MasterChef – Wed, July 19 – Heston’s restaurant

**** WARNING: Ben is making ice cream AGAIN but it’s not his fault.***
The pressure is on as the top four contestants enter one of Melbourne’s top restaurants, Dinner By Heston, for a service challenge. Who will be the first semifinalist?
A Heston restaurant challenge without Heston himself? This can only be a good thing.

I’m watching in SA so the show hasn’t started yet but this looks like SUCH a Karlie dish.

Tamara gets this:

Diana gets a dish that would have been right up Arum’s alley:

Ben gets this (at least we know he will get the ice cream right):


MasterChef – Heston Week starts – Sun

Finally, it’s Heston Week. Hopefully he’s perkier than than last season.
Blurb says: Heston takes the top 12 contestants on a road trip through regional Victoria; the first stop is the mighty Murray River in Swan Hill.
On Ten from 7.30-9:10pm.

Oh gawd – the screams whenever Heston talks to the contestants have me hitting the mute button. Although perhaps they are just delighted to no longer be trapped in a house with each other.
The MC bus pulls up at Swan Hill, where outdoor kitchens have been set up and the three judges await (no bus travel for them).
Presto looks particularly fetching in his pale teal suit with orange pocket square with black polka dots. It’s freaking me out a little that I can see Heston is obviously cold under his thin white T-shirt – or he’s really, really excited!
Heston’s mystery box contains: Corn, olives, oranges, Murray cod, currants, saltbush, oats and snails. Heston reminds them he’s famous for his porridge (tickets, much!). MC contestants way back in 2010 had to make his snail porridge, so you’d think he’d have moved on by now.
Because it’s Heston the contestants get agar, liquid nitrogen (bingo!) and a few other cheffy ingredients.

Karlie of the croaky voice is making saltbush cakes with cod and I’m thinking she could well end up in the finals. She is usually in the middle or the top and seems to have a good grasp of flavours and especially Asian food.
Callan is doing salted porridge ice cream with snails and he compares Heston’s arrival to that of Santa.

For once, most of the contestants get a talking head describing what their dish will be. So far Karlie, Callan and Diana have had the most airtime, with Ben, Sarah and Eliza also in the mix.
Sam appears to be struggling – the judges tell im he’s on the wrong track, hot oil spatters him and he sets a cloth on fire. Still, this is the time to stuff up – it’s not an elimination.
Eloise is making smoked sweetcorn ice cream because we haven’t seen enough ice cream this season.
Teflon Tamara is using the red moulds of death and she’s spherifying jelly, but she doesn’t get much airtime.
Karlie’s saltbush cakes look a lot like Chinese shallot pancakes.

Gary calls out the first dish to be taste belongs to “Diane”. Diane? Sigh – what you get for being a brunette, Diana. Luckily for him they have their names on their aprons, so when she gets to the bench he addresses her correctly. They like her steamed cod.

Sarah is next with poached cod and corn. They like it but, as she feared, the fish is a tad under.

Karlie is next – Callan is going to be sooo sad. They love her saltbush cakes and the “interactive experience”, also known as “eating”.

Diana wins – yay! She gets an extra 15 minutes to cook and they have to do a “water” theme. The bottom two miss out on the rest on Heston Week and go to elimination at the end of the week. Nicole and Callan get talking heads about how devo they would be to miss out – does that mean it’s them?

Diana wants to make two cocktail-inspired desserts, interpreting the water them as a “by the beach” concept. Heston is not so keen but tries to give her advice in the pantry.
This is where the extra 15 minutes can actually be advantage for the non-advantage winners, because they have time to think things through.
The contestants get to wear hats! Nicole and Sam have white baseball caps. Not fully sunsmart but better than nothing.
No hat for Georgie, though, and he’s pale for a bald Greek bloke.
Ben dashes down to the Murray River and grabs a muddy potful of water to pour over dry ice purely for the “aroma”. Sounds right up Heston’s alley.

Even Ben is wearing a hat – he’s going to get hat hair, despite the hair spray!
The judges also don’t like Diana’s cocktail idea, because they are in the bush, not at the beach.
Tamara’s dish is inspired by ocean spray – will they tell her off, too? She’s got the red moulds, again, this time filled with meringue.
Little Mich is inspired by the fallen logs beside the river and is making a cheesecake log; Arum cooks fish; Sarah yabbies.
Callan is doing lettuce water and foam on white chocolate rocks.
Diana is having fruit leather woes and Sarah – after undercooking her fish – has overcooked her yabbies.
Sam is getting a fair bit of airtime for a dish that doesn’t seem like much, and Tamara’s cucumber foam doesn’t set so she can’t use it.

The judges taste
Little Mich’s cheesecake logs: (It looks cool.) Presto steals the leftovers. Heston says it’s delicious and vibrant. Is this the first great dish we’ve seen Michelle put up since the Golden Ball audition?

Arum’s cod: Gaz says it’s his best dish so far.

Eliza’s jelly with sorbet: Heston says it’s the best sorbet he’s tasted on MasterChef. (Quick, Eliza – launch your own range of sorbets endorsed by Heston!)

Ben’s sous vide trout with bowl of river water: Georgie is impressed by the theatre of it. They like it. (Ben is probably the strongest male cook – and definitely the strongest male – left in the comp.)

Sam’s mousse with salted sand: Sadly no pix on the MC Twitter feed. Heston says he’d be happy to eat it at a top-end restaurant. Well done, editors, on making me think Sam was in trouble.
Diana’s pina colada and mojito dessert: At least Gaz gets her name right this time but he bags her out again for her theme. It doesn’t taste good and Heston says the flavours aren’t reminiscent of the cocktails. The advantage curse strikes again!

