Masterchef 2014: THE FINAL Saturday, May 17 2014 


Jack, Ping, Luke


  • haggis and beef bolognese
  • coconut panna cotta served with mango, pineapple foam, and coconut tuile






















(keep scrolling)













yay 🙂


Masterchef 2014: episodes 22-23 Friday, May 16 2014 


Jack, Ping, Angela, Luke




  • malt cake with malted milk ice cream, butterscotch sauce, crème fraĂ®che, and orange tuiles
  • venison served with venison, salami and cumin ragout, anise-flavoured carrots, toasted dhal purĂ©e and savoury carrot cake
  • pan-roasted and poached chicken with ginger rice, chicken jus, and bok choi
  • smoked paprika prawns with chilli and ginger
  • guacamole and Serrano ham bruschetta












Masterchef 2014: episodes 19-21 Saturday, May 10 2014 

Semi-finals time!


Luke, Angela, Ping, Robert, Jack, Michael


  • roast guinea fowl stuffed with black pudding, served with roast potatoes, parsnips, kale, and marsala sauce
  • turbot served with cockles, and tomato and fennel stew
  • game pie with broccoli and straw fries
  • pan fried duck breast with spring rolls, fondant potato, pak choi, and five spice red wine sauce
  • rabbit and venison ragout with tagliatelle
  • flame grilled mackerel served with picked beetroot, beetroot crisps and beetroot purĂ©e
  • apple and chestnut tatin with vanilla and bay leaf ice cream
  • chocolate lava cake with peanut butter mousse and caramelised banana spring roll
  • spiced pineapple with lime sorbet and caramel sauce
  • chocolate fondant with pistachio cream, honeycomb, hazelnut brittle, and caramel sauce
  • poached pear with crème anglaise and walnut brittle
  • chocolate tart with plum compote and mascarpone















Masterchef 2014: episodes 16-18 Friday, May 9 2014 

Knockout week!


Ping, Jack, Michael, David, Theo, Sophie, Luke, Angela, Robert, Dani


  • filleting fish
  • jointing poultry
  • shelling lobster
  • pasta-making
  • rocher-making
  • sequencing
  • the making of various dessert types, including meringue, panna cotta, chocolate mousse, marshmallow
  • dehydration and sous-vide


  • roast grouse with butternut fondant and butternut veloutĂ©
  • pork cheek with sweet potato, sage, onion purĂ©e, and caramelised apple
  • pigeon with beetroot three ways
  • chicken with cider and mustard sauce
  • chocolate orange profiteroles and salted caramel sauce
  • apple and almond treacle tart served with brandy Chantilly cream, blackberries, poached apple, and nut brittle


  • Caxton Grill, Westminster
  • Grain Store, Kings Cross


pigeon with beetrootfs













Masterchef 2014: episodes 13-15 Thursday, May 8 2014 


  • garam masala sea bass on parsnip mash, served with seaweed
  • bacon-wrapped rabbit stuffed with liver, served with greens and mustard sauce
  • Moroccan spiced lamb with harissa butternut squash
  • crab served with black beans, chilli, garlic, ginger and coriander paste
  • cinnamon and almond brownie with amaretto cream
  • chocolate mousse with orange sabayon


  • Edd’s exciting Japanese food looks epic on the screen and the judges love it too
  • Tim’s attractively deconstructed food deserves to taste good; creative flavourings are the pièce de rĂ©sistance
  • Sophie’s honest Italian food is a refreshing change from the modern methods favoured by many wannabes
  • stunning student Megan proves time and again that her superb palate can lead her to victory
  • full-time dad and marathon runner Robin puts a contemporary spin on the classics with determination and panache





















Masterchef 2014: episodes 10-12 Monday, May 5 2014 


  • tofu tacos with asparagus salsa and sweet chilli sauce
  • raspberry and lemon shortbread stack with basil cream
  • ginger and treacle tart with green tea ice cream and matcha syrup
  • dulce de leche apple crumble
  • apricot and marzipan upside down cake, with raisin and amaretto sauce


