MasterChef, TV review: A bread and butter pudding that's 'late-career Elvis'? Cooking doesn't get kookier than this

Ellen E Jones reviews the first quarter final of the new series

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The Independent Culture

MasterChef contestants can cook delicious food, make it look beautiful on a plate, all while fielding a stream of silly questions from judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode – yet none of them can count to three. In tonight's first quarter final of the new series, food writer Jay Rayner set a challenge, to cook a main course using just three ingredients – "and maybe a sauce, if I'm feeling generous". Should have been simple, right?

Tony, the one with the Salvador Dalí tache, had a suitably surrealist take on the concept of "three" that involved rabbit, spinach and mushrooms cooked a multitude of different ways. Young buck Robert made a ballotine of chicken breast stuffed with black pudding, with fondant potato, asparagus and a masala cream sauce, which is at least five ingredients, isn't it?

By the time cockney Khaleesha served up her turmeric spiced sea bass, parsnip chilli mash, fried cherry tomatoes in balsamic vinegar and a tarragon sauce, I'd lost count. Only casual Kathryn did as she was told, with a dish of poached hake on lentils with a pepper sauce, beautiful in its simplicity.

Apparently, this is just the sort of thing she knocks up at home on the regular, a boast that impressed guest judge Rayner so much he propositioned her. "My husband likes it too," came Kathryn's prim reply. She may be a three-ingredient chef, but she's a one-man woman.

Did Kathryn deliberately fluff the dessert round in hopes of further repelling randy Rayner? That's my charitable explanation for the burnt Bakewell tart and split custard she produced in response to his second brief: "Good dessert should appeal to the greedy child in every adult."

Tony's chocolate fondant hit the spot, but Robert's bread and butter pudding was deemed "late-career Elvis" and not in a good way. Khaleesha's south Indian-inspired banana fritters were let down by the accompanying coconut sago, which Gregg christened "pink frog spawn". That sounds like exactly the sort of E-number-y goop children delight in, but sadly garishness alone was not enough. It also had to taste nice. Bye-bye, Khaleesha, and welcome back amateurs' MasterChef, the original and the best.