Saturday, July 30, 2016

A RUDE WAKE-UP CALL! WHO WAS I KIDDING?



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.

41 comments:

  1. You don't know how to cook? Who are you kidding on! I would pull up to your table in a heartbeat!

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    1. Thank you, oh, Cranky One! And you'd be most welcome, too. A good time would be had! :)

      And thanks for coming by. :)

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  2. I watch many of those shows in complete awe. And have an attack of the inadequacies to follow.
    I prefer the Great British Bakeoff to Master Chef, but there too there is talent, kindness and good people.

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    1. Hi there, EC...I've not seen the show to which you prefer...but I'll stick with our Aussie show...they've got me a loyal fan in me. lol

      Thanks for popping in. :0

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  3. Oh Lee, I am sure we were all in awe of the creativity and skill exhibited in this season's MC. You can still cook, but like me you just don't have people to appreciate your talent these days. My sister reminded me this last week how much I love cooking for other people. And believe me, I have no where near your talent to do it for a living like you did. I don't think I would like to do the long hours and work under the pressure of a commercial kitchen. Marco is always a delight on the show. And the number of steps in some of those challenges was just ridiculous. My only complaint this season was when they brought Theresa back ~ I felt there was more to that story and she lasted too long in my opinion. But in the end, I agree, Go the Queenslanders.

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    1. Hey Carol...I love the dedication; the want to do well. The hearts of the contestants are in what they're doing...it's almost palpable.

      I liked Theresa...and I do love her voice; the way she speaks. She has dulcet tones. She has a a lovely smooth, deepness to her voice. Her being brought back didn't upset me...she showed her worth upon her return, I thought...but that's just my opinion.

      Some of the challenges certainly were challenging, to say the least!
      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  4. MC is strangely addictive - I and think the right person one!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

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    1. Hi Stewart...I agree, MC is addictive. It's a quality, well-produced show.

      I like both Matt and Elena. I liked all this season's contestants. There were some very good cooks amongst them.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  5. I gave up watching MC when it became more theatre and less instructional. The things they do do not repay the effort in the eating. Better a good cheese omelette and a glass of wine. I could have it on the table before they had got their ingredients together.

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    1. Hi Cosmo...it's a shame you didn't watch this season...your opinion might have altered...who knows?

      Nice to see you...thanks for coming by. :)

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  6. Of course we have "Master Chef" on British TV too. One of the lead judges is an Australian chef called John Torode. We also have "Celebrity Master Chef" which I steer clear of. I get sick and tired of celebrities muscling in on shows that were at first intended to feature ordinary members of the public.

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    1. Hey there, Yorkie. MC did originate in Britain. We asked permission if we could run our own version and without delay or argument we were give permission to do so.

      Torode is probably better known in the UK nowadays than he is here. He left Aus when he was in his mid-twenties to try his knives in Britain...and succeeded!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Once upon a time, you cooked what was appropriate for the time, you cooked good food that people enjoyed. If you hadn't cooked well, your health shop and resort ventures would have failed in week one.If these Master Chef recipes were around back then, I'm sure you would have had a go at them and succeeded.
    I don't watch the show, to me, what they cook isn't family friendly, simple food. It's too exotic. A dessert egg that has one hundred steps to create? That's not cooking, that's showcasing.
    Don't belittle the great work you did.

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    1. Hi River...Thanks for your kindswords. I wasn't belittling what I once used to do.

      If I was younger than I am now I'd love to try some of what was produced on the the show this year. I'd love to learn...to be of the age that I could dive in and do it all over again. Now I'm a spectator who enjoys watching...and being awed by what is being made. Not everything they cook is not "family-friendly". It's the combinations of flavours, textures...the use of imagination...how to put this with that and that with this...doing things we'd otherwise not think about doing. I find it interesting; but then I've always been a bit of a voyeur when it comes to food preparation and presentation. Old habits are hard to break - even if I no longer go to such extremes...other than the extreme of cooking just for me these days, unless on very rare occasions. :)

      The egg dessert is brilliant...absolutely brilliant...an art piece...and most delicious from all accounts. It's actually based on a recipe from the 1700s.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  9. My oldest grandson invented some scary recipes from a young age. We all dreaded having to sample his concoctions. However the television cooking shows helped level him out and gave him proper direction to becoming a Chef. You would be proud of him Chef Lee:-)

