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  • Writer's pictureHeath Tredell

EP 19 – Now down to 5 & Finals Week

Throughout the competition, TV and interview time in front of the camera steadily gets more and more. At this stage much of the off-screen time is spent in interviews or waiting whilst the others are being interviewed.

Pookie said to the producers, "I thought my life before Masterchef was hectic enough but this is just beyond imagination."

Once again the aprons went one, “today you have to deliver a dish that’s inspired by someone or something that means something special to you, you have 1 hour 45 minutes…. Let’s cook!”

The contestants now only numbered five in total. Sarah decided to make a dish dedicated to Ansel Adams as she had lived in California for a while. Ansel Easton Adams was an American landscape photographer and environmentalist known for his black-and-white images of the American West. Her dish was a Shellfish consommé with crabmeat, razor clams, Scottish langoustine, clams, mussels, and a Squid Ink Tuile to reflect the clarity of his pictures.

Eddie decided his dish would be an ode to the film The Lunchbox. The Tiffin Tin story was chosen as it represents making a change in life to do what makes a person happy. His dish is buttered duck, butter sauce, coriander, mint and chilli chutney, and salad in a Jerusalem artichoke.

Ioan wanted his dish to represent Tom Daly at the Japan Olympics. Ioan said the dish will show a determination to succeed and cooked a beef filet, marinated in miso and sake, wasabi pom puree, fried oyster, kombu, and shiitake jus.

Radha opted for a dish inspired by a poem called IF by Rudyard Kipling. IF (you can dream) meant something to her as she never dreamt she’d get this far. Her dish was vegetable biryani, masala tom sauce, puff pastry disc, Kachumber (cucumber and tom salad) and masala lassi.

Pookie decided to create a dish dedicated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. Greg said she was “Amazing, one of the most inventive, creative contestants I have ever seen”

John added “She also wants to indulge all our senses; she is completely different from anybody else!”

The producers took Pookie to one side and asked her about the dish “I’m doing saving life at sea.

This is dedicated to the Royal National Lifeboat Institute. I had never heard of the organisation until the day my husband rang and said ‘Help!’ So I want to do a dish that represents the boat that went to save my husband.”

Greg was shocked at the clearly very personal touch… Wow!

John then turned to the camera and added an explanation “Pookie is making for us what she calls Chu-chi Fish. Now Chu-chi fish is a piece of fish with a red curry sauce and with that we have also got some little dumplings which have got some squid ink skin around the outside, and then there’s flavour of the Chu-chi fish red curry and fish, which is inside that dumpling. However, salmon’s got to be cooked beautifully, and really lovely and soft, that sauce has to be vibrant and red curry should be hot!

The producer asked Pookie about the design of her dish “So the salmon is the orange of the RNLI boat, the rice is the blue of the sea, the dumpling is the rock around our country. I want to show that vision in my head on to the plate.”

Disaster nearly struck

10 minutes to go and Pookie takes the salmon from the frying pan and places them carefully into a metal tray on the hob to rest. She was very pleased with it as it was perfectly cooked and would rest nicely before serving. Until the MasterChef competition Pookie had never cooked with an induction hob before and the placing of the tray on the induction hob was to prove disastrous. Whilst preparing other parts of the dish she suddenly notices smoke coming from the salmon. The hob had thought the metal tray was a saucepan and had started up again to try and cook it. This meant that the salmon was now overcooked and seared in places.

Pookie immediately felt like crying, so much planning and thought had gone into this dish only for a simple error of where the resting tray was place might now mean she leaves the competition. No time to panic or regret however and quickly Pookie continues to plate up the dish before the timer runs out.

Eddie was first to present her dish and received very favourable comments… “Boom!”

Ioan was next up and his beef had not rested enough and his presentation was not ideal as it looked “too much like meat and veg…” and they thought more Japanese flavour was needed to make an impact on the dish.

