This week it was the turn of South Africa’s West Coast to play host to the wild road show that is MasterChef SA.
The remaining six contestants lined up on the beach at Paternoster, a cosy town with a collection of fine restaurants far in excess of what you would expect for somewhere so small.
The sky was bluer than Adele after a break-up and the waves rolled in quietly as our wise and grizzled judges laid out the challenge. The teams, for it was a team challenge, had to prepare a seafood platter for 15 lucky diners, all guests of local restaurateur Suzi Holtshausen.
Pete gave a brief speech on the importance of sustainable fishing, saying that all the Woolworths’ seafood used in the episode could be found on SASSI’s green list, indicating that it was the most sustainable choice.
The blue team of Manisha, Sue-Ann and Lungi created a menu of salt-and-pepper calamari, grilled shellfish and marinated trout. Sarel chose Deena and Khaya for his red team and they went for a spread of shellfish, poached cherry tomatoes, deep-fried calamari, pan-seared yellowtail and oysters with wasabi mayo.
The choice of trout was somewhat strange given that it is a river fish, while Paternoster is patently a seaside community.
Both teams got cracking in a pair of picturesque beach kitchens that ended up being rather troublesome as the wind played havoc with the gas cookers. Drama inevitably struck when silly Sarel sliced open his thumb while trying to gut his fish and had to be whisked off for treatment. This left Deena and Khaya to pick up the slack.
Try our recipe for salt and pepper calamari
In an attempt to retain some heat in the face of the stiff ocean breeze, Khaya created some rather impressive tin foil structures around her team’s cooker, indicating a potential career as a sculptor should cooking not work out for her.
The blue team served their food first and it was well received with only the trout being criticised. The reds’ offering also went down well with the West-Coasters, although the crayfish was deemed to be a touch undercooked.
Scoring was conducted through a wonderfully obtuse fishing-paraphernalia-to-hook process and the blue team thoroughly dominated, winning 8 to 3. This thrust the reds into the pressure test.
Andrew provided the inspiration for this week’s pressure test with a dish he took four years to perfect for the 1995 Culinary Olympics. The boggling complexity of this dish can be seen its title: brioche-encrusted springbok loin, an asparagus tower with a mushroom-and-leek ragout, a Peppadew relish, served with a béarnaise sauce infused with rooibos tea, and charcoal-and-tomato pasta.
Steamed crayfish tails with garlic aioli
It was a truly herculean task to recreate a dish of such extravagance in such a short period of time, yet our Jamie Oliver wannabes bravely sallied forth to scale this culinary mountain.
With so many distinct components, the contestants’ decision-making was under scrutiny. Would they focus on getting the main parts right and risk sacrificing some of the smaller elements, or try and get everything to the same standard, even if that standard was somewhat mediocre?
On the whole, things went surprisingly smoothly. Deena took a couple of attempts to get his pasta right and Sarel struggled with the pain from his injured thumb. The béarnaise sauce, though, stumped all three contestants who each produced their own variation of a separated, curdled mess. Deena somewhat dramatically proclaimed that his soul had gone into a black hole when he saw his sauce split.
Finally, the judges saddled up for their tasting with Khaya the first to be reckoned. She got a pretty sound drubbing from Pete who declared her meat bland, while Andrew noted that her pasta was too thick.
Can't find springbok? You can use any type of game in this steak and mushroom cream sauce recipe
Deena, soul presumably retrieved from the void, was next and presented a decent offering, though he had overdone his meat and asparagus. He didn’t seem particularly pleased with himself.
Lastly, Sarel strode up to the table and presented by far the best of the three. His meat was hardly cooked, Andrew describing it as bleu, but as it was venison he could get away with it. Other than the calamitous sauce, the rest of meal was deemed to be identical to the one made by Andrew. No mean feat at all given the circumstances.
This hollandaise recipe can easily be adapted to make bearnaise sauce through the addition of tarragon
It was Khaya who got the Olympic wooden spoon and was sent packing due to the numerous errors in her dish. All wished her well with her future in cooking, as well as her rapidly approaching motherhood.
It was also unveiled that next week’s episode would start with a masterclass by Michel Roux Jr., a man of great cooking pedigree who should infuse the show with a new level of culinary greatness as we come into the final stretch.
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Read about this weeks Judge's cook off in Nicolway