My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7


We all know what tonight’s about – let’s just get straight to the bit where the contestants get told Peter & Gary are returning! It’ll be the last thing they’ll be expecting… unless they’ve already seen the promo for tonight. Stupid DeLorean time machine and hoverboards, they ruin everything.

“We’re ba-ack!” And not before time, either. Why can I not get this Ke$ha song out of my wa-wa-ow head?

It was a bright Summer morning as the teams entered Kitchen HQ, filled with hopes, dreams and strategies. There was talk of surprises and making the Top 6, but nothing could contain the innocent enthusiasm they all had for the weeks and weeks of cooking to come. “Teams, welcome to the second last week of the competition,” announces Manu.

WHAT THE HELL?!?! Why was I not consulted on this? How can you get me sucked into this show, jack up the level of viewing commitment, and then drop on me it’s all over in a week or so?! You no play fair, MKR.

Presto-changeo Manu tells them that with seven teams left, from now on one team will be eliminated every day until four teams remain. You could knock the teams down with a feather. In the first challenge of MasterChefian proportions, the teams will all prepare a knockout dish from the same surprise ingredient. The two weakest teams will go into a cook-off where one team will go home – Pete & Manu will pick one of the teams, and a jury of their eliminated peers will decide on the other team facing the sudden-death-cooking squad.

Who's the boss, and where's Tony Danza?

With the appropriate militaristic music, in walk Peter & Gary, Sam & Jillian, Thomas & Carla, Simon & Meg and Emma & Andrew, and the teams that hadn’t already been knocked down with a feather were now prostrate on the floor in shock. “We’re here for a different purpose now,” says Gary. “We’re here to wreak havoc,” smiles Peter. This is gonna be GREAT!

The teams are sent to their benches, and they’re all a-bubble with talk about the jury and the challenge they’re about to face. “If ever we needed to nail someone, it’s today,” says a confused yet grinning Rocco. “I want to go full out,” says Steve, confusing even his apron strings. Andy hopes the secret ingredient is beer, to allow him to make a beer batter and to calm his nerves. Megan reminds him that this is the MKR fridge and not their fridge at home which only has room for grog. They’re so in love and wildy alcoholic, it’s a touching and entirely explanatory revelation.

Manu directs the contestants to the fridge to discover the “secret ingredient that is found in everyone’s house” is… a brown paper parcel. I remember fondly the nights my Mum would prepare paper bag fritters using the leftovers of a brown paper roast. I liked to hide my vegies under my brown paper trimmings sometimes. Justine ruins this poignant if confusing memory by opening the parcel to reveal the actual ingredient is… mince meat with a sprig of parsley!

The storeroom contains all variety of mince from beef to chicken to beef to pork to beef to lamb to beef, so everyone’s covered. The teams have one hour to deliver their masterpiece, and you can hear the clunking emanate from the screen as they try and create something more interesting than that contained in the now much-loved 1970’s Australian Women’s Weekly cookbook. The teams end up with some creative interpretations of the key ingredient (very little mention of parsley though):

Nic & Rocco – Pork and Fennel Meatballs with fresh pasta
Angela & Justine – Beef Meatballs with pasta
David & Scott – Open Beef Lasagna with chilli and tomato concasse
Carly & Emily – Thai Pork Stuffed Omelette with chilli cucumber salad
Leigh & Princess Jen – Beef and Lamb Dumplings with butter sauce and yoghurt
Helen & Steve – Lamb Mince with polenta bake
Megan & Andy – Greek Lamb Souvlaki with handmade tortillas and minted yoghurt

"No, Pete - we're gonna lightly coat you with a chocolate sauce..."

Jury member Sam notes the SA boys are fast after Rocco makes his pasta and has it resting in the fridge inside the first three minutes. Obviously Sam has no issue drooling over other men in front of her future mother-in-law. The WA girls are also making meatballs and seeing the SA boys prepare theirs has Emma & Andrew drawing obvious comparisons: “It’d be like cooking a creme brulee up against Manu or something, and then smearing it all over his body and pressing yourself up against him to feel the tingly warmth,” says Andrew. “What – are you nuts?” says Emma.

