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 2014: episodes 4-6 Sunday, Apr 13 2014 

Now that we all basically know the rules of the game (check my previous post if you are unsure), I will be separating my posts into 3 categories: Try This At Home (recipes you may want to recreate), Food Porn (basically beautiful pictures of food), and Standout Stars (memorable contestants, regardless of whether or not they make it through to the next stage). So, let’s go:


– carbonara ravioli (filled with ham, ricotta and egg)

– winter vegetable salad

– cinnamon venison with truffle celeriac mash, and red wine and lingonberry jus

– Thai duck curry with lime leaf rice

– roast pheasant with marsala and chestnut sauce, poached quince, parsnip purĂ©e, and parsnip crisps

– salmon, leek and asparagus tart with dill and tarragon sauce

– chicken with tarragon, fresh pasta, asparagus and pine nuts

– pear and mango crumble served with lime cream

– Calvados-poached pears, vanilla and cardamom crème brĂ»lĂ©e, and almond sea salt crumble

– honey panna cotta with pear purĂ©e and ginger and caramel sauce


Celiyah: Yorkshire meets Jamaica! So many members of the public will be able to relate to her exotic meets down-to-earth approach.

Michael: looks unassuming (think Martin Freeman lookalike) but delivers killer-tasting, beautifully-presented food.

Sofia: a talented cook with a Nordic edge.

Oliver: almost the anti-star thanks to his geeky exterior contrasted with the skill of his cookery

Angela: the successful business owner who’s a chaotic but nonetheless equally successful cook

David: the dark horse with epic skills












Masterchef is back! Sunday, Mar 30 2014 

And so am I. Only just realised that I hadn’t posted here for MORE THAN A MONTH. Oops.

Last year I proceeded to painfully blog every episode of Masterchef. This took many hours of my time and many thousands of words (probably because I can’t shut up). I shall definitely be aiming for a more condensed version this year, mainly for my own sanity. However, Masterchef itself seems to have made this slightly easier for me by airing two heats and then a quarter-final all in one shot this week, making for around 2.5 hours of viewing and hopefully a neater recap.

My husband was asking me yesterday why I still bother with Masterchef given the poor pronunciation of some foodstuffs (it’s not “alioli”, for ****’s sake) and the overly dramatic, deeply contrived format of the show. The answer is simple. It is basically gratuitous food porn, and I also enjoy testing my own skills (watching the recipes, and working out the degree to which I might be able to recreate them, which can result in some fervent scribbling as the show rolls). It’s a good job the food looks good, because frankly some of the contestants are complete munters (naming no names). I get that if you’re male there isn’t a great deal you can do about your appearance. However, for some of the women seen on the show so far, the effort has been poor. I know that the show is about the food more than the contestants’ looks. Nevertheless, the contestants are ultimately aiming to become the equivalent of celebrity chefs (in several cases), which involves a lot of cameras being on you, whether you’re filming a new show or having photos taken for your latest book. So why not take a look in the mirror before going on Masterchef?

In short, in terms of the contenders themselves, we’re left with two by the end of week 1: Dani, a bartender who produces creative cuisine, and Robert, who cooks forgotten classics with a twist. Dani, perhaps more than Robert thanks to his more consistent performance, seems to have a greater chance of going further. These two have been whittled down from 12 in the heats – whom, as ever, it’s refreshing to see come from a range of ages, ethnicities and backgrounds. Let’s make no mistake, though – they’ve all been chosen for their ability to cook.

