Masterchef Recap: Secrets and Pies
Previously on Masterchef: Yotam Ottolenghi came and went, leaving only an indefinable fragrance in the air.
Tonight on Masterchef: it’s Secrets Week, meaning…well, not meaning very much if we’re honest. Every day has a secret, but one gets the feeling that if one is hoping to find out about the day George accidentally killed his best friend with a BB gun, one is about to be disappointed. These are bound to be very low-key secrets. Maybe we’ll find out that bread is actually a fruit.
Derek is feeling really good, perhaps because he hasn’t been paying much attention so far. The mystery boxes are present and correct, and the judges explain the premise of Secrets Week: there will be a secret revealed each day. It could be a secret ingredient, a secret recipe or a secret chef. This makes it pretty much like every other week on the show.
The mystery boxes are opened up. Inside are dumpling rolling pins. The challenge is to make dumplings. Is that the secret? Or is the guy walking in behind them the secret? His name is Edward and apparently he’s good at making dumplings. That’s his secret I suppose. Not a well-kept secret though. His dumplings are Michelin-starred, so I guess anyone can get in Michelin nowadays.
Edward regards the amateurs with the cold, hateful glare of a man who knows he is in the presence of his inferiors. He demonstrates to them how they should make dumplings, but how they will undoubtedly not make dumplings because they are pathetic talentless cretins.
For what it’s worth, how you make a dumpling is, you get some dough, then you roll it out flat, then you put stuff in it, then you wrap it up, then you cook it. It’s incredibly easy.
The amateurs gasp with astonishment as Edward makes his dumplings, like they’re watching someone swallow swords. They taste the dumplings and fulfil their contractual obligations by stating that they are the best dumplings they’ve ever tasted.
“I’m sure you want to know what you’re going to do today,” says Matt, but they already know what they’re going to today: make mediocre dumplings. Matt demands they bring him dumplings that take him straight to the heart of Chinatown, but doesn’t say whether he means the district or the movie. That’s today’s secret, I suppose: should they risk it all on making their dumplings out of incest?
As is traditional on mystery box day, the amateurs run around like idiots for a bit, and then settle down to the serious business of fucking up their dumplings. Christina is cooking pork dumplings in a broth. Marvel at her originality. If someone really wanted to think outside the box, they’d fill their dumplings with chocolate. Why don’t they? Cowardice is why.
Matt visits Christina and discovers she is putting sesame seeds in her dough. He gently reminds her that this is a stupid thing to do. Christina becomes worried, because historically people who do stupid things often don’t win Masterchef. Mind you, correlation is not causation, so she decides to stick with the sesame seeds and hope that the judges enjoy dumplings that are bad.
Matt visits Anushka next. Anushka is making Russian dumplings, which she believes are the best way to make people think of Chinatown. I guess her dumplings are reminiscent of the Russo-Chinese border. Matt makes no comment on Anushka’s ethnocentrism.
News Limited columnist Joe Hildebrand is freaking Matt out with his elaborate description of various ingredients. Too many ingredients, Joe. The perfect dumpling has just two ingredients: dough and meat. Anything else is just over-complicating things.
Gary and George, drunk with power, harass Derek. They call him the Dumpling Master, which is a new one: guess they haven’t managed to find a Dessert Queen yet this season. Derek is extremely nervous because he doesn’t feel that he has earned the title of Dumpling Master, especially as he only learned what a dumpling is yesterday afternoon.
“Don’t let get panic get in the way,” says Matt, revelling in their panic and drawing strength from their fear. Anushka is pressed for time: with twenty-five minutes she hasn’t even started her dough. What the hell is wrong with her? “What are you DOING?” George screeches at her. “It’s OK,” says Anushka, but George refuses to accept this: making the dough with twenty-five minutes to go is definitely not OK and Gary will have to hold him back from hurling a pan of boiling grease in Anushka’s face.
Gary calms things down, agreeing with Anushka that it’s OK. It’s apt that it’s Secrets Week, because Anushka has a secret too: she doesn’t actually believe it’s OK. She has another secret: she has lived her entire life in Dandenong and the accent is fake.
Derek has his dough ready and his meat ready, if you know what I mean. Time for him to combine these elements into something vaguely approximating a dumpling. Derek has a secret too: he doesn’t roll his dumpling dough out with a rolling pin, but with a pasta machine. It’s the deepest shame a man can feel, and as he pushes the dough through the machine his cheeks burn with humiliation well earned.