  • robotics engineer Luke, who has mechanical precision and an eye for presentation and flavour
  • Ricky, who’s prepared to go out on a limb and come back fighting even when specific elements don’t work (and who came up with a killer cherry cheesecake as a result)
  • Theo’s love of Asian food is right in line with top quality cuisine
  • Dave, with his distinctive beard and flat cap, stokes our enthusiasm thanks to his love for nose-to-tail cooking
  • Julie’s vintage glamour, perseverance and mad dessert skills make her one to watch
  • the lovely Anna, whose excellent skills and voluptuous looks could make her a future Nigella (though without the drugs and bribery)















Masterchef 2014: episodes 7-9 Sunday, May 4 2014 

In brief:


  • Devon squab pie
  • steak bavette with tarragon and mustard mayonnaise
  • baida roti stuffed with chilli potatoes and served with goats’ cheese dumplings and balsamic honey sauce
  • lamb loin with ras el hanout
  • cinnamon and chestnut apple crumble with crème anglaise
  • bread and butter pudding with marmalade and cardamom custard
  • lime and ginger rice pudding with sweet breadcrumb topping


  • Terry the tattooed mechanic: it would be brilliantly subversive if he won with his winning flavour combinations, a bit like Fred the taxi driver winning University Challenge some years back.
  • Dawn the witchcraft merchant, who works on updating 17th-century recipes for this century.
  • Jack: the boy with the One Direction-style quiff whose superficial hairstyle belies his culinary skill.
  • Ping’s wonderful fusion food, harking back to her Malaysian origins, makes her one to watch.
  • Ben (with the beard) lets his passion for Indian food shine through, again creating fusions, although this time with European cuisine.















Masterchef, series 9 (episodes 22-23) Monday, May 6 2013 

I have fought against a six-hour time difference and extremely shoddy hotel bandwidth to bring this to you – so I hope it’s been worth it!…

Episode 22 upped the ante for the final by not only making the amateurs do an invention test, but to do it for four Michelin-starred chefs. However, happily for Larkin, Dale, and Natalie, they get a 75-minute practice run, for John Torode and Gregg Wallace. Oh, and for MICHAEL CAINES. Minor detail!!

For this occasion, Larkin prepared a Spanish-style fish stew (containing trout, squid, and mussels) which, while it looked good, had promising flavours that didn’t quite come together, meaning it lacked refinement. Dale served a rack of lamb with a herb crust, lamb rissoles, caramelized shallots, potato purĂ©e, red wine jus, and anchovy and caper dressing. While the herb crust didn’t look that sophisticated to me, Michael Caines seemed to enjoy it. However, the great chef and I did agree on one thing: the lamb was a little overcooked, and Michael Caines said it was a little too fatty as well. Gregg, however, made the valid observation that how far meat is cooked comes down to personal preference quite strongly – and that he likes the lamb like this.

natalie2Natalie’s roast grouse with almond crust, parsnip fondant and purĂ©e, red wine and grouse reduction, and salsify crisps scored favourably, with its excellent presentation attracting positive comments. For improvement, the idea of more acidity perhaps being required in the sauce and a little more precision being needed were cited. However, these few little errors were more than forgiveable thanks to the dish’s incredible flavours.

Having had the chance to practise on Michael Caines, the three then got to cook for Clare Smyth (Gordon Ramsay), Jocky Petrie and Jonny Lake (Fat Duck), and Jocelyn Herland (the Dorchester). For them, however, they did not get to cook their own dishes, but instead a menu designed by Simon Rogan (which makes you wonder how far the previous task really served as practice).

Larkin prepared flaked mackerel in coal oil with fennel meringues, vintage beetroot, mustard mayonnaise, and caper lemon jam. He made a lot of little mistakes in the kitchen, which resulted in one of Simon’s sous chefs stepping in to help with the mackerel. However, he did then get the plate out, albeit a little late, which seemed to be made up for by how well-executed it was. Little errors affecting time management possibly meant that by this stage he had lost the chance to win Masterchef, as after all, a big part of the contest is how well the contenders fare within the setting of a professional kitchen.

Dale did fare well in this setting, though – his dessert of poached rhubarb, hazelnut crumbs, meadowsweet yoghurt mousse, rhubarb snow, Cicely syrup, and muscovado caramel tuile came off brilliantly apart from a few minor slips in preparing the tuiles. This, I’m sure, was far less serious than the Beeb’s overly dramatic editing would have had you believe, given that the contestants had FIVE HOURS TO PREPARE.

