It's the quarter-final and the six heat winners face the Critic's Test, where Grace Dent challenges the amateur cooks to make their best comfort food dish.
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It's the MasterChef quarterfinal...
..and this week's best home cooks are back.
I'm a doctor, I'm a scientist
and now I'm a MasterChef quarterfinalist.
If I want something, I will give everything that I have.
This competition, it really lights a fire inside you
and I'm really excited to get in there and cook.
Definitely want to stay and I just want to get better and better.
And I just want to be pushed until I go home.
Tonight, they will face just one challenge -
to cook an outstanding dish from a brief set by
renowned restaurant critic Grace Dent.
Quarterfinal day, you and I have high expectations.
Once they've put their heart and soul into this competition,
it becomes more and more important.
One slip-up and you're gone.
Congratulations, all of you, on making the quarterfinals.
You've been set a brief to cook comfort food.
Something that you would either cook for yourself at home,
cook for loved ones or always order from a menu.
That brief was set by journalist and food writer Grace Dent.
And, actually, she's coming in to taste your food and help us judge.
All six of you are cooking for a place in knockout week,
and we'll take the best cooks with us.
90 minutes, comfort food...
I think the brief with this is quite difficult,
because what is comfort food?
It's so open.
This food has to be big, bold and it has to be satisfying.
I eat out three or four times a week and, yes, I am very spoiled.
But what I tend to be served are these bowls of style and technique.
Smears and stains and foams - these are all very nice in their own way.
It's not what I want on my day off.
Nawamin loves the food of Thailand -
that's where he grew up - and the flavours he's produced so far
have been truly impressive.
I want to stay in this competition until the final.
I have to be unique.
I'm going to cook Thai food.
If you love Thai food, you will love me.
Nawamin, what is comfort food?
So comfort food's like when you have like a bad day
and you come back home, you want a bowl of something
and sit on a sofa and eat it.
So I'm going to make you pad thai.
Delicious Thai stir-fry noodle.
We make pad thai sauce from tamarind, palm sugar
and fish sauce, and then we add prawn, tofu and things, and hoy tod.
-What's hoy toy?
That's perfect! Impressive.
Hoy tod is crispy mussel pancake,
but I have a little surprise for you.
So I'm wearing this butterfly shirt for some reasons.
Pad thai, classic street food.
Rice noodles have to be soft and slippery and not falling apart.
So, this is your butterfly surprise?
Nawamin's talking about presenting his dish in a very unusual style.
A butterfly in a pad thai?
I like Simon - he impresses me.
He's got real cookery technique and a point of difference.
Steak tartare with Asian flavours - that was clever.
This competition definitely grabs hold of you.
It really sort of becomes part of you quite early on.
It's only the third time in the kitchen, but it's what
you think about, it's what you dream about,
so it really is pretty all-encompassing.
What is comfort food?
Just something... I think Sunday afternoons,
you've had a big weekend of any type.
Just something that's really hearty and comforting,
-gives you a bit of a hug.
-What's your comfort dish?
My comfort dish is a chicken, bacon, mushroom and leek pie
with a cheddar and thyme pastry,
some pomme puree, which is basically just fancy mash,
and some caramelised Brussels sprouts.
Why are you serving sprouts?
I think they're massively underrated.
I love sprouts. So what I'm going to do is use bacon fat to caramelise
the sprouts to get a nice char on them.
I've turned a lot of sprout haters into sprout lovers,
so I want to maybe try and create a few more.
Simon's our technical cook and today is lots and lots of technique.
He's got lots of elements to get absolutely right.
Got to get his pastry right, got to get his filling right,
got to get the sauce of the filling right, and then he's got to put it
all together and make sure it's baked in time.
On top of that, mashed potato and gravy.
Hopefully he won't have time to do the sprouts.
It's all smelling great, guys.
30 minutes gone, one hour left.
I'm really hoping that Moonira's comfort food
is very similar to the food she's already given us -
very exciting and spicy.
I'm coping with the pressure OK.
