The seventh episode of MasterChef South Africa last night saw the first out-of-studio cooking action since the Finalists came to Nederburg, visiting the SA Navy ship SAS Amatola in Simonstown, mass cooking for the crew of 100. The Blue Team won by a close shave, and the Red Team collectively had to go into the ‘Pressure Test’ back at Nederburg, cooking a whole pig, each team member preparing a different part of it. Finalist Mmutsi Maseko was sent home when her pork cheek dish did not meet the judges’ approval.
A SA Navy representative said that the meal requirement is that the food be tasty and nutritional, prepared according to a meal plan and calorie count. The meal must be balanced, and the food must add to the morale of the crew. Curry dish kings from the previous episode, Deena Naidoo and Thys Hattingh, were allowed to choose their Blue and Red teams for this challenge, respectively, and Deena chose Samatha Nolan, Sarel Loots, Jade de Waal, Manisha Naidu, Brandon Law, and Khaya Silingile. The rest of the Finalists were chosen by Thys. The teams were given the brief to prepare a meal with a protein, one vegetable, and one starch within 90 minutes. Cooking conditions were less than favourable, the ships’ galley being too small to comfortably accommodate the MasterChef cooks. Samantha was firmly in charge of the Blue team, even though Deena was the team leader, and she chose to make fried chicken, which had first been marinaded, and then covered in batter and deep fried, served with a rustic potato salad and broccoli. She confidently told a judge that she had made this dish many times before, showing once again that there is little that can rattle her, while Deena fetched ingredients that were required by his team. The potatoes were not as well cooked as they should have been, so they were cut into smaller pieces and the water was reduced by Khaya. Thys’ Red team made lamb chops with carrots julienne and potatoes, and he instructed his team to make sure that each dish was tasted before serving, as the Finalists have been taught in previous episodes. The navy crew came back for seconds and more, loving both teams’ food, and had to each ring a bell in voting for their favourite dish. It was a neck-to-neck contest, the Blue Team getting to the majority vote of 51 first. One of the Finalists asked how it was possible for a crewman to vote for chicken when he had eaten 5 lamb chops!
Back in the Nederburg MasterChef SA kitchen, the losing Red team was told that the team is only as strong as its weakest link. The team members had to rank each other by placing a photograph of each into seven boxes, in front of the rest of the team, forcing an honesty from the Finalists that did not make all of them feel comfortable. Guy Clark had no shame in voting himself first, saying classically that ‘this is MasterChef, and not Master Best Friend’! On the basis of the rankings, the seven Finalists were allowed to choose one each of seven pork parts, some of the Finalists visibly shuddering at what they saw. Sue-Ann Allen chose first, having the highest ranking, taking the pork loin, being told that it should not be over-cooked. Thys chose the pork belly, one of the most popular dishes in restaurants. Guy looked for a challenge, and chose the pig’s ear, which he was told by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood ‘has to be braised to get it soft and gelatinous’. Ilse Fourie chose the pork shoulder (right), being lean and fat, and was told that it must be cooked for long enough. Lungile Nhlanhla chose the tail, deciding to make a stew of it, reminding her of cooking chicken neck, slow cooking being required. Babalwa Baartman chose the trotter, reminding her of her mother’s cooking at home. Poor Mmutsi Maseko had no choice, being the last ranked, and had to prepare the pork cheek.
During the 90 minutes that the Red team members had to prepare their pork dishes, the judges came up with pig-related phrases (‘bellyful’, ‘rub shoulders’, ‘trot over the finish line’, and more), which were felt to be corny, judging by the reaction on Twitter. The judges praised the ‘wonderful smell’ of the dishes cooking, saying that they looked forward to tasting them.
Sue-Ann felt confident about her pork loin dish (left), to which she added apple and a honey and mustard sauce, saying that she had thoroughly enjoyed cooking the dish, and once again had realised that she belongs in the kitchen. The judges were less impressed, saying that she had ‘killed it’, despite having chosen the best pork cut, in that it was very dry. Mmutsi decided to turn her grilled pork cheek into Dim Sum, something she had never made before, having been inspired about the dish in seeing it on TV, which elicited a cheeky response from Chef Andrew Atkinson! He judged the pastry to be too thick, and the cooking time to have been too short, there still being too much fat, one mainly tasting the fat and oil. Thys braised the pork belly in a red wine sauce, which Chef Pete sounded like ‘Glühwein’ from its ingredient list! He wanted it to ‘take one to Sunday’, and he succeeded, according to the judges. Ilse had added mash, and a citrus, cherry and star anise sauce, to her pork shoulder dish. Having only received accolades up to now, she must have been disappointed by Chef Pete’s initial feedback that her plating looked very brown, but after tasting the dish he judged it to be the ‘hero of the afternoon’. Guy said that he had never prepared pork ear before, but had once seen a recipe for it, flavouring it and deep-frying it, preparing it whole (right). Chef Pete said it had been an ‘adventurous choice’, but he was not that happy with it, saying that it had not been cooked properly and was very ‘chewy’. Lungili was proud of her dish, saying that the pork tail meat was falling off the bone, as she wanted it. Chef Benny Masekwameng could not wait to taste it, saying she had prepared a big platter, having brought chakalaka into her pork tail dish. Chef Benny was beaming after tasting it, volunteering to be the man her mother is looking for for her, to much laughter and applause! Babalwa’s trotter dish was judged to be a ‘good attempt’ by Chef Benny.
Ilse and Lungile were judged to have made the best pork dishes. The two worst dishes were those by Mmutsi and Sue-Ann, and in the end it was Mmutsi that was sent home, given that she had landed in the ‘Pressure Test’ twice before. She was sent home with the comforting words that she is a winner to herself and her family, and she said that she is leaving ‘better prepared’ and ‘as a more confident cook’.
Interesting was the debate on Twitter after the show about MasterChef SA discriminating against Jewish and Muslim contestants, in having allocated so much time to pork preparation last night.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage