MasterChef – Wednesday 8th February

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Last night on BBC One, the final eight contestants of this year’s MasterChef battled it out in the kitchen, displaying a range of techniques from three different countries.

First we saw Shelina, Tom and (my personal favourite) Aki cooking Italian food with Francesco Mazzei in his award-winning restaurant, L’Anima. Francesco frist taught the contestants how to cook good Italian food using only a few simple ingredients, pasta, clams and tomatoes.

The contestants then had one dish each which they had to prepare during a lunch service at the restaurant. Calm and collected Tom made spinach and ricotta tortellini without any issues and managed to impress Francesco overall. Aki was trusted with a Sardinian seafood cous cous and she served every plate with her huge beaming grin. Last but not least Shelina made a  crab salad on a bed of pasta and, although sending it out before Francesco had a chance to taste it, did just as well as the others.

Next up were nervous looking Andrew and Eamon, who gives the impression he already knows everything, when people are talking to him I get the idea he doesn’t much like being told what to do. They were shown how to make a simple Spanish tortilla by Salt Yard chef, Ben Tish, and were then left to serve lunch. Andrew, the lamb rump with pumpkin and Eamon the grilled octopus.

They both coped with the pressure of the kitchen well and impressed Ben with their skill and precision.

This all meant, of course, that Jay, Afsaneh and sweet-toothed Emma had chosen to prepare French food with Bruno Lubet in his self-titled bistro. Bruno taught the group how to make a traditional, rich bouef borguignon and, because the dish needs three hours to cook, he produced with a flourish of a tea-towel ‘one I prepared earlier’.

At lunch service the team prepared a meat feast with Afsaneh on the roasted wood pigeon, Emma with the black leg of chicken and Jay on the roast lamb. The three all coped well with the rush but of course, that was only the first half.

The second half of the program saw the contestants back in the MasterChef kitchen, battling it out over saucepans, pasta rollers and sieves. This is what they made:

Italian

Shelina made a chestnut tagliatelle with wild mushroom sauce and shaved white truffles, although there was very nearly no truffle at all after Tom mistakenly threw it away. Although John and Greg, along with Italian guest judge Francesco Mazzei all agreed it was delicious they also all suggested it would have been better without the truffle.

Tom cooked roasted pheasant with mushroom and cep risotto. Greg admitted he was concerned about how the pheasant would tie in with the risotto but declared ‘it looks great’, while John said it lacked pepper.

Aki worried the judges with her combination of sea urchin spaghetti and green vegetable salad and the three of them admitted the combination didn’t work. They told her it would have been a great dish without the salad. The usually chirpy Aki was concerned that her inability to move away from her Japanese style of cooking with many dishes would send her home.

Spanish

Andrew went a little bit wild with his combinations, taking the Spanish tradition of tapas and putting everything on one plate. The main body of the dish was hake but he served it alongside potatoes filled with aioli, padron peppers, roasted red peppers, an orange and saffron sauce and a squid ink beurre blanc. The judges, which now included Ben Tish with the two regulars, were all very worried that there would be too much there but after tasting it changed their minds completely. The usually grumpy John even said that he could taste all the elements of sun and sea.

Eamon cooked a sea bream with paprika and a broad bean and ham salad. All three judges were really pleased with the dish and Greg said that it was really good cooking.

French

Afsaneh got a little bit lost on this challenge and I’m not entirely sure what she ended up making. She described her dish as a shallow, flan like cake. It had apples and a calvados ice cream that didn’t freeze. John and Greg, along with Bruno, were disappointed and Bruno said that as it was so simple the only thing that could make it French was perfection, which it didn’t have.

Jay cooked a de-constructed bouillabaisse with monkfish and muscles which Bruno seemed concerned with. The soup was very light and not rich enough to be considered classically French but the judges liked the overall  finish.

Lastly, Emma presented her profiteroles with a banoffe twist. The choux pastry was filled with a banana cream and the ice cream was swirled with a caramel sauce, although this melted the ice cream and set the caramel which John dubbed brittle in a puddle. Even Greg, who loves a pudding, said this dish was too sweet for him. And so the judges were left disappointed in France.

If you don’t want to know who went out look away now because I’m about to say…

Afsaneh. She was left at the end with Aki and Emma but the judges decided that out of all of them she’d reached the end of her journey.

You can watch this week’s MasterChef on the BBCiPlayer.

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