Natalie’s duck with sweetbreads, salt baked turnips, chanterelles, leeks, and cider sauce came out brilliantly, and this just consolidated the fact that she had a good chance of winning. While all three contestants showed these qualities, something that Natalie does have is consistency, and the ability to deliver excellent food time after time. However, the level of skill shown by all three contestants is not the miracle John and Gregg make it out to be – they all had epic skills to begin with, and their level of achievement is hardly comparable to, say, someone going from microwaving ready meals to prepping Michelin cuisine in 8 weeks.

Nevertheless, this week definitely focused on building skills, with no real decisions made based on episodes 21 and 22. Episode 23 – aka the grand final – was the real decider. With three hours ahead of them, each amateur was asked to cook 3 courses, and all rose to the challenge admirably, drawing on previous experiences and family history to create heartfelt and technically advanced dishes.

larkin3Larkin chose to cook Chinese mixed starters (consisting of vegetable and prawn spring rolls, yakitori, water egg with crab meat, cockles in soy and tofu emulsion, and morning glory), followed by Chinese roast belly pork (which was marinated in red and yellow bean paste, tamarind and garlic) and roast duck with glutinous rice wrap, pancetta, sausage and mushrooms. This only attracted one minute criticism – the idea that more sauce should have been added to the main dish. His dessert – a chocolate mojito with cucumber, Thai basil gel, caramel sauce, and coconut crumble – was also a master stroke, with only the portion size being pointed out for improvement.

dale6Dale did equally well in this final challenge. His liver-stuffed ballotine of red mullet, which was served with a chorizo, pepper, confit tomatoes, basil and black olive stew, and chorizo/tapenade bruschetta, suffered slightly due to the fish being slightly undercooked. His main course (guinea fowl served three ways  – confit, black pudding rissoles, and breast) was accompanied by asparagus mousse and spears, wild mushrooms, and white truffle cream sauce, and was judged excellent all round due to the contrasts and complements of flavour and texture. His dessert was just as wonderful: coconut, vanilla, and white chocolate panna cotta with coconut meringues, champagne syrup, and poached tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, kiwi and strawberry).

natalie3Finally came Natalie, who essentially just cooked food she’d been testing out on her grandad (rather than being chiefly inspired by her late grandmother, as the BBC’s shoddy reporting would have you believe, her entire trajectory was based on her very-much-alive grandfather). To begin with, she served a lobster tail with fennel purĂ©e and compressed fennel, orange gel, orange beurre blanc and lobster caviar. Her main course consisted of roast belly pork with pork loin, pommes purĂ©es, apple sauce, pea shoots, honey mustard, and black pudding Scotch egg; and to finish, her dessert was comprised of chocolate panna cotta, hazelnut biscuits, a bitter chocolate tuile, and caramelized pears. In short, the judges were practically crying with joy.

All three contestants, at various points in the show, demonstrated qualities that could make them winners. However, by the end of the series, Natalie’s position was assured: in the first instance as she didn’t have the (albeit tiny) mistakes of the others’ dishes, and in the second because she showed a consistency throughout the series that they lacked. While some viewers complained that this year’s series and contestants lacked lustre, Natalie has proved a popular contestant whom many wanted to win. Thanks to the Beeb’s unhelpful disclosure, I already knew that she would – but nonetheless it seemed a fitting end. The contestants also seemed to have really bonded, which really contributed significantly to this series, along with the impression of how much this meant to all of them and how much it could really change all of their lives – although perhaps especially Natalie’s.

Masterchef, series 9 (episodes 20 and 21) Friday, May 3 2013 

Episode 20 proved a significant point in the series, with one person due to leave at the end of this hour, leaving the other three to embark on some gruelling final challenges. In order to sort the wheat from the chaff, twelve critics have been called in for Saira, Dale, Natalie and Larkin to cook for, including Jay Rayner, William Sitwell, and Kate Spicer. Gregg Wallace acted as host for the evening, while John Torode played the role of head chef. Each contestant would cook 3 courses each, with the critics choosing what they would like to eat.

