I did it ! Masterchef 2009

Thank you so many people for the wonderful comments ! I'm typing this on my mobile after a day of interviews :-) what fun but tired out now ! Will write more soon ...

Masterchef semi finals - diary

This is a diary my wife kept after we talked each night. I won't comment more until the show is over but for anyone following the show it may be of interest, the diary is my thoughts on the day ... its very personal and my opinions at the time ... don't read anything too much into it !

2nd Semi final challenges

Wednesday 13th August:

Knife skills masterclass with Eric Chavot the 2 star Michelin Chef at The Capital

Eric said Mats knife skills were great. He said Mat could be a Fishmonger or a pretty good Butcher.

Thursday 14th August:

Studio test (The Breakfast Test – 10 plates the same) - in London & then travelling to and overnight at the first challenge location

Mat was partnered with Chris. Mat and Chris cooked scrambled egg with flat crispy bacon cooked in maple syrup and mushrooms, on toast. The other pair, Andy and Christopher cooked Kedgeree. John and Greg didn’t personally like the bacon cooked in maple Syrup.

Friday 15th August:

Location challenge (South Wales Steel works) (The Mass Catering test – for 950 people). Travelling back to and overnight in London

Mat and Chris were partnered again. Mat made Madras curry, Chris made a Stir-fry. The other pair made Fish (it’s Friday) and Stew. All the dishes sold well, there were no dramas, they just got on with it, the curry sold the most. Mat took charge of his pair Chris was really down in the mouth and did not enjoy the day but he did work hard and do his share. It was the biggest mass-catering exercise that MasterChef have ever done, and it went fine. The biggest mistake was that the Stew, the other pair made, was too watery and delayed service while they thickened it up, Mat’s curry was judged to be too hot so he took some heat out by adding yogurt.

Saturday 16th August:

Studio test (The Classic Test – Beef Wellington)

Mat’s Wellington was a little undercooked, there was not enough spinach on the plate and he burnt his sauce so he didn’t serve it; but his potatoes were good. The others had mistakes too, like under-cooked and under-seasoned potatoes, collapsed pastry, red wine sauce covering the entire dish so it looked like a blood bath.

Sunday 17th August:

No filming on this day

Mat was full of cold and slept till lunchtime … thankfully no challenges today, he spent his days budget on a great Chinese lunch in Soho then spent £15 on a movie !

Monday 18th August:

Location challenge (in London) (High-end dinner party for eight high profile guests)

It was at the Institute of Directors. The guests were Tim Campbell (who won the first series of 'The Apprentice', the manager of the IOD, Simon Woodroffe (Yo! Sushi), a lady who has been on The Secret Millionaire and a brewery owner and others Mat didn’t know.

Christopher made the starter, Ravioli. Chris made the fish course, Sole fillet with a chutney. Mat cooked the main course, lamb. Andy made the pudding, Peach soup with wild strawberries.

John said to Mat, “That’s the first elegant plate of food that you’ve cooked!” He said it was hot but he liked it. (The Salsa Verde had a kick and the Lamb was rolled in white pepper, so it was quite hot).

Tuesday 19th August:

No filming on this day

Mat needs to do his laundry ! He spent the afternoon practicing his critics dishes and is worried about cooking tarts and getting them out of their tins.

Wednesday 20th August:

Location challenge (in London) (Learning and improving key skills in a Restaurant)

Mat was sent to The Kyashii Restaurant in The Kingly Club in St Martin’s Lane (http://www.kinglyclub.co.uk/). Andrew Lassetter is the Executive Chef. The food is a Japanese / British fusion. The lesson that John and Greg feel mat has to learn is PRESENTATION. Mat was responsible for the lamb dish (which you can see on the website) and he did lots of plating-up at the pass, including plating-up the Sea Bass. Tomorrow, back at the studio, Mat will be cooking a scallop dish, designed by the Kyashii Restaurant. He saw one of the sous chefs making it today, so he even knows how to present it (it is also on the website).

The lamb dish that Mat did today was Japanese. A loin of lamb, marinated in a miso paste, on top of samphire; beside it was Japanese seaweed, reduced down so that it tasted really meaty/umame, with a dumpling on top of it, made from Japanese paste and the inside was lamb, leeks and potatoes; with a lamb sauce (reduced lamb jous mixed with miso (fermented soya)). Mat really enjoyed today. Chef was a really nice guy and so was Alexander, the aussie head chef, who was very supportive and ‘held’ Mats hand all day. The Restaurant was so amazing, it’s almost beyond words to describe today’s experience.

