Episode 5: What’s done, is plated. My experience in the MasterChef Kitchen.

Updated: Sep 2, 2020

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Episode 5:

This week there was something special in store for us. We were up really early for this challenge. Still groggy, taking naps between nooks and corners, we entered into a Cold Storage for this challenge.

Judge Bjorn explains that this is a team challenge where we have a super-sized pantry, the entire store to our disposal!!

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Judge Damian briefs us that we have 60 minutes to prepare a main course and dessert and work within a budget of $50 to buy the ingredients. It is a closed pantry challenge and we needed to include some special buys from the store. The special buys included Lamb Cutlet, Australian potatoes, Cherry Tomatoes, Kale and Barramundi Fish.

Judge Audra explains that the challenge is to cook for a family of four, therefore, we need to make sure we make sure our dishes entice the kids and adults.

We were split into three teams, so two people in each team. Winners of the last week challenge, @Shamsydar Ani, @Zander and @Sharon become captains. We were paired by a luck of draw and the colour of the Bell peppers decide our partners. I pulled out a red capsicum and was teamed with the @Shamsdyar.

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The tight-fisted purse stringsgot me thinking of the cheapest protein and carbohydrates. With only 15 minutes to shop, Shamsydar and I start verbalizing almost everything that popped up while we run from isle to shelf.

It was a simple decision. The cheapest carbohydrate is Potato, cheapest starch for mains is Rice and cheapest protein is Chicken. So we decided to cook a kampong style menu. Roasted Chicken, Herbed Rice, Pan Roasted Potatoes, Orange salad, Onion fritters and a Chocolate Cake. 

We both knew that our strengths were in spicing up the dishes. The literal meaning of the word Rempah is spice in Malay, but in practice, a rempah refers to a paste of spices which imparts an intense flavour to a dish. Shamsydar had established her Sambal and Rempah skills in the competition and I understand how Spices work, thanks to my Indian roots. We pick up some paprika, lemon pepper, sea salt. We christen ourselves as #SpiceGirls.

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Once the shopping was done, everything else depended on what we made of it (literally) in the MasterChef Kitchen. We decided to divide the work based on how we were going to prioritize the tasks. I was responsible for the Potatoes, Rice and Salad. Shamsydar was responsible for the Chicken, Onion Fritters and Chocolate cake.

Even though we decided to feed Kampong style, I knew that every dish mattered. My philosophy in cooking is that a good dish does not have to be a ton of ingredients. Even a simple, one-ingredient dish can be outstanding.

Highlighting a single ingredient dish is what all home cooking is about. It always boils down to the ingredient and the best-suited cooking technique to hero it.

It was a frenzy cook, I burnt my first batch of rice! God bless Judge Damian for pointing it out to me.

I herbed the rice with chopped curry leaves, coriander and cracked pepper. The most critical aspect of making a rice dish is to wash, drain the rice and cook out the starch in a copious amount of water. This helps achieve that very much need separated grains so that each grain is coated with flavour. Next, it is important to understand that herbs lend very different qualities to a dish when it is fried. That was what I was after for this dish. So, I fired the curry leaves, coriander, added the cooked rice and cracked pepper. It tasted very flavorful.

The #Australianpotatoes supplied by @ColdStorageSG from @pembertonfresh is what I used for the potato dish. These are slightly waxy potatoes and have a lot of starch in them. When you cut into starchy potatoes you will find a milky substance on my knife, that is a good way to know that the potatoes are good for frying. That was what I was after for this dish.

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I pan-fried the potatoes to give that perfect roast. There is a video explaining “how to” cook the potatoes and pan roast them on Toggle. Click here to check it out: https://video.toggle.sg/en/video/series/masterchef-singapore/extras/ep5-cold-storage-challenge-perfectly-roasted-potatoes-masterchef-singapore/628089

I was very happy with the flavours in the pan roasted potatoes and herbed rice. Now the salad.

We had bought 5 beautiful oranges to be the flavour bomb for the chicken, cake and salad. I spent a lot of time prepping the oranges and I remember Chef Bjorn comments on us successfully using the orange from nose to tail!! He is so funny, quirky, quick with puns … I love his spirit and honesty. There is absolutely no pretence about him.

We used the orange segments with the mixed salad leaves we bought. When it came to the dressing, we quickly realized that it needed some citrus as all fundamental dressings should have. The orange juice was too fruity and sweet. I used the lemon pepper (that I used for the potatoes) and vinegar from the staples provided under our bench. But it was still begging for a citrus zing! Shamsdyar added a lot of sea salt and balanced it out. Kudos girl!

If you are ever making an Orange salad, I would definitely recommend some lemon juice and shards of parmesan. The high salt, citrus kind of balances out the fruity sweet orange. Try it!

Back to the MasterChef Kitchen. We were introduced to the family we were going to feed. Two little boys entered the kitchen as our guest judges and we were excited to see them. They both looked like best buddies and full of sporting fun.

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I am very happy about the dishes I worked on and plate. They do taste like how I intended it to be. Thanks to the large quantities we cooked, many on the sets got to taste it. I remember the crew members asking me for the recipe and wanting to try the rice and potatoes. You see, food does not need to be complicated. It is about the cooking technique. After all food that is simple to make, instills confidence in people. I am thrilled.

The following moments were very gratifying for me in the MasterChef Kitchen. Judges loved the Rice, Potatoes and Salad. An image that will always remain in my heart.

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Judge Audra went back for seconds, watching her eat is always a pleasure. Judge Bjorn loved the fluff from the potato that had roasted to become crusty bits that he could not resist. Judge Damian had come to my station earlier and said that he wanted to see some well-cooked rice. I think I delivered because he loved the herbed rice.

The two kids who were our judges are just adorable. So thin that all I wanted to do was to feed them. Perfect candidates to feed a hearty meal. The kids ate our food and said it was “super-duper good!” The satisfaction of feeding childrensigh! There is no greater joy in the universe.

We still had three dishes on the table. Kampong style right!! The Judges loved Shamsdyar’s onion fritters, made with egg in a Malay style. Then the “big reveal” was the Chicken and Chocolate cake. Unfortunately, our chicken and the chocolate cake turned out uncooked. We were gutted because we were eyeing the deck and wanted to win this challenge to avoid the elimination.