MasterChef: Five things we learned in week 2

Beware of sibling rivalry (and duck in a pineapple), learn to tell a Pad Thai from a salad, accept lavender into your culinary life - oh, and remember, Gregg likes a pudding...

Leave your older brother at home


“You bear a striking resemblance to that chap behind you” Gregg Wallace told new contestant Barnaby. “That’s my brother” he smiled, sweetly explaining how they had applied to MasterChef on the same day without neither knowing about the other.

But when Gregg moved on to Oli, all brotherly love was out of the window. “Oli, I’ve just met your younger brother” said Gregg. “Yer – and?” he fired back. Describing how “when we’re against each other, it’s like a cat fight” and boasting how he beats Barnaby “quite a lot”, it was clear that the older brother Oli had inherited the competitive genes.

But it certainly gave him the edge. In the first round, Barnaby suffered from dry chicken, not enough tarragon in his béarnaise, and “sloppy” mash. Meanwhile Oli sailed through with a “stunningly good” chicken, “well-made” gnocci and spiced black cabbage. By the time that Barnaby’s sixth pancake had disintegrated during the palate test – while Oli served up “big, bold flavours” – it was clear which brother was going through, and which was going home.

Nail a chocolate bavaroirs and you’re through to the quarter finals

It’s no secret that Gregg Wallace loves his puddings. But when Rukmini lifted away the pastry ring, to reveal a perfect chocolate bavaroirs with passion fruit cream and a biscuit base, the grin on Gregg’s face was maniacal.

A bavaroirs – or a mousse to non-MasterChef competitors – isn’t easy to pull off. “In my third and fourth year of my apprenticeship, I used to have to make a bavaroirs every single day” John Torode explained. “They’re not easy to do.” Stirring couverture chocolate into an egg custard, which thickens, and is then set with gelatine, you then lift with beaten egg whites and whipped cream.

“Smooth, cold, coco chocolate…” gushed Gregg. “Creamy, and the crunch of a biscuit at the bottom, and then a tiny sharp note of that passion fruit. It’s a delight. It’s an absolute triumph” he said, shovelling another spoonful into his mouth. The lesson to take away? Nail a chocolate bavaroirs, and you’ve got yourself a place in the quarter finals.

How to spot the difference between a pad Thai and a salad

The palate test has been tripping up everybody. But when the contestants tried to replicate John Torode’s glass noodle salad with chicken and crab and roast rice, they all ended up making something completely different.

For the base of the salad, John just soaked the glass noodles in a bowl of water. He boiled the chicken and dressed the salad with a Thai paste made from garlic, shallots, coriander, chilli, palm sugar, fresh lime and Squid brand fish sauce – all pounded together in a traditional pestle and mortar.

So neither John nor Gregg were impressed when the contestants all reached straight for a wok. “We’ve got people making stir fries in here”, sighed John. “We’re not going to get a salad are we?” Gregg agreed. And he was right – no salads – but at least the two judges were presented with five decent-looking pad Thais…

Never, never put duck curry inside a pineapple

Up until episode four, the restaurant lunch service has been a traditional and classy affair: Chelsea Riverside Brasserie, The Cadogan Hotel, and that beautiful neck of lamb and onion puree served on a black slate at the Caxton Grill.

So it was certainly a change of pace when this week’s contestants were sent to pan-Asian restaurant, The Mango Tree. Twitter erupted with quips about the somewhat vocal chef and his unusual menu. But excitement reached fever-pitch when it came to the dish Claire would be making during the lunch service: duck curry inside a hollowed-out pineapple.

“That looked like a curry made by The Man From Del Monte” @neurosceptic pointed out, while @IamRudusT asked “Anyone remember the scene from Indiana Jones, where they served the monkey brains out of the skull?” We do. Definitely the fruitiest moment in the series so far.

Lavender is here to stay

MasterChef contestants are renowned for turning to some esoteric ingredients in their attempts to impress: tonka beans, roasted wattleseed, agar-agar creations, foams and flavoured sands, to name but a few.

This year though, it’s lavender which is being used to woo the judges. Former MasterChef judge Shelina Permalloo pointed out the negative associations which have blighted it in the kitchen in the past: “If used too much, lavender ends up tasting like soap,” she said.

But so far, the lavender dishes have received nothing but praise. In the first week, Emily impressed the judges with a lavender meat rub for her pork chops. And in the second quarter-final Rukmini sailed through to the next round on the back of a poached peach and lavender arlette. So move your pot of lavender from the garden onto the kitchen windowsill – it looks like this ingredient is here to stay. 


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