It's tough and I felt it in the last round,
and I think I am going to feel it today as well.
But I'm a pharmacist - my job is to work under pressure.
So I'm hoping that will help me carry on.
Moonira, this is comfort food, but you look anything
-but comfortable right now.
-I think I've got a lot to do in the time.
So what's comfort food for you today?
Right, for me, comfort food is something called haleem,
which is a spicy barley and lentil broth with lamb inside,
served inside a cob, a bread.
Alongside, I'm going to serve you some stuffed chillies
and I'm going to dip them in batter and deep-fry them.
Anything fried is always comfort.
Why have you given yourself a lot to do?
Because giving you just a bowl of soup wasn't enough.
I think Moonira has given herself a huge amount of work to do.
If she pulls it off, I'm going to be really pleased.
Stew and bread.
Who doesn't love that?
David's food is adventurous.
We've had meatballs with chermoula,
we've had a smoked chicken and beetroot sorbet.
I don't know what David's comfort food's going to be,
but I'll tell you what - it's not going to be the norm
and it's going to be thought-provoking.
You can guarantee that.
David, funny enough, I don't see you as a comfort-food sort of cook.
-Yeah, everyone has their own comforts, don't they?
Steak and chips is probably my comfort.
-What are you making?
-I'm just doing pork cheeks sat in a bed
of caramelised cauliflower puree with blue cheese croquettes
and a stuffed Savoy cabbage.
Why aren't we getting steak and chips?
I know there's a lot of comfort food dishes.
I just thought this was a bit more interesting than steak and chips.
I just hope that I've paid attention enough to the brief and it tastes
good enough, they can't really knock you down for sticking
to the brief and making a good plate of food.
Braised cheeks of pork, Iberico pork,
soft as you like. Serve that with lots of gravy,
a puree made from cauliflower - it sounds more like a restaurant dish.
I hope it's not too complicated for Grace's brief.
You've got 40 minutes left.
Nick's truly ambitious.
We saw that in the first round with his lemon meringue pie.
He's got the attitude.
The fact is, he's got to give himself enough time to finish
the dishes so they are smart and they are complete.
Nick, what is it about comfort food?
I think it's about happy memories from childhood,
things that, you know, you ate with your family and your loved ones.
Obviously Mum's cooking's normally your ultimate comfort food.
What's your comfort dish?
Today, I'm doing a duck, wild mushroom, roasted butternut squash,
toasted walnut and spinach lasagne, with an egg-yolk ravioli on the top.
Why would you stick one pasta dish on top of another?
Because the egg yolk, I think, just evokes comfort
when it's running down the side of the dish.
It adds luxury and a richness to it.
It's already quite a rich dish, I'll be honest,
but who doesn't want a rich dish? That's my understanding of comfort.
Growing up, we always ate dinner at the table as a family,
and one of my favourite meals from my mum was her traditional lasagne.
But obviously this is MasterChef, so I've had to tweak it and try
and elevate it to MasterChef sort of levels,
and hopefully I've managed to do that.
Nick's comfort food is lasagne.
I hope it's not too complicated,
because what we all love about lasagne is the meat sauce,
the white sauce, the cheesy bits, the crispy corners -
that what it's all about.
I think Sesi is a class act.
Her food is clean, it's crisp and it has lots of flavours.
I think the standard of the quarterfinals is definitely higher.
You have to keep asking yourself -
am I doing enough for the time allocated?
The last thing you'd want to be at this stage is safe or complacent.
I'm making a roast chicken with some oven-roasted vegetables,
a honey-whisky gravy, mashed potato
and a bacon-and-potato crumb.
So why this dish?
I'm trying to marry together the feeling
I get from both my Nigerian and my British influences.
In Nigeria, chicken is a real celebration dish for us.
And from the British side, some of my best memories are eating
a huge bowl of mash with my husband,
because it's comforting to have that with a bit of gravy on the side,
and it makes you feel warm and we have a laugh together.