Tamara’s meringue: Again, no pix – and for the next few also. The plate looks messy. The judges say it’s very sweet and not good.
Eloise’s tomatoes and basil: It looks to be some kind of fresh tomato consomme but for once there was no Eloise airtime, so I’m not sure. It’s a hit.
Nicole’s yabbie with wasabi snow: Another hit.
Karlie’s beach chilli sand with sorbet: Heston says it’s visually stunning and exciting to eat.
Sarah’s yabbies: They are undercooked, so they can’t eat them. Oh boy – she’s screwed.

Callans’ lettuce water: Georgie applauds his braveness. They say he should be proud.

So the worst three dishes would be Sarah, Tamara and Diana. Tamara will be safe, because she’s the Chosen One. And, yep, that’s how it goes down. A shame Sarah and Diana miss out on the other challenges but at least neither is a molecular gastronomy fan, like Callan.

Tomorrow night: It’s an “earth” challenge in teams of two, cooking a main and a dessert. And they’re wearing caps AND Heston has a panama hat. Must be hot. It’s filmed at the painted silos of Brim. You can read about them here.


MasterChef finale – Tues, July 26 – Matt V Elena

Finally – we’ve made it! It was a hard journey but we pushed, pushed pushed to boom, boom, shake, shake the room to get here for a chance to achieve our food dream.
Tonight the final two contestants battle it out to see who will be crowned MasterChef Australia 2016 winner and take home the $250,000 prize.
Oh, and a column in the always excellent delicious. magazine (and, yes, that fullstop is part of the proper name … yes, I know!).
So it’s the finale of which we dreamed: Glowing Elena versus Intense Matt. How lovely to have two grown ups who have shown great growth in the comp and have avoided any drama.

Glowing Elena was under the radar for a long time, thanks to the edit. MasterChef 2016 started on May 1 but it wasn’t until May 22 (Nigella Week) that she made enough of an impression for me to note this in a recap:
Oh my god – Elena speaks!! She’s doing pumpkin parfait, pancetta crumb and cumin tuille. She’s a high school visual arts teacher who wants to inspire young people to grow their own produce. This is a lot of air time on Elena. Is she the winner?
Conversely, on May 8 (MPW Week), I wrote this about IM:
Intense looking dude Matt – he of the disc earrings – is doing a gnocchi and jus with crispy chicken skin. Marco tastes his jus as it’s cooking and gets the usual flick of the eyes over the bifocals … Next up is Intense Matt with his pan-fried gnocchi with lots of crunchy elements. Gaz is in heaven: “Savoury, chickeny, bacony cereal.”
MPW loves the soz: “I don’t think that you realise how clever you are … genius in your hands.” Matt says it’s better than even his recent wedding day. Oh no he didn’t!


I reckon it will be a good 15 minutes before anyone touches a saucepan. First we have to suffer through all the talking heads about the dream, the push, the “yes, George!” and who wants it most.
Why is the MasterChef trophy a giant platter? Surely it should be a gold-plated sous vide machine or a silver smoking gun?
Gary is wearing a paisley tie in his to camera piece about the intensity of Intense Matt. It’s weird.
Ooh – George is wearing a tie, too. The other contestants are dressed up aand Matt P just needs a tri-corner hat to go with his Napoleon Bonaparte frock coat.
Oh god, we’re starting with the deep and meaningfuls. IM and GE have to say what being on MC means to them? Surely they’ll make them repeat their answers at the end. The answers are pretty much “dreams”, “thankful”, “passion”.

There will be three rounds, with each round devoted to an entree, a main and a dessert – and we know the last round will be a Heston challenge that makes series one’s croquembouche look like a pancake shaker mix.

Round one: entree
There are 10 ingredients and they have to hero one: They don’t name them oil but looks like fennel (it had to happen), quail, sea urchin, fish that could be snapper, tofu, spring onions, duck eggs, marron (remember when Nev “cooked” it on MKR but didn’t know it should change colour?, oysters, pork.

IM goes straight for the quail. GE has granny smiths in her basket – more of her signature apple batons for decoration?

After last night's show.
After last night’s show.

IM is doing both roasted and confit quail, with charred corn and chorizo salsa.
GE is doing marron two ways with a ponzu dressing, a smoked veg salad and marron crackers. It’s a lot to do – she knows it and so do the judges. She’s having soz dramas with her dashi – something she has to nail given the judges said her main in the last episode was too dry.
IM is making a Pedro Ximenez reduction for his dish and the editors must have been chortling when they decided to cut in a pan to Con on the gantry – Con who used the wine in almost every dish he made in his short time on the show, causing me to believe he secretly works for PX.
GE has tried to fix her soz and Gaz comes over to give her a confidence boost. “That, is doing nothing,” he says after tasting. So blunt Gaz is back. Send George over for a “yes, George!” and she’ll be bawling on the floor in no time. “If you want any kind of complexity you have to take the panic away … making stuff is never going to be enough.”
She decides to roast the marron shells in a bid to bump up the flavour.
They’ve both done an amazing amount of work in 60 minutes.

The judges taste

And they are eating in the dishes in front of the contestants – seems cruel.

GE’s marron: Gaz was worried about the soz but he doesn’t really say if it’s any good. The marron is perfectly cooked. She’s done something she’s never tried before in the comp. “It’s a beautiful fresh dish, says Matt. He likes the saltiness of the marron cracker.

IM’s quail: They like the look. “It’s delicious; I love it,” says George. The confit legs are perfect. Woo hoo! IM must have this round.

