: She knows she is in big trouble. Gaz loves the syrup but the peach butter is wrong and her biscuits aren’t holey.
Matt says it’s a toss up between Zoe and Elise. So, phew, Elena is safe then – she’s not going out on stone fruit.

The eliminated contestant is …
Zoe. No more swishy pony tails. Elise is lucky. The yayas will be in tears.

Where is she now?
Who knows, because …

… She’s back tomorrow night with the other eliminated contestants to try and win back a spot.


MasterChef – Mon, June 6 – elimination

Punk pastry chef Anna Polyviou is back (yay – first female chef this season). The bottom three contestants from the mystery box challenge have just three hours to recreate and 15 minutes to plate up her Mess.
Now that looks a far cry from the Mess I’m used to, which is what you make when your pav cracks.

Last year Anna set the bottom three the challenge of making this carrot cake:
It was Fiona V Rose V Jacqui. As usual, Rose did quite well at following a recipe when the pressure was on (helped by landing in elimination so many bloody times) and was praised by Anna, while Scottish Fiona was sent packing.
So it’s Tiny Top Knot Harry, Floppy Fringe Charlie and Pony Tail Nicolette in the firing line but, wisely, Nicolette uses her immunity pin and Elise has to take her place. Elise has never been in the bottom three before but she loves cooking desserts; while we know Charlie tends to rush recipes and make mistakes and Harry’s strength is savoury.
Anna arrives and reveals her “pink Death Star”, as Harry calls it.

It looks fabulous but to make good on the “Mess” name, she picks it up and smashes it on the bench. How do they serve this in the restaurant? On a massive platter? Otherwise the floor would be covered in coulis. Actually, it’s probably more of an exhibition dish.

And they’re cooking … Elise seems calm but warning bells start ringing the moment we hear Harry say meringue kisses are easy. They’re not as pretty as Elise and Charlie’s.
We’re getting Charlie back story: He wants to open a cafe on the Mornington Cafe with his sister. Do I sense a Charlie redemption here? Has he finally calmed down and found his groove?
Uh oh – Harry’s stuffed up already! He’s realised he’s forgotten to put sugar in his sponge and has to start again.

Elise is doing well, but we get a talking head from Zoe saying Charlie looks to have forgotten to put gelatine in his berry mousse. Nooo!
It’s time to temper the white chocolate and Anna mentioned at the start how tricky this can be. None of the contestants has tempered white chocolate before but at least Anna said the temperatures they need are in the recipe.
It looks like Zoe is the anointed one of talking heads today, as she again points out Charlie is not stirring his white chocolate. So, that back story was because Charlie’s going home.

Ooh, Elise is a pharmacy technician. I guess those skills come in handy when making desserts as attention to detail is crucial. But she’s starting to feel the pressure now and she accidentally boils her mousse. She’s serving it anyway – a tactic that served airline captain Brett well when he cookied up his quail pate in the last elimination.
The red silicone moulds of death are wreaking havoc. Elise can’t pop out her domes (that sounds risque) and someone on the gantry hekofully yells out: “Don’t stress!” A brulee torch does the trick, but the moulds of death strike again for Charlie, due to his forgotten gelatine.
Charlie manages to get his white chocolate dome out nicely but Harry and Elise are having dramas and as Elise pushes on hers cracks appear. Harry starts slamming his mould on the bench and I have to look away. Even Mr Juz, who doesn’t watch cooking shows, glances up from his iPad and says: “I’m stressed out just watching this.”
Come on, Anna – tell them what to do – Australia is on tenterhooks.
Was I wrong – did we get Charlie back story because he is the only one who gets a successful dome? Anna yells at Harry not to blow torch it or it will melt.
Guys, at least get your other elements on the plate so you can serve something. Harry finally gets half a dome out. And then so does Elise! Thank god for that. The white chocolate bra cups are a bit banged up but at least they have something to serve.

Time to taste
Harry is first to plate up his Mess and it looks not too bad. Not as speccy as Anna’s, but pretty darn good. Anna tells him the chocolate looks good. Gaz asks the leading eotional questions and we see Harry’s cocky facade drop as he says he has no job or home to go back to. That and the fact he’s been locked up in the MC house with no access to Tinder. To cheer him up they let him smash his Mess. Geez, I wish Matt had worn his vanilla thickshake suit today. Gaz loves the curd and George says the choc is great. Anna doesn’t like the meringues but he’s done a great job overall.
Elise plates up and her mousse is running and there is a crack in her dome, which she tries to cover up with a choc disc, knowing the judges will still spot it. No tears from Elise. Hers is super splatty, because of the runny mousse. The judges aren’t fuss about the crack and they like the curd. Anna says she’s done well but the mousse is runny.
Charlie plates up but knows his chocolate dome in thick – he’s worried it won’t smash. At least he seems calmer about his lot in life. Chuck it, Chuck! He does and … ad break. We get serious looks from the judges and it did smash, so, total beat up by the editing suite. The judges like the flavours but note the chocolate is really thick and the curd is very soft (because he forgot the gelatine).

The judges’ verdict
Harry’s version was the best so we know it has to be Charlie. Poor Charlie – you seem lovely but the peculiar pressure of the MC kitchen was not for you. Anna gives him an uplifting chat and offers him work experience in her kitchen. So, when is Channel 10 giving Anna her own Chopped-style show? She has that theatrical vibe.

Charlie has completed work experience at Burch and Purchese. He is currently working at East – Bar and Dining in Mount Martha. (Working at? Does that mean he’s a waiter? Only three desserts on the menu but it’s close to home for him east)

Bye, Charlie!
Bye, Charlie!

Tomorrow night

It’s a reinvent-the-eclair immunity challenge with Chloe, Brett and my new fave, Trent. Yum! Surely Chloe is the frontrunner, though, with her dessert track record. Will she do some kind of smoked caramel, parfait-filled eclair?