We know that Sesi can cook a roast chicken with mashed potato
and carrots and gravy because she did it in the first round.
I hope this has a point of difference.
Guys, you've got just 12 minutes left.
Six cooks, one dozen minutes.
I'm really pushed for time at the moment, so I just need to crack on.
Listen, this is the quarterfinal and you have just five minutes.
Guys, you've got 60 seconds.
-Oh, wow! Lasagne.
-It looks such a mess.
No, it looks very rustic.
-It looks so decadent.
-Just like, mmm!
Now I'd like to introduce you to the person
that set this challenge in the first place.
Ladies and gentlemen - writer, food expert, critic Grace Dent.
You cut a very formidable figure.
I've had a lot of practice.
Simon, up you come.
Stay-at-home dad Simon has made a chicken, bacon,
mushroom and leek pie with a cheddar and thyme pastry,
potato puree and caramelised Brussels sprouts,
served with a chicken sauce.
I didn't expect to like something as much as that so early on.
I love the look of this and, perhaps unusually,
the thing that's making me very happy are the Brussels sprouts.
I love that there's colour in them.
I could eat all of those and go back for more.
Comfort food is supposed to give it that "aw" factor.
That's what it's supposed to be.
I mean, buttery pastry with a slight tang of cheddar.
Your sauce is rich and it's slightly fruity,
and your innards of your pie are all soft and delicious as well.
You couldn't want for much more.
Perhaps less Brussels sprouts.
I think it's a great dish.
I like the cheesiness of your pastry,
I think your filling is great and I love the mashed potato.
Simon, thank you very much for the pie.
-You can keep the sprouts.
-Thanks, John. Thanks, everyone.
Wow! That was just unbelievable.
Did not expect that.
I hoped they would like it - I didn't think they would love it.
I can die a happy man now. I'm just like...
Doctor Nawamin has made pad thai -
stir-fried noodles in a tamarind-based sauce,
with prawns, tofu,
beansprouts and peanuts,
and hoy tod mussel pancakes, served with chilli sauce.
I love that it has fancy flares to it,
because it has to be something that would make me keep going back...
-..to a restaurant time and time again.
This has hits to it and it has misses to it.
I loved your mussel butterflies -
I could eat an entire tray of those if they were served
to me at a party.
And I love the sauce.
The noodles, for me, were where it fell down.
I thought they were a little bit dry.
I like those crispy pancakes with the sweet chilli sauce.
I like that, and then when you get down on those mussels,
you get a little bit of salt as well. I like that.
I find the noodles too dry.
I get a little bit of sour tamarind and I get some saltiness,
but it's missing a zing.
I really like the way you cooked the prawns, because they're lovely
and crunchy still.
I'd like those noodles to be a little bit more unctuous,
-but I like the flavours.
I'm pretty happy with the dish and they loved my mussel pancakes.
Youth worker Nick has created a duck, wild mushroom,
butternut squash, spinach and red onion marmalade lasagne,
with crispy sage leaves,
girolles and toasted walnuts,
topped with an egg-yolk ravioli.
It's a very strange plate of food to look at
and to work your way through.
However, there's some lovely things happening.
You know, your butternut squash is lovely.
By no means is this a lasagne, but it is lovely pasta.
If this was sitting in my fridge going cold, I would probably
eat this by myself with a fork.
Perhaps wearing tracksuit bottoms, but that's our secret.
It's flavoured well. I like sage, I like the truffle,
I like the woodland mushrooms.
But underneath there's the onion, there's egg running out
of my pasta, toasted walnuts, got duck skin, I've got duck.
Look, I appreciate your efforts, I appreciate your inspiration,
but this is really confused.
You most certainly have skill,
because an egg-yolk ravioli is one of the toughest pastas to make
and yours is perfect. But all of these things together
are far too much for me, and the biggest and most overpowering
is almost jam-like sweetened red onions.
I mean, you've chucked far too many flavours at that.
It was a bit of a mixed bag.
I'm chuffed that I got every single element of my dish up on time, just.