News Limited columnist Joe Hildebrand avers that he really wants to do well today, an interesting change of strategy from him. Gary and George pop over to reassure him, telling him, just between them, that he is at least doing much better than Anushka.
Speaking of Anushka, she’s doing something with vinegar or something.
One of the most important parts of a dumpling is the pleats, and by “most important” I mean “least important”. They don’t matter at all. Who cares what the pleats in your dumpling look like? It’s a dumpling, stick it in your mouth. None of the amateurs are as good at pleating dumplings as Edward was, as you would expect because they are amateurs, so…I mean it’s predictable.
Edward, by the way, has been wandering the streets for almost an hour now, and there are concerns for his wellbeing.
Christina cuts one of her dumplings open. It’s perfect, according to her. No reason to take her word for it, as far as I can see. She puts a fresh salad on top of her dumplings to “garnish”, or in less technical jargon, “ruin” the dish.
Time is up. The amateurs hug, further devaluing the currency of physical affection.
Tati is very happy because her dumplings are good and the sauce is nice. Isn’t that enough? That a woman is happy? No. The judges cannot leave well enough alone. They must judge.
The first dumplings to be tasted are Derek’s. “They look great,” says Gary, gushing like a firehose. The judges all pull gross faces which apparently signify deliciousness. “BOOM!” cries Gary, overexcited and needing a timeout. Derek’s dumplings are fine. George calls them “a punch in the face of flavour”, which tells you a lot about what George considers recreation.
The next dish tasted is Christina’s, the dumplings with ugly seeds in them. Her dumplings have “cinnamon bark” in them. Bark? You shouldn’t put bark in food, surely? Bark is for deer to eat. Gary declares the broth “absolutely cracking”, but notably does not shout “BOOM”, which is bad news for Christina’s chances.
Anushka is next, with her border skirmish dumplings. “Nice pleats,” says Gary, the dirty dog. “I just want the broth,” says George, a man who never did enjoy solid food. The judges can’t stop going on about how great Anushka’s broth is, but don’t say whether her dumplings are any good. Unfortunate.
Next is News Limited columnist Joe Hildebrand. He has made “prawn dumplings with secret dipping sauce”, but he stuffed up: the sauce is not secret at all but is in fact sitting in plain sight in a little bowl. He’ll lose points for dishonesty. “They are really tasty,” says Gary, which comes as very underwhelming after “BOOM”. Joe Hildebrand’s dumplings are clearly a let down.
The last dish tasted is Tati’s. “I’m just hoping that my dumplings really cooked properly,” she says, as usual trusting more to luck than skill. Once again Gary compliments her pleats in a rather bold fashion. The judges examine the dumplings and discover that they are not cooked. They are raw dumplings and they are utterly revolting. Tati must hang her head, having failed herself, her family and her nation.
An ad break is needed to give the judges time to recover from the crushing misery of Tati’s dumplings enough to decide who’s won the mystery box challenge. It is Derek who wins, due to his ability to make Gary scream in climactic ecstasy.
Derek goes to the balcony, having qualified for the immunity challenge and having no need of cooking with the rest of these poor-dumplinged twats. It is now the losers’ turn to engage in an invention test. As it is Secrets Week, the test is to make one of their own culinary secrets. Or to put it another way: cook something they know how to cook.
Steph is nervous about sharing her secret, because she stole it from her mother-in-law and it uses human flesh. Her other secret is that she’s making a vindaloo even though she doesn’t know what that is. She hopes that her dish gives the judges a taste of authentic Goan cuisine, even though it very clearly isn’t that.
Sandeep’s secret is his garamasala and his chutney. He chuckles gleefully to Matt about his multitude of spices. He wishes to remind the judges of India, because sometimes he gets the feeling they forget all about it.
Leah’s secret is strawberries. Just a big old fuckton of strawberries. She says her dish has a “little bit of theatre in it”, which relates to her dream of opening a theatre restaurant, a dream that has officially been declared the worst dream any Masterchef contestant has ever had.
Anushka is making pistachio shortbread with pomegranate and rosewater jelly and pistachio ice-cream: her secret is that she likes making awful garbage. Matt tells her that her dish will be wonderful, for the years have left him jaded and he now yearns for disgusting dishes to help him feel anything at all.
Kyle is making a sorbet hidden by foliage. It’s an intriguing idea, made all the more compelling by its obvious stupidity. He figures it’s a good move for Secrets Week to make something that doesn’t look like a sorbet but is one. He has very little insight into human nature.
Larissa is making kneffa and I don’t know what that is so I’m not going to say very much about it.