“The secret ingredient for our dish,” says a motivated Scott, “is that we’re cooking everything from scratch. That and a healthy dose of medicinal marijuana for that addictive taste.” Carly & Emily are so happy to see the other contestants back. So much so they list everyone except Peter & Gary, except to say they can see them watching them and they hope they are so that they learn some of their techniques. Cut to Peter talking about how unimpressed he’s been with Carly & Emily so far, and how they really need to impress him today. Passive aggression never fails to entertain when it comes to any sort of meal, be it MKR or the family at Christmas dinner.

To reinforce that we’re meant to expect drama between the jury and the remaining contestants (i.e. Peter & Gary and Carly & Emily), Pete reminds us that some of the members of the jury have an axe to grind, so all they need is a little Grindr. He then pops in to see how Leigh & Princess Jen are going, and asking if they’re intimidated about the presence of the jury. “No, not really,” says Princess Jen. Pete thinks she’s a pretty bad actor and Jen turns on her heel and delivers the best Lady MacBeth anyone’s ever seen in Kitchen HQ. It’s an eerily touching moment. Proving Helen & Steve haven’t workshopped their new stereotypes any further, Steve reminds us that “of course we’ve picked lamb – we’re Greek, and that goes hand in hand with lamb!”. Coupla days.

Given there was no fish mince in the storeroom, Andy the Seafood King is a little out of his element, so he and Megan strike on the bright idea to make Lamb Souvlaki. “The hard part about this dish is everything,” says Megan. Her skewered turds look to be just the thing to keep them out of the bottom two teams. IN BIZARRO WORLD! “If I get the spices and the flavour right in that mince it’ll be wonderful,” she says, trying to overcome the size of that first ‘if’. Manu swings by to bother Nic & Rocco about using bottled tomato sauce and guilts them into making one. Manu could be my mother right now if only he talked about how disappointed he was in their life choices.

The Scofftas speak for themselves. Little turds.

The jury are marvelling at the regimented cooking relationship between David & Scott, with Gary playing “spot the officer” and Thomas playing “spot the best guns”, though he doesn’t understand why. He’s just drawn to a well toned, muscle-bound, body-hair-free man. Megan’s now panic-cooking the koftas with 30 minutes to go to ensure they’re ready to serve. She laughs at Andy’s suggestion they’ll dry out and be inedible by the time they’re due to be eaten, thus re-positioning her dish as Lamb SCOFFtas.

Peter, as self-proclaimed head juror, tells us they’re looking for teams to extend themselves and notes that Carly & Emily, Angela & Justine and Nic & Rocco are all delivering exactly what is expected from them – respectively Asian, Italian and Italian food. No surprises at all. Emma & Andrew marvel at Nic & Rocco running the pasta through the pasta machine. “It’s like a machine,” notes the female WA scientician. Pretty soon she and Andrew are getting electricity INSIDE their house!

Justine’s struggling, trying to get her pasta made with 20 minutes to go after the first batch not working at all, and after trying the second batch they succumb to packet pasta from the storeroom with only eight minutes to cook and plate it, “and it needs eight minutes to cook,” says Angela, her superpower of stating the bloody obvious shining through at the time it’s least needed. Mandatory plating fury takes place as the final minute is announced. Argue! Complain! Point! Wipe! Search for lost garnishes! Gasp! STOP COOKING!

Every team has delivered their meal, though Angela & Justine are horrified at what they’ve plated – it’s not up to their usual standard of lazy Sunday nachos to gobble while watching the footy. “The dish looked ugly. It looked like it had been plated by a child,” said Angela, not too far from the metaphorically emotional truth. It’s now all in the hands of the judges and the jury.

It tastes as good as it looks...

