Friday, 22 October 2010

Masterchef Professionals Week 4 and Alan Davies Whites bounce back

Another week, another group of hopefuls wanting to be the best of the best SIR! But unlike last week , this lot seemed to know what they were doing. Just when I though they had run out of candidates worthy of the competition, BBC Masterchef Professionals recruiters redeemed themselves.  Week 5 review now up

Week 4 started like all others, and that means yet another useful summary for those of us who are beyond the naked chef. Monica Galetti prepared an Italian meringue with hot sugar syrup.  At it's core not the most complex thing, but you can go wrong if you don't watch your temps, 120 degrees btw, or add your syrup too quickly. So how did the the next intake do?  Ambitious Alice tried hard  but  her meringue collapsed despite producing some good flavours. Confident Andrew made a perfect tasty, technically good plate. Amar, for whom food is life, was confused and made a French meringue instead and forgot to put enough on the plate call it a meringue.  Lastly Chippy Spencer surprised with a good presentation  but did not measure the temps and ruined his end product. This error cost him and he exited without much debate.

Chef Roux then asked the remaining chefs to make Bar au fenouil en papillote, or Stuffed Sea Bass. As it happens, this technically demanding dish is just the sort of thing non pros like ourselves should try at home. There is a series of skills, that if mastered even a bit, will make us far better cooks than most things we see this week. Incidentally, my cash and carry is having a special on Sea Bass, so guess what's for supper at ours in the next few days. First up was Amar who plated a poor untidy mess that had bones still in. He tried to blame his tools, but was caught up by Chef Roux. Andrew next made a near perfect plate of food but sliced his stuffing instead of chopping it. Despite this error, it was still tasty and looked professional. Poor Alice  had to save her fish as she had opened the fish from the belly instead of the top nearest the spine. While her fish was cooked to perfection and well wrapped in paper, she did leave in some scales and bones. Choosing inventiveness in error fixing and recognizing that Amar was perhaps the less skilled cook, Alice and Andrew survived the Sea Bass test.

Another day another four and today we had Fillet of John Dory. I've had fun with this fish myself, and I can tell you it's not the easiest fish to fillet. you have to watch for the bump ,work slowly and unpin the fillet. Monica removed the skin and  seasoned her fillets with a bit of salt and pepper.  Yet again on the surface not difficult, but you'd be wrong in thinking that these chefs coming on Masterchef are all highly skilled like her.  Henry did a good job of filleting and mad a skin on fillet. Very tasty but could had got the skin crispy. Neil of the Scot fishing village acquitted himself well by do a pristine job of filleting and cooking a crispy skin John Dory. Kate, the latest in a string of women to have a hard time on the programme, butchered the fish, made it  too salty and too ,lemony, ruining a beautiful fish and upsetting Monica. Lastly Christopher the head chef and captain's private chef on the Arc Royal, left bones in undercooked it the fish and was rushed. On the strength of his later work, he should of been spared the embarrassment and sent home with catastrophic Kate.

On to Chef Roux who showed us Cabri roti a la Provençale. or Roast Goat and Garlic flan. The flan itself had to be the coolest thing here. This is a recipe that will find it's way into our Sunday dinners as often as I can justify it. Remember to remove the the green stem in the garlic bulb to have only the lovely sweet taste of garlic in your flan. As for the goat, the secret is to take the membrane or parchment off the goat before you roast it. I wasn't expecting miracles and the meat was as challenging as were told. Henri made a scruffy looking  well flavoured goat, Sadly it was to fatty, badly butchered and he left the parchment on. Royal Navy Christopher did an elegant but not ON THE BONE dish that was chewy, lacking sauce  but had subtle flavours that were indeed good. Lastly Neil was nice but  piled the plate with too much food, left the parchment on  and forgot the garlic flan. For crimes against butchery, Henri was sent packing.