Round one scores
GE: Gaz 7/10, George 8, Matt 8 Total: 23
IM: Gaz 8/10, George 9, Matt 9. Total: 26 Only an 8 from George and we didn’t hear one negative comment about the dish? He’s saving up for a 10 later.

Round two

They get 75 minutes to cook any style main they want. After
After a flustered start GE has her game face on. She’s doing twice-cooked lamb with a macadamia puree and pickled veg.
IM is cooking crispy skinned barra with brussels sprouts, fondant spuds and pancetta and prawn head broth. Hopefully he’ll do a fried prawn heard garnish – the judges love those.
Gaz gives him a look when he explains his broth idea and then pretty much trashes it. Please, IM, just make it and blow his bloody socks off with it.
IM forges ahead. “My gut’s telling me it’s going to be ok,” he tells the camera. He’s doing his brussies a few different ways – it’s a bit of a GE thing to do. GE is pulling out the big guns: she’s pickling beetroot (BINGO!).
GE says she wants her nut puree to have a slightly grainy texture. Really? She’s better hope the judges get it.
IM thinks his soz is a little lacking, so he chucks in some saffron. Mmmm. He does a text piece and thinks it’s done, but it’s raw inside. Fingers crossed it works with the real fillets.
GE’s lamb looks gorgeously soft, and if anyone can make a brown braise look pretty on a plate, it’s her. Again, we’re hearing from her how pushed she is for time.
IM is happy with his broth’s flavour: “It’s fully loaded.” God love him.

The judges taste
This time the contestants don’t watch the tasting.

GE’s lamb: She says cooking now is a bit like creating and artwork (remember, she’s an art teacher) and getting instant feedback on it, which is gratifying. “It looks like a little plate of jewels,” says Gaz. “I’m running out of words to express something that blows my mind,” says George. They love the soz – and George says it’s Michelin quailty. They’re all raving about it.

IM’s snapper: This whole thing of IM not listening too Gary about the soz and wondering whether his fish is cooked will turn out to be a total beat up. IM tears up when Gaz asks him how he feels about the dish. Gaz works hard to hold back the smile. You can tell they all really like him. Raised-in-a-barn George just drinks his broth straight from the jug. “I’ve been proved wrong today,” says Gaz. George says it’s a gorgeous and clever dish. “It tastes like it’s been on a great French menu for 50 years,” sys Matt.

Round two scores
IM: Gaz 10/10 (BFF Trent lets out a huge yell), George 10, Matt 10. IM can’t believe it. He’s now on a total of 56 points.
GE: Gaz 10/10, George 10, Matt 10. Total so far 53 points.
Gaz says it’s the first time in MC history there have been two perfect scores. And then they bring in their families, because they want to see floods of tears.

IM can bareley walk, he’s laugh-crying so hard at the sight of his wife and family. Up on the gantry, Charlie has to take off his hipster glasses to wipe a tear away. IM can’t believe his folks flew back from Italy for the finale but no doubt MC sprang for their tickets.

Round three
There are 40 points on offer for this last round. Gaz talks up how awesome and difficult this pressure test will be. “It takes not one but two of the nest chefs in the world to bring it to us,” says Matt. Ooh, Heston and who? Some bloke called Ashley Palmer-Watts, a top chef who is one of Heston’s proteges. Has Ashley been brought in to look interested when H can’t be bovvered. Heston says it’s harder than last year’s dessert pressure test (remember this?).
“There’s close to 100 steps,” Ashley tells them. It’s called Verjus in Egg.

It looks like an egg atop a nest of noodles. Heston cracks the egg and it craks like a real shell. It’s filled with coconut panna cotta and a mandarin and thyme gel for the yolk. At the bottom of the egg is a coffee parfait. Parfait AND panna cotta in the same dish.
The egg shell is made of two layers of chocolate but it looks like a real chook egg. A nervy IM exchanges a glance with GE and asks Heston: “Is it possible?” Heston says it is.
They have five-and-a-half hours for the dish. IM has done quite well with desserts lately but the finicky nature of this one favours GE.
To make crystallised coffee IM has to use what looks like a jar of Nescafe Gold. As a barista, that must kill him. The mad scientist magic works for both of them. “I’ve never crystallised anything, except by accident,” says IM.
GE has stuffed up mandarin “yolk” by jumping the gun with the setting agent. She needs to do it again but she doesn’t have enough mix to do a full batch. GE is trying to keep it together as someone lamely calls out “you’ve got this”. She’s going to do a half batch instead. Luckily they have calculators.
IM takes his “yolk” over to a vacuum machine and his face watching the science of it all is hilarious. He looks around as if worried he’s broken something, but apparently it’s all good.
Oooh, they are making their ABPs with powdered gelatine, which is usually a no no in the MC kitchen. IM’s ABP mix does not look thick enough and Harry, in a bow tie, is chosen to bring it to our attention.
GE makes a mountain of honeycomb which she then laboriously stretches in nest strands. GE’s ABPs have set a treat and she can pipe in her yolk. IM’s haven’t worked and H says he has to do them again. IM doesn’t know what he did wrong – did he not wait a bit before adding the gelatine mixture to the rest? His family looks worried but BFF Trent urges “stay cool”. He will have to wait another hour for the ABP. He starts to lose it. George comes over for the pep talk. “It will be like this in the kitchen one day,” he tells IM. Yeah, but when you’re a real chef they don’t lock you in a house for six months and hardly let you speak to your family or go for a stroll to grab a coffee.
Luckily he realises it was the lack of blooming time for the ABP that is to blame. At least he can do his tempered choc for the egg while it’s setting.
GE is worried because she hasn’t done much tempering – and she’s never used a marble surface before. She does well and uses a spray gun for the first egg layer, and you can hear Elise yelling down to clean the moulds carefully.
IM is having choc dramas – he’s let the temp drop too low. He uses it anyway. IM has become the underdog now. He at least drains his moulds upside down to remove excess choc – a step GE forgot. And his ABP #2 has worked. Yay.
Oh god – more excruciating watching choc being banged out of moulds. GE’s shells look pretty good – you can still see a bit of the seam where the two halves join. IM’s shells look so delicate and he’s rushing. There’s a little gap in one and he decides to skip the final sealing step to save time. Aargh – tension!
He looks lost at the liquid nitrogen station so GE pops over to give him detailed instructions.