Meanwhile Sandeep is mixing up his spices. Deliberately, I mean. He has made his killer chutney, so called because his friends say it is to die for and also because it is fatal to humans. The chutney combines two of the most desirable qualities in food: looking like diarrhoea and causing pain when eaten. After George tastes his chutney and staggers off to find a snowdrift to plunge his head into, Sandeep decides he might need to cool it down a little.
Matt asks Gary what he would choose if he had to pass on one secret. Gary babbles some nonsense about lemon zest, in an attempt to stop Matt from getting closer to the truth about his real secret, the one which he can never tell, the one under whose heavy weight he lives every day.
“Secrets! We love ’em, you love ’em, let’s share them!” Matt yells, weirdly. Always a bad idea to let the judges ad-lib.
Leah is making curd and cheesecake and “strawberry caviar”, so you can see why she’d want to open a theatre restaurant. Sadly, she has messed up her curd, which is too thick and needs to take special classes.
Meanwhile Kyle is making a salad, which takes some bloody nerve. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Sandeep has lit a fire. He is determined that this day, he will burn someone to death.
“There’s some cracking cooking today!” George shouts, with no evidence at all to back his assertion up. Incidentally, Edward has taken shelter in a large bush in a nearby park and is praying for assistance.
Leah is making her strawberry caviar, a difficult and non-existent element that is in fact just little balls of strawberry juice. At no point have her strawberries passed through the reproductive system of a sturgeon, and Leah could get done for false advertising.
Larissa admits she’s taken a big risk, but is hoping that the judges think her kneffa is better than the original. This is a big ask given that the original is her grandmother’s and the judges have never eaten it. In fact if they do think Larissa’s kneffa is better than the original, it’s a real insult to her family.
Time is up, and Leah is devastated because her curd is too thick and her strawberry caviar is rubbish and she is just generally a big disappointment to everyone who knows her.
After some further overuse of the word “cracking”, the judges try Sandeep’s Tandoori style lamb chops, with slightly-less-than-fatal chutney. It’s pretty good, and George says “cracking” for the eightieth time today.
Next up: Steph, who’s made a traditional pork vindaloo and completely redefined the word “traditional”. George makes Sandeep try some. Sandeep likes it. The judges like it. George calls it “ripping” which is similar to “cracking” but more fabric-based.
Next up is Kyle and his dumb salad with the dumb sorbet underneath. It looks awful. It is awful. Kyle is stuffed.
Ben serves his duck pappardelle with Vegemite. It’s fine.
Nicole serves her fig frangipan tart, which has not been mentioned before now. It’s edible.
Time serves his cauliflower salad. Ew. It’s OK apparently.
Tessa serves her little ice-cream pastry things with popping candy. They’re good except for the popping candy which is bad, proving that getting recipe ideas from the Faraway Tree never works.
Abbey serves her sticky date and apple layer cake, the secret of which is black pepper for fuck’s sake. The judges can’t taste the black pepper.
Christina serves her “secret oranges”. Whatever. Matt says, “it’s fun”: might as well have told her to jump in a lake.
Having gotten the quick, boring dishes out of the way, Larissa now steps up with her kneffa, the secret of which is using cornflakes for the crumb. A lame secret, but a very good dish. If you take the judges’ word for it. George says it’s better than the classic kneffa, spitting in the face of an ancient culture in his funny way.
Leah steps up with her terrible failed strawberry caviar lumpy curd trash fire. She explains what the dish should’ve been. Sadly the judges can only taste what it actually is: eggy curd and flavourless jelly squelches. Leah is devastated, but her dish is definitely good enough for Witches In Britches.
Anushka serves her insane concoction of pistachio and pomegranate and etc. The judges find it bland and tasteless. Anushka apologises, but there’s no need: the judges actually enjoy insulting people.
Tati is the last to serve. She has made sour chicken curry, a dish that sounds like it was deliberately designed to taste bad. It is served inside enormous leaves, which is stupid because there are bowls available right there in the kitchen. She’s allowed to use them. The curry is good though.
The best amateurs were Tati, Larissa and Sandeep. They will join Derek in the immunity challenge, where we will once again learn either why professional chefs are professional chefs, or that being a professional chef is very easy.
The worst amateurs, to go into elimination tomorrow, are Anushka, Leah and Kyle. They are marked forever as failures, to be stripped of their very humanity as punishment for their impertinence in attempting to disguise their inadequacy.
Tune in tomorrow, when the secret of who sucks the most is revealed.
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