Introducing the evening with guest Chef, Abigail Donnelly from Taste Magazine, Masterchef threw another surprise challenge at our unsuspecting South African contestants. They arrived and as Ilse said, the expectations were quite high as there was now a 1 in 10 chance of becoming SA’s first Masterchef. Only the best equipment and finest ingredients at their disposal this challenge tested the contestants ability to cook a meal for 4 within the budget of R150. This dish had to still be worthy of royalty, tasty and be a real budget sensation!
Rushing through the pantry and grabbing ingredients in true rushed Masterchef style, not paying too much attention to what the actual price of the well-polished Woolworths food items are, the judges walked around with a BIG calculator costing the contestants’ ingredients and forcing those that had too exorbitantly priced meals to lose a few items. Llungile was first up for judging presenting roast chicken in a rustic style presentation with a lovely yellow Polenta. Abigail felt this meal was a bit lacking in body and pudding would have been a necessity. Khaya followed to the judges’ tasting table with a sad two pieces of chicken legs, to share, between four people and although cooked well with a lovely cornbread accompaniment, her mushroom dish was over-salted and according to Chef Benny a bit disappointing. Jade decided to opt for “Pork Poached in Milk” and she herself was a bit unsure whether her pork was going to be overcooked. True to judging in Masterchef her combinations were ‘great’ but the seasoning was almost non-existent here and Jade didn’t deliver a colourful enough meal. Deena’s “Parmesan & Herb Chicken Schnitzel” impressed Chef Pete and Abigail alike, with comments such as that he had hit the ‘brief on the head’ and that he had made ‘that little piece of chicken very proud.’ Thys brought forward a “Family Style Chicken” with crisp Parmesan which according to Chef Pete was the tastiest thing on his plate. Samantha disappointed the judges with her Asian/Oriental fusion cooking, placing a cooked piece of trout on a Roast vegetable base, gritty asparagus and her red onions overpowering just about every other element on the plate. Manisha, whom was the top dish and star of the challenge, presented a BIG plate of “Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Sauce” which according to the judges was real ‘family eating’ and delicious. Abigail even said to Manisha that if she had bottled that sauce, her own kitchen would be full of it!
Abigail had the honour of announcing Manisha as the top dish of the day and proudly said that this dish was cooked, according to her, with generosity, care and came from the heart and soul. Bottom three contestants were to go into an elimination challenge where one contestant would be sent home. These three, Samantha, Jade and Khaya all had a distinct failing element in their dish with Jade’s pasta lacking body and composition, Samantha’s delicate piece of fish set on those roast veggies which had no harmony and Khaya’s chicken which lacked intensity, flavour and inspiration.
Time to up the stakes and get there says Chef Andrew as Chef Benny asks Chef Pete to bring out the elimination challenge of the day. Pete brings out this big silver pot and immediately I knew, as I am sure you did too, this is a FIX THAT DISH challenge! Chef Benny mentioned that the three needed to fix or rectify the Minestrone soup which was purposefully cooked badly by the chefs as well as fix this dish in ONLY 6 steps. Chef Pete stipulated here specifically that the judges were not looking for the contestants’ jazzed up version of Minestrone soup of their interpretation of it, but rather their replication of the original Minestrone soup recipe.
With a selection of fine Woolworths ingredients, Chef Benny stated that the ingredients present on the selection table were both correct and incorrect and that Jade, Khaya and Sam had to trust their own senses to fix this soup in only 6 steps. Khaya was up first to choose her first ingredient which was Onion as Jade chose Celery and Samantha chose Pancetta. Khaya’s next ingredients were Garlic, Fresh Tomato, Pasta, Parsley and Tomato Paste. This was perhaps a very nerve-wrecking challenge being in the bottom three because instead of choosing parsley, Khaya accidentally chose Coriander. Added to this, with her extra usage of Tomato paste, coriander and pepper, she cooked up a sort of “Mexican Minestrone Salsa Soup” instead of the original Italian Minestrone soup. Khaya’s gut was to opt for garlic because she felt that Italians loved their garlic and parsley and would not cook up any dish without those two core ingredients. Jade chose, in order, Garlic, pancetta, Tomato paste, Basil and Parmesan cheese. She managed to impress the judges here with her stock which was ‘beautiful’ and the fact that she was the only one of the contestants to take her pancetta out of the soup and not leave it in. Chef Benny made it quite clear to Khaya that Minestrone soup is a vegetable soup and NOT a meat soup, and her mistake here was leaving it in. Chef Pete felt that Jade made a greatly balanced soup with good texture in her vegetables and the stock having a beautiful body. Samantha did not manage to render down the fat of the pancetta and amongst her other ingredients: Red onions, Celery, Garlic, Tomato paste and Butter beans, she produced a soup which had a lack of seasoning and the giant piece of pancetta which completely overshadowed the flavour of the soup.
Samantha was disappointingly the competitor to leave the competition with her “oily minestrone soup” due to too much pancetta which was, to the judges’ opinion worse than Khaya’s “Mexican Minestrone Salsa Coriander & Pepper flavoured Soup.” Samantha left very teary-eyed mentioning that although eliminated this was a very positive experience for her in Masterchef South Africa and that she will never forget any of it.
Looking forward to the twists and surprises in judging, next week takes us back to idyllic Nederburg where the contestants will meet the Nederburg Wine Master as well as Cook for some famous faces in the Invention Test. Grab it, Grill it, chargrill it or braai it, what will the judges decide is the way to the heart of Masterchef South Africa’s Final destination…
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