Good on you, GE – this is why we love both of you as final two. You’d never see that kind of camaraderie in US cooking shows.
Finally, they are done, and GE sinks to the floor in relief. And then it’s hugs all round. But IM utters a heartbreaking “Oh no!”. His egg seam hasn’t held (he missed that last step) and it’s opened up. “I’m gutted,” he says through tears. His poor wife on the gantry is trying to telepathically tell him everything will be ok. Oh dear. They finally let her come down to give him a cuddle.

So, poor IM has just lost. Aaargh. Hopefully his runner-up prize will be enough to fund his food truck. He’s gained a legion of fans and will be a huge success at whatever he does. If he wants more experience in a professional kitchen first there will be hundreds of places around the country falling over themselves to offer him a job. GE is a worthy winner but IM made himself known as a contender from the beginning.

The judges taste
IM’s egg: “It’s all good,” he bravely tells the judges. “What do you want us to remember about you as a person fro this plate of food,” asks Matt P. What the hell – who’s writing these lines? They crack the egg and it looks fine inside. “He’s shown great ability to dig deep,” says Heston. The ABP texture was perfect. The shell wasn’t tempered and the egg had split, though.
GE’s egg: The judges are impressed. The shell is a little thick but otherwise they love it. “This one just had more impact… it seems a little bit bolder to me,” says Ashley.

Final round scores

The guest chefs from throughout the season are here, too, as well as Reynold, Emma Dean, Andy and Julie Godwin. I don’t see Billie – surely they would have mentioned her if she was there.
IM: H and Ashley 7/10, Matt 7, George 7, Gaz 7. Grand total: 84. GE is going to get 9s, so it’s all over for IM.
GE: Gaz 8, George 8, Matt 8, H and Ashley 9.
GE wins by two points.

Well done to both of them – we couldn’t have asked for a better final two. GE gives a nice thank you speech and graciously says how much she’s learnt from him.
“Thank you for your friendship and support,” he tells her in return.
Matt P tells IM how wonderfully tenacious he is: “We cannot wait to get into the queue of your food truck.” IM gets $40,000 and he seems genuinely surprised. And Harry gets $10,000.

And that’s all, folks.


MasterChef – Thurs, Jun 30 – Heston elimination and masterclass

The seven contestants who created the least impressive dishes during the pop-ups now face off to stay in the competition in the final Heston-inspired challenge. Plus, a special Heston Masterclass.

So from the promo it seems it’s a rainbow challenge and IM gets the short straw of blue. Urgh. Surely even Heston does not want a plate of blue food?
No recap from me tonight – I look forward to reading your whingeing about the elimination tomorrow.


MasterChef – Wed, June 29 – Heston’s twisty past challenge

Heston’s restaurants are all about taking recipes from the past and giving them a modern twist. Four contestants must prepare a single course inspired by recipes from the past to avoid elimination.

So tonight it’s Elise, Harry, Theresa and Mimi trying not wind up in black. Matt goes on about how much Heston loves history, but the man himself says only a few words, without conviction.
The contestants will be given recipes dating back as far as the 15the century as their inspiration, but they must give them a modern twist.
Mimi is first with savoury, Theresa savoury, Elise sweet and Harry sweet.
They have to feed 10 diners plus the four judges. It’s another staggered start, but at least this time they can’t open their recipes until their time starts.
Both Mimi and Theresa have trouble reading their recipes due to the ye olde writing. Theresa is making roulade chicken with stuffing but Mimi seems lost with her roast salmon dish. Elise gets an apple and fennel seed tart recipe so she’s stoked.
Mimi is panicking and taking things too literally – just do a baked salmon with a smoked yoghurt and say it’s your modern twist, Mimi. Heston comes over to get her going and luckily she seems to find her mojo.
Gary pops over to Theresa to stress her further about whether she has enough time to sous vide her chooks. For once he hasn’t told Elise she’s rubbish and, for once, she isn’t flustered. Her dessert sounds pretty cool.
Harry opens his envelope and he gets a trifle recipe. This is his chance to do the dish that Brett derailed when he went rogue in the Chinese whispers challenge! He’s delighted and decides to do an espresso martini-themed trifle.
With only 40 minutes to go, Theresa pops her chook in the sous vide machine. They look massive – normally I’d be worried we’re in for another MasterChef raw chicken disaster but since her return Theresa has managed to take risks that mostly work. And while she never seems fully in control she’s not the flustered mess she was at the start of the season.
Mimi is making seared salmon with mushy peas and a beurre blanc soz but she isn’t happy with the soz – she decides to add saffron, which was mentioned in ye olde recipe. Still sounds pretty simple – chicken skin is a bit fancy but nothing new. Cut to Heston looking totes bored on the sidelines.
Elise is making nougat with ground fennel, with an apple jelly centre. She says she wants the fennel flavour to be strong, which could be another foreshadowing a la last night’s Elena’s “my green tea jelly can’t be bitter” outcome. Here are the olde recipes they used – if you click on them you’ll get a bigger version. Don’t know what Mimi was pancicking about that – most of it is understandable. She had an Elise brain freeze.