But far too many ingredients.
Trainee paediatric surgeon Sesi has cooked pan-roasted chicken breast
with mashed potatoes, baby mushrooms and carrots,
a bacon and potato crumb
and micro herbs, served with a honey and whisky gravy.
Sesi, it's very similar to your first-round dish.
I would eat Sunday lunch at your house.
I don't know if I'm invited - I'm inviting myself.
I love the chicken, I love the sauce.
The mushrooms and the cress are puzzling,
but I just ate my way around them.
I'm really happy with the way you cooked your chicken
and I love that sauce.
I would like more mashed potato.
If you love mashed potato - and I love it -
I'd like the chicken sitting on a mound of mashed potato.
I think there's good bits to this, Sesi, I really do.
My concern is it's really, really similar to the first dish
that we ever saw you cook.
In fact, almost identical.
I'm feeling a bit disappointed because I was quite hoping to
show them something that showed some diversity and some skill,
but I've ended up cooking almost exactly the same dish
that I made in the beginning, which I'm absolutely kicking myself about.
Pharmacist Moonira is serving haleem -
a lamb and barley broth in a freshly baked bread bowl,
with battered Anaheim chillies stuffed with spiced potato,
and served with cucumberita,
pickled onions and cucumber,
and a lime water drink.
It looks like a banquet fit for an emperor.
Wow! You did this in 90 minutes.
You work quickly.
That is a pearl barley lamb,
almost Scottish stew, that's, like, gone OTT
with the spice of a mulligatawny.
These, that look like whole fried bananas, are delicious!
You've put spiced mashed potato inside a chilli,
-battered it and deep-fried it.
I've eaten haleem before in a place in central London.
The chef will kill me, but I think I like this one better.
Aw, thank you.
I think this is just fantastic.
I love the fact that that lamb broth tastes almost like
a lamb and barley stew, but then it's being curried.
The fact you made bread, good on you.
You know what? I would be really happy with that all on my lap
watching the telly on a Friday night, in my shorts.
-You've done so good.
I've got a lovely smile.
My cheekbones are hurting now, I'm smiling so much.
No, I'm really, really pleased.
Pilot David has cooked Iberico pork cheeks
in a Marsala sauce on cauliflower puree,
with a cabbage leaf stuffed with apricots and pine nuts,
and a blue cheese and potato croquette.
I love the colour that you got in the marinade on here and the sauce.
It looks inviting. I think tasting it, it lacks something.
I think I wanted it either to be sweeter or something.
It needed a bang and there was nothing there
that really grabbed me.
I liked what you'd stuffed the cabbage with.
It's beautifully seasoned.
This isn't personal - I think that the whole of the restaurant world
needs to apologise for cauliflower puree.
However, I can see that you can cook,
and this is something that I suspect you really like
and you have just hit on ingredients that I really don't.
Pork cheeks, stewed down like that,
soft and wonderful with mashed potato,
I'd be very, very happy.
I admire the fact that you're pushing the boat out,
I really do.
But when you start to play with sweet apricots,
salty, strong blue cheese,
smoky, almost burnt cauliflower alongside sweet wine,
with a pork cheek and cabbage, it becomes dangerous.
I love the sweetness of the apricots with the blue cheese.
It tastes to me like a cheese board with some fruit in it.
I like the almost bitterness and maltiness that you've got from
your cauliflower, and your pig cheeks are well cooked.
But I'm the only one here who likes it.
In the previous round, you completely divided
the guest judges and us.
If you can ally your technical ability to food
that everybody says, "Cor, that is fantastic,"
you're a MasterChef champion.
If you can't, you're always going to be flirting with danger.
I think, in two days in a row, I've completely split the judges
down the middle.
So, I don't know, maybe I'm doing something right and people are just
catching up or maybe I'm just wrong.
Well done. You know what comes next.
You go and sit and wait and bite your nails, and we talk about you.
Off you go.
Thank you, lovely to see you.
-Thanks for having me.
-Real pleasure, thank you, Grace.