Pookie was next to present her dish and genuinely thought she would be going home due to the overly seared salmon. However, her presentation was stunning.

Greg said “Your imagination and your theatre is stunning as always and I love it. Your sauce is an absolute knockout, anything dipped into that comes alive in a explosion of flavour. I love the crispy skin, you’ve managed to get sweetness in there as well as saltiness and I think they are absolutely delicious.”

John was more critical, “Your little steam dumpling is really intense and full of flavours, these little crackers adding crunch and texture and those with the sauce are brilliant but the salmon across the top of that rice is going a little bit dry.”

Struggling back tears of frustration and disappointment, the producers asked her what she thought. “ I’m feeling disappointed, because of the tray of the salmon that I put on to rest, after I’d cooked perfectly… ah I just want to kick myself.”

Radha was next to present her dish and whilst Greg wasn’t sure about her drink he did like her byriani. John was also very complimentary and Pookie said well done to Radha and gave her a little wink of appreciation.

Sarah was the last to present her dish but was, like Pookie, clearly also not 100% happy with her offering. The judges loved the flavours but criticised that the consommé had not clarified.

With no negative comments Eddie and Radha knew they were through. Sarah, Ioan and Pookie felt at risk.

In summary, Greg said “Pookie is an extraordinary talent, we had a salmon RNLI lifeboat sitting on a sea of blue rice.” John agreed and commented that “the sauce was wonderful, the dumplings absolutely beautiful but she took her eye off that fish.”

The producer asked Pookie how she felt.. “I feel like this, just upset. But I hope that I done enough to stay but I don’t know now, I will just have to see.”

As they walked back into the studio, Pookie was very worried and convinced she was going home.

The judges told the contestants, “You five are talented indeed, two of you really stood out – Eddie & Radha. Ioan, Sarah Pookie, one of you is leaving the competition… and the contestant leaving us is Ioan”

Pookie was brimming with mixed emotions, she had grown to know and like Ioan a lot and whilst she was thrilled to go through she was upset that Ioan was going home.

Iona reflected afterwards saying “its improved me as a person”

Pookie told producers that she was “Feeling so emotional, oooh I cannot believe it, I feel like I’m going to faint, it’s just an absolutely fabulous moment for me.”

The judges then announced that they would be sending them to Ireland.

Emerald Isle Awaits

The next day they took a flight to Ireland and Cork and were taken to Ballymaloe, a hotel set up by Mertyl Allen who gained a Michelin Star.

Now the hotel is run by her daughter in law Derina and brother Rory. After a lovely welcome, they went in two groups to see how ingredients are collected before the meal that day. Pookie and Sarah were taken to see the cattle. Pookie hasn’t ever been near a cow before and the producer wanted to see her up close with them.. she was completely unable to do more than a brief touch.

Pookie told the film crew “I’m a city girl in the farm but I think I’m rocking it!” she joked. Then Derina took them around the conservatories to allow them to see the growing of the ingredient and also the dairy so they could see the butter being made on site.

The contestants were asked to cook a dish that celebrated the cookery school and ethos of the food served at Ballymaloe. It should represent Ireland and Pookie was asked to cook a lamb dish. Having never cooked with lamb before.

Pookie “this is pineapple sage, the leaf smells of pineapple and the flower it got the aroma and colour of the tropics”

The four finalists had 3 hours to work together to make the four-course meal. Sarah was due to make her starter which was a Jerusalem artichoke tart with a cheese based sauce.

Radha made a second starters with mackerel fishcakes with a poached egg.

Pookie met one of the chefs and he gave her a saw so that she could cut the bones on the venison. She asked instead for a knife to simply remove the filet as she wouldn’t need the rest. She found the knife she was given was very blunt and found it very hard cleanly.

Pookie decided to make a dish taking on the colour of Ireland (Green), so she decided to do lamb with an emerald green curry.