The judges taste

Mimi’s salmon: Gary asks Mimi lots of questions but for once he isn’t being a tool. Heston’s salmon is cooked perfectly. Gaz says she’s covered the main elements of the recipes. They seem happy.

Back in the open-air kitche n, Theresa decide to deep fry a roulade to crisp it off. “Shit,” she mutters. It looks rubbish. She has to brown off the rest in a pan of butter. Matt pops over to tell her it’s time to plate but she’s still cooking.
Back at the dining table, Gaz is back to his snarky self: “Where’s Matt? Is he doing the washing up or what?” Finally her chicken is cooked and she chucks stuff on the plate.

The judges taste

Theresa’s chicken roulade with leeks: They note the plating was obviously rushed. Gaz likes it and Heston especially like the raisins. George thought it was tasty but he ended up with a tonne of raisins on his and it wasn’t balanced.

Back in the kitchen, Harry decides his trifle is too simple and he needs to “Heston it up”. So he grabs a siphon gun. When it’s Elise’s time to plate, she’s ready to go. Gaz actually looks begrudgingly impressed for once.

The judges taste

Elise’s fennel nougat on a tart base with apple jelly: “I think that looks smashing,” Gaz says. Heston says it’s fabulous. George loves the caramelised fennel garnish.

In the kitchen, Harry is faffing around trying to combine white chocolate and red wine to make “snow”.
Oooh – now this is more exciting than watching Harry split a soz. It’s an ad for the Australian version of Survivor. See separate post.
Back to Harry, who grabs a bunch of fruit to chuck in a bowl of liquid nitrogen at the nitro station that of course has been set up nearby. Surely Heston now has shares in a liquid nitrogen supplier. He wraps the frozen fruit in a tea towel and smashes it to smithereens. The result looks cool.

The judges taste

Harry’s orange and coffee trifle with fruit confetti: Harry walks around with the table with his bowl of frozen confetti, dolloping on spoonfuls that send up a plume of frozen air for theatre. Heston says the fruit cells look like hundreds and thousands. Gaz likes it but Matt says it’s in danger of veering to tiramisu.

The verdict
The silent black-aproned ones hover in the background, to see who’ll be joining their ranks – hoping it’s someone they can beat. This would be the first time I’ve said it but surely Elise is safe. I think it will be Theresa for the rushed plating. Elise can’t seem to believe it when Matt praises her dish, telling her it could become a signature dish.
Theresa does indeed get the call to take the black for her inconsistent plating, so it’s off to The Wall with her.

Tomorrow night
So, the seven up for elimination tomorrow night are Trent, IM, GE, Theresa, Chloe, Brett and Heather. It’s a rainbow-themed elimination (where is Chloe’s tie-dyed shirt when you need it?). Poor IM cops blue: “I can’t think of any food that is blue. I’m not looking forward to this.” I’m with you, IM – I don’t really want to eat blue food. Enough Heston gimicks – just let them cook! Afterwards, there’s a masterclass with Heston’s best roast chook and a chocolate mousse made from only chocolate and water – now that I’d like to see.
No recap from me tomorrow as I’ll be travelling interstate amid the big chill. I’ll catch up with MC and Offspring at the weekend.


MasterChef – Tues, June 28 – Heston’s chocolate challenge

Heston inspires the contestants to create a three-course dessert spread using only the food of the Gods: chocolate.
The least impressive team will face the elimination challenge.

The six contestants file in past the black-aproned losers (shame, shame, shame – where’s Sister Unella when you need her?). Their lips have been sewn together so they do not taint the ears of the cooking god Heston with their fangirly utterings.
They are at Melbourne Uni and are split into teams of two via a lucky dip of milk, dark and white (it’s not a real chocolate – stop calling it that, people!) chocolate.
Elise and Theresa get white; Intense Matt and Glowing Elena milk; and Harry and Mimi dark. They have to create a three-course dessert menu for 30 online competition winners; each team cooks a course. And, thankfully, none of this mucking around with savoury desserts.
They are led into a massive underground carpark (and Matt Preston gives us the movie fun fact part of Mad Max was filmed) where their cooking stations and a long dining table have been set up.

Theresa and Elise are doing a caramelised white choc crumble base with a coconut bar and chocolates with raspberry coulis and passionfruit centres, with mascarpone ice cream to offset the sweetness. “Hopefully the coolness from the frozen ice cream will be enough to balance out the dish,” says Elise. Yeah, I always prefer frozen ice cream to that unfrozen variety. George isn’t around tonight (ill effects from eating pea and ham ice cream, perhaps? Pop a Swisse, George) so we won’t call Heston H any more. H is worried it’s too much – and too sweet.

The milk chocolate team starts off and GE wants to make a Japanese garden with a green tea jelly pond. IM’s mind is blown by her concept. Elena says she’ll work to ensure the green tea jelly is not too bitter. GE says there will be scented choc pebbles of raspberry and yuzu curd and then she utters the two words we’ve all been waiting for: liquid nitrogen. IM is definitely sous chef on this one but he does decide to add basil to the raspberry soz.

The dark team of Harry and Mimi are allowed to start and Harry wants to make a forest floor with a chocolate log and cherry coulis. The words “vapour jug” are written on his plan for the dish. Sounds speccy but surely we’ve seen this forest log thing before? Let’s hope he has better luck tempering his choc than other contestants have in the past.

