My Kitchen RulesSun-Tue 7:30pm, Ch7

All dressed up and nowhere to go.

It’s finals week, and for some reason everything is on fire. Sacrifices to the guest judges? Some kind of insurance scam? Given it’s semi-final #1 there’s some business to take care of – just how did the two teams competing tonight (Megan & Andy v Leigh & Princess Jen) made it this far? I have no idea either so this montage should be a great help. Yeah. Importantly “only one team will reign supreme”… hmm, that sounds awfully close to some other cooking show’s catchphrase. Nothing suss! Roll opening titles.

Everyone seems to have dressed up today and forgotten that there’s a cooking competition about to take place. The four remaining teams are formally welcomed and the MKR torch enters the arena and the cauldron is lit. With the opening ceremony niceties complete and opening remarks given from the judges, the teams are addressed and Andy is so nervous he’s contracted Nic & Rocco’s “we only speak in sporting cliches” disease but keeps mixing them up (unless that’s preparation for his entree?).

Manu tells the teams they are to prepare their ultimate three course meal. “We want to see your passion, your skill, your ambition and your underpants when you lose and have to do a lap of Kitchen HQ with your pants around your ankles,” he says. Pete sends the teams to work and gives them the go – they have 90 minutes to deliver their entree to the table. Megan & Andy are aware they’ve fought & bickered a little too much in past challenges and make a pact to split up if they lose tonight, which is best for all concerned. The menus from both teams look to be intimidating:

Leigh & Princess Jen
Entree – Confit of Murray Cod with spring onions, ginger, and fennel
Main – Twice Cooked Pigeon with farro and beetroot puree
Dessert – Chocolate and Earl Grey Tea Tart with chocolate chantilly

Megan & Andy
Entree – Sesame Seed Pork Rice Paper Rolls
Main – Rich Seafood Chowder in a cobb loaf
Dessert – Chocolate Marquise with creme anglaise and almond tuiles

As dark as Andy's soul...

Megan & Andy are in trouble from the start as Megan tells us they have to get the crayfish reduction and the dessert started before they get onto the entree. Perhaps their ‘ultimate menu’ plays out better in reverse in Bizarro World? However it works the Marquis de Chocolate had better taste nice with crayfish juice in it as Andy’s going to town on those suckers and stuff is flying everywhere.

Leigh & Princess Jen are not only delivering a smarter menu but also a solution to the pigeon problem in so many capital cities. The sweeping shot of the birds on plates ready for preparation should be timely warning enough to all the other feral animals that have taken root in so many CBD’s. Ibis – you’re next. “Growing up in Asian household, we use cleaver for everything so I’m not really scared to use one to paint my walls or ice a cake,” says Princess Jen. She’s so happy about hacking away at the pigeons with a big knife she’s singing Queen’s “I Want To Break Free” quietly to herself. It’s a touching if disturbing moment. But no more disturbing that the shot of the pigeon heads in the MasterStock (which starts soon on a whole other channel).

Andy tries to blitz up the crayfish shells to add to his stock and on first pass they spew forth from the top of the machine like they’re escaping certain doom – which they are. Megan, in her best supportive wife mode, says, “Andy’s got the reputation as ‘Seafood King’ and he can’t even blitz up some crayfish shells! Can you see what I have to deal with?”. Charming. He eventually succeeds and gets his stock reducing on the stove.

The SA girls are continuing to work on the pigeons as PETA set up a protest outside Kitchen HQ. They’re really conscious the skin needs to be just right as it can easily be rubbery (“it rubs the lotion on it’s skin…”, etc). Once flash boiled and basted, they’re in the fridge to dry and prepare. If it sounds familiar it’s because this is *exactly* Jillian’s make up regime she shared with us all a few episodes ago. Leigh’s now working on the chocolate pastry for their dessert and once she’s worked it she puts it in the freezer to forget all about it.

Just make sure you add the right amount of gravel to your farro to win.

Andy’s returning serve as a king-sized jerk by bailing Megan up over tasting the sauce for their rice paper rolls. She’s not measuring anything and he’s all wah-wah-wah about it. “Don’t be a knob,” he says to his wife. “I’m not being a knob,” Megan says to her knob. On tasting it’s spot on anyway. Ha HA, Seafood Jerk! Leigh’s stressed because she remembered the chocolate pastry and it’s not rolling out as it should. “Stressed, stressed, stressed,” says Leigh, and that’s just the pastry.

Leigh flips the pastry onto the tin and puts the tin in the oven, noting it was make or break. Literally. Like literally literally. Carly & Emily ponder why Megan & Andy aren’t making a seafood entree just in time for Megan & Andy to tell us it’s so they aren’t considered to be one-hit wonders with just seafood or that cover of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” they released three years ago which was only a hit in Tasmania.

“Murray cod is such a special fish,” says Jen. “It’s the predator, it’s the fighter, and we hope the Murray cod will fight for us today in Murray cod fight club.” Manu lectures us on the process of confit, and reminds us explicitly of the temperature – 60 to 65 degrees Celsius. Princess Jen then tells us the best temperature for your oil for confit is at 65 to 68 degrees. CONTROVERSY ALREADY! Pete shakes his head and rolls his eyes in a knowing manner as if to say “How can they be making such a rookie mistake not listening to us from all the way over there while we record this after they’ve said what they’re doing?”.

The pace picks up as the teams know time is quickly escaping them. Megan & Andy are trying to get their 21 rice paper rolls ready and they take ages to do perfectly; Leigh & Princess Jen have just put their Earl Grey/Chocolate tart filling in the case and put it back in the oven. Andy’s cutting the pork he cooked and Megan’s concerned he’s undercooked it but with a quick snort and look down his nose at her Andy shoos her off to complete what she’s doing. The SA girls have started on a soy consomme to go with the cod, but the temperature keeps fluctuating a little too much and Princess Jen’s starting to get concerned about it.

Is it crispy? Is it safe?

The guest judges arrive on horseback as if entering victorious from the Crusades. Guy Grossi looks particularly grand in a short battle skirt. Both teams are complaining about nerves and how hard they are trim out of a good human carcass. With 7 minutes to go Megan starts stressing because the rice paper is ripping as she rolls it. Now she knows how we feel. There’s also been so many product placement shots of the sponsor’s stock I’ve no idea why they then need a spot to remind us about it just as we come back in from the ad break.

Megan loses the ability to count to 21 the stress is upon her so much – 2.5 minutes to go and Andy’s not exactly helping prepare the plates or anything. Leigh & Princess Jen are plating up and noting, “We can’t make poo poo on a plate anymore – it’s unasseptable.” It seems someone was taught English by the Supernanny. Everyone’s plated in time with little trauma, and so now all they have to do is make it up the stairs with their dish and deliver it to the judges table before being ushered back to their benches to complete their main in 60 minutes.

Point of order, everyone: Megan was stressed about delivering 21 rice paper rolls for her entree serving. With 9 going to the judges and 6 to the other contestants to taste… where did the other 6 go? What sort of scam are the MKR producers running here?

Anyhoo, the judges decide to tempt fate and try Leigh & Princess Jen’s Murray cod first and the judges are aglow with delight at the taste – even the cod is perfectly cooked (was Manu telling us the wrong information before? No, I won’t have it!). They all agree that the rice paper rolls from Megan & Andy are good too – so much so that Grossi almost talks about the depth of flavour but we’re saved by Liz Egan shoving another roll in his mouth. Thank Christ for that. The tension builds as Pete reminds us that the two dishes were a great start to a great battle. At this rate they’ll have the contestants in a gladiator-style battle before dessert to see who wins this semi-final.

Nothing can go wrong with a confit, right?

Andy’s sieving out the stock he’s prepared, and as it contains crushed shell he knows he has to sieve it twice or else one of the judges could get a spoonful of grit (it’s all Grossi can taste since the accident anyway). Megan’s busy carving out the cobb loaves and has them drying in the oven to seal. Andy wants their chowder to be a seafood extravaganza so he’s called in a favour from Barry Humphries and has Dame Edna delivering gladioli to help set the atmosphere.

Princess Jen has been flash-frying the pigeon and now has them all in the oven to “finish them off”. This is why her husband always finishes first. They’re really concerned about getting the skin crispy, so much so that Manu is now harping on about getting the skin crispy. Princess Jen gets them out of the oven and swears – the skin isn’t crispy. IT’S NOT CRISPY! BATTLE STATIONS! How are they gonna solve this?

Andy’s up to his elbows in his chowder, and Pete & Manu note that this is a simple, honest dish that could be spectacular, but likely won’t. The girls from SA have started preparing their Farro (Italian grain) and are washing it to remove all the dirt, gravel and general Italian-ness. Leigh’s working on the beetroot and seems as happy as she’s ever been.

As usual Andy’s left cooking all the seafood to the last minute for the chowder, and with 18 minutes to go the tension in the Tassie kitchen is almost at boiling point. Andy asks Megan to taste the stock and she’s concerned it’s too creamy and sweet – he nearly goes out of his tiny mind at her about how she wouldn’t know what it tastes like and she should shut her big mouth because she just doesn’t understand.

"Like this? Or like this? Or like this?!"

With nine minutes left on the clock there’s issues in both camps. Leigh & Princess Jen have carved the pigeon breasts from the frame and they’re well under-cooked so they’ll have to go back in the oven. Andy’s holding court over his creamy chowder and won’t let Megan start to plate it for at least another two minutes. Leigh starts plating up, and Megan muscles in to start plating as well. Time ticks away and Leigh & Princess Jen will be serving some very rare pigeon (I can hear it coo-ing from here), and Andy pretty much tries to freeze Megan out of plating the main as he wants to faff a little more with it. Time’s up and it seemed pretty close this time. Andy thinks their main looks awesome, and Princess Jen is very confident with the flavours she and Leigh have delivered.

