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It's the MasterChef quarterfinal...
..and the six best amateurs are back.
It is going to be harder, but I'm ready for it.
It's another level of nerves, excitement, the unknown.
I want to nail it today.
I am a perfectionist.
Plenty more to give, definitely.
Tonight, they will face just one challenge -
to cook an exceptional dish from a brief set
by renowned restaurant critic William Sitwell.
We started the week with 14 cooks, we have now got our best six.
Today is all about sweet, sticky desserts.
It couldn't get any better!
Tell you what, it's going to be a sugar rush.
Welcome back. Very good to see you.
You cooked really well to get here.
Now you're going to have to cook even better to stay here.
You have been set a brief to make a pudding using either spice or booze.
That brief was set by none other
than food writer and restaurant critic
He's going to be tasting your dessert and he'll be helping us
make a decision.
You have just 90 minutes, ladies and gentlemen.
At the end of this, the best cooks go through to knockout week.
I really love puddings, and with spice or alcohol,
you can transform what could be a fairly plain dessert.
The stumbling block is subtlety,
because too much spice and you overwhelm the flavours of the fruit.
Too much alcohol and you just get a whole waft of booziness.
The amateur cooks, they're passionate people,
they've got some skills,
but have they got that subtle touch?
I think Richard has got great skill. I like his ambition.
He promises lots, but sometimes doesn't quite deliver.
I haven't seen him do a dessert yet, but I tell you what it won't be -
it won't be boring.
Huge day today. The pressure is high.
So, I've gone for the spice option.
Recently, I've been starting to enjoy Middle Eastern food
and, for me, these are big Middle Eastern flavours.
Dessert today is what?
Cardamom, orange and pistachio tart with a cardamom ice cream and then
some rose and pomegranate salad.
But I'm also going to put a little bit of saffron just as a bit of
decoration, but also for that little bit of flavour.
I've got to really nail it today and get the balance of the spices right.
Love the fact that there's cardamom going in those tarts from Richard,
but cardamom is very, very strong.
We've got rose, which is that flavour of Turkish delight,
and pomegranate, those seeds which burst into your mouth and are very,
I know Richard's got the skill,
but it's the flavour combinations which concern me right now.
Zaleha is a very talented cook and I love her
spice-flavoured food from Malaysia.
This could be Zaleha's round.
She's been great with spice so far.
All she's got to do now is take it from savoury into sweet.
I have to be really careful with the spice because if it's overpowering,
it will be bitter.
But if it's not enough, then it won't meet the brief.
It's really tricky today.
I have to make sure I get it right to go through.
What is your dessert, Zaleha?
It's going to be Qatari-style date, orange and almond tart.
So, previously we've seen food from Malaysia.
-And now we're going to see food from the Middle East?
I've put four types of spice in it - cloves, cardamom,
cinnamon and star anise.
How do you balance those four things? They're big flavours.
They are big flavours and I just have to reduce my cardamom pods
because cardamom is the strongest flavour among the spices.
Zaleha, go pud, go pud.
Yeah, I'm going to go for it.
We have got four spices, with dates and oranges.
Really risky. But if anybody can balance spice,
we know that Zaleha can.
Louise, our Welsh bundle of energy, has delivered big flavours,
but I'd like it to be a little bit more sophisticated and I want to
make sure that Louise today is on time.
I think she's got potential, but that potential has got to be proved.
Never designed a dish to a brief before.
But it was really exciting.
You could let your imagination run away with you a little bit and you
can really start to open up your ideas.
Louise, are you cooking with booze or spice?
Spice. My family...
Well, my friends and family are going to be so shocked.
I like a little tipple, but I'm not a big fan of booze in puddings.
-What are you making?
-Apple and stem ginger cakes,
stem ginger ice cream and a salted, um, apple caramel sauce
to go over the pudding.
What, gingerbread Gregg?
Louise's dessert is all about ginger.
That sponge has to be light as a feather.
The gingerbread has got to be crunchy,
the ice cream's got to be creamy.
She's given herself so much work to do and we know what Louise is like
35 minutes gone.
James seems to have a fair amount of technical knowledge for a young guy.
I like that.
James has proven himself to be very, very skilful,
but he's also very ambitious.
I've not cooked a dessert yet. It's not really a strong point of mine,
so I'm pushing myself in that kind of sense.
