Last night’s MasterChef consisted of two parts – a happy team of eight Finalists driven to the home in the Karoo of cookbook writer Syddah Essop, and a nervous looking team of three Finalists who had to cook in the Pressure Test without electricity, which saw Ndumiso Mncwabe leaving the MasterChef SA kitchen.
The team met Syddah Essop, writer of ‘Karoo Kitchen‘, and she shared her knowledge about Karoo Cuisine with the Finalists. Syddah grew up in Beaufort West, in the heart of the Karoo. She traveled from farm to farm in the area with her father, who sought to protect the rights of farmers. In this way she learnt a lot about the Karoo locals and their food. It took her three years to compile ‘Karoo Kitchen’, as a salute to the culture and heritage of the Karoo. The cookbook contains a diversity of local dishes, including standards such as melktert, rusks, Karoo lamb, and even sheep’s head! The cookbook has received acclaim for documenting the Karoo cooking culture and heritage. Syddah prepared a table full of Karoo delights for the Finalists.
After the demonstration by Syddah, Abigail Mbalo said that she felt empowered having attended, and Syddah’s cooking reminding her of her mother. She learnt that one should ‘keep it simple‘. Ian Young said it was a great opportunity to meet Syddah, and that she was an inspiration. Syddah cooks from the heart, he said, and they were taught amazing things. Penny Fitchet enjoyed the team’s reward of meeting Syddah, and she learnt how to ‘blend flavours as well as methods‘. Roxi Wardman said Karoo cooking is family orientated cooking of wholesome meals. She learnt that ‘simple is good’, as is ‘cooking from the heart‘.
Watched by the happy team of Finalists from the Gallery, the three Pressure Test candidates Claire Allen, Sipho Mdlankomo, and Ndumiso did not look happy at all, and even less so when they were introduced to Chef Niklas Ekstedt, who owns Ekstedt restaurant in Stockholm. He previously worked at Charlie Trotter in Chicago, and top restaurants The Fat Duck, and elBulli. He challenged the Pressure Test contestants with a dish prepared without a stove, using ‘open flame cooking’ instead! Chef Niklas has two other restaurants, but at Ekstedt he celebrates his Scandinavian roots through food. It is unusual, in having no electricity other than for heating and cooling, and refrigeration, all the food being cooked over a fire pit, which is described as a ‘stone-age microwave‘! He said: ‘My entire life I have been so fascinated with fire and cooking over open fire … ‘ and to ‘cook everything over an open fire. It’s an old ancient Scandinavian cooking technique’. In addition to running his restaurants, he has published four cookbooks already, has appeared in a number of Swedish TV cooking programs, and has his own TV food show ‘Mat’. While focused on heritage food from his region, Chef Niklas has studied Spanish and French cuisine too.
Sipho said that she wants to win MasterChef SA, but that going into the Pressure Test ‘is a wake-up call‘. Chef Niklas set Claire, Sipho, and Ndumiso (his second Pressure Test) the challenge to prepare his complicated dish of Charred langoustine with lightly smoked avocado, tomato concassé, and dill, in 45 minutes, using an open fire. Chef Niklas said: ‘The most difficult thing when cooking with open fire, or coals, as we’re doing today, is that you really need to cook … You can only rely on yourself. And you have to be focusing on the temperature as well as your ingredients and your cooking’.
Chef Niklas helped Claire fire up her ‘cooker’ by blowing it. She said her dish would have been better had she just had ten minutes more time. Chef Niklas was honest in saying that he would not serve Claire’s dish to his guests, but thought that she would become a great chef one day. Sipho tried her best to not be nervous, and she had no need to be, her broth praised by the judges. Chef Niklas praised her for her ability to cook, and said that she just needs to learn to become a chef. Ndumiso tried to stick to the recipe provided, carefully measuring the ingredient quantities, having expressed his weakness of not liking to follow recipes exactly. He said that his dish told a ‘struggle story‘. He deviated from the dish Chef Niklas created in some instances, and therefore the judges with Chef Niklas decided that Ndumiso had to leave the MasterChef SA kitchen. Many comments on Twitter related to the episode having similarities to The Ultimate Braai Master (and its relevance for Heritage Day the day before) and The Apprentice! The question was also asked at what level further challenges will be, if they are so tough already.
At the end of the episode the Finalists drew fortune cookies. Penny and Philippa Robinson won the cookies with ‘captain‘ in them, and will head up two teams of five for the team challenge in episode 7.
For an overview of MasterChef Season 3 read here, and read here too. For a summary of episode 1 of Season 3 at Bootcamp 1 read here, and of episode 2 read here. The summary of episode 3 can be read here. Read about Roxi’s trip to Dublin and Thornton’s Restaurant, and the first Pressure Test in episode 4 here. Read about the Carrot Dessert Invention Test in episode 5 here.
For the Twitter handles of the Top 12 finalists, click here.
PLEASE NOTE: The weekly WhaleTales Sweet & Sour Service Awards, usually posted on Fridays, will be posted on Saturdays until late December, to allow the write-ups of each of the 18 episodes of MasterChef SA Season 3 to be posted the day after the episode.
MasterChef SA Season 3, M-Net. www.masterchefsa.dstv.co.za Twitter: @MasterChef_SA Thursdays at 19h30.