With 30 minutes until dessert is expected on the judges table the contestants are back at their benches and hard at it. The judges dive into Megan & Andy’s chowder and Karen Martini thinks the presentation is very funky. All the judges think it tastes great, and Grossi cannot help himself but mention how great the depth of flavour is in the dish. Sacrebleu! What does it take to stop this man?! “Megan & Andy, they’ve done it again,” says Pete. “A superb seafood dish.” They move onto Leigh & Princess Jen’s pigeon with no surprises – the pigeon is underdone and the skin isn’t crispy. Liz Egan notes a bit of gravel in her farro, and not to be left out Karen Martini thinks she’s already eaten a piece. There’s shocked looks all round and a production assistant faints and thumps to the floor in the background of shot. What if Liz Egan had eaten it and DIED?!

Both teams are well involved in the preparation of their desserts when we return to them, and in the smartest move yet Megan has cock-blocked Andy by making him attend to the creme anglaise which must be constantly stirred while cooking… which leaves her free to concentrate on all the other elements without his meddling. Carly mistakenly expects Andy to pull a prawn out of the pot as she’s not used to seeing him cook a dessert. Megan meanwhile has been wasting her time on an arts and crafts project instead of the almond tuilles she’s supposed to prepare. At least she put something in the oven when she was meant to.

Princess Jen has their tart out of the fridge and it looks like it’ll be OK – it’s certainly cut OK. Pete & Manu remind the teams that they’ve 15 minutes to go and there’s still dirt to make and Andy’s fingers to burn. Time slips by so quickly, but not so quickly that Andy insists he still has time to cut pistachos one by one. What a guy. Megan is plating their marquise and things are bubbling along nicely for them; Princess Jen is busy preparing quinelles of the chocolate chantilly (she should be grateful she doesn’t have Andy skulking around telling her they’re not good enough).

Megan & Andy's main - Rich Seafood Chowder

Somewhere in all this Leigh & Princess Jen have made a raspberry coulis and now they’re painting it on their plates. One minute to go and Andy’s still worried about the pistachios, but the finishing touches are all going on and as time expires the finished plates both look amazing. The teams deliver their dishes to the judges and scurry out the back to fall in an emotionally drained heap. Except for Andy, who has proven today he is made of stone and has no soul.

Liz Egan has a mild orgasm as Pete invites the judges to try Leigh & Princess Jen’s tart. There’s all sorts of mmm’s & aah’s as they dive in, and they offer a collective shudder and sigh before commenting. Pete is already smoking a cigarette. They are all impressed with the dish – Grossi thinks it’s perfect and, for once, doesn’t mention the flavour is deep or anything. When the judges try Megan & Andy’s chocolate marquise, they declare it to be light and luscious and chocolatey. “It’s a great finish for Megan & Andy’s three course meal this evening,” says Tobie Puttock matter-of-factly.

There’s no turning back now though, as the teams present themselves to hear from the judges and learn of their fate. “Throughout the competition everyone has kept evolving, and it was evident with each dish every step of the way and for the fact that Megan & Andy’s second heads are growing back in,” says Pete.

Megan & Andy
Guy Grossi – 8 (“You nail seafood every time.”)
Tobie Puttock – 8
Liz Egan – 7
Karen Martini – 7 (“Your rice paper rolls were fresh and tasty, and the sauce was punchy.”)
Manu Feildel – 8 (“Your three dessert elements were meant to be together on the plate.”)
Pete Evans – 8
Total score – 46/60.

“I’m really proud of how we cooked tonight and that I didn’t stab Andy where he stood, as he deserved it at least three times,” says a contented Megan.

Leigh & Princess Jen
Guy Grossi – 9
Tobie Puttock – 9 (“You guys did a fantastic job.”)
Liz Egan – 8 (“The sauce for your Murray cod had the flavours dancing on my tongue.”)
Karen Martini – 8
Manu Feildel – 9
Pete Evans – 9 (“Your chocolate and Earl Grey tart was perfect.”)
Total score – 52/60.

Leigh & Princess Jen's Chocolate & Earl Grey Tea Tart

It just goes to show you can serve up gravel to the judges and win a semi-final. What sort of farcical cooking competition has this become?! Leigh & Princess Jen are going through the grand final and they’re very, very happy. Over the moon. They could do a little dance.

Megan & Andy are pleased with their own efforts and their montage reflects their journey which is very seafood-rich. “We’ve had our fair share of bickering and arguing in the competition,” says Andy, “So much so the producers had to replace Megan twice due to unfortunate cooking accidents. Not that any of you noticed. We get over it, give each other a kiss, and move on.” It’s back to Tasmania for the couple to ensure their DNA remains free of the rest of the population.

Tomorrow night semi-final #2 is decided between Carly & Emily and Nic & Rocco. Who will survive to face off against the SA girls? Who’s cuisine will use aubergine?!