The menus took the diners around the world, from modern Britain to Asia via India. Saira’s starter consisted of chicken samosas, chicken roti livers, and a chicken cake with tamarind chutney. The chutney was judged “bright, vivid and zingy”, although some found it too acidic. However, there were more serious errors than this, with the critics saying that the livers were overcooked and the cake dry and dusty, and that Saira should have picked one of these dishes and served it alone rather than miniaturising three different ones. Criticisms of Dale’s and Larkin’s starters were much more trivial: Larkin’s confit salmon with caviar was judged to have an excellent texture, and his cherrywood smoke effect drew positive comments too, with only the soy mirin dressing needing more seasoning. Dale’s Dover sole and clams en papillote lacked unity, though, and the sole was a little overcooked. Nonetheless, this dish (with Thai basil pesto) was still deemed successful overall. Only Natalie’s starter – of pan-fried sea bream with langoustine sauce, braised fennel, and caramelized fennel – came out unscathed.

Back around the world now with the mains. This task was not just about seeing if the amateur chefs could produce restaurant-quality food, but also about seeing how far they could cope with having to complete the number of orders required of them in time. Saira’s timing was way off in this respect, with her potatoes being cut too large to cook in time. Nevertheless, the quality of her lamb rasala with hot/sour sauce, aubergine purĂ©e & gooseberry chutney was praised, even though some diners dubbed it a lamb with curry sauce rather than lamb curry. Larkin’s main course (fillet of beef with black bean sauce, pak choi, and asparagus fried rice) did not come off much better – while competent, it lacked wow factor, and the side dishes did not attract many fans. Dale and Natalie came out of the main course brilliantly – Dale with a ginger pork fillet (accompanied by crackling, salt roasted carrots, mulled cider sauce, and spiced cabbage), and Natalie with rabbit wrapped in Serrano ham (served with a cockle vinaigrette, samphire, and cauliflower purĂ©e). However, much was made needlessly of the fact that Natalie had to restart her rabbit after overcooking them, due to making them too soon – how many of these mistakes happen in professional kitchens that we don’t get to hear about? It’s surely what’s on the finished plate that matters.

dale4After this came the desserts. Unfortunately, for just about everybody except Saira this was a tour de force. Saira’s roasted rhubarb was served with a rhubarb syrup, and baked custard with ginger nut crumbs. While the baked custard attracted high praise, the rest was too sour for many diners’ tastes. The rhubarb syrup’s luminosity also didn’t have me drooling at the screen quite as others’ desserts did: I’ll definitely be trying to recreate Natalie’s  fig frangipane tart with orange marscapone at home (hopefully without her slightly hard and heavy pastry) and Dale’s chocolate truffle cake with caramel brittle and honey milk ice cream (even if I have to buy some ice cream instead of making my own!). Of the chocolate soufflĂ©s with vanilla cream that Larkin did send out, it was clean plates all round. However, he dropped one thanks to John shouting at him, which was a great shame.

Because of this, his place and Saira’s are less secure than Dale’s and Natalie’s, who are undoubtedly safe.

Several of the contestants mentioned at this point their desire to stay in the competition so that they can carry on learning and growing. While this is a valuable process, it is ultimately not about them and their potential but more about what results they can produce on a day-to-day basis. As something was wrong with each of Saira’s dishes, she was the one who was asked to leave, meaning that Dale, Natalie and Larkin will fight it out for the winner’s trophy.

Their first challenge in episode 21 was just the first stage in an Italian odyssey, whereby they are sent to the Amalfi Coast to cook with Mamma Aguta, who has cooked for Humphrey Bogart, among other luminaries. She showed them some of her favourite dishes before challenging them to cook it for her family, making sure that the show struck a nice balance between testing the contestants’ fine dining skills along with using fresh ingredients simply in a home-cooking context. Natalie handled the gnocchi with artichokes dish with ease, only receiving one tip to use less flour in her gnocchi. Criticism directed towards Larkin was equally minor, with his stuffed squid needing to be cooked just a tiny bit longer to enhance the already excellent flavours. Finally, Dale was able to cook the pappardelle with peppers and sausage to perfection.

Afterwards, the team were taken to Florence’s Enoteca Pinchiorri, which carries three Michelin stars. There, they were shown how to cook three of the restaurant’s specialities, before feeding it to their mentors. Larkin’s guinea hen ravioli didn’t look quite as tight as the chef’s (and indeed the chef pointed this out) but in the end it more than passed muster thanks to its great flavours. Minor criticisms also came up in regard to Natalie’s and Dale’s efforts, with Natalie’s spit roasted leg of pork possibly benefiting from a little more olive oil in the mashed potato, and Dale’s portion sizes arguably needing to be a little more generous in his coconut dessert (which was served with three flavoured gels: basil, almond, and coffee).

The contestants were then encouraged to put what they had learned into practice, having been asked to cook a 3-course lunch in an Italian castle for members of the art world. Being Italian, the guests were forthright in their criticisms, which at least seemed valid from this side of the screen. Dale’s crab risotto looked a little too wet when served, lacking the creamy quality that comes when the rice begins to release its starch and allow the grains to melt together. This al dente quality was noticed by the diners, as was the fact that crab and cheese is not a usual combination (the cheese being added thanks to a Parmesan crisp) – although many diners seemed to reluctantly concede that they enjoyed this aspect of the dish in the end.

Despite having never cooked suckling pig or cavolo nero before, Larkin is serving this as the main course, with side dishes of potato fondant and celeriac purée. This inexperience was revealed when guests commented negatively on the texture of the crackling, as well as on the fact that his fondant potato was on the tough side (Larkin knew this, but sent it out anyway). While the flavours were good, it leaves one wondering if this can really be enough, as flavour has to harmonise with other techniques in order to result in success.

This combination of quality and technique was perhaps best exemplified by Natalie’s milk ice cream with dandelion and burdock blackberries, honeycomb pieces and lavender flowers, which was practically perfect in every way. She has a consistency in her cooking that others don’t have, and for this reason (as well as her lovable Cockney demeanour, reminiscent of Angela Hartnett), it’s easy to see why many viewers want her to win. She has only two episodes left now in which to prove beyond all reasonable doubt that she deserves it.

Masterchef, series 9 (episodes 18 and 19) Tuesday, Apr 30 2013 

The four semi-finalists have now been chosen: Saira, Larkin, Dale and Natalie. They have one week, at the end of which, one will leave. So, y’know. No pressure.


Firstly, Saira goes to cook at Benares, while Dale goes to Launceton Place, Natalie goes to Trinity, and Larkin is sent to Hole in the Wall (Cambridge). Restaurants seem to be selected according to contestants’ interests and style, which is nice. All are shown struggling a little, but I think this is down to selective editing. Plus, they’re Michelin starred restaurants and they’re amateurs – it was bound to happen and I think the editors have made it look worse than it is thanks to all the dramatic music etc. More interesting is that the four then get to cook for their mentors, with the mentors then offering constructive criticism. Natalie’s mentor invited her to taste the food she’d cooked for him, pointing out quite rightly that improvement of one’s cooking is not only achieved by cooking but also by tasting. Saira’s problem of putting too much food on one plate for fine dining is mentioned, but this is rightly not treated as a serious problem. In all, the professional chefs only point out minor issues for the four contestants, such as cooking polenta for a little longer, charring cauliflower more, and including more sauce.


After this, the four are back to cook again for John and Gregg, being asked to produce two dishes in an hour and forty-five minutes.


Dale produces smoked cod with mussels, spring vegetable broth, and anchovy and caper puffs, which are deemed good, albeit a little overpowering for some in terms of smokiness. His main course – of lamb’s liver, onion purĂ©e, kidney suet pudding, mint pea purĂ©e, red wine jus, mushrooms and chestnuts – is equally well-received, although John thinks the pudding lacks gravy and is a little tough.


Also on the fish theme was Larkin’s Dover sole stir fry served in a Dover sole bone basket. This was followed by braised pork belly with tarrow, chilli fennel, lotus root crisps, chop suey greens, fennel kimchi and chrysanthemum flowers. This was deemed perfect in every way – and to my mind Larkin is beginning to stand out as a sure-fire winner for his skill and creativity.


