I’ve finally gotten around to watching the finals of the tenth – TENTH??? – series of Masterchef. This has been a great series with tons of amazing contestants who really gave it their all. I’m still disappointed however, that Alex, the rock n’ rolling wrestler was knocked out early on in the competition (gotta support my fellow rockers!) and I would have loved for Rani to have gone further as she did make me laugh but I think it’s fair to say that the best woman won.
All three of the finalists – Jack Lucas, Ping Coombs, and Luke Owen – were nothing short of awesome and really cooked for their lives (not to mention the Masterchef title!)
At an age where most people’s culinary skills extend no further than opening a tin of rice pudding, twenty one year old Jack amazed everyone with his flair and skills, and very rarely put a foot wrong. And Luke was a huge fan of daring flavour combinations and experimenting with food. His experiments weren’t always majorly successful but his boldness in the kitchen impressed Masterchef Judges John Torode and Greg Wallace.
But it was Malaysian-born Ping who really stood out from the moment she entered the competition. The very first dish she made – a curried chicken dish – just made me want to stick my hands through the television screen and grab a mammoth bowlful for myself. Even though Malaysian cuisine appeared to be her signature style, Ping showed her ability as a versatile cook by successfully cooking an array of non-Malaysian dishes. There was no doubting that Ping really put her heart and soul into everything that she was cooking, and her dedication, organization, talent, and the super-fast pace at which she worked were just extraordinary. As the finals approached I was so sure I knew who’d win – and I was right!
Ping says it’s her goal to introduce more people to Malaysian cuisine – she has ambitions to bring out a cook book and open a Malaysian style café – and I truly hope she achieves this. As someone who has family who hails from this part of the world, I can honestly say that Malaysian food is one of my most favourites. It’s just a shame most people don’t really know about it. The main that Ping created for the finals – nasi lemak – is the dish I always choose when I go to my fave Malaysian restaurant. There are many different variations of this dish but it basically consists of coconut rice with a variety of different side dishes. I always say that the restaurant I often frequent serves the best nasi lemak ever, and their version contains coconut rice; a spicy squid sambal; crispy fried chicken wings; deep fried anchovies and peanuts; a cucumber salad and a fried egg. This would most definitely be my last meal!
I’m so passionate about this dish that I’ve included a recipe for anyone who might want to attempt it. But be warned – it might be addictive!
I’m disappointed that this series of Masterchef has come to an end and I have to wait for another year. This has been an amazing series and I cannot wait for the next one to begin. Mr. D on the other hand, can’t wait for Masterchef USA to begin it’s fifth season as he much prefers that to our home-grown version. I like both of them and appreciate each of them for what they are but I’ve noticed that if you’re more interested in food than contestants’ dramas, then Masterchef UK it is. And of course we have the delightful John and Greg!
So congrats to Jack and Luke for doing so well to get to the finals. They seem like really cool guys who have a real passion for food and I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of them. And of course congrats to Ping. I just hope she hurries up and opens that café. Nasi lemak, mee goreng, chilli crab… bring it on!
•Oil, for deep frying
•Cucumber slices, for garnish
•Sambal chilli (recipe above)
Ingredients for the SAMBAL CHILLI:
40 gram dried red chilli
100 gram onion
25 gram garlic
5 tablespoon cooking oil
80 gram ikan bilis (anchovy)
25 gram sugar (to taste)
250 ml water
Ingredients for the rice:
•250 gram rice
•275 ml water
•225 ml coconut milk (I used lite coconut milk)
•1 onion (about 125 gram), cut into chunks
•1 star anise
•1 large cinnamon stick
•Pandan leaves, tied in a knot (optional)
•½ teaspoon salt
•2 teaspoon sugar
Ingredients for the chicken wings:
•500 gram chicken wings (about 8 pieces)
•½ tablespoon turmeric powder
•½ tablespoon salt
•½ tablespoon white pepper powder
•2 inch ginger, pounded
•3 tablespoon corn flour
•6 tablespoon rice flour
Ingredients for the ikan bilis and peanuts:
•50 gram peanuts
•20 gram dried anchovies
1 fried or boiled egg per serving
- To make the sambal chilli , rinse anchovies with water and allow to dry completely.
- Place dried anchovies in a food processor and grind into fine powder.
- With a pair of scissors, cut the dried chilli halfway to remove most of the seeds.
- Soak dried chilli in water to soften, then drain the water.
- Blend dried chilli, onion and garlic to form a smooth paste.