Elise is actually the first one to go for the liquid nitrogen, to freeze some domes. Because, you know, domes have never given anyone grief before.

Elena is talking again about her green tea jelly – I’m worried now that it’s getting so much airtime. But it does make me want to make a frog in a pond. Dark team seem to be going well with their choc log and mousse filling but over at white choc team, Theresa – who’s definitely the leader – is realising making a dessert with so many teeny chocolates that need to be individually hand dipped was a rookie move.
IM gets on to the nitro next and he also gets to use giant tweezers. He tastes one of his pebbles and is delighted with the result. Karmen must be at home cursing that she missed this one (although I can’t really imagine her uttering anything other than a soft “darn”).
Harry is working on the soil for his forest floor and pops a packet of bough biscuits in the food processor. The look like Granitas. Bought biscuits – is this MKR all of a sudden? He’s also adding pop rocks – can’t have a dessert with them these days.
Gaz tells Theresa and Elise to get a wriggle on and they try to make nitro ice cream but it’s not working mixing by hand The liquid nitrogen ice cream shop here in Adelaide uses KitchenAid mixers to whip its icy goodness, so perhaps they should try that. Where’s Heston to give them a few tips? Outside giving the black-aproned losers a flogging?
They give up and decide to use it as a cream instead, even though it could be too sweet. Lesson learnt: Always make your ice cream first.

Elena has made a black sesame crumb soil for her Japanese garden and Harry is carefully lifting his chocolate logs out of the acetate. With five minutes to service the white choc team starts to plate up. The coconut bar going on top of the crumb looks like a chicken nugget drizzled with mayo. They are still dipping chocolates and quenelling cream (sadly, Elise did not get her frozen ice cream after all) with one minute to go. “We’re just chucking stuff everywhere,” says Elise – always good for a blunt quote.
Service starts and Elise has to chase after a waiter who’s grabbed an unfinished plate. Run, Forrest, run, with your box of chocolates dessert.

The judges taste

Theresa and Elise’s “Life is Like a Box of Chocolates” dessert: And, of course, Heston’s is the only plate at the table missing the raspberry. What producer noticed that and switched plates? Heston likes the caramelised soil and cream but Matt says it’s all too sweet.

IM and GE’s Japanese garden pond: They introduce the dish and are about to walk away when Cranky Pants says: “Can I ask a question – it’s not quite what I thought you were going to put together on the plate. Is that how you set out to plate it up?” Elena – on a high from completing a tricky cook – is nonplussed. Apparently Gaz was expecting more sesame crumb. Please, can we get at least one new judge next year, MasterChef – I don’t want to watch a judge who talks down a dish in front of diners who must be thrilled to be there, even before they’ve tasted it. Does he make such comments for all the teams and we they just don’t make the edit? Matt is not fond of the presentation and is worried about the green tea jelly. The judges love the rocks filled with raspberry and yuzu. The jelly didn’t work – it’s a bit better and Heston says they should have used gelatine instead of agar.

Mimi and Harry’s Black Forest floor: It looks very cool with its berry coulis and plump blackberries. So, these gice will be the winners. Matt notes the diners were excited to see the dish. “It’s a proper chocolate dessert,” says Gaz. “It’s a happy dessert.” Heston doesn’t really say much, that we see at least. Is he being paid by the word?

The judges decide

Harry and Mimi win – and deservedly do. However, keep in mind they had the advantages of getting dark chocolate (more suited to the palate of adult foodies) and the extra planning time while they waited their turn to cook.
They are obviously tossing up between the white and milk teams, and here are the black-aproned ones to observe the going on and administer the ceremonial beating to the latest losers. In the end, an overly sweet dessert beats a bitter jelly and GE and IM are in the elimination round. Noooooooooooo!
So, thus far in elimination we have IM, GE, Heather, Trent, Chloe and Brett. A few our faves in there, but if it’s a savoury challenge they should be right.

Tomorrow night
It’s another pop-up challenge and it looks like they have to make dishes using recipes from ye olden days – and not the Women’s Weekly Cookbook olden days. One person will go through to the Thursday night elimination.


MasterChef – Mon, June 27 – Heston ice block challenge

For one day only, Melbourne’s iconic Brighton Beach bathing boxes become ice cream stands selling Heston-inspired ice creams and ice blocks. The least impressive team will face elimination.
Poor kids, rocking up expecting a delicious treat and copping a scoop of fennel and beetroot parfait …

Poor Trent and Heather – the “losers” paraded in front of the other contestants in their elimination blacks.
The other contestants have to make ice cream for 500 people and laugh nervously when they hear they have to do savoury ice cream. And not only do they have to be savoury, they have to trigger nostalgia.
The team pick is done by a zoopa dupa lucky dip into George’s Esky, which is literally cool.
The teams are: IM and Harry, Elena and Theresa, Mimi and Elise, Brett and Chloe. They have 4.5 hours to make one flavour of icy poles, two flavours of ice creams and waffle cones.
IM and Harry are going nuts with their flavour combos, doing prawn cocktail and Vegemite and butter ice cream and a gazpacho icy pole.
George and Heston (or let’s just call him “H” from now on, as his buddy George does) are worried about Chloe’s smoked beetroot, goat’s cheese and dill ice cream. They reckon the strong cheese will coat the roof of the mouth. Last time Chloe ignored a chef’s advice (in the Curtis Stone challenge) she and teammate Nicolette ended up in elimination. But it’s okay – Chloe has done it before and it’s awesome. What do George and H know?
Theresa is having waffle cone dramas and H tells her it’s because she needs more sugar in her batter.
Mimi is making cucumber, ginger and mint ice blocks and her mix is a lovely green colour, while Chloe and Brett are creating carrot and ginger icy poles with soda water and edible flowers (bleagh) – will the bubbles affect the freezing process?