As expected, the judges are mostly complimentary to Carly & Emily, but Peter isn’t so forgiving in the jury (“It’s a glorified omelette with some cooked mince in the middle, and it’s wet”). Pete & Manu are concerned with Megan & Andy’s Scofftas as the spices weren’t toasted and they were too heavy handed (and prepared them too early), and Andrew agrees though Gary quite likes it that spicy. After all the fuss at David & Scott’s green curry now he likes spices?! The Qld Army lads are confident, and the judges agree the presentation is great though the seasoning of their beef isn’t excellent – and Simon & Meg agree. “There’s quite a subtle note of flavour there,” says Gary. “I think you’ll find there’s a difference between subtle and bland,” says Peter correcting him. Of course he does.

Manu is extremely appreciative of the sauce Nic & Rocco created, though he notes they could have removed the skin first. Pete thinks it’s good, honest food, and he’d vote it in at the next State election if he had half the chance provided the meatballs had a solid policy on education funding. In the jury, Sam really likes Rocco’s balls. For Angela & Justine it’s the failure we had to have. Justine’s taking it all personally before judgement is even offered as she feel the fact they had to use packet pasta is a complete sin. “Spaghetti & meatballs is a simple dish, so at this stage of the competition it has to be perfect. Unfortunately, this isn’t,” declares Pete. Manu’s a little more generous in his dissection, noting the meatballs are lacking flavour. Sam doesn’t like Justine’s balls at all, which makes complete sense on so many levels.

Leigh & Princess Jen’s dumplings get great wraps for taste from the judges, but Manu reminds them that presentation looks clumsy and detracts greatly from the dish. The SA girls are worried that this is enough to see them into the sudden-death cook-off. The jury likes the dumplings, so there’s little to worry about. Steve & Helen’s dish has the nice bouncy dramatic music to start with, so they are in no form of bother, though Gary thinks it looked more exciting than it tasted. This from the man with the bland palate.

The jury deliberations are insightful and entertaining, if not thoroughly misguided. The contestants are all worried, though some of them blindly trust the jury to vote on food and not on emotion. These are the people who are likely to be eliminated this week. The jury’s vote is telling – with a score of 12/50 Angela & Justine are the first team up for elimination tonight. The WA girls feel they’ve been hard done by, while Pete gives any member of the jury a chance to justify their verdict. A heel-bouncing Pete tells all the teams that “the winner of this competition is going to need to impress us, and I’m afraid packet pasta and tasteless meatballs aren’t impressing us”. ME-OW, and aren’t Angela & Justine feeling it. The jury is excused to return tomorrow, and the judges announce the other team in the sudden-death cook-off tonight: Megan & Andy – the Scofftas strike back! Andy’s gutted, Megan’s flabbergasted, and by the powers of their rings given to them by Mother Earth, together they combine to be flabbergusted.

Megan's just angry, Andy is still dwelling on something from last week.

Angela & Justine and Megan & Andy have to deliver one signature dish in 90 minutes to the guest judges table, and both teams aren’t looking forward to the challenge that lay ahead of them. The other teams retire to the Peanut Gallery to relax and scream like idiots at a cooking competition. “The reality is: one team is going to be elimintated,” says a confused Angela. confusing all of us with whatever the hell being “elimintated” is. I’d say the pressure had got to her, but… what pressure? The teams have bashed their heads together and decided their signature dishes are:

Angela & Justine – Vietnamese Duck with coconut rice and asian salad
Megan & Andy – Coral Trout with crab and prawn bisque and asparagus

Team WA start searing off their duck, and Angela announces she’s extremely confident with this dish as she cooks Asian often and spends a lot of time in Asia every year, so it shouldn’t be a problem. One wonders where a West Australian bogan goes “in Asia” every year and if ASIO are aware of it. She makes it very clear that she’s preparing everything and that Justine will be cooking the rice. In a 90 minute challenge her partner will be cooking rice. [Shakes head and walks away sighing.]

Andy’s really pleased with the cold fish he gets to work with in the kitchen today. He also likes the coral trout too. He starts making the stock by adding fish heads to some garbage bags, an old tyre and some acid, all the while humming “Fish heads, fish heads, roly poly fish heads…”. At last some peace for Andy in this season of MKR insanity. “I’m the boss, so I have to tell Megan exactly what to do,” says Andy in a unique role reversal of his normal life. “Uuuuuuummm… Er… Jus… You just do what you think is right, dear,” stammers the King of Seafood.

