Masterchef SA Episode 15: learning to forage

The Top 5 leave the comfort of the kitchen to go foraging!

28 Nov 2014

Mel risked everything on a big culinary gesture this week to prove her worth, and lost. Ouch.
The top 5 knew right away walking into the MasterChef SA kitchen this week that this would be a challenge like no other, when Chef Benny informed them that this time they would not have access to their wonderful, fully-stocked Woolworths pantry. “The first part of this challenge you have to find your own ingredients. And you’re going to do it in the way we’ve been doing it for thousands of years – you’re going to go foraging,” Chef Pete announced. This challenge meant that the Cape was going to be their pantry.
Foraging from the earth

Chef Reuben explained that the Top 5 would head out into the Cape landscape to collect their own natural ingredients from the abundance of the Cape forest floor and fynbos fields, and the bounty of the ocean.  
The Top 5 were first introduced to professional forager Roushanna Gray, who helped them collect kelp, seaweed and mussels on the beach. Then she took them into a fynbos forest and taught them about all the wonderful aromatics and wild herbs that can be harvested there. And finally the contestants headed into the mountains to gather mushrooms under the guidance of “Mushroom Guru” Gary Goldman.

“They used to burn people at the stake for this”

The Top 5 let their imaginations run wild with their inventive foraged dishes and Ian was up first to serve the judges his Mussels in Wild Herb Broth on a bed of wrack and fried kelp. But no matter how tasty Ian’s dish was, Chef Pete Goffe Wood could not forgive him for cutting the two magnificent wild porcini mushrooms that he had picked into tiny little rounds for garnish. “They used to burn people at the stake for this,” he scolded.
Philippa served the judges a mushroom soup with ice cream and wild herb dumpling, and they all agreed it was a brave attempt. As was Sipho’s polenta lasagne with fried mushrooms and mussels. “I wouldn’t have used polenta and the fact that you did shows how confident you are so far in the competition,” Benny commented.
Roxi offered a wild mushrom mille-feuille with a hazelnut sauce, and a very happy Pete thought he could actually hear the porcini singing. “Okaaay ... maybe he’s on my medication that I’ve been taking!” Roxi grinned.
Mel's dish a disaster

But Mel’s mussel ceviche with wild garlic panna cotta and squid ink jelly cost her her apron and her place in the MasterChef kitchen. “The plate lacked balance and vision and it was kind of all over the place… it just didn’t come together for you today I’m afraid,” Benny told her.
Philippa was in tears when Mel had to say her farewells and hang up her apron. “I don’t have kids but if I had a kid I’d really want them to be like Melissa,” she sobbed.
“I couldn’t have asked or I couldn’t have wished for a better Top 5 to share this experience with and I wish them all the best of luck,” Mel said her goodbyes graciously. “Being so young, I never ever thought that I’d get this far. I’m really proud of myself. Top 5 isn’t too bad.”
And then there were four. “Wow,” Sipho reflected. “So proud of myself. Nothing can stop me now. Hell, no!”

Next week, in a special two-hour episode of MasterChef South Africa, we go from the Top Four to the Final Two. Prepare for a double helping of some of the most grueling, suspense-filled moments of the series to date.

The episode will feature two award-winning, legendary female guest chefs, both MasterChef SA veterans, and they spare no punches. Which two contestants will make it to the finale next week? Tune in from 19:30 – 21:30 to see for yourself.

- Cathrine Shone

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