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Meat-free Monday with a plot twist – MasterChef SA

29 March 2022
A vision, a mystery box, a potato and a pear send two contestants packing.
masterchef sa

Image: Charlie Sperring

by Jan-Hendrik Botha

It’s the final week in the MasterChef SA kitchen and only six contestants remained. 

After Justine, Greg and Zola vacated the kitchen, our contestants had to compete in a 90-minute mystery box challenge during which they had to come up with either a sweet or savoury plant-based dinner party dish using no less than three ingredients from their mystery box. As an additional twist, our judges would judge them based on a blind tasting.

To assist them in our judges’ absence, and to deliver the mystery box, we welcomed chef Kayla-Ann Osborn all the way from Delaire Graff Estate, Stellenbosch to the MasterChef SA kitchen. 

In their mystery boxes were eleven ingredients: Marmite, fresh sunflowers, cabbage, artichokes, potatoes, dark chocolate, dates, pearls, Tempeh, jackfruit, and Seitan.

Not only did this leave our remaining contestants scrambling, but Twitterati was as confused.

Starting off, Andriette was very excited as she is obsessed with meat-free dishes, but still nervous since she had never cooked with sunflowers before.

On the other hand, it seemed like Sims dreaded the anticipated veggie day, saying that veggies are just “a side to get to the meat”. 

It was entertaining watching Sims come up with his dish as it slowly but sure came to him while he was cooking. “Avoiding mushiness” was the biggest challenge for him as Sims wanted the texture just right.

Thembisa seemed nervous too. “I don’t know why I chose today to try new things, but this box gives you no choice.” 

First, she started slicing small pieces of the meat substitute off, cooking it to get her creative juices flowing. But after tasting it, to her surprise she found it to be flavourless and rubbery. “Seitan is not that bad which is weird because Satan is bad.”

Therefore, she decided to go the other route, and though we know Tembisa to push herself outside of her comfort zone, we were surprised when she decided on potato ice cream. “With six people left in the kitchen, there’s no place left to hide.

“I’d rather go out of this competition having made something gutsy and out of my comfort zone than playing it safe.”

Charmaine felt like she was taking a calculated risk, slowly but surely approaching the brief as she apparently tried to reorientate herself with the ingredients. “This might end up badly,” she said. 

Finally, she had a clear vision of her dish, but after combining her pears with Marmite and dark chocolate, she seemed quite unsure about whether her dish was a dessert or not.

At Shawn’s station, he was frantically cooking up a storm and was intrigued by the sunflower in the mystery box. “Out of the whole box, I was terrified of everything else, but the sunflower felt friendly,” he told Kayla-Ann. 

For Tarryn, cooking with veggies wasn’t unfamiliar. She was inspired by her aunt who’s the first vegetarian in her family and decided to keep it simple, opting for cauliflower steak. 

After plating their dishes, it was time for these to be presented for the judges to taste, unaware of who prepared each.

The judges felt that Andriette’s “Fields of Gold” (date and pear malva pudding, poached pear and praline) was an overly sweet dessert. Though they enjoyed the presentation and flavour profile, they felt the sweetness overpowered the rest of the flavours. 

The judges were quite disappointed in Tembisa’s “Potato and Pear Soft Serve” (potato ice cream, pear batons and potato crisp with chocolate drizzle and caramel).

Zola said that not only was it confusing to the pallet, and all other senses, but the ice cream was too grainy and starchy. 

According to our judges, Thembisa was trying to go far too left-field taking on a creative note that unfortunately did not work. 

Though they were impressed with the presentation of Sims’ “Marmighty Pear” (Marmite poached pear, cauliflower soup and sunflower petals) and loved the rich flavour of his cauliflower puree, they were quite confused with the poached pear being added in the middle. 

When asked by Justine whether Sims’ dish was “weird but wonderful”, Greg quite said it was “weird in a weird way”. 

According to Zola, the pear ruined his whole dish. 

Shawn’s “Sunflower Surprise” (potato rösti, pear, sunflower heart and petals, cauliflower, and artichoke) had all three of our judges in two minds. 

Firstly, they were surprised to taste a raw pear in his dish, and though they enjoyed the potato rösti and cauliflower combination, they felt that the dish was a bit dry. And though the artichoke added an earthy taste, the pear got lost in a sense translation.

The judges struggled to understand the concept behind Charmaine’s “Datey Pear” (roasted pear with dates and Marmite filling, potato crisp and chocolate drizzle. Given the time allocated, Greg was quite disappointed that she didn’t peal her pear. Zola felt that the sauce was very acidic. Furthermore, the judges felt the textures were unpleasant and the flavours odd, not complementing each other. Overall, Justine felt that it was an ill-conceived dish.

When presented with Tarryn’s “For Anny” dish, the judges were very impressed. According to them, not only were the flavours great but the textures were perfect. 

Seeing that her dish was our judges’ favourite, Tarryn walked away with R50 000 in celebration of meat-free Monday! 

Seeing that their dishes failed to impress, it was time to say goodbye to Charmaine and Tembisa. 

Join the conversation on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram with the hashtag #MasterChefSA. Remember to watch MasterChef SA every Monday to Thursday at 18:00 on M-Net channel 101. In case you missed the latest episode, catch up with DStv using your connected device.