As a third of the time has past, the judges recap precisely what happened in the last segment. So, welcome if you’re joining the show thinking you’re about to see Revenge. SURPRISE! 90 minute MKR episode screws that up for everyone. Megan’s really worried that Andy doesn’t look like he’s stressing, so it stresses her more. Angela & Justine are confident their dish will get them through without any hassle, while Megan has performed a coup on the King of Seafood and is now running the show again for Team Tas, which is EXACTLY the way Andy remembers it from home.

Given Justine has only one thing to do in this challenge – cook the rice – you’d think she’d be on top of her game, but it takes Angela to check the rice at a crucial time to find it’s starting to go but saves it with a swift flick of the wrist and a pot move. The WA girls share a moment that communicates so very, very much while leads Justine to complain nervously about the “stupid rice”. Angela re-justifies out loud that she does a lot of Asian cooking at home and they never complain as she sits them in a pot of cold water and slowly turns up the heat until they cook in their own juices without realising what’s happening. She and Justine are now part of the biggest international cannibalism ring the globe is yet to see.

“I’m not leaving this competition tonight because she cooked the prawns early,” says Andy.
“Well I’m not leaving this competition tonight because we didn’t plate anything up,” says Megan.
“Well, *I’M* not leaving this competition tonight because I’ve already paid off the judges,” says Andy.

A domestic nearly breaks out over when the prawns should be cooked for Megan & Andy. Megan gives Andy her best death stare and reminds him the prawns are massive. The judges arrive and Megan has a near meltdown as she realises neither the prawns OR fish had been cooked yet – 12 minutes to go. Megan overrides Andy like so many other times before in their lives and whacks the prawns in the bisque to cook while Andy’s telling her to get the liquid up to temperature first. Rocco grabs some popcorn and settles in for the show while fondly remembering something like this happening in his house, but he’s blocked it out thanks to all the great presents Mum & Dad would buy him for no reason. Like a really expensive car.

Angela & Justine, by comparison, are quite relaxed and almost ready to plate already. Tension picks up as Pete yells the one minute warning and Megan & Andy are plating and their presentation is quite rushed. Time’s up, Andy’s relaxed and Megan looks like she never wants to see him again. The teams deliver their dishes to the judges table and the decision process begins. They all wax lyrically about Megan & Andy’s seafood. “Beautifully simple,” offers Liz Egan. “What surprises me is the depth of flavour in that bisque,” says Guy Grossi, picking up his plate and licking it clean. When it comes to Angela & Justine’s duck, the judges are equally as complimentary. “What I’m loving are the three components mixed together,” says Pete. “I just wanted to say a lot of words so that I get another grab in the final edit,” says Grossi. The teams are brought back and face their accusers.

Angela & Justine
Guy Grossi – 8 (“The sourness and the citrus of that sauce with the duck was intelligent.”)
Tobie Puttock – 7
Liz Egan – 8
Karen Martini – 8 (“Your duck dish was gorgeously fragrant.”)
Manu Feildel – 8 (“I think the orange with the duck is a classic combination and you did a great job.”)
Pete Evans – 8
Total score – 47/60.

Megan & Andy
Guy Grossi – 9
Tobie Puttock – 9 (“The bisque had wonderful levels of flavour.”)
Liz Egan – 10 (“Beautifully simple.”)
Karen Martini – 9
Manu Feildel – 10
Pete Evans – 10 (“I’m so glad you held your guns and saved cooking the seafood in the last minutes.”)
Total score – 57/60.

Not only do we see a massive win for Megan & Andy, but we also learn of Guy Grossi’s penchant for fish love. He loves coral trout. LOVES it. “Going out on a score of 47/60 is pretty good,” says Justine. Angela & Justine are rightly proud of what they’ve achieved in the competition to make it this far, and the montage music reminds us that the girls from WA were universally liked by all teams. At least everyone will get to see them tomorrow in the jury. Remember – the jury? In case we’d forgotten there’s a sneak peek at what carnage they’ll deliver and who’s in their sights. Bottom line, it’s just so much fun having Peter & Gary back.