My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7
http://au.tv.yahoo.com/my-kitchen-rules/

"OK teams, one of you today will become the Loser's Loser..."

Welcome to elimination week, where not only are we cutting the carbs to trim down and tone up, we’re also cutting the fat off our contestant roster. Tonight’s Trans-Tasman-Trial will see Simon & Meg (NZ) face off against Steve & Helen (NSW) to see who can be the bigger cultural stereotype. It’s sure to be a battle royale with nothing left in the kitchen and everything on the plate. Sing it, Ke$ha.

Steve & Helen enter Kitchen HQ and send a shot across Team UnZud’s bow early with Steve shouting “I love youse all” while he walks in past the bench. Clearly he thinks this is a competition to be won in the hearts and minds of the Peanut Gallery early, and he’s well wrong. No carbs Pete tells the team “the competition is just getting tighter”, while Manu reminds them that for one of the teams “this is the last meal they’ll cook in this competition”. Simon tells the judges that he and Meg are here to survive and they’ll be doing everything they can today when Steve interrupts to say: “Sorry Simon, the All-Blacks are going down. I’m doin’ it for Orstraya.” How can it be that I’m backing the Kiwis already due to their better diction and lesser accent?

“The Kiwis might have beaten us in the World Cup, but they’re not going to beat us in our kitchen,” says Steve nonsensically. The All-Blacks aren’t competing in MKR, and neither did he or Helen compete in the Rugby World Cup. There’s no time to ponder what he actually meant as the teams have 90 minutes to plate and serve their entrees and their time just started. The menus at least look interesting:

Simon & Meg
Entree – Salmon and Prawn Roulade
Main – Crusted Lamb and pomegranate salad
Dessert – Individual Cherry and Chocolate Cakes

Helen & Steve
Entree – Black Ink Cuttlefish and fennel salad
Main – Rabbit Stifado with garlic mash
Dessert – Orange Cake Trifle

Steve hasn't got the hang of working tidy.

“We feel pretty proud to be New Zealanders cooking this menu,” says Meg, “though it might taste a bit papery we’ll make sure we remove the staples first.” Helen has to get started on the rabbit as there’s lots to prepare, though she wishes the producers had purchased the little known octo-rabbit that’s only found in Greece. “It makes life so much easier,” says Helen, puffing already. She’s also telling us that it’s a fine line between under and over cooking the rabbit. If only it were duck season.

Simon & Meg are hoping they’ll get some sympathy points for their entree, as the roulade method is quite difficult. “Let’s hope they can pull it off,” says an unsympathetic Pete. “We will pull it off,” says Meg. There’s lots of talk of ‘pulling it off’, with not a whole lot of discussion about what ‘it’ is. Is this part of the new Rip ‘n’ Roll campaign? Carly & Emily, happily ensconced in the Switzerland that is the Peanut Gallery, wonder out loud to each other what Steve & Helen are preparing and as if by magic we’re whisked to their bench just in time to hear Helen announce her and Steve’s entree plan. “It’s inspired by our mother and father who came from a small fishing village in Cyprus,” says Helen. Just nobody mess with the family.

As Steve is preparing the cuttlefish, he’s hunting for the ink sacks to use in the entree prep and equates the small pouches of black liquid to gold. Black gold, that is. Cypriot Tea. 30 minutes has vanished and both teams are working hard on their entrees, though Meg has started on Team UnZud’s dessert too. There’s some discussion within the Peanut Gallery as to what taste, if any, the cuttlefish ink will add to the entree – Scott’s confident it’ll add no taste, but Leigh & Princess Jen are quick to correct him that it will add quite a fishy taste. To cuttlefish. A fishy taste. Good lord. Simon tastes the raw prawn mousse – mmm, fishy! – and Meg acknowledges these are the things you do when you’re in a competition.

Steve & Helen’s rabbit main has hit the reduction phase after he’s added spoonfuls of stuff (“I don’t measure things when I cook – what you see is what you get”), and Simon is starting to make the roulade but only adds a small amount of the mousse as he’s concerned it won’t cook in the large bit of salmon they’re using, but Pete thinks he’s not added enough to get the prawn flavour to punch through. Well someone will be right and someone wrong, and we’ll find out soon enough. Simon & Meg have their own issues to deal with in poaching the roulade as in the same way if underdone the prawns aren’t cooked and if over the fish becomes messy. That and the rolls are too long to put in a pot so Simon’s improvising on the stovetop. Mon Dieu!

Rabbit Season. Duck Season. Rabbit Seas... oh crap.

Thirty minutes to go and Steve decides he has time to taunt Simon for a second time. A witty retort from the Kiwi gives everyone a giggle and Steve nowhere to go. This is problem of a battle of wits when one person is unarmed. Team UnZud are well on their way with the salad and dressing for their entree, so no drama there. Team NSW are barrelling along nicely with their cuttlefish, though Helen notes they need their dish to reduce more as the sauce needs to be more of a paste so the black liquid doesn’t run down the plate and assault their salad. Even the Cypriots are racist now.