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    1. That he had the desire, will and imagination at a young age is something wonderful, Annie...something to be encouraged. How wonderful for him...your tale brings a smile to my face. Especially hearing he went on to fulfilling his dreams. Good for him! :)

      Thanks for coming by, Annie. :0

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  10. I loved MasterChef too and we are lost without our nightly fix of cooking challenges but this type of high end cooking and plating up and it's consequent cost is far out of the reach of most of us.........and the size of the servings would have most of us calling into Maccas on the way home. I mean George, Matt and Gary usually had to scoff two entrees, two mains and two desserts didn't they ? I bet no one left your table hungry Lee ? ??

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    1. Hey, Helsie...but George, Matt and Gary had a lot of dishes to taste during each challenge etc., too...so it be impossible for them to eat a huge serve each tasting. And, of course, by the time they got to some of the dishes the food was cold. They admit that.

      Looking at the wonderful array of meats, poultry, fish, crustaceans, vegetables, fruit etc. in the pantries was breathtaking. I'd love to have been let loose in there!

      No, Helsie no one ever has left my table hungry! lol

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  11. I'm no fancy cook but can scramble up a good meal when every one I live with thinks there's nothing to eat in the house. I was raised to cook with what you have and have many different ways to do it. No one has turned away a plate.

    Glad you enjoyed Andrew's playing. He is completely self taught and plays by ear or by watching someone.

    Thanks and have a wonderful week.

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    1. Hi Gail...I was brought up in a household that didn't have a lot of money, but it was a household where there was always food in the ice chest, cupboards and on the table. Our Nana did 99% of the cooking...and she was a great cook. My interesting in cooking first began from watching her cook and learning from her. My brother was a good cook, too. Nana was an eager teacher.

      Thanks for coming by...and yes, Andrew is great! :)

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  12. Cooking, it's what wimmen were made for.

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    1. I don't know, Mr. Ad-Man...your'e telling the story...perhaps you should tell that to Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White and their mates of the same gender.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  13. I'll try to forget who won when that series eventually reaches us here over the ditch. I wonder if my opinion of Nigella Lawson will change? She came here to do a couple of Whittakers chocolate ads and has failed to impress me, almost turned me off choc. MC is my favourite of the cooking shows, I think it maintains a friendly atmosphere that is lacking in some other shows. It would never dawn on me to attempt any of those dishes, though! I'm not much of a foodie and very much a plain cook.

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    1. Hi Pauline...sorry...my intention wasn't to spoil it for you. I didn't know you got our show over your way, across the ditch.

      I'm never been a Nigella fan, either. She always been too much of poser/poseur for my liking. I'm not keen on posers, no matter who they are or what they do - from any walks of life. But, in saying that, I did like her during her guest appearance on this season's show. She was more down to earth than she usually comes across as being.

      Some of the dishes produced certainly are masterpieces, of that there is no doubt, but some could be easily replicated in a home kitchen if one was that way inclined. Once upon a time I would've had that inclination, but not these days. As I wrote...those days a gone for me. However, I'm still interested in reading about and seeing such cooking. It's a lifelong interest.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  14. I love Nigella Lawson and her recipes. She makes everything look so great.

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    1. G'Day Sherlyn...yes, she has done well our of her love of cooking.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  15. We can get hooked on these cooking shows, can't we. My favorite is Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. I have made many of her recipes and most have turned out very well. She also seems like a very lovely lady.

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  16. Hi Arleen....I don't know a lot about Ina Garten. We didn't get her cooking programme "Barefoot Contessa" down this way, and not much other information, either...not that I'm aware of, anyway.

    Thanks for coming by...I hope all is well. :)

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  17. Am wondering whether Australia has its own version of The Great British Baking Championship. We're watching weekly just now. It's also a very civilized affair with bakers helping eachother and no sniping or whining. Well, maybe just a little whining.

    Vegemite. Oh please no. I still have nightmares of the Marmite I put on my toast in Scotland. I did see an article in USA Today that said Vegemite/Marmite divides those who like it and don't quite clearly.