Greg could see that many of the ingredients Pookie would normally rely on were not available and asked “How do you adapt these local ingredients to your Thai inspired food?” Pookie said “Well I’ve been tasting a lot of herbs and I found some ingredients that I can use like wood sorrel that gives the acidy sourness to it that I can (use to) replace my lime leaf.”

Greg then told the camera “Pookie wants to do a Thai inspired dish, and I love it that she is finding local ingredients to match her Thai flavours, BUT those ingredients that she is playing with now are completely and utterly untested so she is cooking blind. “

The dessert was to be provided by Eddie, Eddie was making a ruff puff pastry apple terrine dish.

The cooking started and Radha asked Pookie to taste her fish paste. Pookie was a bit confused at this point as Radha was known to her as a flexitarian. However, Radha had only recently become vegetarian and so didn’t want to taste it.

John interviewed Pookie about her lamb dish “Lamb, is not something that is cooked very often in Thailand?” he asked “There might be some Thai (people) that do it but not usually. So, I don’t eat lamb, nor cooked lamb before so it will be a challenge for me definitely.” Replied Pookie “You can do it you know!” he encouraged her.

Sarah was the second person to notice that the equipment in the kitchen wasn’t the best as she had left her tarts in for nearly 15 minutes longer than usual to cook.

The group (Eddie, Pookie and Radha) all helped Sarah get her dish completed on time. Pookie tried to help her calm down “deep breathe…” the dish wasn’t presented perfectly but the dish was considered “absolutely celestial” in its flavours. Next up was Radha’s fish cakes and poached egg, her poached egg had to go back in a second time but was also well received.

Then it was Pookie’s turn to present her lamb dish “I’ve never cooked lamb before so it’s totally out of my comfort zone” and the lamb also had to rest before serving. The medley of seasonal vegetables were places in the order of colour, the same as the flag. She wanted a square plate to present on but had to alter the presentation for the round plates.

Pookie also had her issues with her notes page catching fire on the stove. She rolled the lamb in coriander and panko to make it look green like an emerald filet. Just before serving Greg said he was loving the lamb because he too often sees lamb undercooked.

John asked her what were her peas for and she explained the plating layout so that it looked like the colours of the Irish flag. He was amazed and said ”Rightio, Pookie you think like no one else!” Pookie also added sorrel to look like an Irish shamrock in the green curry sauce (green from the sea). John asked if she was happy with the way the lamb was cooked and she took a d look again and said yes it was how she imagined lamb should look.

Sarah put her sauce in a jug for her and it was ready to go. John said “Pookie that looks great” and Pookie could sense it was going to go out on time and to her idea… “Do the Irish way!!” she gleefully exclaimed.

“That was crazy, I hope that they enjoy the flavours, they enjoy the combination that I am bringing Thailand to Ireland in the plate.”

Her dish in total was Emerald Isle herb crusted Lamb, green curry sauce flavoured with wood sorrel, society garlic and lemongrass, roast carrot, turnip and a pea salad All garnished with marigold pineapple sage and Myrtle berries.

The guests loved the attention to detail of the shamrock and colours of the carrot, turnip and pea salad making up the colours of the Irish flag. One lady actually cried in delight.

The guests said:

1. “The lamb has a nice little crust on the outside and she’s cooked the lamb really well, many a restaurant chef would be very happy with that colour”

2. I also think the vegetables were delicious, the lovely turnips and the carrot, very nicely cooked”

3. How wonderful was it for Pookie to attempt to make a Thai Curry sauce with Irish ingredients, it has quite the little kick to it

John said “The lamb is cooked beautifully, Pookie’s never cooked lamb before, she’s done a great job!”

Eddie’s dessert was taller than expected so Eddie put the apple at the side at the last minute.. Pookie helped with final presentation and it was also very well received.

They received rapturous applause from the guests and Pookie concluded “I loved my time in Ireland so much, I think I have showed them Pookiestyle – its cocktail time again!!” before heading back to London.

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