I love Masterchef and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Yes it's over dramatised and yes it has spurned nightmares in which I am devoured whole by Matt Preston, but I like it.
I like the unashamed hedonism of the judges as they struggle to refrain from launching face first into the plate of food in front of them and I like learning new cooking styles and tricks. But perhaps most of all I like being reassured of the fact that I am not the only person in the world who is completely obsessed with cooking and food....
Being all too aware of my obsession it came as no surprise then to my friends when I announced that there had to be a Masterchef style cooking challenge on our recent long weekend island holiday. The deal, I explained to them, was to cook one course with a partner for $15 using what ingredients you could find in the small general stores available to us...to shake it up a bit each team would also need to buy a mystery ingredient each that had to be incorporated into the opposing teams' dishes. The final challenge was to make it dairy free to accommodate for allergies...
Teams and dishes were decided by a draw of cards, in which team Cupcake happily drew dessert, the boys mains and the ladies entree
Being on a tropical island team Cupcake decided to draw inspiration from our surrounds and create a Rottnest themes tasting plate. We excitedly mused over ideas as we cycled to the main general store some 1.7km away. lighthouses, beaches, quokkas and bicycles were our major inspirations but creating manifestations of these in tasty sugar form took a bit of thinking and a somewhat liberal use of artistic license used.
The other teams choosing the closer but less diverse range of the corner shop 200m from our unit were already at work by the time we returned and gleefully presented us with our mystery ingredients: a can of grapefruit segments in syrup and a packet of mixed lollies...hmmm. We had bought a tin of spaghetti 'oops' and a packet of deb for our foes (having weighed up the bizzare/gross options to the things we actually wanted to eat, our taste buds won).
An hour or so of kitchen jostling latter and we has three very amusing and remarkably diverse courses.
The ladies decided on the tomato and onion classic; bruschetta and were unfazed by the need to incorporate surprise peas and 'oops' . A well toasted white Italian crust served a good base for the eclectic salsa of tomato, onion, balsamic, peas and oops. There was a bit of controversy in the judging, with some members of the party not so discretely disposing of the dish. Ms Cupcake enjoyed it though...and thought the contrast of texture between the onions, peas and oops to be inspired!
Admittedly there was a certain degree consternation when the boys drew the mains card, and keenly interested in what they'd come up with. Being smart boys they stuck to crowd pleasing pasta, having quite unwittingly chosen some terrific Spanish flavours for their sauce their mystery ingredient of a can of chickpeas fit well. The instant mashed potato not so much... Nevertheless we were all delightfully surprised treated to a heroically spiced tomato based sausage pasta with flavour packed sun-dried tomatoes and olives matched with our old friend garlic, the chickpeas providing a soothing creamy texture to the affair...with mash potato on the side (points off for lack of incorporation... Ms Cupcake suggested stuffing the penne!)
An improvised peanut and raw sugar praline was ground up (with a tonic water bottle as pestle) to form the sand which was then loosely packed in pink plastic shot glasses and strewn across the plate. Little sea creatures were modeled out of the lollies and the grapefruit segments candied and made to look like setting suns with the reduced syrup. Quokka 'poo' was made from glace cherri/chocolate cake and rum mixed and balled. Half bananas were sculpted to look like lighthouses and poached in cardamon infused coconut cream (to somewhat dubious visual effect)
Masterchefs we might not be but we were certainly well feed and well pleased with our creations... especially after the third glass of wine. Ms Cupcake was just a little miffed that it was decided that 'cooking was the only winner'...