Having survived their first Pressure Test last week and bidding vivacious Phila farewell, this week the Top 11 walked into the Pantry for the first time, where Chef Reuben Riffel announced their challenge: creating a spectacular MasterChef-worthy dessert using one specific star ingredient – the humble carrot!
“Of every single food in the whole world, I think carrot is the only thing I don’t like. I’ve never like carrots,” Johannesburg life skills lecturer Philippa (48) complained. “I don’t make dessert with carrots,” Durban train driver Roxi (26) agreed. “I mean, carrots are a vegetable!”
But Reuben explained that making a dessert with carrots was actually not as crazy as it seemed. “I’ve always loved carrot with anything sweet, or with something spicy or anything fragrant,” he pointed out to the bewildered contestants.
And before they could get too sneaky, Chef Benny Masekwameng made it clear that the carrot had to be foundation of the dish. “So don’t think that you’re going to make us a chocolate cake and then garnish it with a twist of carrot!” he warned. And just in time, too, because that was exactly what Ndumiso (28), the mobile bar owner from Durban, was thinking. “The first thing I thought of was a carrot cake,” he admitted. “Then I thought, you know what: I can’t bake!”
But Siphokazi (38), the domestic worker from Cape Town, was inspired by her access to the Pantry for the first time. “I have lots of ideas! I see champagne, chocolates, I see walnuts ... Good grief, I want everything now!” she laughed.
Reuben explained that the contestants had 90 minutes to complete the challenge and that the pantry would close after the first 15 minutes. The three cooks who presented the weakest desserts would go into a Pressure Test, Reuben explained. And one of them would be going home.
The Top 11 immediately started planning. Durban teacher Penny (31) said her first thought was a tart but then she thought she wouldn’t like to compete with Roxi in that arena. “I settle for carrot cake with lots of spice,” she decided. “I’ve made carrot cake before – but with a recipe though!”
Abigail (38), a dental technologist from Cape Town, was working on a carrot panna cotta infused with cardomom, and Philippa eventually decided on a marmalade tart and a carrot granita with carrot powder, and carrot juice and Nederburg Late Harvest. “I’ve always been terrified of puddings. I don’t really like eating puddings, I’m a savoury girl,” she confessed. “So I have a recipe in my mind that I think I’m going to try and ... force into submission!”
Refilwe (36), a service consultant from Carltonville, was trying her hand at something she’d never done before: a carrot Swiss roll, and Claire (27), the events company owner from Cape Town, was attempting a carrot cake ice cream. Ian (49), the advertising consultant from Cape Town, tried to make tuile for only the second time in his life, to serve with a panna cotta.
Roxi told Reuben her dish was inspired by her reward trip to Ireland to visit to Chef Kevin Thornton’s restaurant in Dublin. “So I decide to make a carrot and pineapple sorbet, a carrot and ginger jelly, a carrot purée, some biscuits dipped in white chocolate and salted caramel, like, little disc-lollies, with a carrot and cashew nut dust,” she explained to an impressed Reuben – but by this time 30 minutes had already elapsed and Reuben was concerned about the time she left for her ambitious dish.
Ndumiso decided to make a shortcrust crumble with an anglaise, but he was nervous. “I only eat dessert, I’ve never made a dessert before!” he admitted to Chef Pete Goffe-Wood.
With about half an hour left on the clock disaster began to strike. First Ian’s panna cotta started seizing and separating. “It was Plan B time!” he sighed. Then Sipho’s carrot sponge cake didn’t rise and she quickly had to try to make another. “I’m just going to add more baking powder and see if it’s going to rise,” she said bravely, but she only had 30 minutes left. “Get your grip, Siphokazi, you can do it,” she muttered. And with only 30 minutes to go Claire had her own panic with a carrot cake ice cream that wouldn’t set. “I put warm ice cream mixture into the ice cream machine and don’t decide to chill it. I have no idea why!” she explained.
And Ndumiso was stressing because his custard didn’t set and when he spooned it into his shortcrust pastry it was leaking everywhere. “Luckily I have another shortcrust pastry that seems to be able to hold the custard,” he said. Only Philippa was happy by the end of challenge. “I’m feeling content with my dish,” she said, despite never having made granita before. “I’ve made sorbet, I’ve made ice cream, but I’ve never made granita. I thought it would make a very nice sort of final mouthful,” she explained.
Claire was first to present her Carrot Cake Ice Cream with chargrilled carrots and pineapples, carrot foam, and cream cheese icing, but the judges were not impressed. “All those textural elements you might have in a carrot cake are now frozen, and they leave a sort of a mealy taste in your mouth,” Pete complained.
Benny loved the panna cotta in Abigail’s dish of Carrot Panna Cotta with carrot jelly and carrot crumble, but he complained that the jelly was “rubbery”, because she had used powdered gelatin instead of gelatin leaves, he said.
Ndumiso was nervous presenting his Pecan Nut and Carrot Tartlet with custard. “I’m expecting just negative feedback, really, because I know that my custard did not set,” he admitted and indeed, Pete’s first question to him was a sarcastic, “Did you intend it to ooze?”
But they could not stop swooning over Roxi’s Medley of Carrots with sorbet, shortbread, carrot syrup and carrot dust. “I can even taste the inspiration!” Reuben exclaimed. “It sounded so ambitious when I asked you about your dish but you managed to do it and it looks fantastic.”
Penny was also nervous because she had prepared a seemingly simple Carrot Cake with carrot and fruit compote and ice cream. “It’s a big risk to take – to stand and fall on a plate this simple,” Pete agreed. But he liked it. “Well done!” he said. “Simple ... and all three elements are perfect.”
Unfortunately the same did not hold true for Sipho’s Carrot Sponge Squares with Italian meringue and carrot, fennel and apple compote. “I was not looking forward to it because I know deep down I suck at dessert,” she admitted ruefully, and unfortunately Benny agreed. “All chefs have bad days,” he comforted her.
“For a guy who loves to braai that’s a beautiful looking plate!” Reuben remarked about Ian’s Carrot Ginger Créme Patisserie with glazed baby carrots, compote and tuile. “This is very, very clever,” said Pete. “This is considered cooking.”
Refilwe served the judges a Carrot Swiss Roll with carrot and peanut brittle and candied ginger carrots, which they liked, even though Reuben pointed out that he would have liked some more filling. “You know I want more of the carrot in there. Because it gets lost in something that’s overly sweet,” he told her.
And finally Philippa presented her Carrot Tart with carrot granita, carrot marmalade and chocolate soil, and Pete said it was the nicest plate he’d tasted all day. “If this is the way you treat things that you don’t like then I’m really looking forward to seeing how you treat things that you love!” Reuben laughed.
But then things turned serious again when the judges had to render their verdict. Reuben had warned them that the three contestants who made the least impressive desserts would be going into a pressure test, and those three were Ndumiso, Claire, and Siphokazi.
“I have to clear my mind,” Sipho resolved. “Tell myself that, okay, if I can cook, why can’t I make a great dessert?”
Meanwhile the other eight contestants could look forward to a lovely surprise trip into the country to explore some indigenous South African cuisine.
MasterChef South Africa is broadcast exclusively on M-Net Channel 101 every Thursday evening at 19:30, and now all the episodes of the season so far will be available via DStv Catch Up on Explora! Fans can also follow all the culinary action on social media via Twitter - @MasterChef_SA, Facebook – MasterChef SA and on Instagram at @MasterChefSA. Check out the official MasterChef SA website on www.mnet.co.za for more exclusive content.
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