|Matt Sinclair (Runner-Up) and Elena Duggan 2016 Winner.|
|One of the desserts the contestants had to replicate during this season.|
|Heston Blumenthal's "Verjus Egg" (Don't be fooled by the simplicity of appearance - appearances can fool)!|
I’ve watched and enjoyed every season of MasterChef since its conception in April, 2009. MC remains one of my favourite TV shows. From the first words uttered by host judges, Gary, George and Matt I’ve been captivated. And, I must admit, when Marco Pierre White makes his guest appearance my heart rate goes up a few notches!
My goodness! I even got to like Nigella Lawson after her appearance as a guest judge on this season’s show! Wonders will never cease!
Seven years ago Julie Godwin deservedly earned the crown, making her the first winner of the expertly-produced show. Both Goodwin and runner-up Poh Ling Yeow remain familiar names and faces; as are other from previous years.
This season’s worthy winner, Elena, and second place-getter Matt, both held me in thrall from the first episode through to the Grand Final. All the contestants in this season did. It was wonderful watching each and every one of them grow in confidence and expertise. Every one of them showed great promise. I'm sure bright futures lay in store for them.
This year the kitchen was filled with exceptional talent who were willing to learn and experiment. Watching the cooks test themselves to the limits and beyond - watching them grow in each cook - was inspiring. And it gave me a rude wake-up call! Who was I trying to kid all those years I cooked in restaurants etc? From now on I’ll take my place at the tuck-shop call-up...even they mightn’t think I’m worthy!
That the last four who reached the quarter finals were Queenslanders wasn’t the only reason keeping me glued to the screen (nor were my jam-covered fingers. The bakery’s jam-filled doughnuts are a trap for the weak-willed. I don’t deny I’m weak of will when it comes to the goodies on offer at the North Tamborine Bakery).
The Grand Finale telecast last Tuesday evening was extremely entertaining. It held my attention from beginning to end, as I’m sure it did many other viewers.
Second-place getter, Matt Sinclair, although born in Sydney, sensibly followed his parents to Noosa a number of years ago. That’d be a no-brainer; an easy decision to make. Elena Duggan, this year’s title-holder grew up in Noosa – a fantastic place to spend one’s childhood and early teenage years. Elena and Matt make one proud to be a Queenslander – but then, I’m always a proud Queenslander – born and bred.
MasterChef 2016 overflowed with adventurous amateur cooks. Each of the contestants had a good attitude. They were a pleasure to watch. There was no cattiness, back-biting, tearing-down or nastiness; no cynicism, envy or bad manners like that shown in many other reality shows. Respectful fair play between the contestants and genuine liking for one another were on constant display. Similar behaviour applied to the judges. Manners never go astray, no matter what the situation. In a world seemingly filled with people who gain pleasure from tearing others down MasterChef is a breath of fresh air.
Over the years many clever cooks have passed through the show, not allowing anything to deter them; showing their brilliance and imagination; testing their skills, and, often, forging forth, not knowing if they had the skills or not. In almost every case the contestants proved they did, or at least had the guts to try. Nothing ventured, nothing gained; nothing learned.
On the road to fulfilling their dreams they refused defeat, not recognising the word.
Throughout this season just finished, and all before, the contestants have been generously guided by the judges and the show’s guest chefs.
The Grand Final was suspenseful, particularly after Heston Blumenthal arrived bearing his dessert “Verjus in Egg” dessert!
Egg? An “Egg?” An egg like I’ve never seen before! When I saw the “Egg” I almost headed for the hills never to be seen again! One hundred steps to complete the “Egg”!! It’s a recipe far too complex and long to include here in my post. It’s enough to scramble the most brilliant and inquisitive of minds! I’m sure none of you will be replicating Heston’s recipe, anyway. I know for certain I won’t be!
Halfway through watching Matt and Elena re-creating Heston’s creation I realised my mouth was agape and I wasn’t breathing; and hadn't been for quite some time.
I experienced a variety of emotions during the Grand Final (as well as in previous episodes). I laughed. I smiled. Unashamedly, I shed some tears. I was tense. I was in awe; and, at times, overcome by pangs of hunger.
Once upon a time I believed I was a good cook. Once upon a time I cooked professionally. I earned my living by cooking for a demanding public. Once upon a time I frequently hosted dinner parties and luncheons at home to be shared and enjoyed with friends - once upon a time. That was then; this is now.
Through MasterChef I’ve discovered – I’ve been rudely woken up to the fact - I have no idea how to cook!
From this day forth I’m going to stick to grilled cheese sandwiches and Vegemite on toast. I’ll lash out on Sundays with avocado mashed liberally over a bagel.
Avocado Baked Egg: Preheat oven 218C. Halve and pit avocado; scoop out a bit of flesh from centre of each half. Lightly season; crack 1 egg into each half; place into small ramekins; bake 20-25mins. Remove from oven; drizzle with Tabasco or Sriracha sauce; season; sprinkle over chopped fresh herbs and/or chives/shallots. Eat as is, or spread on toast.
Tomato, Avo & Vegemite Grilled Cheese Sandwich: Butter 1 side of 1 slice of grain bread; place butter side down on hot grill or skillet; place cheese on top. While this toasts and cheese melts, butter both sides of another bread slice; spread Vegemite on one side; lay tomato slices on top; then add avocado slices on top; place the melted cheese piece of toast on top; then lay uncooked half on skillet to toast.
Balsamic Blueberry Grilled Cheese Sandwich: In saucepan on med-heat, combine 1/2c fresh or frozen blueberries, 1-1/2tbs brown sugar and 1tbs balsamic; bring to slow boil. Crush berries as you stir with spoon; after 5-6mins, strain to separate syrup from berries. Save syrup for another use. Spread blueberries onto 1 slice of sourdough; top with Havarti, Mozzarella, Swiss, Gouda or a combination of all, some fresh spinach or rocket, then more cheese. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper; Top with another slice of sourdough; toast both sides of bread.
Egg & Salmon Bagels: Whisk 6 room temp eggs, 1/3c milk and 2tbs finely chopped chives together; set aside. Toast 4 plain, split bagels. Heat non-stick pan over med-heat; add 2tbs butter; melt, swirling to cover pan base. Add egg mixture; cook, not stirring, 30secs. Gently push eggs around pan every 15secs until soft folds form and one quarter mixture is unset. Remove from heat; gently fold mixture once more. Spread toasted bagels with cream cheese; top with smoked salmon and eggs; season; serve with lemon wedges.