For those of you too delicate to eat raw meat, turn away now. Monica prepares Steak Tartar with poached egg. What you need to understand about raw meat, is that it won't kill you! Not unless your purveyor of meat has been selling you bad meat all along. If you trust your butcher, as I do, then you can make this without any fear. If you are reading this in the United States, doubly insure you are getting good quality fresh meat that hasn't been reared on chemicals. Having said that, Steak Tartar is a dawdle as you'll see from Monica's demonstration. The poached egg is easy as well , but remember the white wine vinegar in your hot water and  to trim the edges of the finished egg if you are looking for elegant presentation.  Nearly forgot, much to my amusement, Monica's secret ingredient for her steak tartar is ketchup! Right so how did the plebs do?  Devon James looked good for a first ever attempt, tasty but lacking seasoning. Fraser was odd in as much as he assembled all the elements but didn't mix them??? Welsh John another Tartar virgin, did a good presentation with a nice egg but didn't finely chop his meat and missed the tobasco.  Lastly Matthew who has Michelin star experience, made a near perfect tartar but had a srcufy egg. You guessed right if you said Fraser was gone.

Not to be outdone in audacity, Chef Roux asked the chefs to make a Panier Nougatine with Chantilly Cream encased in spun sugar. This task was about showing off, pushing the envelope  of the visual while keeping to the required elements. A thin nougatine, tasty light cream and a flavourful fruit coolie. My wife again has made this in parts all except for the spun sugar.  Our survivors did not disappoint. Matthew created a playground of treasure, that was stunning, just short of brilliant. Greg was having a meltdown on screen and looked like he wanted to be left alone with the plate. Nervous John made an elegant spun sugar cage, was a bit too un generous with the coolie but if Greg was happy with the first  plate , this one was going home with him. Sadly James made his basket in a cone and it was too thick, too simple too ordinary. He had no chance compared to the previous efforts and was going home.

It's Wednesday night and time for the quarter final! I know last week I said it was the last one, but what do I know? In the invention test Lamb and Quail featured in most of the dishes. Alice showed no real skills but produced a tasty plate of food. John's lamb rump was overcooked, chewy and he put in useless foam when he promised the lamb would "speak for itself" . Matthew made confit quail that looked like cat sick on a plate but tasted much better . Christopher who had been scrapping through so far  put 5 peas on a plate of dull quail with celeriac mash....yawn  Andrew made more quail but this was special, if not well cooked it looked like it belonged in the Baltic. It was interesting to say the least, looked like a vagina topped with a flower to me, Greg said it it could compete for the Turner prize. Neil's Rabbit looked nice but was ruined by the grit from the langoustine that hadn't been de veined.

Having dropped John and Christopher, the remaining chefs now faced the critics. Neil's Sheppard pie and lamb were awful. The Lamb in particular achieved the rare distinction of having  a raw, overcooked and perfect piece of meat on the plate?! Alice made Salmon with clams, which frankly looked like too much food and far to much faffing about on the plate, there was so little  broth, a critic said "It's a sneeze". Her pudding was an audition displaying at least four different difficult skills, she was proving a point and succeeded. Matthew and his golden raisin fish in beurre blanc was a triumph in simplicity and flavour along with his lamb peas and new tatties.  Lastly Andrew rounded out the field with good looking lamb so raw inside it inspired the funniest comment of the night. "If you had a defibrillator you could get this animal going again". His chocolate fondant was overcooked stodge and his cherries in caramel  were rock hard. Andrew deserved to get cut and was joined by Neil out the door.
Catch up the entire series here.

Alan Davies Whites on the BBC, bounced back nicely from a limp outing last week. This week's ep features Rolland getting through a health inspection when he finds out his old mate the old inspector has been replaced by a prickly officious Ms of a lady who is determined to stay unblemished by any ounce of sympathy or even slight bending of the rules. This incorruptible walking rule book spots 16 violations, 5 of which are serious. That the resolution to the whole thing revolves around Rolland unscrupulously pretending to have a relative suffering from Parkinsons like Caroline's father, is doubly funny when you realize  it's also Katherine Parkinson's last name. When the health inspector delivers the line "You stay brave", it's done so well you hardly expect it. I spent most of that 5 minute stretch watching sideways it was so awkward. The solid performances given by Scoose and Bib all the while, plus the gormless Kiki as fire marshal were the icing sugar on the cake. When the pig carcass was delivered in front of the the health inspector was particularly funny, even owner Celia gets a shot in early.  A great outing by the cast and writers both. I know many of you have been wondering what the theme song to Whites is?

 Most asked question about Whites on the tinternet..."What is the music at the end of whites with alan davies?. Well I've been doing some digging and found the name of the song, the name of the singer AND a you tube clip! So enjoy the live version of "Song for the Dead" by Alexander Wolfe right here on youtube. Next week Bib is tempted by a job offer in Oz while Rolland and Scoose play telly chef. I'll  be watching that.

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