It was lovely to escape to Mauritius with the Top 7 Finalists of Season 3 in episode 12 last night, and one could almost smell the mix of African, Chinese, Indian, and French spices which characterises Mauritian cooking. Sparkling spicy Mauritian MasterChef UK 2012 winner Shelina Permalloo was the visiting judge, and broke the monotonous three-male-judges team we have experienced for all three seasons of MasterChef SA!
Shelina took the seven finalists to the fruit and vegetable market in Mauritius capital Port Louis. She spoke to them about the food heritage of the country, and how it inspired her cooking and success. Many of the fruit and vegetable items stocked in the market were unfamiliar to our South African contestants, but they liked the smell of spices. Shelina told them that Mauritians use every part of a fruit and vegetable, using the leaves in the cooking too. A market hand created a ‘Victorian pineapple’, which gave a pineapple a most attractive look, all done in a matter of minutes. They tasted dragon fruit too, and Roxi Wardman said that she wants to learn more about the culture and cuisine of the country. Roti (flatbreads) was tasted, and judged to be light. Mauritian food uses a lot of condiments and pickles. Penny Fitchet said that she has a Mauritian heritage, and felt under pressure to deliver.
Shelina became a fellow foodie guide to the finalists, and took them to the south side of the island, having cooked them a meal from her book ‘Sunshine on a plate‘. She welcomed them to her table with flower garlands, and had prepared Beef and papaya curry, octopus papaya curry, and chicken and prawn fried noodles. She shared with the finalists that she often cried on the MasterChef UK set, but would speak to her mother and then feel better. She forced herself to think out of the box, and tested herself every step of the way. She described her ‘sunshine food‘ as ‘holiday food‘. Finalist Philippa Robinson became tearful as they all connected with Shelina, and drew inspiration from her. She gave the finalists confidence, and told them to go for it, no matter how long it takes.
The finalists were taken to the Longbeach Hotel, where work stations had been set up for them against the backdrop of the ocean and beach! We saw the three judges for the first time, Reuben Robertsons Riffel shrieking his presence in a purple T-shirt! He really does have a poor dress sense! Shelina joined the judges for the Invention Test, which demanded that the finalists make a Mauritius-inspired dish within 60 minutes. The top five dish creators would experience the sweet side of Mauritius Chef Pete Goffe-Wood said, while the bottom two would go into an Elimination Test.
A well-stocked pantry saw most of the finalists going for prawns, but seeing others take them too, some of the finalists changed their minds and chose other ingredients. Two finalists chose calamari, which the judges felt was a dangerous choice in getting it soft in the time allocated, the judges said amongt themselves.
Sipho Mdlankomo made chicken ‘biryani‘ with pe-tsai, carrot, and coriander sambals. She cooked rice too, but forgot to add the lentils she had planned. She was told to ‘build instinct into your food‘ by Shelina. Shelina loved the colour of her dish, and said that she was disappointed – with Sipho’s face dropping – that she could not finish the rest of the dish, it was so good, being spicy yet subtle, and requested the recipe from Sipho. Chef Benny Masekwameng loved her dish, a mix of Mauritius inspiration and Sipho’s flavours!
Philippa took a completely out-of-the-box route, making a ‘Coral Reef’ dessert in which a poached tomato was the centrepiece, filled with mascarpone mousse in syrup, to which she added fresh fruits. She reinforced that one must stick with one’s gut feel. Speaking to the camera, she said that she hoped her dessert dish would give her an edge. Shelina said she had never seen tomato used in a dessert. Riffel praised the dish as ‘magnificent’, and said that her dish choice was ‘gutsy’, and that he took his ‘hat off to you‘!
Abigail Mbalo chose to make Chicken curry served with deep-fried dahl puri, a balance of flavours being important. Riffel said that her chicken was dry, and had not absorbed all her flavours.
Roxi had become far more anxious compared to her confident start, and she was the first at her station, and appeared to know exactly what she was making. She made Roti, and her prawns were still raw when she checked on them near the deadline time, having to flashcook them in the last minute. Shelina praised her Roti, and perfect prawns, but Riffel said that her sauce was lacking something, there only being a faint hint of spices.
Penny said that she had to push out the boat, and chose to make crépes to salute her family’s link to Mauritius. She chose octopus, hoping that the octopus would soften, and said that this was probably not her best dish. Shelina praised the beautiful presentation of the dish, and plating it on a banana leaf gave it a lovely Mauritian feel. Chef Benny said the dish says Mauritius, but that the calamari was tough. Chef Pete hit Penny hard, saying that her octopus tasted like ‘curry-flavoured chewing gum‘, which made Penny cry!
Mel Sutherland made a spicy tomato prawn bisque with pickled lemon and flatbread, and was praised by Chef Pete as being ‘beautifully cooked prawns with subtle spicing’!
Ian Young also made squid, adding fresh turmeric, chili, and curry leaf, giving the octopus a good bashing with a mallet. He served his dish with roti and raita. He was asked by Chef Benny how he felt about having the Immunity Pin, to which Ian replied that it gives him some comfort. Salisha praised Ian’s dish as being perfect, with deep Mauritius flavours.
Chef Pete congratulated the finalists for doing a ‘magnificent job‘ in the 1 hour preparation time limit. Chef Benny added that some finalists struggled with flavours, while others did very well. Shelina also added her praise in the finalists capturing the ‘tropical sunshine‘ of Mauritius. The bottom three dishes were those by Abigail, Roxi, and Penny, but it will be Roxi and Penny going into the Elimination Test next week, cooking in an Asian restaurant in Mauritius. Sipho’s dish was judged the best of the day, giving her so much confidence that she’ll take it straight to the top in winning MasterChef SA, she said! Then it was time to go to the beach!
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. The Pressure Test with Swedish Chef Niklas Ekstedt, and visit to Syddah Essop in the Karoo in episode 6 is here. For a summary of episode 7, a Team Challenge in Durban, click here. For the write-up of the episode 8′s Pressure Test between Roxi and Refilwe, and the visit to the Ixopo Retreat by the winning Red Team, click here. Episode 9 was a Chicken MasterPiece Invention Test. Episode 10 was a paired Team Challenge. In episode 11 Ian Young won an Immunity Pin, and Francois Zietsman was sent home.
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.