Last night we were glued (even more than usual) to the TV gold that is BBC1’s MasterChef. Ever since Lloyd Grossman invented the concept a gazillion years ago, we’ve been in turn wowed, inspired, horrified and blown away by the myriad of menus that have been rustled up in that extremely well equipped MasterChef kitchen. There are few people who won’t have shouted ‘It’s burning!’, ‘Aren’t those just glorified fish fingers?’ or ‘What on earth is she doing to that sea urchin?’ during one of the many episodes of this classic culinary competition. We’ve cried along with the winners, laughed along with Greg Wallace and felt terrified for the contestants when it’s their turn up against the critics - but last night we were particularly interested because it was an entirely fish-focussed round.
The seven budding MasterChefs were each tasked with creating a fabulous fish dish that would become part of a sumptuous three course fish lunch.
This was to be served up to some seriously knowledgeable fish experts, industry top bods, chefs and fish restaurant owners at the very impressive Fish Hall in London. Fish Hall is home to The Fishmonger’s Company, an ancient City Guild, responsible for upholding standards in the UK fish and shellfish industries and also for supporting pro- fish organisations nationwide. It is also a very impressive historical building, with a lovely riverside location - perfect for a spot of lunch.
The keen amateur cooks had each come up with dishes to celebrate fish - recipes which kept our fishy friends firmly in the starring roles.
They had all chosen different fish - everything from mackerel to hake, prawns to octopus - and there was even a sprinkling of shellfish and a spoonful or two of squid ink, just to add a finishing flourish.
To kick things off, contestant Steve knocked up a prawn cocktail (sort of). He didn’t start things off all that well when he criticised his granny’s seventies style prawn cocktail because, let’s be honest, everyone loves a classic seventies prawn cocktail, complete with iceberg lettuce don’t they? As a consequence his avocado wrapped prawns didn’t go down brilliantly with the waiting guests. Lorna however came up trumps with a delicious looking trio of crispy plaice tacos, salsa and sauce -yum. The starters were swiftly followed by a scrumptious selection of fish curries including spicy prawns, a ‘sous vide’ fish dish with gnocchi and clams, a hearty hake and chorizo platter and an octopus and squid ink concoction. All of the fish recipes sounded brilliant in theory and some were delivered fabulously on the plate too.
The overall response from the hungry recipients was positive. They were all full-on fish fans, but the contestant’s special fish menu really did celebrate the humble fish in all it’s fantastic forms. It reminded us that the great thing about fish is that it truly is a seriously versatile ingredient - you can spice it up, deep fry it, put it in a bap, add it to a stew - you name it.
We’re full of bright ideas for recipes for the weekend now and we’ve got plenty of excellent fresh fish and shellfish in the Anyfish shop that’ll easily transform into MasterChef inspired showstoppers.
Now we come to think about it, we can’t think of a better accompaniment to tonight’s fish and chip supper (that’ll be seasoned and breaded, pan fried plaice with proper thick cut potatoes and a dollop of minty mushy peas, if you’re wondering) than the next episode of must-see MasterChef. Tonight we’ll be seeing Jae Rayner and William Sitwell passing judgement on the chef’s creations, in their own inimitable styles - and we might just pick up a few more fish recipe ideas too. See you in front of the box from 8.30.
Keep an eye on the MasterChef website (www.masterchef.com) for links to the show recipes. For more information and excellent photos like the ones we've shown in this post - follow MasterChef on Facebook.