With now 15 minutes remaining Simon checks his roulade – it’s still not cooked to the centre. Mild panic sets in and Meg tells Simon he needs to sort it out as if he has the power to tell the salmon to cook to the centre somehow. He attempts telekinesis and we’re left with a lasting image of Simon staring at the roulades with a demented look on his face. Situation: normal.

The judges arrive and parade in, though no one has the fortitude to tell them they aren’t wearing any clothes. “Long live the King!” Meg feels the pressure mount when she notices the judges enter. “I’m just really worried we’re gonna run out of time and not put something up,” she says, her voice rising into panic. Simon decides to fry off the roulade still wrapped in foil to finish the salmon off quickly – another bedroom insight that wasn’t required. Team UnZud are now worried they’ve nothing on the plate yet and there’s now only 10 minutes left.

“Get a move on!” yells Manu. Helen starts plating their salad while Steve fusses with their cuttlefish. Simon has another look at the roulade and this time it’s cooked fine, but he has very little time left to plate so drops an entire roll on a plate garnishes with a sprig of mint. An underwhelmed Pete counts down the seconds with the Peanut Gallery, and as expected both teams manage to deliver completed entrees. But what will they taste like? That’s for the judges to decide as the teams are sent packing with 60 minutes to deliver the main course.

Starting with Simon & Meg’s Salmon Roulade, the judges are not sold on the lack of dressing, mousse, and the fact it’s slightly overcooked. “For all the love he put into it, the flavours aren’t on the plate and that’s let this dish down,” says Pete. Steve & Helen’s cuttlefish, however, “ticks a lot of boxes” for Guy Grossi. It’s got flavour, texture and blackiness. “It’s pure black, just like Grossi’s heart,” says Karen Martini. “I’d say it’s Australia 1 New Zealand 0 so far,” says Scott.

It's as dark as Grossi's soul and as light as Puttock's ego.

Manu reminds the teams that the winner stays here and the loser goes home. Steve yells at Simon, asking if he heard that. “At least you don’t have far to go home,” says Simon. NZ 2, NSW 0. The clock’s a-ticking, and Simon & Meg are only just starting on their main course, whereas the NSW siblings have had their rabbit simmering for the last hour or so. Simon & Meg acknowledge they love their pomegranate salad, but they’re unsure if the judges will. Too late to worry about that now as you’re kind of committed, guys. Steve & Helen have some consolidation to do and get started on their desserts though, while Team UnZud have already baked theirs. It’s tit-for-tat timing trauma but both teams have to push on.

Steve notes there’s a lot of love going into their dessert cake by his sister(!), though she hasn’t progressed too far yet. “I need to redeem myself,” says Helen. “My chocolate cake got us into this position, and I’m hoping this orange cake will get us out of this position.” Love, positions, cakes… is this a cooking show or the MKR stand at Sexpo?

With 38 minutes to go in the main preparation, Steve checks his rabbit and it’s ready now – possibly even overcooked. He takes it off the heat and hopes his sister doesn’t notice because she’ll go “ape” if she knows it’s all gone wrong. Simon & Meg have seared the lamb and are now letting it rest, even though it needs to be grilled. Simon cuts one to check and notes it’s not cooked all the way through (because two minutes each side in a fry pan was gonna do that, yeah?). Tragedy! “If we don’t get this lamb right tonight, there’s no way we’re gonna be allowed back into our country,” says Meg. Great – MORE asylum seekers.

Meg’s pushing Simon to get the lamb into the oven after topping it with the crust, when Pete tells us they’re struggling with their timing alone. Simon’s staring at the lamb, praying it finishes up nicely and forgetting the old adage from his village in New Zealand ‘a watched lamb never wags its tail’. Meg’s stressed, and with 5 minutes to go she knows they’re in trouble. Steve & Helen start plating – the mash is done, but when Helen goes after the legs in the stew the meat has all fallen off. She knows it’s over cooked, and looks at Steve as if to suggest it’s gonna be his balls on the plate.

They don't believe a word Manu says.

TWO MINUTES! Simon takes the lamb out of the oven as they have to plate up, and he and Meg are plating like a pukeko. Time’s up, and again everyone has plated and presents their mains to the judges. All that fake tension for nothing – it’s just like an episode of Revenge (when will that nice girl get with that lovely bartender she used to play with as a child? Sigh). With 30 minutes to deliver dessert, the teams race off and the judges consider everything before them. Grossi doesn’t like Puttock’s tie, though Egan thinks Martini’s dress is fabulous. “What? This old thing?!” says Martini smiling broadly. The judges take a moment and the producers remind them to try the FOOD.