This means that the food porn starts from early in episodes 1 and 2, where the contestants are asked to cook their own dishes, and at which moment we’re treated to sights like this:


Robert’s mushroom ravioli with apricot, hazelnut and truffle salad

Trina's hibiscus and raspberry tart, served with spun sugar and edible glitter

Trina’s hibiscus and raspberry tart, served with spun sugar and edible glitter

Other delicious concoctions that you might want to attempt at home were:

  • brandy basket filled with white chocolate cheesecake and served with limoncello sorbet
  • prawn, pork and shiitake dumplings served with ginger and rice wine vinaigrette


The invention test follows this – but rather than there being an open larder for contestants to choose their ingredients from like last year, they have to choose from two sealed boxes: the blue contains ingredients for a sweet dish, while the green contains ingredients for a savoury plate. In episode 1, the box blatantly pointed to North African cuisine thanks to the lamb, aubergine, cumin, yoghurt and mint that were included. Predictably, most contestants tended towards lamb koftas and burgers, with there being little attempt at anything more invented. The one contestant (across BOTH of the first two episodes) choosing the sweet box was thus able to stand out a little more, using the mystery box to create a delicate fig crumble with lavender mascarpone. The savoury box yielded the same predictable results in episode 2, which mainly consisted of pork loin wrapped in Parma ham six ways.

At this point, two contestants were asked to leave from each episode, before things heated up again the next day, with the remaining four would-be chefs being asked to cook a main and a dessert each for three past Masterchef finalists. On day one this included Thomasina Miers; on day two, the group featured Tim Anderson as well as last year’s winner Natalie Coleman. Naturally this put the pressure on, and predictably, not all contenders were able to rise to the challenge equally. Collapsed fondants, runny sauces and unbalanced seasonings all featured, but so did visual and (we’re told) taste sensations like this:

Holly's pan-fried sea bass with almonds, figs, five spice and sweet potato

Holly’s pan-fried sea bass with almonds, spring onions, figs, five spice and sweet potato

Kate's white chocolate and chili Key Lime Pie

Kate’s white chocolate and chili Key Lime Pie

Other dream dishes you might want to try at home include:

  • cardamom rice pudding with pistachios, vanilla, poached peaches, rosewater and edible rose petals
  • rabbit liver with pancetta crisps, peas, mashed potatoes, and marsala gravy
  • snail, artichoke, red pepper and rabbit paella with aioli and microherbs
  • trio of profiteroles: lime and ginger with dark chocolate, orange liqueur with milk chocolate, and coffee with white chocolate
  • rum and coconut sponge with pineapple syrup
  • raspberry and fig tarte tatin with almond praline

With contestants shown the door, we’re down to four for the quarter-final – which seems a little quick given that we’ve got another 4 weeks of this routine to go. Said quarter-final sees the wannabes trying to imitate John Torode’s jungle curry, which tests their ability to joint a guinea fowl, make an authentic curry paste, and cook rice successfully. Kate, Robert, Greg and Dani need a grown-up palate (in Gregg Wallace’s words) to identify the chillies, shallots, garlic, shrimp paste, dried shrimps, palm sugar, turmeric and galangal in the curry paste. Fish sauce and Chinese wine further accentuate the flavours, and it’s certainly true that contestants will need to be familiar with Asian food to identify them. Coconut cream is mixed with rice and water in the pan and the lid kept on until all of the liquid has evaporated. This naturally is done with varying degrees of success by the participants.

Finally, the four are left to cook for Waitrose Kitchen editor William Sitwell. Greg’s squid and lobster ravioli is a fabulous idea let down by poor technique; equally, Holly’s beautiful loin of venison served with pomegranate and kale is slammed due to overcooked meat. Due to this, it’s no surprise that Robert goes through with his reworked poached cannon of lamb with pearl barley risotto and root vegetables, as does Dani, thanks to his lamb cutlets on celeriac purĂ©e, Padron peppers, and garlic spinach, and asparagus on red pepper, served with Rioja and port reduction.

Dani's lamb cutlets on celeriac purée, Padron peppers, and garlic spinach, and asparagus on red pepper, served with Rioja and port reduction

as above

In a way, this shows that nothing changes on Masterchef. Every year there are triumphs and disasters, visions of loveliness and plates of amateurishness. However, the fact that nothing changes is perhaps what has kept people watching for a decade. It’s a never-ending story of inspirational food and voyages of self-discovery as mental resilience improves and skills evolve. For that reason, I’ll be back here reviewing episodes 4-6 with relish.

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.

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