- To a heated wok, add cooking oil and stir-fry the ground ikan bilis for about 2 minutes till fragrant.
- Add the ground chilli paste and sugar and stir-fry over low heat for 10 minutes, adding water as you fry to avoid burning the paste.
- The resulting sambal chilli should be moist and pasty.
- For the rice: Put all the ingredients for the rice in a rice cooker.
- Leave to cook and remove onion, star anise and cinnamon stick when done.
- For the chicken wings: Mix all ingredients to form marinade and batter, and allow to settle for about 10 minutes.
- Dip the chicken wings in mixture, and fry until golden brown and crispy over medium heat for about 2 minutes each side.
- For the anchovies and peanuts: Deep-fry the peanuts and ikan bilis separately before mixing together.
- To assemble: Serve a bowl of coconut rice with the chicken wings, egg, anchovy and peanut mix, and garnish with 2-3 slices of cucumber topped with sambal and chillies.
My husband and I pretty much gave up on television a while back. No matter how many channels there were, there still didn’t seem to be anything worth watching. But there are still some shows we make time to watch religiously. At a risk of sounding like a couple of oldies who have nothing better to do, Mr. D. and I are addicted to culinary competitions which seem to be all the rage on television these days: Come Dine With Me, The Great British Bake Off, Masterchef, Next Great Baker… you name it, we watch it! In fact it’s more than watching it’s become a full scale obsession. We must tune in to see what happens next: who stays… and who goes. Oops! That’s Big Brother which we don’t watch!
We have a lot of fun watching these shows. They’re entertaining and informative but they can also be quite depressing. Why? Because after years of thinking that I’m a pretty good cook (I’m no Heston but I’m not bad either) I’ve suddenly realised that compared to the contestants who take part in these shows, my cooking skills leave a lot to be desired. I’ve come to this conclusion after realizing that:
- My pastry making skills are far from perfect (as explained by Mr. Hollywood and Ms. Berry.)
- I have no idea how to make sushi – even though I love to eat it!
- There is a tendancy for me to overcook food (as pointed out by Mr. D!)
- I can really only bake cakes when I have a little help from my friend Betty Crocker.
- Rare, medium rare, medium, well done… it’s all the same to me!
- I’ve lost the ability to poach a decent egg.
- I’ve never heard of half of the ingredients mentioned in the show.
- There is no way I can chop onions, apples, carrots etc. so that all the pieces are virtually identical.
- I have no idea how to debone a duck.
- There’s very little chance of me being able to adequately filet a fish.
- I don’t have the kind of palette where I can successfully identify every ingredient in a dish.
- It’s really not a good idea for me to attempt to flambé anything…
- Me and sharp knives are a dangerous combination so it’s really not a good idea for me to go at the speed of the professional chefs or the other contestants.
- I like to take my time in the kitchen – that probably explains why we never eat before 10pm.
- I probably don’t add as much seasoning as I should.
- I love eating shellfish – but haven’t got a clue how to prepare it.
- This may be an Anglo-Italian household but there is no freshly made pasta in this house as neither of us know how to prepare it!
- If I cook fish so that the skin is super crispy, it’ll be burnt.
- We like to drench our food in sauce – none of this ‘little smidgeon’ business.
- We also like large portions in this house!
- I haven’t got a clue how to make ketchup or barbeque sauce from scratch.
- I’ve never used most of the gadgets and kitchen appliances I’ve seen.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ve learnt a lot from watching these shows and have got lots of new ideas. We like to put what we’ve learnt into practice:
- I can make bruschetta better than I did before.
- I now know what goes into making honeycomb.
- I know how to remove bones from fish easily.
- I know the secret to a good pesto sauce.
- Seasoning is important!
- So is not overcooking food!
- Garnishes are important but there should also have a purpose other than just decoration.
- We come across lots of new flavour combinations.
- I know that you should never wash sea urchin (not that I’m likely to cook it!)
- we’re trying to put into practice that less is more!
- I know what’s meant by tunnel boning.
- I also know what a ballotine is.
- I know how to pronounce words such as ‘coulis’ and ‘melange’.
- I see the contestants mistakes and know what NOT to do.
I still have an awful lot to learn and I’m getting there slowly. There’s still hope for me. But I know that no matter how much I learn, I would never want a dressing down from Mr. Hollywood or Mr. Ramsay so there’s no chance of me ever entering one of these competitions. I know which side of the television screen is the safest for all concerned!