Wednesday, 9 March 2011

MasterChef 2011: Can you handle the pressure?

We've reached episode five of MasterChef already. FIVE!  This series is moving along far too quickly for my liking. At least we're down to just one episode a week now, which should go slightly towards eking the joy out a little longer.

For this fifth episode John and Gregg took the last ten contestants on a jolly holiday. If real life were like MasterChef, we'd all be hopping on a cruise for every three meals we cook. Luckily, MasterChef is an alternate universe, which should be a crumb of comfort to American Tim's wife after he said he'd happily divorce her if it meant he could win MasterChef. That's what I like to hear from my MasterChef contestants. Priorities!

The contestants might be all excited about getting out of the kitchen, but this week they're on a train to Scotland where they'll be feeding a load of burly kilt-wearing beefcakes participating in the Highland Games. Cue shots of sprawling heather filled hills, Scottish flags bristling in the wind and very frightened amateur chefs. They will have to face this challenge together, as a team, as a group, marching totally naturally across the glen in chef's whites.

Majestic.
Early indications that this was going to be a memorable episode came in the form of Gregg's choice of headwear:


Amazing! John was wrapped up in a big coat and scarf but I know he was wearing a cardi underneath. Just for me. And before you start scoffing at out hosts' fashion sense, just four days later Eric Cantona and Alan Shearer were spotted stealing my boys' style on Football Focus. Observe:




Back luck, football. You're not quite as stylish as my fellas. Back to the food. The final 10 were split into two teams, each of which had to compete to win the hearts of the Highlanders. Each team has to nominate a captain and I'm worried for Team Kennedy when nobody seems to have told Kennedy he's the captain. No such nonsense in Team Jackie's tent. She definitely knows she's in charge. There's tension already. Poor little Gregg's getting upset.


I'm even more worried for Kennedy's crew. American Tim is mixing up his neeps and tatties, Beauty Queen Alice is being full of herself again and GatroPub Peter compares the task to cooking on a Cubs camp-out when he was a kid. 'Younger-than-she-looks' Polly makes things worse by joking about severing a finger. Oh hahaha, Polly. You'll be sorry you cracked that gag later, missus. BOOOOO! I hate this team. Show me what's going on in Jackie's marquee.


Ah yes. Now this is teamwork. Colonel Jackie has organised her team with such military precision that they're working like machines. Posh Annie even snaps at Gregg when he dares to suggest she's been demoted to skivvy while peeling apples. Stick that under jaunty your hat and smoke it, Gregg! Wait. That doesn't work.

Jumping back to Team Kill-Myself things aren't improving. Kennedy is resorting to speaking to Tim like a child because he just. can't. get. neeps. and. tatties. right. Gregg seems baffled that Tim is finding the whole task so challenging. Apparently he should be alright because "they have fields and tents in America." What? I'm starting to think Gregg's scalp is overheating. Why doesn't anyone give him a bag of frozen peas to hold on it? Anyway, Kennedy and Tim make up and Captain Ken steps in to help him peel his spuds. Ready for it? MEDIC!!!


No, Gregg. I said MEDIC! Kennedy ends up needing his finger stitched. To put this into perspective, Kennedy is cellist. As in, he earns a living playing the cello. You will burn in hell for this, Polly! Some say he made a meal of it. Not literally, obviously. This wasn't a.....finger buffet. Hah! But as someone who recently had a serious mandolin accident, trust me, it bloody hurts. Kennedy eventually returns to work but the dissent among the troops is palpable. Captain Ken almost rips Tim's head off when he suggests NEEPZ as an accurate spelling. Actually, that one's, like, totes understandable, riiiight?

Serving time comes and guess whose team is ready to rock? My gal Jackie's, of course. Watch out! Here come to locals.


Let's take a closer look at the athletes:


The guy in the middle was pleased that the fish pie was fishy. Bless. This could go either way. Sara's fish water only had one order, but Team Kennedy ran out of veg half way through. John and Gregg? Who wins?