There's a few tricky technical things that I've got to get right.
I really have to step up and make sure
I can cook something really tasty.
Many people seem to have gone for spice.
-You seem to have gone for booze.
Yes. I work in a wine shop. I like my alcohol.
I cook with it quite a lot,
so I was quite happy when I saw the booze option come up.
-What are you making?
-I was talking to my dad.
He makes THE best crumble.
So I'm taking his crumble and then refining it to my style.
The crumble's going to be on the bottom as the base and then it's
going to be some pears on top, poached in a port,
and then a kind of set custard with a little bit of brandy in there
-See, everybody loves a crumble.
How risky is it to mess around with it?
Yeah, I realise that now.
Almost a stupid idea, but I'm going to give it a go.
James is being really ambitious. He's poaching pears in port.
The flavour and the colour of the port will go into the pears.
He's making a blackberry cream, he's making blackberry sherbet.
If he gets it right, fantastic.
Alex's classic Portuguese food is really tasty.
Those little cod fritters were fantastic
and her pork and clams was absolutely delicious.
I'm definitely hiding my nerves well in the kitchen.
It's all inside!
Inside, I'm, like, screaming.
I try to kind of keep calm on the exterior.
Alex, are you going to give us a Portuguese dessert?
It's got Portuguese booze in it.
I'm making a cherry liqueur chocolate fondant.
Have you watched MasterChef over the years?
I have, yes.
Have you seen the amount of people that fail with a fondant?
Yes, I have. It's quite risky.
I've tried it about six times and twice it's fallen apart
-on the plate.
-So it terrifies me, yeah.
But if it works, it will be amazing, so fingers crossed.
So we've got sweet,
thick cherry fondant and then she's taking creme fraiche and mixing it
with really tart and bitter marmalade.
It could be wonderful,
but of course the proof of the fondant is in the turning out.
Jess has an exciting creative style all of her own. I like that.
I tell you what, a pudding challenge is made for creative cooks.
You've got to literally put something out there
and you are bearing your soul.
I feel good. I've got good nerves.
If anything, it just makes me perform better. I'm very focused.
Your cookery is lovely.
It also defies convention.
-That's good to hear!
-Is this dessert an invention of yours?
It's a mixture of things that I really like.
So I'm doing a ginger and orange treacle tart,
chai tea latte ice cream,
with cardamom and vanilla.
I had my first chai latte about three or four years ago.
I was like, "Oh, my God, this would be perfect for an ice cream,
"could you imagine?"
This means a lot to me.
This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so I need to nail it.
Buttery pastry, please, Jess, lovely soft filling, creamy ice cream, yes,
please. And just not too much spice.
15 minutes, ladies and gentlemen.
15 minutes till pud time.
I didn't realise the time had gone so quick.
I need 20 minutes to cook this.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, what's happened there?
It's not cooked enough, but I've got another one on reserve.
Oh! Careful, careful.
Oh, whoa, whoa, whoa. You've got six minutes.
-Put it back in the oven again.
Five minutes, guys.
Five minutes left.
Final 60 seconds.
That's what you've got.
That's it, your time is up, stop.
Mine is a disaster.
Mine looks like a big lump of dog poo.
Let me now introduce you to food writer and restaurant critic
They look scared and it's your fault.
About right, too.
Richard, please, up you come.
Teacher Richard, from Burnley,
has cooked a cardamom-spiced pistachio and orange tart...
..with cardamom ice cream, topped with saffron and pistachio...
..pomegranate, candied rose petals and a pistachio crumb.
Your timing's gone awry, Richard.
Your tart is undercooked, the centre is soggy like chewing gum,
and the pastry itself is burnt
around the outside and the edges because
you pumped the heat up and underneath
isn't quite cooked enough.
I like the flavour of the saffron with the pomegranate.
I love the texture of your ice cream,
again with saffron across the top.
I'm not getting very much cardamom at all.
Your ice cream is really nice.
I can just taste the cardamom at the end.
I had to look quite hard for it.
Unfortunately, the tart itself is so dry.
You know, the main event hasn't worked for me.
I wouldn't go looking for this, I'm afraid.
I get a hint of cardamom from your tart,
but that inside is like a dry mince pie and not great,
but I kind of get the feeling you knew that.
Gutted, really. Ruined the execution of the tart.
I'm so annoyed at myself.
