MasterChef Australia elimination recap: 50 ways to cleave your supper

Nu Nu’s Nick Holloway puts the contestants through their paces with a 50-ingredient taste test

This week MasterChef really made those of us hunched over a takeaway container on our couches take a good hard look at ourselves, from a Deliveroo service challenge to a two-minute noodle mind-bender that saw King Justin snare immunity and the first spot in this year’s top 10 with noodle-based tortillas followed by a Coke spider dessert.

Come Sunday, the contestants file in and stand “one per table” like kindergarten kids ready for storytime, which can mean only one thing: fruit and milk for everyone! Uh, sorry (checks notes), that should be: a taste test!

When the teacher announces a pop test but you stayed up all night watching Vines
When the teacher announces a pop test but you stayed up all night watching Vines. Photograph: Network 10

Nu Nu’s Nick Holloway is here to give the contestants some true FNQ pain. Nick enters carrying a rustic cloche, bearing the expression of a supervillain excited to try out a new torture device on his enemies.

“This one is THE biggest taste test that MasterChef has ever seen,” bellows Andy.

Nick unveils three dishes, all of which look like something I once saw in the Zangarmarsh region of World of Warcraft: there are 50 ingredients to identify in total.

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??????????? Photograph: Network 10

The main stumps the contestants even further than the entree. Elise “couldn’t imagine that it’s any other protein but lamb”. Aaron reckons it’s pork. Depinder thinks it’s beef. I’m starting to think it’s not even meat.

The dessert so confuses the contestants that it’s possible we’re currently in a Matrix-style simulation. Going out on a limb here: I reckon there might be sugar in it? Just guessing!

Jock and Andy collect the papers, and the general mood in the kitchen is not unlike the doom that suffused my year 9 geography exam. The first person safe is Tommy, who reacts with the delight of a child who hasn’t been picked for this year’s Hunger Games.

“Now, the bad news,” says Andy. Scott, Depinder, Pete, Minoli and Aaron guessed fewer than 30 ingredients. Even worse news? All they get to cook with in round two are the 50 ingredients that Nick used for his three dishes. Hope everyone’s ready for young coconut with lamb and green bananas!

Thrilled by the tropical ingredients, Minoli is “going Sri Lankan” and combining pineapple and prawns. Depinder is doing a tropical curry with a pineapple side.

Scott wistfully explains that he envies his fellow contestants’ rich cultural heritages, and says he’s going to go with his own: retro Women’s Weekly desserts. It’s tropical pavlova roulade time! Think white people don’t have culture? Explain this then sweetie 💁🏼‍♂️.

Andy and Nick ask to try Pete’s curry ice-cream anglaise, which so far includes such storied dessert flavours as fenugreek and coriander. “Fortune favours the brave,” says Nick, which seems like a polite way of saying: “What the hell are you doing, Pete?”

Aaron is struggling: he’s making coconut prawns, and … that’s it. Nick advises him to go back to first principles, offering some truly Socratic wisdom: “Sour is sour, spicy is spicy, hot’s hot.” Mmm, yeah man, yeah.

Depinder “[doesn’t] have time to read” the instructions on her packet of glutinous rice. Tommy gazes down from on high with deep concern. What could possibly go wrong?

Jock and Mel are concerned that Aaron’s choice to cook bar food isn’t out there enough on a day of experimental ice-cream and flavour-packed curries.

“There’s nothing wrong with bar food!” Aaron exclaims. “It’s so basic,” Jock says to Mel from the sidelines, channeling the 15-year-old private school girl who traumatised me from the back seat of the bus.

Chaos ensues as the clock ticks down: Depinder’s rice looks like Clag! Pete’s passionfruit curd won’t set! Finally, it’s time’s up, and Scott bursts into tears. “It’s been a hard slog,” he says, before Aaron gives him a big bear hug.

Despite the fun tropical ingredients on offer, the mood in the waiting room is absolutely funereal as the contestants wait to offer their dishes to the high council.

‘Shoes with zippers.’
Shoes with zippers.’
Photograph: Network 10
‘Did I leave the oven on?’
‘Did I leave the oven on?’ Photograph: Network 10

Minoli tells the judges her mum told her to make food that she’d want to eat, and by the judges’ delighted expressions, they agree.

The broth of legends.
The broth of legends. Photograph: Network 10

In fact, they like it so much the music threatens to turn into Vangelis. It’s the best broth they’ve eaten all season.

It’s a hard act to follow for Aaron, who brings his bar snacks in with the expression of a dog that’s been caught eating tissues out of the bin.

[chuckles] I’m in danger!
[chuckles] I’m in danger! Photograph: Network 10

Nick describes the dish as “nervous … it’s like a weird party in a room [where] nobody wants to talk to each other”.

Scott’s roulade with hibiscus cream straight up looks like something out of the Golden Circle Tropical Recipe Book.

What do you call this then, love?
What do you call this then, love? Photograph: Network 10

The judges love it! Nick invokes the holy scripture (AKA “the CWA playbook”) and says it tastes like the air in Queensland after a cane burn.

It’s not such good news for Depinder, whose coriander prawns with pineapple pachri smell and taste like “being transported to another place”, but her glutinous rice is raw. And Jock needed rice, dammit!

Finally, here comes Pete’s dessert. “I can’t believe I’m in an elimination that comes down to a curry ice-cream,” he says. Well, Pete, whose fault is that?

Fortune favours the brave, and flavours them, too.
Fortune favours the brave, and flavours them too. Photograph: Network 10

Of course, it’s all in his head. The judges are so impressed that the music editor punches through 15 of the most triumphant stings on QLab within the space of a minute. “It’s childlike but grownup at the same time,” offers Nick, cementing his place as my favourite philosopher of tropical cookery.

The judges send Minoli and Pete through to the top 10.

“I can’t deny the fact that right now, you like me!”
‘I can’t deny the fact that right now, you like me!’
Photograph: Network 10

Scott looks on wistfully, apparently convinced that his Women’s Weekly spectacular didn’t cut it in this world of innovative, modern cooking. WRONG: Scott, come on down!!

That leaves Depinder and Aaron. The judges praise the flavour of Depinder’s curry, but note that her rice was underdone. There’s less praise for Aaron, and that’s why his bar snacks have sent him home. It turns out there may well have been something wrong with bar food after all.

What made me cry: Scott! As someone whose CWA cookbook ancestry goes deep, take it from me, Scott: believe in yourself! You make those daggy desserts and you make them good! Do it for Margaret Fulton!!

The look you give when you bring a roulade to the curry ice-cream party.
The look you give when you bring a roulade to the curry ice-cream party. Photograph: Network 10

The white chocolate velouté award for failure: Aaron, for looking at a table overflowing with a Miyazaki-feast-esque pile of incredible ingredients, declaring it “not my food”, and making some function room canapés instead.

Contributor

Clem Bastow

The GuardianTramp

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