YESSSSSSS! Saggy-faced Team Kennedy have to sit across from each other on a train as they trundle back to London. Jackie's team, however, get to spend the evening cooking a special Scottish dinner where Madonna held one of her many weddings. Bobsled Castle or summat. They'll be cooking under the watchful eye of Michelin starred Tom Kitchin. He's a chef and his name is Kitchin. Sara's internal Italian-English translator is having a meltdown:


If I change my name to Rachel McRestaurant, I wonder if that'll improve my cooking. Anyway, they're given just 90 minutes to prepare their dishes for dinner, which seems insane considering what they're being asked to cook. Jackie's put in charge of making the seashell pie. :


I used to do that on the beach when I was kid and give them away for free. I wonder how many hundreds he charges for that thing. Sara gets lumbered with the haggis dish and it seems a bit harsh when Mr. Kitchin

Leave it to James. He'll take the grouse outside and....sort it. ;) 
Tom is given a custardy oaty plumby thing.

Mr. Kitchin roams around muttering things about how they're really under pressure, they need to stay focused, concentrate, speed up, work faster, pressure, pressure, too much pressure, come onnnnnn! Oof. Sorry. The pressure got to me there. Chef Tom makes a big deal about the fact that her scallops are late, but none of the stuffy ole tartan draped bods in the dining room seem that bothered. Despite have to wait a whole 12.5 minutes for their first course *gasp* they all agree it was worth waiting for.

Italian Sara is given the great honour of Addressing the Haggis. Luckily, she seems quite au fait with Scottish historical culture and is chuffed to be allowed to carry the big sheep's tummy full of other meat to the table while marching behind a piper.

That better be plastic ivy on that tray. 
Sara rushes back to the kitchen to plate up the haggis course, which goes well until Gregg gets involved and she drops a quail's egg. SHUT UP, GREGG! The Tartans all adore the haggis. Annie and James are up next and it seems reasonable when Annie has to pan-fry the grouse and James, well, just makes a few crisps. Fair play, the guy did strip the feathers and pull the entrails out.

Psssst. James. JAMES! I've got a packet of Prawn Cocktail Quavers in my handbag. I can save you some time. 

Annie and James were very impressive and managed to get their food out on time.


No offence, Mr. Kitchin Sir, but *whispering* where's the rest of it? It's just the grouse and the crisps? Right. Oooookaaaaay.

Tom has trouble with is quenelles. Isn't it always the way, dahling? Kitchin, Torode and Wallace all stand over his shoulder scoffing while he botches the very difficult one-spoon-quenelle.


Kitchin eventually puts him out of his misery by giving him another spoon. Hallelujah! Swines. The dessert turns out to be the hit of the night. Stick that in your quenelle and....errr....eat it? Never mind. All five contestants trot out in front of the guests like show ponies, then declare how much they enjoyed the pressure, PRESSURE, PRESSURRRRRRE! Aaaaaand relax. Cue shots of bustling London waking up. We've dealt with the winners and their Bobsled prize, now we need to eliminate a loser. Serious faces all round. Don't you even dare think about smiling.

Team Kennedy have to watch JT cook a special twice-cooked pigeon dish, then recreate it to perfection. John's back in his whites. Believe me when I say that if I don't see any cardigan action soon I'll go a bit strange. They all head to their benches and sweat it out trying to copy John's pigeon. There's lots of inaccurate "I'm fighting for my life" gubbins, then they return to present their pigeon to teacher.


Alice and Tim do extremely well. They're definitely in. Kennedy didn't let his bird settle and the celeriac and apple puree is slowly turning a pretty shade of puce. Gregg comments on it for dramatic effect but both he and John enjoy it. Kennedy's in, which is good being that he can't play the cello ever again. It's down to Peter and Polly again. Peter's pulled up on the fact that he has very little Chinese Gunpowder on his plate and Polly's upset Gregg by leaving sharp shards of bone and cartilage on the plate. Bad Polly! Very bad! It has to be Polly. Peter just went a little easy on the seasoning for goodness sake. So, Eating Kings, which minion isn't worthy of your company any longer?


IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN POLLY! She had shards of BONE! Urgh. The four almost losers cry their usual tears and they're reunited with the Bobsled Castle lot.


This week the final nine carry out their first service for the paying public. There will be lots of pressure, PRESSURE, PRESSURRRRRRRRE!

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