Monday, 12 July 2010

Miele MasterChef Mashup

COOKING DOES NOT GET TOUGHER THAN THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There I've said it. Or shouted it rather. I just had to give it a try but then I didn't figure on having to pick myself up off the floor after bursting the temporal artery in my head due to excessive exclamation. I think one of my eyes nearly popped out too. It's fine for Gregg Wallace. He's been shifting fruit and veg for most of his life and in his game, yelling is a prerequisite, screaming at the top of his lungs to get housewives to fondle his bananas. When I met him last week along with John Torode, I was hoping he would give us a touch of the ol' barrowboy blasting, you know to up the tempo a bit. He didn't let me down. Boy that man is loud although I have to say that I was slightly disappointed that he didn't roll out that old classic. I was slightly disappointed in other areas too but more on that in a bit.

So what was I doing in the company of the MasterChef duo, had I finally plucked up the courage to apply? Was I going to be on tv? Am I going to open that restaurant at last? Well no but these were some of the questions fired my way after revealing to family and friends that I was going
to have a crack at the MasterChef challenge. People are always saying that I should go for it and the show pony in me would like to but essentially I harbour no great desire to open my own restaurant. It's all sounds like too much bloody hard work. And besides the invention test scares the pants off of me. If I had to do that then I'm sure I'd go down the proverbial route of rabbit staring into headlights. However, then the invite came popping through into my mailbox from Miele, teutonic knights of home appliances and sponsors of MasterChef Live, to take part at an event at their new showroom off Oxford Street. The challenge was to prepare and cook two dishes of your choice within an hour. A little bit of a tough one but still within my comfort zone so I jumped at the chance. I even managed a practise run in the kitchen at home one evening with my wife sticking her face into mine, bombarding me with questions à la Torode and Wallace. I generally told her to "eff off" most of the time and I should have brought some of that attitude to the showroom.

The great thing was that I wasn't going to be alone in this as I was to be joined by 4 other fantastic bloggers, both familiar faces and new in the form of Sarah from Maison Cupcake, Helly of Fuss Free Flavours, Ireena of Fastest Food Blog and MiMi of Meemalee's Kitchen. Walking into the Miele showroom was akin to stepping onto the set of a sci-fi film, it all looked very sleek. As I walked up to one of the ovens and began to eyeball it for any obvious knobs or buttons (there weren't any), I half expected a HAL-like voice to emit from a hidden speaker.

"Hello sir, I shall be your oven today and will take care of all your needs. Please do not touch that sir, that is a light switch and you will plunge the showroom into darkness. Thank you"

So I decided it would best to just step back, get stuck into the mountain of food that had already been prepared and partake in a glass of fizz. Soon enough it was time to be shown to our work stations (which I shared with MiMi), unload bags of ingredients and get everything in order. The whole place was a hive of activity with Miele home economists and assistants running around asking if we needed anything, showing where equipment and utensils were secreted away. My only concern was working out how to use the space age induction hob and aforementioned talking ovens (they don't talk really!) but I was reassured that help would be at hand. Phew. As the time for kick off drew close, the boys from MC came waltzing in and I have to say it was very cute to see Gregg eliciting giggles from a baby that a guest had brought along. "Aw, they seem like nice chaps" I thought. Then introductions were made, health and safety briefs were um, briefed and before I knew it, we were all underway.

I had decided to keep it simple with a menu of Grilled Mackerel with Spring Onions, Charlotte Potatoes and Calcot Sauce followed by Stewed Gooseberries topped with Meringue Peaks. And by keeping it simple, I was hoping to keep it together too and on that front, I didn't do too bad. Amy, our very able assistant caught me by the arm as I tore off to find a kettle explaining that the hob would get the water for the spuds boiling in under a minute and also showed me that I didn't have to keep opening the oven doors to check on the food. "Just touch here and the light in the oven will come on". Wow, superfast water boiling and ovens with lights, what will those Germans think of next? I would now like a Miele oven now, please. Of course everything went past in a blur what with the chaps coming up quizifying me about everything including the sauce. They had never heard of calcot sauce but this may be because I have been pronouncing it wrong all this time and have only just found out (sounds like cal'sot according to this woman). The fiddlest part was filleting the mackerel which I did purely for brownie points, I wish had got them done beforehand as that would have saved me some time. As it was getting near to plating up time I spied some egg yolks nestled in a ramekin. Egg yolks? What was I meant to do with those? GAH! They should have gone in the goosegog pud to emulsify and thicken it up!! But it was too late. Those MasterChef peeps are sticklers and so we all lined up our respective dishes ready for John and Gregg to get stuck into.

