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  • Writer's pictureHeath Tredell

EP 17 – Chicken in a Pond & an RNLI Poppy Banquet

Pookie had been in London longer than she’d expected and now she was in the last eight she was running out of clothes. A quick shopping spree later and Pookie is showing off her new brown (fake) fur coat in the opening sequence. Once filming has completed it is the now casually common occurrence of leaving any watches, phones and other electrical devices with the staff.

In the studio kitchen it is back to wearing the white individualised aprons they had been awarded. John and Greg take up their usual positions at the head of the room and next to them are two covered items. They announce that this round is an invention test and once the sheets are drawn back the contestants are informed that they need to invent a dish using a chicken or an egg. Pookie looks nervously at the two options as she has just in the last round used chicken in an egg and now she has to think of something else using the exact same ingredients.

They are given just 10 minutes to choose what ingredients they need. Seeing that Pookie is deep in thought the producer asks Pookie what she is going to do. Pookie didn’t really know at that point so just responded by saying that she is just going to carry on with her style and give something they didn’t expect. In truth she didn’t even know!!

Grabbing a Chicken, some eggs and various other ingredients it was all too soon to hear them say “You have 90 minutes, let’s cook!”

Knowing she could hardly do her previous day’s dish immediately Pookie’s adventurous imagination kicked in and she started. John came over and asked her what she was doing, she told him what she was making and he took another look at her ingredients and as he did so was asked by the producer what he thought. “Pookie’s exciting, she thinks outside the box, she does things very very differently and they work!, Pookie’s making for us a Chinese dumpling in the shape of a goldfish, she’s made a chicken mixture with some spices that’s the filling for the dumpling and she’s putting it inside Tom Yum hot sour soup, it’s not for the faint hearted, it’s really spicy it’s really strong!!

Greg, hearing this also came over and asked Pookie what she was doing. “Pookie are you making fish!”?

“I’m making fish yeah. So the brief is the chicken and egg, so I’m just thinking what else can I do with it that’s not going to come out of it just looking like chicken and egg.. So I thought, I’m doing fish!” Pookie replied delightedly. Greg looked confused but then asked “Before I eat that, do I need to get it on a rod?” he asked playfully “Yeah need to catch it!” replied Pookie leaving Greg laughing once again.

The cooking was frantic and Pookie had so little time to get her dish finished. The interviews whilst they cooked had seemingly gone on longer for her leaving her little time left. She started to worry about the time and upon asking about the time Greg told her she had only 6 minutes left.

That 6 minutes seemed to go in a flash and before she knew it, they had asked them to stop cooking. Her knees were shaking through the adrenaline of getting her dish completed in time. She waited until it was her turn to show the judges.

The judges John and Greg looked at her for an explanation, “It’s called Chicken in the Pond” she exclaimed.

As ever the judges didn’t really let on how they felt whilst tasting and it was Greg who spoke first. “That is ridiculously clever!” Pookie immediately breathed a sigh of relief. “This soup is really bold, its sharp and clean, lots of citrus and lots of lime, its salty it’s also hot with the chilly it’s absolutely delightful..”

John agreed by saying “Your dumpling, the skin on the outside, lovely and thin; the actual mince filling is soft and wonderful and the whole thing looking like a fish in a pond, for an invention test I take my hat off to you.”

Pookie was delighted and was beaming as she returned to her station. Sarah really kindly congratulated her saying well done.

After they had all been judged it became obvious that Ioan, James, Thomas and Yemi were the contestants that had struggled with the challenge. Meanwhile the producer took the opportunity to ask Pookie what she thought. She told them that she was absolutely ecstatic and just couldn’t believe that they had liked the flavours so much. However, after quite a long time waiting for what was clearly a difficult decision, they were all invited back into the studio kitchen.

The first to be voted off was James. James knew he had not cooked his best and told the producer that he’d be surprised if he got into the last six. James had decided to do a Chicken Catsu Curry but his rice was a little bit “gloopy” and John had criticised his chicken for being a bit dry and for his sauce to not be smooth. Pookie used to call James ‘The Silver Fox’ and was very sad to see James go. James on reflection said “I think I will look back on my time in MasterChef very fondly, it’s an amazing experience. I’ve Loved every minute of it and this is where the journey ends for me but I’m happy.”

The second person to be voted off was Thomas. Thomas had earlier said that “The competition is taking over every part of my life! Including at home, I am cooking non stop!” He had made Spanish Chicken but the judges found his sauce to be an odd combination. Pookie thought he was almost expecting it and they got on so well that he whispered Good Luck to Pookie as he left. Pookie thought Thomas was such a warm and kind soul that she arranged to visit him after the show had ended. Thomas told the producer that it had been “challenging but yet who could get this kind of experience? So no regrets.”

The final six were told that they would need some well-earned rest as next they would be cooking in “the real world and you’ll need your wits about you.”

A few days went past before Pookie was invited down to London once again and she and the other contestants were all taken into the centre of London to The Middle Temple. Middle Temple is one of four Inns of Court exclusively entitled to Call their members to the Bar of England and Wales, today it was to be used to entertain distinguished members of the Royal National Lifeboat Institute or RNLI. To help them they would be cooking under the direction of Birmingham’s own Glynn Purnell. Glynn owns Purnells Restaurant whose dishes have earnt him a Michelin star that he has held ever since January 2009 when it was first awarded. All the contestants were once again handed personalised chef’s whites for the occasion. They would be cooking a three course meal and Pookie & Eddie were given the task of making the main course. Thirty venison filets had to be prepared and these were to be served with a pea salad, both tamarin and liquorice purees and a pom boulangère.

The Pom Boulangère would takes ages as 80 large potatoes and 20 huge onions were needed and had to be prepared to exacting standards laid out by Glynn. “I am a bit nervous, I have tried cooking venison once or twice before but this is in the proper professional kitchen and for lots of people so lots of preparation.” She told the producer as she worked. Between them Pookie & Eddie divided up the tasks. Eddie was very quick slicing the potatoes and sorted the 60 sprigs of marjoram herbs. Pookie was left to prepare the huge pieces of venison and make the potato discs and purees.

She remembers it being very hectic with them both plating as fast as they could.. “I had to cornel the pea salad and cook and plate the venison whilst Eddie had to carefully do the design of the purees.” Pookie thought that they both worked as a team very well and told him so. Eddie likened the experience to a marathon and by the end of the service they were both tired but jubilant.

John called it a good looking dish and continued to say “That’s fantastic, that’s a real feat I think.” Greg agreed by saying “I like this dish and I love, love, love that liquorice, it’s absolutely brilliant.” Pookie told the producer “I am really happy, I feel I have butterflies in my stomach and I am very proud of the food we presented today.”

After they’d served the dish they had to clean all the kitchen down and were shattered by the end of it. “I remember not getting back to the hotel that night until nearly midnight!”. They were thanked by the Legion for the food and Glynn seemed very pleased with their efforts. “Every single moment has been a highlight for me and so it’s my privilege to be here.”

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