Mark and Mbali’s modern takes on heritage classics fell flat on this week’s episode of My Kitchen Rules SA (Sunday 25 September, 18:00 on M-Net Channel 101), with their score of 58 leaving them bottom of the leader board with just Jessica and Nicole left to cook.
The duo took the judges and the other contestants back to their roots in Mbali’s family home in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal, hoping to share and celebrate their heritage in their Instant Restaurant Matheku – Where the Spirits of Kings Roam – set in a beautiful hilltop kraal.
Their simple-sounding menu had judges David Higgs and J’Something concerned and definitely left plenty to the imagination of the other contestants. Mark and Mbali hoped to use the element of surprise in their favour as they sourced all their ingredients locally to ensure authenticity and then injected a dash of glamour and technique to daringly reinterpret heritage classics. Their starter was simply titled samp and beans, their main couse a lamb bunny chow, and dessert was lemon tart and African beer.
The modern twists that awaited their guests included rolling their samp and bean mix into balls with a cheesy centre, then crumbing and deep-frying them to create a type of African arancini; baking idombolo (steamed bread) to use as the packaging for their bunny chow, and turning umqombothi (sorghum beer) into jellies to top their lemon tarts.
Having chosen the risky part, the proof was to be in the eating as the judges kicked the evening off by tasting their samp and beans starter. David said he was excited by the unconventional serving, but had hoped for a coarser crumb and wanted more of the garlic purée on the plate to add flavour. J’Something praised their creative plating as "on the money", but was also left wanting in the flavour department. Waven was unimpressed when the cheesy centre wasn’t melted and Jessica said the dish needed more spice and flavour, describing it as "nowhere" – though Eddie declared it "‘narrow-minded" to expect a modern version of the dish to look and taste exactly as the traditional version should.
Taking into account the judges’ feedback, Mark and Mbali returned to the kitchen and attempted to pack more flavour into their main course of lamb bunny chow. J’Something said the result was a great creative execution of a classic South African dish, while David found the interplay between the sweet bread and perfectly-spiced curry the highlight. The contestants were less enthusiastic, with Azraa decrying the lack of gravy and calling it "a nice stew", while Martin was left wondering why there was so much conversation and so little tasting happening around the table.
The duo’s left-field dessert of lemon tart and African beer was less well-received by the judges, with David praising the pastry but saying the African beer element didn’t add anything to the plate, neither tasting, looking, nor feeling right. J’Something also said the beer element put him off, with the dish being his least favourite of the evening. Larcé described the experience of eating the dessert "like biting into a lemon" and Azraa criticised the pastry for not being a shortcrust.
The contestants came down hard on Mark and Mbali for their foibles – with several definitely voting strategically – as Martin and Eddie’s score of 7/10 more than doubled Azraa and Waven’s score of 3. Larcé & Jabu scored them a 5, and Jessica and Nicole a 4, to leave them with a total of 19/40. David scored their starter, main, and dessert a 7, 8, and 5 respectively, with J’Something scoring them 6, 8, and 5 for a judges’ total of 39/60 – and a total score of 58/100.
Heading into group 1’s final cook – with Jessica and Nicole heading into the kitchen next week – the leader board is as follows:
Martin and Eddie 69
Larcé and Jabu 68
Azraa and Waven 66
Mark and Mbali 58
My Kitchen Rules SA is produced by Picture Tree and proudly sponsored by Nederburg. The series is available on DStv Premium on M-Net (Channel 101) every Sunday at 6pm, as well as live-streamed on the DStv App, and is also available on DStv Catch Up after broadcast. Join the conversation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, using #MKRSA.