I have to say that everyone's efforts looked very impressive indeed given the time frame and for the record this is what was on the menu.

Fuss Free Flavours - Veal on a Mediterranean sauce of garlic, onion, raisins, capers & olives with a rocket and broad bean salad. Lime and Elderflower posset with berries marinated in homemade elderflower cordial and an Irish Lace biscuit.

Maison Cupcake - Hazelnut French macarons with mascarpone and Nutella filling. Hummingbird Bakery's Nutty Apple Loaf. (A cake in under an hour!)

Fastest Food Blog - Indian Spiced Salmon, Vegetable Pilau Rice, and Aubergine Raita. And Nectarine 'Crumble'

Meemalee's Kitchen - Burmese coconut chicken noodles (ohn-no khao swe), and a blueberry and orange zest shortcake, with whipped cream and a blueberry and orange coulis.

And so to the tasting. What did John and Gregg think? I was first up and I have to say it felt quite odd offering my food up for criticism and I pensively chewed on my fingernails as they each took a bite. I think overall the reaction was that it was good but like forever written on my report card, I could have done better. They were impressed with the fish saying it was cooked well but the sauce was too sweet, I needed something a bit more zesty to go with the oily mackerel. And the look Gregg gave me after spooning watery goosegog stew into his mouth, well you would have thought that I had told him that I'd just shot his dog. As a pud fiend I think he was really looking forward to it and I had let him down, damn egg yolks. Still John said that the meringue was good and to be honest their overall judgement was fair. "Just wait till I get on the show" I thought to myself, grinning and winking before remembering "oh shit, the invention test!"

Onwards they moved up the table, sampling and tasting, giving each blogger appraisles and quibbles over their dishes but judging by their reaction to Ireena's dessert (they both did that jaw-dislocating fork shovelling act which they've become famous for) I could tell she had it in the bag. After some hush hush conflab in the corner of the showroom, she was pronounced the winner and deservedly so. There wasn't much left of her crumble but Ireena's salmon was delicious and I would consider making a trek up to Cambridge if she fancies taking part in Where's My Pork Chop?

Cooked out but happy for taking part I milled around afterwards with a celebratory glass, chatting with everyone. It was especially good to meet Dhruv the recent winning finalist from the last series in person. Blimey he's built like a brick house but he seemed like a nice fella, just don't crush my hand so much next time alright? However, right at the very end something very odd happened. Throughout the afternoon John and Gregg were pretty much like their on-screen personas full of banter but essentially friendly and warm. Then their masks slipped and the banter that was being handed out turned slightly sinister, was tantamount to bullying and felt quite uncomfortable to watch really. It's crap speaking out of school and I don't plan to give exact details of what happened but I would gladly like to meet them again and go over the finer points of blogging and manners as the pair seem to be quite befuddled by it all. One cheeky chappy reckons that hardly anyone reads blogs anyway so why bother? At a PR event arranged for bloggers I should add. Whilst it sounds like the other cardi besmirched one spends evenings alone in front of the computer, weeping gently, full of vitriol because someone has dared to criticise his food. It was a downright shame for the afternoon to end like it did because up until that point it was fantastic fun. I let my feelings be known to the powers that be on the day and have even tried to contact via email for further feedback. You know just in case I took everything I heard out of context. You know just in case I've got it wrong. But funnily enough my phone hasn't rung.

Still top marks for the Miele team and their amazing ovens and for the exercise itself, it certainly made me appreciate what the contenders on MasterChef go through.

COOKING DOES NOT GET *hack cough splutter*..........oh sod 'em.

My space age cooking station

Where's the knobs? Where's the buttons? Aiieeeee it talks! (not really)

Preparing to taste everyone's grub

You cocked up the goosegogs!

Down the dark, dark tunnel!!!!

Two slapheads

Grilled Mackerel with Spring Onion, Charlotte Potatoes and Calcot Sauce

Stewed Gooseberries with Meringue

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