Saira’s dishes also attract little criticism : her pork loin with vindaloo sauce, pork crackling, rice and peas, pickled onions and baby turnips is flawless, aside from the judges wanting more rice. Her lemon tart, cassis-soaked blackberries, and frangipane sponge with clotted cream are also judged lovely, although the sponge seems superfluous given that there is already a tart on the plate.


The comments accorded to Natalie’s dishes were similar. She’s clearly confident with making pan-fried sea bass, as she returns to this, serving it this time with cauliflower purĂ©e and tempura, as well as cauliflower, apricot and almond couscous. This divine main course was followed by chocolate hazelnut crumble tart, which was served with chantilly cream and raspberry coulis. As with Saira’s sponge, the crumble topping was judged superfluous, while Gregg is apparently not a coulis fan (but this seems to be a preference of his own rather than being a reflection on Natalie’s cooking).


After a successful day, the four contestants have to do it all again in Episode 19, selecting ingredients from meats, seafood, fruit, vegetables, and a full larder in order to create two dishes in 90 minutes. The results of their invention test would then be served to Marcus Wareing – head chef of the Berkeley and the Gilbert Scott.


The girls came out of this well, with Natalie serving teal, celeriac purĂ©e and fondant, wild carrots and mushrooms with a blackberry reduction, which attracted a rave review from all three judges, with John’s view that the reduction should be stickier and sweeter being the only blemish. Equally, her chocolate fondant with vanilla chantilly cream was judged perfect by Marcus Wareing.


Saira therefore had a tough act to follow, but didn’t need to worry. Her red mullet and langoustine tails, served in a ginger and chilli Thai broth with broad beans and coriander cress, perhaps required more vegetables and potatoes to complete it as a main course, but generally got good reviews. Even though her dessert of millefeuille, with plum compote and creme patissiere, did less well, her errors were nothing unworkable. Marcus Wareing recommends cooking the pastry flat between two trays and cooking the plums for longer to create more juice and pulp. Encouragingly, this project also shows that Saira can go beyond the traditional Indian cuisine that she knows and loves so well.


dale2However, Dale and Larkin were treated harshly by Marcus Wareing. Dale’s razor clam and langoustine salad, served with pickled carrots, turnips, radishes, nashi pear, and ginger and chilli Thai dressing, needed rice to go with it and was too heavy on the chilli. Equally, his white chocolate and cardamom tart with toasted almonds and a blackberry and vanilla sauce was poorly received, judged as being sickly, undercooked and heavy. This criticism left Dale virtually in tears – perhaps because I’ve toned down the exact words and tone of voice used. Wareing acknowledged, however, that Dale’s reaction showed just how passionate he is about food.


Larkin also served a razor clam salad, but this time with spring onions, radishes, pork and langoustine dumplings, and a coriander and ginger dressing. This apparently tasted too strongly of sesame oil, without too much else going on, with Marcus Wareing judging it ‘appalling’. Larkin’s dessert of white chocolate soufflĂ© served in a mango, and mango and vanilla ice cream, had clearly been allowed to sit around too long. This meant the ice cream was melting – unsurprisingly, given that it had probably been sitting on the plate for an hour by the time the judges got to it. Marcus Wareing refused to even taste the dessert, which seemed grossly unfair.


All contestants had the chance to redeem themselves, however, during a special event for twelve Bond girls at the Savoy Hotel. In three hours, they had to prepare four courses between them, with each of the courses devised by themselves. Natalie handled the starter of stuffed quail & chicken mousse ballotines, confit quail’s legs, quail jus, deep-fried quail’s eggs, wild mushrooms with truffle oil, and parsnip purĂ©e. For the fish course, Dale served cured mackerel, mackerel pâtĂ©, cucumber, pickled mushrooms, coriander cress, pomegranate vinaigrette, and crostini ; Saira’s meat course consisted of chicken makhani, broad bean and stir-fried potato aloo gobi, cauliflower purĂ©e and pickle, and deep-fried cauliflower pakoras. Finally, for dessert, Larkin concocted a lemon tart with raspberry coulis and edible flowers. He had originally also planned a white chocolate tuile but ditched this after deciding that he did not have enough time to make it in a way that would ensure it came out well. The fact that his pastry needed more finesse was virtually the only criticism all night, although Gregg also said that the lemon could be sharper. In short – a triumph for all concerned.

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