Thursday 21st August:

Studio test (Plate of food to demonstrate the key skills you learnt in the Restaurant)

Today went really well. Mat made the Scallop and Prawn dish from the Kyashii Restaurant and it turned out superbly, it’s presentation was fantastic. John and Gregg were both very pleased with Mat. Gregg said, “It’s one of those dishes that’ll stick in your memory; I bet you didn’t think you could make something like that with those fat fingers”.

Christopher had been to an Indian Restaurant so he made a curry, Andy had been to a French Restaurant so he made veal and Chris made Hallibut with sea vegetables (samphire and seaweed). All the contestants had a good day today.

Friday 22nd August:


Mat cooked Steak & Oysters on parmesan mash with Samphire, followed by Lime Tart with Mascarpone and a glass of chilled Hermits Hill Botrytis Semillon.


The design and presentation of the dish was lovely and Mat even used an Oyster shell to put the sauce in, inspired! Mat felt that the steak was too big and it was definitely undercooked, it was blue. Mat’s kicking himself that he didn’t just apologise to the Critics and say that he’d be 10 minutes late with the main course. As it happens, he had to tell the Critics he’d be late with the pudding because it hadn’t had long enough to cook in the oven; and in the panic he forgot to put sugar in the lime filling … I wonder whether they noticed?

John and Gregg told the contestants that the Critics had said it was the best semi-final they’d had, the quality of the food had exceeded their expectations. Mat approached John for some feedback on his dishes; Mat said “I wasn’t happy with the flavours, I was in a flap with the timings … it wasn’t my best dish flavour-wise”, John agreed. John said “you focused too much on the presentation and not enough on getting flavour into the dish”.





So Mat needs to produce dishes that are un-fussy, but beautifully presented, using natural/local/british products like Elderberries, Elderflower, Blackberries, wild strawberries, seaweed, samphire, seakale, dandelion, chervil, feijoa, mushrooms … using the 3 golden rules above. Food that makes you salivate when you see it.

Dishes that are really good examples of what Mat needs to be producing more of:

  • Rhubard Crumble with Whiskey

  • Baby squid and clam soup
  • Lavender Ice cream and Hokey Pokey
  • Smoked scallops in wild garlic butter

Dauphinoise potatoes

Not my best night on Masterchef last night (I will post a diary my wife kept once I'm off) but my potatoes went down well and I've had several requests how I did them ...

  • 4 medium potatoes (Maris Piper or King Edward)
  • Garlic
  • 200ml cream
  • 200ml milk

Chop several garlic cloves finely and start browning it in a pan, once translucent and starting to brown add cream and heat slowly, adding milk when simmering then take off heat. Leave for 30 minutes to infuse. This creates a lovely nutty, garlicy infusion ...

Peel and Mandolin potatoes finely and layer in dish with salt & pepper between each layer (use plenty of seasoning ... more than you think you should !). Do not wash the slices as the starch will bind the dish together when it cooks.

Strain garlic cream and pour into dauphinoise dish till potatoes are covered. Cover with foil and place in the oven at 200C for 30 min (adjust times depending on depth of potatoes). The foil stops it burning.

Take foil off Dauphinoise and press down potatoes firmly (this is key to the dish binding and not becoming a collection of potatoe slices floating in cream !).

Put back in over at 160C and check every 15min, pressing down. Take out when brown on top and the cream mixture is absorbed.

This freezes well, we make an oven tray full at home and freeze what we don't eat, reheat at 160C.

Smoked Scallops with Wild Garlic Butter

I've just given this recipe to my local paper as one of my Masterchef recipes from the 1/4 final.

If you can't get dived scallops then try this with some monkfish or mackerel as both have strong flavours that the smoker will not overpower. Please don't use dredged scallops as the damage caused by dredging is horrendous to see. Farmed scallops are ok but be careful of the amount of water added to frozen ones.

Make wild garlic puree from early wild garlic shoots or flowers, the flowers give the best flavour, the season is March to June. Harvest sustainably from a spray free location and do not take more than one leaf or flower head from any plant or you may damage the plant. Wild garlic freezes really well as a puree so harvest some in season and freeze. Only a dot of the puree is needed per scallop.