Theresa has finally mastered her waffle cones but has yet to start her mustard ice cream with bacon and hot chips. She knows it will take forever to crack all the eggs for it so she decides to use an eggless recipe she half remembmers from seeing on TV. Oh dear. And if she fails she’ll take Elena down with her.
Mimi and Elise give a cucumber ice block to H to try and he says it’s too sweet. So they add vinegar. At least they’re ahead with their waffle cone making. Harry hasn’t started his but decides he’ll do waffle cups instead, which will be quicker than cones.
Mimi’s second ice cream is pea and ham ice cream but they are rushing it and don’t properly cook their peas and chuck a whole bunch of half cooked pureed bacon in it. Ick.
The boys’ Vegemite ice cream looks good (they’re serving it with a toast crumb topping – hope it tastes better than Cadbury’s Vegemite chocolate), and Theresa’s eggless ice cream seems to have worked. Whereas Chloe’s beetroot ice cream looks weirdly dry because of the overload of goat’s cheese. And that’s why you always listen to the chef. Her second ice cream is rosemary mascarpone and her ice blocks are ready but the soda has separated.

Uh oh – here comes the crowd, including a bunch of sprinting kid who are going to be sooo disappointed there’s nothing chocolate on offer. IM looks deliriously happy to be there – he’s still on his hot streak.

The judges taste

IM and Harry’s Vegemite and panko crumb ice cream: They like the texture and the crumb but H thinks there’s too much Vegemite.
Gazpacho icy pole: The judges love it. “That’s a cracker,” says H.
Prawn cocktail ice cream: George loves the look. Matt says it equals other savoury ice creams he’s had elsewhere. They like the concept.

Mimi and Elise’s pea and ham ice cream: The cones look great but Matt pulls a face when he tries the scoop. “I don’t like that at all… they’ve made me feel a bit queasy.”
Ginger, cucumber and mint ice block: H says it’s still too sweet.
Sour cream and chives: They redeem themselves; H says it’s delicious. The texture is great. So, one out of three.

Elena and Theresa’s mustard, bacon and french fries ice cream: H says he likes chips on the beach. “I reckon this ones the best one so far,” says Gaz. H says he could eat a tub of it. [Sorry I doubted you, Theresa.]
Lemon, pine nut and rosemary ice cream: It’s not right, the judges say. It’s bland and a bit medicinal.
Chilli, lime and coriander icy pole: They love it . “It’s like a frozen bowl of Thai dipping sauce,” says Matt.

Brett and Chloe’s beetroot and goat’s cheese ice cream: “Oh God,” says George, and not in a bang the spoon on the table way. “It’s got that curdled consistency in your mouth.”
Mascarpone, rosemary and bacon ice cream: The cone looks good and they like the bacon crumb. “That’s pretty tasty,” says Matt.
Ginger and carrot icy pole: “Oh dear.” “Oh god.” “There’s no flavour of carrot here.” Brett must have thought he was on a winner when he was teamed up with Chloe at the start of the challenge. Now he’s in real danger of being eliminated this week.

The judges decide

The two teams who stood out were Theresa and Elena and (Theresa gets dish of the day for her mustard and chips ice cream) and Matt and Harry (the prawn cocktail wasn’t perfect but, with tweaking, could become a signature dish).
Chloe and Brett are going into elimination with Trent and Heather, who have suddenly appeared again on the sidelines to stare at Heston, unable to touch him because they’re dead to him now.

Tomorrow night

An underground carpark is the scene for a pop-up chocolate-themed restaurant. We see the teams are Elise and Theresa, Mimi and Harry and Elena and IM. So I’m barracking for Elena and IM. Does Elena need an abbreviation now, too? She’s always so radiant and glowing – GE?


MasterChef – Sun, June 26 – Heston week starts

It’s Heston Week on MasterChef and we have our top 10.

I found this rundown on the Freeview newsletter [can’t say I’m that sad to have missed out on trying a savoury ice block – that’s just getting people’s hopes up, then dashing them|:
Across the week, the contestants will be cooking a two-course meal for 80 diners on the Melbourne Star Observation Wheel; serving 500 customers savoury ice blocks at Melbourne’s iconic Brighton Beach bathing boxes; creating a three-course chocolate dessert menu for 30 diners at a subterranean space at Melbourne University; and, to celebrate Heston’s love of history, preparing a four-course dinner at Melbourne’s historic Rippon Lea Estate.
It is no regular week, with just one elimination challenge looming on Thursday that will see one contestant leave the competition.
The massive week of Heston challenges wraps up at Melbourne’s Carousel, perched on the edge of Albert Park Lake, where the contestants join the judges and Heston for a very special MasterClass.

Sorry, gice, not much of a recap as I had a family thing tonight.
The contestants arrive at the Melbourne Star and the poor sods are yelled at to run the last 20 metres. George and Gaz’s torture is not limited to the kitchen.
They learn they will have four pop-up restaurants this week and then Heston rocks up in his big-eyed sunnies while everyone goes fangirly.