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    1. Hi Dave...yes, we have had similar. We have a great new one being debuted after the Olympics are over...hosted by one of our brilliant p√Ętissiers, Adriano Zumbo...it's called "Zumbo's Just Desserts". He does some wonderful creations. Adriano is being joined by Rachel Khoo, an acclaimed British chef. She appeared on another of our cooking show/competitions called "My Kitchen Rules". I like that show, too. And I'm looking forward to Zumbo's show...it should be great. He's been a guest chef on MC often.

      Vegemite is an acquired taste for those not from here. We Aussies were/are brought up on it. I love it. The error most newcomers to the spread trying it for the first time or times is they put it on far too thickly.

      It's nice to see you, Dave...thanks for coming by. :)

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  18. I love competitive cooking shows, too. We have Top Chef here and sometimes Top Chef Masters. I always admire the way these chefs handle the pressure of creating dishes on the fly.

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    1. Hi Lynn, They are awe-inspiring. Often I discover I've tensed up and memories flood back rekindling the pressures that are felt in the middle of service when you have a restaurant filled with hungry diners and you're racing against the clock to satisfy their desires. You want to put out the best food you can. and please everyone who's walked through the door and have seated themselves at the tables. It's an interesting game!

      The shows are entertaining...and there is much to be learned from them...better than surviving on take-aways!

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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  19. There is ALWAYS someone out there who can make us feel inferior. YOU, my dear, are a COOK. They are CHEFS. And I'd much rather eat a meal made by a cook than a chef!!! Avocado out the butt is NOT what I consider a meal.

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    1. Hi lj....the cooks competing on MC are cooks, not chefs...and they were brilliant...each and every one of them. A joy to watch.

      We have many avocados growing here on Tamborine Mountain...and many trees grow on the property upon which I live. I do enjoy avo mashed up on toast or fresh bread...with a good sprinkling of salt and freshly-ground pepper. I do like sliced tomato on top sometimes also...with curry powder sprinkled over. Avocados are very good for us. I have cravings for them as I have at present, and then I can not have any for ages. At the moment they are just what I feel like eating...so I'm making the most of them.

      Thanks for coming by. :)

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    2. Ah. Just the person I need to ask: Both my sisters ADORE avocados. Me? I find them tasteless and with an obscene greasy feel. Is it a learned taste? An inherited taste? Or is there something magical to do to them?

      Tom Selleck has an avocado ranch and he says he can't stand to eat them either. lol

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    3. I think avos are an acquired taste for many, lj. I can go for ages not wanting them...and then, like now...I have a mild craving for them.

      For me...my taste...I need a good amount of salt and cracked black pepper on them when I mash them on toast or bread etc..and as I said above I also sometimes add sliced tomatoes on top...and sprinkle over curry powder. I love them like that. They're also great sliced or chopped, added to tossed, mixed salads...and, of course, guacamole. To me, avos need that spicy boost...that's how I enjoy them, anyway.

      They are very good for us...and the oil which you call "Obscene greasy feel" is an extremely healthy oil/fat. An avocado is 75? fat/oil....but good oil that is important to our needs. For those allergic to dairy (fortunately, I'm not one of those) a spread similar to butter made from avocado oil is an excellent substitute.

      A pointer...if you're buying avocados and want to test if they are ripe (avocados do not ripen on the tree)...when you pick them up...just press them lightly...each end with your forefinger and thumb...only press lightly so as not to bruise them. If you buy them unripened...and that's probably the best way to go if you're not in a raging hurry to eat them....keep them near bananas and out of bright light (not in a dark cupboard, but you can if you like, I suppose). For whatever reason, bananas help in speeding up the ripening process. Actually, it gives you some control over the process.

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    4. And a bit more, Dana....

      If you do cook them as in the recipe above (when we had the restaurant in Noosa back in the early 80s we used to serve half avos filled with prawns cooked in the oven)...never cook them for long....if you do cook them over-long they will be inedible...they gain a metallic taste...sort of an aluminum taste; not pleasant.

      There must be something in them that my system has been crying out for lately...because lately I've not had much of an appetite and avocados seem to be fitting the bill!

      Thanks for coming by again. :)

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    5. Salt.
      Lots of pepper.
      nibble.
      discard.
      GOT IT! xoxo

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    6. It matters not in the whole scheme of things whether you like avos or not, Dana...if you don't like them, don't eat them! It's as simple as that! :)

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    7. But now I want an avocado cake!

      (It took me forever to almost like guacamole.)

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