by Cookie McBookie
My rating: 4 stars (5 stars for fans of the show)
I love love love the MasterChef TV show.
Really any show where fat people rule the school has got my full attention.
The butter boys – Gary, George and Matt
The butter boys have carbo coma
Therefore the MasterChef cookbook was a must for me. The judges salivated and raved about a lot of the dishes so I was dying to create some at home. However, I was super worried that the recipes would not be well drafted in the book.
Think about it. The contestants endure full body contact to get what they want in the tv pantry. They grab a whole lot of stuff and usually forget some essential ingredient… eg curry for the … curry.
After they grab the “stuff” they chop, mince, stir and cook it. I am sure no one is taking any measurements nor paying any attention to what is going into the final product. In fact I am sure a lot of sweat drops and popped acne fell onto some of the plates.
So I am hoping that the MasterChef team took a slo-mo look at what the chefs were doing; scribed every step AND put all the recipes through a test kitchen.
So what to test in this book???. My friends wanted me to make Zumbo’s syphillic penis tower.
The recipe is hugely complicated and would require me buying stuff that I know would never be used again eg beetroot powder and giant styrofoam penis mould.
Also it looks fricking ugly. Red and Purple!!! Me thinks Zumbo is not a gay man. It also sounds like it would taste gross – Red macaroons with beetroot and raspberry filling, Purple macaroons with an olive (yes olive) filling??!!
I was also asked to make Aaron’s ravioli dish – the one where Matt Preston smashed the plate and said “that was disgustingly good” and dramatically hid an extra ravioli under his leftside jowl.
Problem is that I can’t find fricking chipotle chilli paste. Plus I must confess I was not an Aaron fan. I kept thinking how much his beanie must stink after all the sweating he did in that kitchen. Ooooh stinky stinky I can smell it even now!!!
So the best option for me was Alvin’s (I love a hot Gay-sian) Caramelised Pork Belly with Chilli Vinegar. Note check out Alvin’s blog here (note 2, Callum is still blog-less).
On the show, Gary looked almost giddy when he popped this pig in his mouth. It won the Seven Deadly Sins challenge for Alvin and got him back into the game. A slightly different version of the recipe is on the MasterChef website here.
I also thought I should try a dessert or baking recipe as measurements are critical for these kind of dishes. So I chose Callum’s Chocolate Fondant with Orange Date Ice-Cream. Throughout the show, the judges carried on and on about the necessary molten wobble of a perfect fondant. Callum’s recipe better get it right. I picked this recipe because it also includes baking a tuile biscuit and making an icecream. Those elements plus a fondant require different skills and I hope that comes across in the one page recipe.
To get in the spirit of things, I wore a unsterilised beanie, white glasses and cried at the word “Mummy” and “dream…”.
Let the games begin.
CARAMELISED PORK BELLY WITH CHILLI VINEGAR by Alvin
A slightly different version of the recipe is on the MasterChef website here. Thank god – this saves me from typing the whole thing out for you guys.
1. After the belly comes out of the braise, Alvin says cut it up once its cooled down.
TIP: Slicing is much easier once the meat is fully rested and chilled. Cutting up the belly with the fat and juices running out of it may put you off eating it later.
Tip: aim for 1.5cm x 1.cm in size
2. Once diced you have to deep fry the pieces until golden brown.
I ALMOST FEARED FOR MY LIFE. There was so much spattering and vesuvius type sounds I had to use the saucepan lid as a shield. I had to wear a teatowel on my face and looked like Phantom of the Opera.
TIP: Buy a proper fryer you tight arse.
TIP: Get someone else to do this part.
TIP: Let the pork get to room temperature and dab with paper towel to minimise oil explosions.
3. Next is the caramel. It says to melt and dry caramelize the brown sugar and then carefully add the liquid. BUT when I put in the liquid suddenly the sugar turned into shards of toffee and I had to spend time scraping it off the bottom of the bowl. Not sure what caramelising means…
4. Throw fried pork pieces into caramel.
End result below.
This dish tasted good when it was first out of the pot. An hour later though, the pork had really started to dry out. This doesn’t normally happen with roasted pork belly so I don’t know what went wrong here. Overall very tasty, a bit overly sweet, and a bit exhausting to make without a fryer or safety shield. Minor gripes though as three of us ate the whole thing in one siting.
CHOCOLATE FONDANT WITH ORANGE DATE ICE-CREAM by Callum
I have only made custard once in my life – it was lumpy and used to make an icy crunchy ice-cream. I hope I can do the recipe justice.
Orange Date Ice-Cream (adapted from MasterChef 2)
- 6 egg yolks
- 75 g (1/3 cup) caster sugar
- 300 ml pouring cream
- 250 ml milk
- 2 oranges, zested
- 1 tbs dried orange peel
- 20 g pitted dates diced
Whisk yolks and sugar till thick and pale. Put cream milk, zest, peel in s/pan and bring just to the boil. Remove from heat and pour into the yolk mixture whisking continuously. Pour back into s/pan and stir over low heat for 5 min or until custard coats the back of a spoon. Strain into a bol over a bowl of ice and stir for 2 mins to cool. Transfer to an ice cream maker and churn for 15 mins. Add the dates and churn for further 15 mins until smooth and frozen. Freeze for 2 hours or till firm.
