This blog post is brought to you by the letter "P" for "pain" as I have just sliced open a knuckle on a can of corned beef (mmm mmm, aren't I fancy?).
MASTERCHEF! The extravaganza continues. I've even made you a Spotify Playlist to soundtrack this post so you can relive every mother-loving moment.
How much India Fisher can we take? 90 minutes as it turns out. So Steve, Daniel and Marianne have just delighted a roomful of Michelin stars and the opening chords of the most overused song in the TV world* means it's time for the final cook-off - they must produce the best three courses of their career so far.
But first, an interminable X Factor style recap on the lives of each of the contestants begins. I find this excruciating partly because hello! they should be judging them on the quality of their food and not their family background, and partly because I've been there - I was on University Challenge a few years back (no recording exists, so don't ask) and the BBC filmed a similar segment about me. It was so mortifying just thinking about it makes me teary, so I'm sure Steve, Marianne and Dan didn't enjoy doing it either.
However, thankfully these flashbacks also deign to cover their culinary journey thus far.
Steve's greatest hits include his Smoky Egg, his Banana Cake with Guinness Ice Cream and his Sweet Shop on a Slate.
Daniel's culinary highlights included his Beetroot and Curd Salad, his Tequila Dessert Trio and his Peach Melba.
Marianne's story is soundtracked by the second most overused piece of music in TV**. If I hear that she's a private chef one more time I'll throw the remote at the telly. Her high notes included her Rhubarb Tarte Tatin, her High Tea Tower that Michel Roux Snr adored and her Mango Dessert Trio.
Emotional recap over - Michel reminds us once more that Daniel, Steve and Marianne need to "cook out of their skins" and it's time for the MasterChef Showdown (cue shite remix of Morricone's The Ecstasy of Gold).
As they cook, Gregg and Michel roam around the MasterChef set like a pair of creepy uncles, alternating between trying to psyche out the finalists, and huddling together to whisper over-loud non sequiturs.
Marianne insists that there's no reason she shouldn't walk away with that crown - seriously dear, it's just a pseudo @ symbol - but she's the last to dish up when the crappy alarm that signals the end of their cooking time goes off.
Their menus in full:
- Skate Tartlet, Poached Gull's Egg, Plum Tomatoes, Caper Butter
- Poached and Roasted Guinea Fowl Supreme, Garlic and Chervil Stuffed Ballotine of Guinea Fowl Leg, Baby Leeks, Creamy Mash, Truffle and Madeira Jus
- Rhubarb and Raspberry Souffle, Pink Pralines, Rhubarb poached in Grand Marnier, Clotted Cream
- Roast Quail with Morels, Asparagus, Quail Scotch Egg
- Venison Loin, Potato Rosti, Watercress Puree, Roasted Beetroot, Red Wine Game Jus
- Millefeuille of Raspberries and Bitter Chocolate, Lavender and Honey Ice Cream
- Grilled Asparagus, Iberico Ham, Poached Gull's Egg Dressing, Parmesan Foam, Pea Shoot Garnish
- Turbot, Petits Pois Bonne Femme, Creamy Pea Bacon Veloute Sauce, Sauted Potatoes, Crispy Leeks
- Warm Chocolate Fondant, Pistachio Ice Cream, Pistachio Tuile Biscuit
Marianne's tart pastry's sublime and the egg perfect, but the butter's burnt. Her guinea fowl main course is a heavenly dream. Her use of pink pralines in the souffle is inspired (inspired by you, Michel, cos she nicked them off your chocolate creation dessert at the Michelin Star Dinner), but the clotted cream adds nothing. Oh, stop crying, love.
Steve's quail starter is stunning and Michel is flabbergasted at the thought of a quail Scotch Egg. Christ Michel, that rivals Kevin Pietersen's astonishment at the egg/asparagus combo. His venison main has bags of flavour and Michel cannot find fault. Steve's millefeuille shows skill and precision, "the raspberries are all the same height", chocolate not too bitter and pastry perfectly crisp. However, Michel hates the lavender and honey ice cream and I think "good" cos it's a cheeky rip-off of our mate Mat's dessert, winner of this year's non-professional MasterChef.
According to Michel, Daniel's starter is dressed "beautifully and elegantly". According to me, it looks like a plate of sick. And apparently the parmesan foam is too strong which makes me heave even more. Michel's not bowled over, though Gregg thinks it light and well-flavoured. Dan's turbot main has a glaring mistake though - its bad-tasting dark skin has not been removed. The fish itself is spot on though, as are all the accompaniments. As for his dessert, the tuile also appears to be "inspired" by Michel's chocolate creation - moreover there's fon-DONT fail as its insides are only a bit gooey rather than runny. The star of the show is Dan's pistachio ice cream.
So the judges have digested, cogitated and deliberated ...
Who's going to win?
Who's the future culinary genius?
And who's got that little bit extra?
There can be only one - and it's Smoky Egg Steve!
Today This Could Be-e the Greatest Day of Steve's Li-ife - sing it with me!
From the very start, Steve showed glimpses of rare and mad genius with his wood-smoked egg, his turbot with red wine bow tie in honour of Keith Floyd, his sweetshop on a plate.
I really think Gregg and Michel (pff, like Gregg had anything to do with it) made the right decision.
And though this has no bearing on his cookery skills, Steve was modest and funny throughout the series.
He proved himself even more smish-able when during a live chat with MasterChef fans, his first message was "Dan, what's your favourite colour?" to which Daniel replied "Pink".
Sigh, I love it when a nice guy wins (see further Mat Follas).
What Steve wins as MasterChef, apart from the delightful trophy, has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I'd love for him to be able to open his own restaurant off the back of this.
However, Steve is currently a chef at Launceston Place with the equally lovely Tristan Welch, so I recommend in the meantime we all go
**Perpetuum Mobile (Penguin Cafe Orchestra)
Read Part 1 here