Fitness instructor Louise has cooked apple and stem ginger cake,
topped with salted caramel and apple sauce...
..a gingerbread crumb,
clotted cream and stem ginger ice cream and gingerbread men.
For me, the presentation looks like you're trying to produce something
that has a bit of a restaurant feel to it.
But then the home cook in you is
just basically driving a train through all of that.
Your cake is quite dry and your ice cream is
a sort of slightly strange texture.
Having said that, I got this amazing hit of ginger
and I really like that,
and it wasn't too overwhelming.
And then you've got the obvious treat of the caramel coming in to
slightly temper that, so it's quite a nice,
wintry pudding that I wouldn't be unhappy to have.
You've got great flavours of ginger.
I like the crumb underneath.
Your prunes and apples should be stewed down so they're lovely and
soft before they get folded into your sponge mix
and that'll keep your sponge mix moist.
Your ginger biscuits are mild with ginger,
very crispy and rather attractive, in a kind of bald, jolly way(!)
I feel I've justified my previous round and I can hold my head up high
a little bit more this time.
Zaleha, from Bristol, has created a date, almond and orange tart,
spiced with cardamom, cloves, star anise and cinnamon...
..served with dates filled with cream cheese and pistachio...
..nutmeg Chantilly cream and an orange butter sauce.
Well, it's very pretty. There's a whole kind of Eastern journey there.
I'm looking forward to plunging in.
The flavours, for me,
are slightly less subtle than it looked and what I'm getting
is a lot of sugar, cream, it's a lot of sweetness,
which is not unpleasant by any means.
But the unusual thing is, I'm not getting all those different spices.
I pick up the cloves, I get a hint of star anise,
I get no cardamom at all.
Your pastry is very nice.
I particularly like that cream cheese with the dates.
I think that's lovely.
After that, it's very, very sweet and sticky.
Too sweet and sticky for me to finish it all.
You're demonstrating lots of skill. Your pastry's absolutely lovely.
I like your orange sauce a lot.
But there's a lot on one plate.
Don't know how to feel.
Oh. It was too sweet, even for Gregg.
But they liked my pastry, so I hope that counts.
Dental nurse Jess has made orange and ginger treacle tart...
..with charred orange segments...
..a spiced chai, cardamom and cinnamon vanilla ice cream,
and toasted pistachios.
The outside of the tart here is very, very dark and,
-many would say, burnt.
Your ice cream, you really get that wonderful flavour of cardamom and
cinnamon. I like the stickiness of the inside of the tart.
Unfortunately, it doesn't have a lot of ginger about it
and the pastry is really hard.
Pastry is a very easy thing to get very, very wrong.
Unfortunately, you've sort of slipped over into that danger zone.
But nice ice cream.
You've got work to do on your pastry.
I think you've got work to do on your presentation.
I think your flavours are good.
Disappointed with my pastry. My pastry was not good.
I'm just hoping that they can see the potential that I've got.
24-year-old James has made his take on a pear crumble.
Cob nut crumble with pears poached in port...
..served with a set custard infused with apple cider brandy,
a brandy and blackberry cream mousse, and a blackberry sherbet.
You know, I do worry when you get a deconstructed pear crumble.
Problem is, it just looks over-fussy and it doesn't have a kind of
gorgeous, eat me, warming feeling.
For me, that's what crumble's about.
I'm going to ignore the word "crumble" because this is not
a crumble in any way, shape nor form.
I like your sherbet. I think that's lovely,
and it's really good with your cob nut crumble.
I don't mind your little blackberry mousse on the side.
But when they all come together, there's very little texture.
Your pears are a little bit too soft.
You know, when you poach pears in red wine or port,
you do it because you want to get that richness,
so I'm not getting that.
I have to say, and I'm sticking my neck out here, I really,
really like that and completely disagree with them.
I like the rich port in the pear.
I particularly love that brandy coming out of that cream.
Do I think you've put together a smashing dessert?
No, I don't.
But I think there's some really nice flavours and textures there.
Feeling gutted. That was a bad idea to give such a well-known dish and
then to mess about with it.
And, yeah, it didn't go down too well.
Alex, from London, has made a chocolate fondant,
flavoured with Ginjinha,
a Portuguese cherry liqueur...
..served with a glazed cherry,
dark chocolate soil and creme fraiche and orange marmalade.
-It did collapse.