Simon & Meg’s lamb has come out perfectly cooked, though Pete and Guy were getting stressed just watching them finish it. “I don’t understand the salad,” says Manu, forgetting most people need subtitles to even have a vague idea of what he’s saying. “It’s a clumsy salad, isn’t it?” says Karen as it falls voluntarily off her plate after tripping over her knife. Before they start on Steve & Helen’s rabbit Manu notes “I know it’s hard to present stew but this looks like someone’s put a grenade in the pot”. While the Rabbit War Crimes tribunal are called, the judges decide the stew has gone too far. “It doesn’t have the depth of flavour and is missing a lot of seasoning,” says Tobie. They all agree the rabbit has suffered at the hands of the siblings and whatever charges are brought against them are well deserved.

Steve thinks he’s at the soccer and let’s off a flare in his kitchen. The police swarm Kitchen HQ and remove the pitch invaders so he and Helen can continue preparing their dessert. For some reason Simon & Meg left their cakes to cool in the tins they cooked in, and they’re now stuck fast. No amount of bashing or coercing can convince the baked chocolately goodness to escape it’s metallic home until finally Meg promises never to say “chully bun” again – and they’re out. Meg breathes a sigh of relief and continues to attack the errant gateuxs.

In the MKR realm, another new King has been self-proclaimed – Steve the Custard King. He’s so busy talking himself up that Helen tells him to hurry up as there’s “No time to be the Custard King”. The King puts his custard in the freezer with 15 minutes to go hoping it’ll chillax in that time. As the Custard King, he demands it!

Yum.

Simon & Meg are working hard on their dessert, pressing the coulis through a sieve and sharding the chocolate rolls (“Yes, I got something right today!” says a jubilant Meg). Everything’s coming up Milhouse for Team UnZud so far, despite Steve trying to engage Simon in a shouting match. Simon’s taking the high/mute road and not responding – a smart strategy. NZ 3, NSW 0.

Team NSW’s custard hasn’t cooled as much as they need, but with one minute to go Helen has to plate it with their trifle as they have no other choice. Team UnZud are reconsidering the addition of fresh cherries as no one has had time to de-seed them. Time’s up, and as Princess Jen jumps around maniacally shouting “Opa!” Steve takes that as a cue to start Zorba dancing. Someone dashes in and smashes a plate over Steve’s head. Everyone laughs, especially Steve, as head trauma is hilarious at the best of times, thanks to years of training from Australia’s Funniest Home Videos.

Revealing his hand as to the judging progress, Pete tells the teams it all comes down to dessert and they should go and take a well earned break. The judges stand to leave, so Pete has to remind them he was talking to the contestants and they still have dishes to judge. It’s all kinds of awkward, though not as awkward as Steve & Helen’s trifle. The judges agree the cake is the highlight of the dish – “It’s light, fluffy, zesty, and a density that adds to the dish”. “I could have done without the warm custard,” says Liz. “This cake is my density,” declares Manu. Simon & Meg’s chocolate cake gets full marks for presentation. “The chocolate cake is light and fluffy and you get a real punch from the sour cherries hidden away in there,” offers Guy. It looks like both teams have delivered with their final dish – but who has done enough overall? And so… on to the final judgement:

Simon & Meg
Guy Grossi – 6 (“The salad detracted from the lamb.”)
Tobie Puttock – 6
Liz Egan – 6
Karen Martini – 6 (“The lamb was cooked wonderfully, but that salad was whacky.”)
Manu Feildel – 6
Pete Evans – 7 (“You saved the best for last, and I’m glad.”)
Total score – 37/60.

“Sex is not enough to get us through, we need to be getting seven’s and eight’s,” offers Meg. Gigglesnort.

Steve & Helen
Guy Grossi – 6
Tobie Puttock – 7 (“The cuttlefish was cooked beautifully.”)
Liz Egan – 6 (“I wish the custard had been cold, but your trifle was a yummy dish. Just like me.”)
Karen Martini – 6
Manu Feildel – 6 (“Stifado – I was let down a little, guys.”)
Pete Evans – 7
Total score – 38/60.

"You may be our mortal enemies, but you're still our brother & sister..."

The curse of the fence-sitting sixes from the judges has returned, and the scoring certainly doesn’t get tighter. Even though Helen proves her math skills are quite poor, her cooking skills are one better than Team UnZud, and she and brother Steve have survived this elimination. Farewell Simon & Meg, our Kiwi cousins from across the dutch. We only just started to know ye.

Everyone’s crying – Simon & Meg because they have to now go into hiding in Australia, and Steve & Helen because they now have to come up with some new stereotypes to bust wide open. It’s a touching montage for the Kiwis as obviously Simon & Meg have made a lot of friends with the other contestants, and experienced “high highs and low lows”. Who could forget that thing they did with the stuff? Of course there was that funny moment too, where Simon was funny. It’s just so touching.

Manu surprises the teams as he announces that from tomorrow one team will be eliminated every day this week. Pete breaks the news they have to impress their toughest critics yet – while the teams think this may mean the return of the VIPs (not that old thing again), Pete tells them it’s a jury that will help decide their fate, and so enters Simon & Meg (didn’t they just get sent home?), Sam & Jillian, Thomas & Carla and Peter & Gary.

“We’re ba-ack,” smile the bitchiest gays in the village. OMG – This is gonna be GREAT!

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