Smoking can be done in a pan with some foil over the wood chippings then place the scallops on a rack so they don't make direct contact with the base, put a lid on the pan to keep the smoke contained. There are very good commercial products available to use if you like the flavours and want to do more smoking. One to two minutes is all that is needed to infuse the scallop with smoke flavour as hot smoking is very intense, then place in a moderate oven for 3-5 minutes to bake, bake in the shell which will bring out lovely salty, sea aromas from the baked shell (don't put the shells in the smoker or they go black).

  • Six Hand Dived Scallops
  • 200g Butter
  • 1 tsp Wild Garlic puree
  • Flat leaf parsley

Lightly smoke Scallops, then bake in the shell for a few minutes till firm to touch
Bring Butter to foaming hot, add a little wild garlic, pour immediately over scallops.
Serve hot with parsley.

Italian night

You may have noticed an italian theme to my last few posts ... that because I'm cooking tonight at my local pub as a bit of fun. I'll post some pics of the night soon but here's the menu for later (and now I'm back to prepping):

Cervo affumicato con insalata di barbabietola e Parmensan
Smoked Venison with Beetroot and Parmesan rocket salad

Clementine Sorbet

Pollo al limone con aglio patate
Lemon chicken with garlic potatoes and an aubergine & tomato gratin
Spaghetti con calamari e vongole
Spaghetti with a chilli & tomato sauce with squid and clams, , served with focaccia
Spaghetti con salsa putanesca
Spaghetti with a putanesca sauce, served with focaccia (V)

Torta al limone
Lemon tart
Mousse di cioccolato e caffè
Coffee and chocolate mousse

Limonchello Sorbet

This is an eye watering tart sorbet ... great as a palate cleanser but not as a bowl full ... it is delicious though ... I highly recommend it ! Adjust sugar (or alcohol !) to taste

Makes 20 portions (at 30g per portion)

  • 4 Lemons
  • 200g Caster sugar
  • 200ml Water
  • 150ml Cream
  • 100ml Limonchello

Zest 1 1/2 lemons, then juice all 4 of them
Boil the lemon juice, caster sugar and water
Add the zest, then leave on a low heat for 15 minutes
Add the cream and Limonchello, mix
leave to cool
Strain & pour into an Ice Cream Machine. Follow the instructions for your machine


Thought I'd write this one up as I make it ... my first one failed ... salty olives and yeast didn't mix well (unless you like unleaved bread).

  • 1 packet of dried yeast (baker yeast is not needed as the flavour is from olives and salt more than the bread)
  • Plain flour (own brand flour is ok just spend more time stretching the dough)
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Caster sugar
  • 300ml tepid water
  • Flavour ... chillis, olives, rosemary, salt ... you choose

Here's how I make it ... its not exact !
Mix the yeast and water, rest for 5 min
Pour about 250g flour in big mixing bowl, add the yeast water and mix ... keep adding flour till it binds into a ball and can be lifted out ... then start to stretch the dough adding a little flour still if too wet. Keep kneading till you feel the gluten pulling back on you ... then do it for another five minutes.

You're looking for a ball of dough with smooth, glossy outside that feels slightly firm to touch.

Rest in a bowl, covered in a warm place for 45-60min till risen to about 3x its initial size.

Pour it out into an oven tray, push it into the corners, use your fingers to make dimples and rest, covered, for another 30min or so.

Drizzle good olive oil, flavouring and salt(always) then bake at 220 for 20-25 minutes.

Lemon Tart - revisited

Made this tart over the weekend and improved on the recipe so here is the new version ... it makes a heavenly tart ... but it has bite ... serve with Marscapone or some v thick cream ... its yum. For a Lime tart use twice the number of limes and less sugar.
Taste the custard before baking to check sugar/tartness.

Takes about 20min to bake in a small tart dish and longer (1 hour) in a larger tart dish. Make a simple short pastry, blind bake it in the dish then fill and bake at 160C. Tart is cooked when you can push a knife in and remove without any filling attached to it.

Sweet Short pastry

  • 1/2 Cup Flour
  • 1/4 Cup Natural Caster sugar
  • 40g Butter
  • 1 egg

I use a blender to mix ... pulse till it forms small balls and just starts to cling together. If you keep blending it will not be short and will shrink and split when baking. Add a little flour if too wet. Fridge for 20min, roll out and importantly put back in fridge for an hour before blind baking for 10min at 200C.


  • 2 Lemons
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 150ml Double cream
  • 60g Natural Caster sugar

Zest and juice of lemons
Blitz all ingredients till sugar dissolved, leave for an hour then strain.
Fill tart and bake at 160C, drag any froth off using paper towels before baking.