The recipe doesn’s say what type of oranges – so I got one navel and one valencia. Also the only dried peel I could find was dried mandarin. To quote from my Asian shoppie Minh “when they ask me for orange, I just give dem dis : ) ”
I tried really really hard but the custard still went lumpy : (
But the icecream churner seemed to work most of it out.
TIP: The recipe asks for 20 g of dates – this is like 2 dates. Rather than buy a half kilo pack you will never eat, go to eg Victoria market where you can buy dates loose.
SESAME TUILE BISCUITS (adapted from MasterChef 2)
- 50g unsalted butter, melted, cooled
- 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
- 50 ml egg whites
- 50 g (1/3 cup) plain flour
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
Preheat oven to 170C and line tray with baking paper. Mix butter and sugar in bowl, stir in egg whites. Fold in flour. Spread mixture paper thin onto tray to make 25 x 35 cm rectangle and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 5 mins or until golden. Work quickly, use a 5 cm cutter to cut out 16 biscuits. Cool on tray. Store in airtight container till required.
TIP: The recipe doesn’t say this but you have to make the butter room temperature. Its an agonizing wait.
Strangely mine took 20 mins to change colour and not the prescribed 5.
Once out of the oven the sheet turns hard almost instantly so cutting out the tuiles was not that easy.
Instead of 16 I ended up with 10 usable tuiles and a whole lot of carnage.
Confession: Rather than put out the cash for a 5 cm cutter, I used the bottom end of a 6 cm mould. I think a real cutter may have been a bit more successful.
- 200 g dark couveture chocolate chopped
- 165 g unsalted butter chopped
- 4 eggs
- 4 egg yolks
- 110 g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
- 100g (2/3 cup) plain flour sifted
Line large heavy oven tray with baking paper. Grease nine 6cm ring moulds with butter. Line with baking paper. Put one mould on a separate tray to test cooking time.
Fill a saucepan one third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Place choc and butter in heatproof bowl over pan and stir until melted. Beat eggs, yolks, sugar with electric mixer till think and pale. Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the chocolate to loosen, then fold all choc mixture into egg mixture in 2 batches. Gently fold in flour in 2 batches. Pour into the ring moulds. Refrigerate for at least 45 mins or until required.
Yeah its mostly made of butter and chocolate.
TIP: It was a total pain in the arse finding 6 cm ring moulds.
About 20 mins before serving, preheat oven to 180C. Bake test fondant for 12 mins to check cooking time, cool for 2 mins. Fondant should have gooey centre. Cook remaining fondants, adding or reducing cooking time by 2 mins if necessary. Allow to cool for 2 mins on tray. Carefully lift of ring moulds, unpeeling the baking paper. Transfer fondants to plates, serve with scoop of icecream sandwiched between 2 biscuits.
OMG: Totally worth the pain, I can’t believe these worked out!!!
The combination of the orange icecream and crispiness of the tuiles were perfect with the chocolate fondant.
I can’t believe how good this dessert was. I tip my hat off to Callum! No wonder he went so far in the game.
Overall: Its a bit fiddly and you may have to buy some extra equipment but the recipe does make a restaurant quality dish.
YADA YADA YADA
Besides the recipes there are bios and recipes from all the contestants and the special guest uber challengers including Maggie Beer and Frank Camora. For those that want a challenge, Peter Gilmore’s snow egg AND Adriano Zumbo’s Macaroon Tower are fully scribed.
Peter Gilmore’s Snow Egg
There are some cute outtake photos of the judges and the contestants and each recipe has a paragraph about where that food appeared in the show. I love the George Caloumbaris photos … mmm like food porn…. I honestly think he is one sexy beast.
The book reflects the progression of the show so to the non-fan, the recipes may seem all over the place. eg Skye’s non dairy chocolate mousse followed by Neil Perry’s coconut fish followed by Adele’s crostini. The non-fan may also find it hard to put together a full menu as the book focuses on main meals and desserts rather than starters, soups and salads.
Chapter title: Paris or Bust
But I still like the book, the preface to each recipe gives a little story about the contestant and where the recipe featured in the show. The mix of contestant and celebrity chef recipes gives the book a degree of difficulty from super basic to insanely hard which I think is good for newbies who were introduced to cooking by watching the show. Because the contestants were multi-ethnic (unlike MasterChef New Zealand), the spectrum of cuisines are terrific – Jimmy’s curries look like a lot of fun.
The food photography and styling are fantastic and reflect the exuberance of the show
The layout of the recipes are conveniently squashed onto one page (more for the complex uberchef recipes). So each recipe is fully photographed on the facing page. This is not easy to do and makes the book very user friendly for the home cook as there is no need to turn the page with a butter coated hand. Also if you’ve never seen the show or can’t remember the food, having a full illustration is invaluable. Each recipe also gives you the prep time, chill time and cooking time right at the top of the recipe. The downside is that some recipes could be compromised for the sake of space saving but I think the editors here did a pretty good job of the drafting and the layout.
Overall, because there are so many authors of this book the results are going to be a bit hit and miss, and a bit too easy or a bit too hard. However I think its a great book for fans of the show or families who want to try something unusual or something thats a twist on the everyday. However, because the cheftestants had access to such a fabulous pantry, some of the ingredients may be a bit too exotic for your local supermarket.
Challenge yourself! try to cook one of these recipes with the clock ticking. Even if you aren’t a fan of the show, you will still have a fantastic time cooking this book.
For fans 5 stars
For non-fans 4 stars