-See you out and about. Bye.
-See you, guys.
I think today we have got a couple of cooks in here
who were bang on the money.
Let's talk about Simon,
because Simon's dish was the dish of the day.
Simple elegance, and then when you eat it,
it just takes you to such a fantastic place,
and that's the sort of stuff we want.
Simon understood the brief, he loved the brief,
and he is going straight through to knockout week because of it.
For me, the outstanding dish was Moonira.
I wouldn't have thought it was humanely possible
to get that many things done in an hour and a half.
What a star.
I think Moonira did a fantastic job, and I think we both agree,
she's going straight through to the next round.
Nick achieved lots and lots.
He did mushrooms and onion jam, he made ravioli with an egg yolk in it,
all sorts of things, and then he put them all together in the name
of lasagne, and that is a real shame.
-He got that wrong today.
Sesi said that she loves bowls of mashed potato and gravy.
Where's all the mashed potato?
It's virtually the same as the dish she's done before.
Now, what is that? A lack of ambition?
No progress at all?
John, we're going through to knockout week.
David has got ambition.
Look, you know that I liked his combination of apricots,
blue cheese and cauliflower, but I also have to admit
I was the only one who did.
I admire the amount of work he puts into his dishes.
There is some promise, but he is wacky with flavours, Gregg.
Nawamin, he's got some great ideas, some real flamboyance.
I loved his pancakes with the mussels in the shape of a butterfly.
The noodles, I don't think he quite delivered the Thai street food
-that he promised.
-No, I think you're right.
I think the noodles themselves need to be wetter,
but what we did have was lots of process going on.
There is a sense of ambition about him.
I hope I have done enough to stay in the competition
but, you know, like, it can go either way.
I'd feel disappointed in myself if I went home today,
because I feel like I could have pushed the boat more
and really put more heart and soul into it.
I really want to continue in this competition
and see how far I can push myself to improve.
Only time will tell.
I'll be really disappointed to go home, but I've given
it everything, so, you know, hopefully I'll get that next chance
and get back, prove them all wrong.
We've decided that four of you are going through knockout week,
which means that two of you will be leaving the competition.
There's two people today that truly impressed not just Gregg and I
but also Grace.
..Simon, congratulations, you're going through to knockout week.
Fantastic food, both of you.
..we have two more places to give.
..you're both going through to knockout week.
Nick, Sesi, I'm so very sorry. Thanks a lot.
I think, for me, the competition,
you completely underestimate how much pressure there is.
But it was a great experience and I've loved every second of it,
so no regrets.
When I made the dish I did, I knew I hadn't pushed myself enough,
so even though I would like to continue in the competition,
I'm still proud, and I feel at peace with it all.
I did do a lot of work in the 90 minutes, and yeah, that's me -
I'm a little whirlwind!
I'm feeling ecstatic at the minute.
Going forward, I think I've probably just got to rein it in a little bit.
I've just got to keep getting better.
That was good for today. It hit the brief,
but the brief will be very different next time.
I'm just so happy.
Luckily, my butterfly crispy pancake
brought me to the next round, so thank you, butterflies.
Next week, seven new cooks battle it out for a place in the quarterfinal.
Blimey, it's a big 'un.
-Has it set?
You've got to get these starters out, mate. They're waiting for you.
That's probably the best fig tart I've ever had.
That is absolutely superb.
It's the quarter-final and the six talented heat winners have no time to rest on their laurels as they continue to fight for their place in the competition.
In the Critic's Test, the week's best amateurs are put through the mill with a seriously daunting test set by one of the country's toughest food critics. Tonight's brief has been set by Grace Dent. Her challenge for the amateur cooks is to make their best comfort food dish - something Grace would want to eat on her day off. After cooking their dish based on this brief, the contestants stand before Grace Dent and judges John and Gregg, to hear what they think of their dish and whether they've managed to rise to the challenge and fulfil the expectations.
At the end of this quarter-final, the best cooks will go through to Knockout Week.