WORDS OF THE WEEK

All a matter of taste
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The Independent Online
Tomorrow is the final of Masterchef, and regional winners have battled it out in the semi-finals. These menus won the three final places. In the first semi-final, Loyd Grossman "deliberates, cogitates and digests" in this trial by taste-bud with the help of Shaun Hill, chef from The Merchant House, in Shropshire, and Sir Bernard Ingham, journalist and broadcaster.

Grossman: "It's Masterchef time again, and we're back on the bread boards as we near the end of our year-long search for the best British amateur chef. We'll be asking them to knock up a championship-quality three-course meal, with a budget of just pounds 35 and a time limit of two-and-a-half hours. So let's meet our chefs again. The first is Julie Friend, from St John's Wood in London."

Grossman: "There's a lot of noise and smoke here."

Friend: "Yes, I'm grilling the peppers, courgettes and onions."

Hill: "Good to see you have lentils; very good for your heart."

Grossman: "Can we have a look at the guinea-fowl? The problem is, it can be dry."

Friend: "I've put prosciutto and sage underneath the skin."

Hill: "I'll be interested to see whether the prosciutto lasts the cooking."

Grossman: "Zappy first course."

Sir Bernard: "I feel healthy after eating this starter. Not exactly an English taste, though."

Hill: "I am normally put off by neeps and tattie because they remind me of hospital food."

Grossman: "It looks beautiful, really nice colours."

Hill: "Terrific taste, and the prosciutto really worked."

In the second semi-final the judges are Paul Rankin, owner of Roscoff in Belfast, and actress Billie Whitelaw.

Grossman: "Let's meet Julie Havard. Julie is a personnel manager from Portishead, near Bristol."

Grossman: "Some chefs maintain that mingling different foods has gone too far. That we must go back to a more purist approach to flavours."

Rankin: "To me it's personal. I love the global thing, the fusion between different countries. I also think that it is important to keep produce as natural as possible. There is something about the cycle of nature that nurtures your body. It's only confusing if sometimes you want asparagus in the winter."

Grossman: "Let's have a look at Julie's menu."

Rankin: "I am very excited about the main course."

Grossman: "Yes, it's pleasing to see butter beans, such a homely vegetable."

Rankin: "It's important to keep the fish simple."

Julie: "Yes, I'm doing a jus over the fish. It's just boiled-down fish stock, lemon and wine."

Rankin: "It is good that the fish is wrapped in paper so it's gently steamed. You must show me how to do that."

Grossman: "Have you got any tips for eating in public, Billie?"

Whitelaw: "Don't take too big a mouthful."

Rankin: "The risotto is the business. It can't be too crunchy or too soft."

Grossman: "Yes, it's quite Post-Modern to put risotto and salsa together."

Whitelaw: "Mmm. The salsa has quite a bite to it."

Rankin: "Normally I would just dive into the paper bag, but someone has provided scissors. The bag keeps the fish from getting dry."

Grossman: "It melts in your mouth like a halibut truffle."

Grossman: "Mmm, enough said. There is just the right amount of single malt whisky in the pudding."

Rankin: "It is not very sweet. Almost more Italian than American brownies."

Whitelaw: "There's no creme fraiche left."

Grossman: "There's a whole barrel. You can take it home with you."

The third semi-final is judged by Joyce Molyneux, who runs The Carved Angel in Dartmouth, Devon, and Oz Clarke, journalist, broadcaster and wine expert.

The contestant: Barrie Watson - a sales rep for hair products from Sunderland.

Grossman: "How do you choose wine for these eclectic foods?"

Clarke: "Just have the wine that you like. A lot of these foods are from places where wine isn't used."

Molyneux: "I am looking forward to the mussels; I've never had them with pesto before."

Grossman: "It's good to have different textures. The mussels are very correctly cooked and not at all rubbery."

Oz Clarke: "Vegetable chips are one of the greatest inventions in the past 10 years."

Molyneux: "The smoothness of the potato, richness of sauce and crispness of the parsnip are perfect. The pork is delicious. Super idea to put the ginger wine in the sauce."

Grossman: "Part of a steam pudding revival. The custard is exceptional with the cardamom - very fluffy."

Clarke: "Those mussels and pesto were outlandishly flavoured. I just wanted to get up and go - yeah!"

Grossman: "This has been the longest judgy huddle in the history of Masterchef."

Tomorrow's final is on BBC1 at 4.45pm. Judges: Lord Gowrie, Anton Edelmann.

Julie Friend

Starter:

grilled vegetables with polenta and pesto dressing

Main course:

braised guinea-fowl with prosciutto, sage and Puy lentils

neeps and tatties

buttered Savoy cabbage

Dessert:

lemon and lime sponge with lemon custard sauce

Julie Havard

Starter:

asparagus risotto on a bed of artichoke hearts, with an artichoke and tomato salsa

Main course:

fish parcels

butter beans and leeks in Noilly Prat

red pesto mashed potato

Dessert:

chocolate whisky cake with Amaretto creme fraiche

Barrie Watson

Starter:

grilled mussels with pesto

Main course:

roast tenderloin of pork with a prune and wine sauce

olive oil mashed potato

parsnip crisps

stir-fried cabbage Dessert:

pear and ginger pudding with a brandy and ginger wine sauce and cardamom custard

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