The thing is, I eat in so many restaurants where, if this came out,
I would believe it's supposed to look like that.
- OK, we'll go with that. - If you told me,
"This is a collapsed fondant," I'd go, "Great, yeah."
It is super-rich, super-deeply dark and chocolaty.
What I like is that your cherry liqueur that you used
is in there, and it's subtle.
This is actually a pudding that I like and I will remember.
I would order this again.
I want a collapsed fondant, please.
It is rich and dark with chocolate.
I love the fact you've got bitter marmalade and you've got
sour creme fraiche. So, bitter, sour
and really, really sweet coming together.
And whatever the boys say, you didn't want that to collapse.
As good as it tastes, that's gone wrong.
But it does taste good.
I'm disappointed that the fondant collapsed,
but I'm really pleased that they liked the flavours.
So, yeah, maybe I should have said it was a deconstructed fondant!
We have to make a decision about who stays and who goes.
Ladies and gentlemen, thanks very much indeed.
I thought my brief would be challenging.
I didn't think it would be that challenging.
I think it proves that making pastry is a very, very tough skill.
Great brief, as always.
Great judging, as always.
In the room today, there was lots of skill on show.
Huge amounts of ambition.
Lots of creativity, but some ups and downs.
Out of all the desserts today,
which one of those would I order on a menu right now?
I think I would have to go to Louise.
-Yeah, I agree.
-Loads and loads and loads of ginger in there,
really comforting, really warming.
Listen, Louise is not the finished article,
but there are good enough foundations to build on.
The nicest thing from Richard today was his cardamom ice cream.
The tart wasn't cooked properly. The tart centre was still all squishy.
Richard got his timings wrong today, and he's done it before.
I don't know if I've done enough.
If I'm not going home, then it'll be very close.
Zaleha, she had some nice ideas.
Her pastry was well cooked.
Those dates with the cream cheese I really liked.
There were little hints of cloves, there was a little bit of cinnamon,
but the sauce across the top made the whole thing very, very sweet.
The competition is really stiff at the moment.
I hope I will get through.
I live in hope.
Jess's tart was burnt.
The top of it was very, very hard.
The pastry was really, really tough.
However, her chai tea ice cream was creamy and yummy.
It means so much to me.
It makes you sort of think, if I had just got that right,
that could have been - sorry - me getting through to the next bit.
Alex is divisive, that's for sure.
I really liked it.
It tasted of cherries and cherry liqueur.
Yeah, I agree with you. Alex's dessert tasted good, but it failed.
We can't say it was a collapsed fondant,
as if that's a type of fondant.
-Overall, my feedback was OK,
but nothing in this life is certain, so we'll just have to wait and see.
I had to try and take it out of my mind that James was talking about
making a crumble. I didn't think it was a very good dessert,
but you loved it.
It wasn't a crumble, but he did have nice flavours and textures.
My insides are pumping like crazy. I'm very nervous.
It was one bad dish and I hope it hasn't cost me.
You and I believe that Louise goes straight through to knockout week.
Who else do you believe has what it takes?
I think it's one of those frustrating judging days,
where nobody covered themselves in glory
and nobody dumped themselves out the competition either.
Quite a few of you absolutely divided us.
We are going to take four of you through
and two of you, unfortunately,
are leaving us.
First contestant going through to knockout week...
The second contestant going through to knockout week...
The third contestant
One place left.
The fourth contestant going through...
Richard, Jess, thank you very much.
Thanks very much, guys.
Gutted to be leaving at this point.
But do you know what? I made a massive mistake.
Cooking is still going to be in my life -
I just won't have John and Gregg looking over my shoulder.
I was expecting to go, but just hearing it is horrible.
It has been really good fun. I'll look back on it with fond memories,
I'm sure I will.
All a bit up in the air at the moment.
But, yeah, just very, very pleased that I've got through.
I don't quite know what's happened, but I'm here.
It was a really tough challenge, so I'm really, really happy.
I am so excited, elated, jolly,
everything in the dictionary that says "happy".
I'm just so excited, I can't believe it.
This is just the start, isn't it?
Keep practising, I suppose!
You have got a place in knockout week.
Next week, seven new cooks battle it out for a place in the quarterfinal.
Trying not go blank.
I'm all right, I think.
Come on. Cook!
Go, go, go, go, go!
It's possibly the best plate of food I've eaten at this table.