The teams are:
Chloe and Harry
Elena and Mimi
Brett and Elise
Heather and Trent
Intense Matt and Theresa

IM and Theresa should do pretty well here if Theresa can calm the hell down, as she is good at those finicky Heston-style desserts and IM is on fire at the moment. Weakest link could be Brett and Elise. Brett’s not much into fancy pants stuff and Elise could have a brain freeze.
They learn they have to serve their meals to the wheel’s pods as they rotate, with only a two-minute gap between each pod. The losing team is up for elimination at the end of the week, meaning they don’t get to cook for Heston again until then.

Harry decides for his universe theme he wants to rip off Anna’s Mess and turn it into a “Big Bang” (don’t think the wheel people really want smashed dessert all over their flash pods) but Chloe talks him into something a bit simpler.
Theresa is using black rice to make a “Black Hole” with citrus gel spheres. Partner Matt is doing chicken, potato and pumpkin with a “Trip around the Sun” theme.
Heather and Trent are making duck and fennel with a “Daytime/Nightime” theme but have yet to come up with dessert.
Elena and Heather’s “Sea Star” main features kingfish and scallops with an oyster emulsion [hang on – Gaz just told Mimmi she was doing a good job filleting fish – what the heck! Gary is being nice], while dessert is a “Shooting Star” with a yuzu syrup cake. Concept-wise it sounds like it will be right up Heston’s alley.
Brett is doing “Craters of the Moon” with cauli, scallops and prawn oil. Gaz doesn’t “get” it. Elise grabs the moulds of death to create a choc dome filled with mousse and, luckily, Gaz seems to understand her dish. Elise is having temperature drama with her chocolate tempering.
Heather will make a Comet dessert with chocolate sponge and blackberry. We hear her say she normally does a vanilla sponge and that she’s checking her measurements – I sense a flat sponge ahead.
Chloe is prepping her eye fillet and veg dish and Harry comes up with a “Floating in Space theme”. Elise’s choc is finally at temp but it cools too quickly and she has to start again. Tempering choc at an offsite location is not the smartest move – which Elise probably realised halfway through as she was elbows deep in couverture. Brett is trying not to get anxious but he needs her to just get on with it so she can help with the main.

Chloe pops her steaks in the oven and then something surprising happens – Gaz comes over the criticise the Chosen One. The steaks have boiled in the pan and she needs to chuck them.
Chloe and Harry’s team are the first pod and they have to carry the plates up a a few sets of stairs to hand them over to a waiter. Things are going ok (Elena’s main looks particularly pretty). Trent knows his duck is slightly overcooked but has to serve it anyway.
IM seems to be having trouble with time management and hasn’t started plating when his next two minutes rolls around
“Come on – you don’t have time – come one, what’s next! You’re going to miss the pod!” Gary keeps shouting at them in his version of “Yes, George! Yes, George!”. Just give them a moment’s peace, Gaz, so they can hear other speak. As IM and Theresa race up the stairs with the plates the pod starts to drift upwards again. How disappointed would you be to be a diner at a MasterChef/Heston event and miss out on a meal. Luckily for them a waiter risks life and limb to deliver their dish.

The judges taste IM and Theresa’s chicken and pumpkin main: George says the potatoes taste delicious. Heston says the golden soz matches the colour of the clouds at sunset.

Back in the kitchen, Elise doesn’t understand her partner’s “Crater on the Moon” concept. She’s worried their dish doesn’t look elegant and mutters: “Shit, Brett – everyone’s looks phenomenal.” Plating it in a bowl certainly made it harder to look pretty.
The judges taste it and like the flavours but it’s more gastropubby and doesn’t fit the brief.

Trent and Heather’s duck dish looks rather pretty with its purple and orange contrasts. The judges like the puree and cabbage but, as Trent already knows, the duck is overcooked.

Elena and Mimi’s kingfish and scallop main gets a “brilliant” from Gaz in the kitchen and the pod judges are as equally impressed by the presentation. Matt says it’s a clever and surprising dish. Heston says the dish gave them an “energy”.

Heather gets ahead plating up her dessert until Gaz tells her the mascarpone cream is split. It’s just not their night.

The judges taste Chloe and Harry’s steak with leeks and say it is surprisingly delicious.

The sun has set and dessert service begins. Chloe and Harry only ended up doing half domes but Elise has gone full dome with a circle cut out – but her thick choc is giving her grief. Theresa’s dessert looks really cool and mysterious but Heather is worried about the heaviness of her sponge.

The judges taste

The judges prepare to taste Theresa’s Black Hole and Heston loves the look. Matt says the lime sphere looks like a little planet. “There’s just a discovery in every bite,” says George. Matt says they’ve nailed it.
Heather’s choc financier sponge comet is up next and Matt likes the way the cream “tail” skids off the plate. As Heather feared, the sponge is too heavy. But the judges like the other elements.
Elise’s choc dome looks like a “martian”, says Heston. He likes the look but it was heavy and bitter.

Elena and Mimi’s Shooting Star dessert with space junk for the diners to spoon on looks terrific. Heston likes the energy of the dish and the caramel but they agree the dessert is too sweet.

Chloe and Harry are worried their Big Bang spheres won’t smash but their choc looks thin. George drops it from right above his head and, yes, it shatters. Heston looks like he’s having fun. “It’s exciting to eat,” he says, and the flavours are good. The choc dome is much better than Elise’s.

The judges decide
They say there were three flawless dishes: Theresa’s Black Hole dessert, Elena and Mimi’s Sea Star fish main and Chloe and Harry’s Big Bang smash dessert.
Brett and Elise must be panicking but they’re safe; it’s Heather and Trent because the main element in both dishes had problems.

Tomorrow night: It’s the savoury ice cream pop-up at Brighton beach.