What an exciting MasterChef South Africa episode 8 was last night, and what a super theme, focusing on the iconic South African cuisine, which challenged eight of the Finalists in an Elimination Challenge, and saw the demise of Brandon Law and Babalwa Baartman, two contestants who did not receive much coverage in the preceding seven episodes. Cape Town’s tourism industry should have benefitted from the episode too, with beautiful filming in Bo-Kaap, with Table Mountain as a backdrop.
The 13 Finalists were put to a taste test, with 30 small bowls of ingredients placed on their work stations. They were asked to taste an ‘iconic’ Carrot Cake which Chef Benny Masekwameng had baked, and then choose the 15 ingredients he had included in its baking. Brandon said immediately that he did not have a good track record in identifying ingredients, and looked worried. He added that he had made a carrot cake before, but certainly had not added so many different ingredients. Thys Hattingh was excited when he saw the sugar, knowing it was a cake or a dessert, saying it probably was something he had made before. He started with the foundation of a carrot cake, choosing the base ingredients: carrots, walnuts, sultanas, and more. The carrot cake was praised by the Finalists for its aroma, and some guessed that it contained nutmeg, cinnamon, and fruit. The Finalists had to choose the ingredients they thought were in the cake, the bottom eight Finalists going into the ‘Elimination Challenge‘, they were told. It was the second ingredient (walnuts) that caught Thys short, and another seven incorrectly chose sultanas, which were not in the cake. Brandon, Ilse Fourie, Sue-Ann Allen, Jade de Waal, Deena Naidoo, Manisha Naidu, Thys, and Babalwa went into the Elimination Challenge as a result. In choosing a cooking utensil, which matched that of a second Finalist, the eight were paired into groups of two, and had to open a Mystery Box, which contained a directive of where to go to recreate an iconic South African dish, each pair driven to a different destination in the sponsor Hyundai’s vehicles. They were given 4 hours to meet with the maker of the dish, to taste the ingredients, and to feel the texture. The makers of the dishes were not allowed to tell them the recipes or give any specific guidelines. The eight Finalists were told that the makers of the ‘worst dish’ would be sent home, a surprise that two Finalists were set to be eliminated.
Brandon and Babalwa were sent to De Volkskombuis in Stellenbosch, where they met Chef Dawid and were presented with his restaurant’s ‘Meraai se Hoenderpie’, his mother having added the dish to the menu 35 years ago, in honour of one of their chefs at the time. They tasted the dish, described the chicken to be ‘moist and juicy’, covered with a thick and crispy pastry. There were no strong spices, but they detected a taste of sweetness. On their return, Brandon decided proudly that they would not use puff pastry from the Woolworths Pantry, and that they would make it themselves, a decision which was criticised by Chef Pete Goffe-Wood, in that puff pastry takes two days to be made, he said. Brandon confidently replied that he knows the short cuts to make puff pastry. They cooked the chicken with bacon, to give it saltiness, as well as mushrooms. Again Brandon told the camera proudly that he came to MasterChef SA to ‘push his boundaries’, and that’s why he chose to make the puff pastry from scratch. As it does, it shrunk in the oven, and exposed some of the meat. The dish therefore did not look as good as that of De Volkskombuis, and Brandon was told that store puff pastry had been used in the making of the dish at the restaurant. The judges said that the filling had dried out due to the pastry not creating a seal, due to it shrinking. The dish was not cleaned before presentation, as can be seen in the photograph.
Jade and Sue-Ann were sent to Goedemoed Country Inn in Paarl, where local waterblommetjie bredie expert Tannie Naomi presented her iconic waterblommetjie dish in the 1818 Cape Dutch home, which had housed some of the MasterChef SA production crew, its owner Russian Count Kim Nicolay told me telephonically after the show. Tannie Naomi said that waterblommetjies grow in 60 – 100 cm of water, and are an iconic Boland dish. Kim told me that the phone had rung off the hook after the show last night, for bookings of waterblommetjie bredie, but they are not a restaurant. Back at Nederburg close by, the two Finalists chose bay leaves, salt and pepper, sugar and white wine to cook the lamb. They left the cooking of the waterblommetjies to last, Chef Pete questioning this, but Jade confidently said that they did not want to overcook it for it to become ‘mushy’! When served to the judges, they said it was a ‘bit green’, and the dish was shot down for the potatoes, lamb, and waterblommetjies all having been cooked separately, instead of being cooked together, the ingredients not ‘having lived together in the same pot’, they were told.
Ilse and Manisha were sent to the Eziko Cooking and Catering School in Langa, where Chef David presented the dish they had feared, being tripe, both never having prepared it before. Tripe is a traditional Xhosa dish, served to guests to welcome them, Chef David explained. The two Finalists described the texture as ‘furry’, and ‘chewy’, and having a salty taste. Initially they seemed hesitant to taste the dish, but realised that their future participation in MasterChef SA depended on it. Back at the MasterChef SA kitchen, they put the tripe into a pressure cooker. They had to make phutu pap too, and followed the instructions on the pack. Chef Benny liked the aroma coming out of their pots, but the two Finalists were worried that the tripe was not yet soft enough and also not as brown as in Chef David’s dish. The judges said that their tripe dish had an identical presentation to that of Eziko, and the tripe was judged by Chef Andrew Atkinson to be ‘not bad’. Chef Pete liked its texture, but Chef Benny said that the pap did not have the right consistency. But he said that the dish ‘blew me away’, saying that the texture and flavours were right, and therefore they were allowed to join the other five Finalists who did not have to do this Challenge.
Thys and Deena were driven to Biesmiellah, the iconic Cape Malay restaurant in the Bo-Kaap in Cape Town, on a glorious day, and Cape Town was shown off in its glory. They were presented with Denningvleis, the most popular Cape Malay dish that the Indonesians had brought to this country. It was described as containing lamb and a ‘watery gravy’. They tasted a ‘sweetness’, nuts, and tamarind. Being furthest away, they had the longest time to discuss their strategy whilst they were driven back to Nederburg. Arriving back, their challenge was to balance the sweet (with brown sugar) and sour (with tamarind, but which they could not find in the Woolworths Pantry) of the dish. They added raisins, whereas Biesmiellah had used sultanas. When presented to the judges, their dish was said by Chef Andrew to be ‘nearly there’, to look similar to that of Biesmiellah, that the lamb could have been cooked for longer, and that there was a ‘good balance between sweet and sour’, Chef Pete said. Their dish was judged to be good enough for them to stay on at MasterChef SA.
In the end two teams did not do well: Jade and Sue-Ann did not ‘marry their dish in one pot’, and Brandon and Balalwa did not follow the judges’ brief of replicating the dish they were allocated. The judges reminded the Finalists that this episode had exposed them to the culinary heritage of our country, and that both teams had fallen short in this Challenge. It was their decision to eliminate Brandon and Babalwa in this episode. Brandon said that cooking is the great passion in his life. Babalwa said that she had had an awesome time at MasterChef SA. From Twitter it would appear that the wrong team was sent home last night, many Tweeting that it was unfair that Brandon was ‘punished’ for preferring to make his own puff pastry instead of using a prepared one.
The remaining eleven Finalists were given a pep talk by the judges, being told that they were a third way through MasterChef SA, and that it was ‘time to shine’, and to ‘reach out and grab it’! They were challenged: Let’s see it’, referring to one of them becoming MasterChef.
POSTSCRIPT 9/5: I popped in at Biesmiellah today, and the manager told me that they have been overwhelmed by the number of calls of Capetonians who want to taste Denningvleis. One TV viewer came to them straight after the show last night to eat it!
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage