My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7

"Welcome to Ingham. It's very hard to pronounce with a French accent."

Previously, on My Kitchen Rules… some old guys lost a cooking battle against some young girls, but who has time to live in the past?! Tonight we’re off to Ingham in North Queensland – the “heart of sugarcane country” – where the teams have to ply the toothless locals with sweet treats and fend off hordes of redneck kids. This is Katter country, and this is tonight’s MKR…

Firstly, how do we know one of the major industries in Ingham is sugar? Do the sweeping shots of canefields and cane trains not give it away? Is it the endless line of obese people outside the diabetes clinic? Who can say – it’s all rich tapestry. David & Scott (Qld) help set the scene as they’re basically locals. They love tropical North Queensland and mixing tropical fruit with seafood (the deluded fools, it’s been their undoing more than once in this competition). Helen & Steve (NSW) didn’t expect a carnival. Little do they know this isn’t a carnival rather where the carnies come to holiday, so beware of grifters and confidence tricksters. And even less teeth. “Geez I hope we’re cooking Dagwood Dogs,” says Scott. “Who doesn’t love Dagwood Dogs?!” Well, pigs, for a start.

“I struggle in warm weather,” says Thomas, “So this for me this is already off to a bad start.” Poor butterfly, someone might crush his delicate wings. Why are he and Carla ALWAYS holding hands for people that are “just friends”? Perhaps she’s his beard? Simon & Meg (NZ) are quick to point out how hot it is as well, but then they do live in a place where if it gets to 15 degrees they’re suffering a heatwave. Harden up, girlfriends – three snaps! Manu & Pete welcome the teams to Ingham, and reveal the nature of today’s challenge: It’s the annual Maraka Festival and each team need to the key produce of the region – sugar – and make it shine. The local Canegrowers association must be paying for the mention of the word per instance. As usual the locals who attend will be deciding on the people’s choice, and the team that wins not only has immunity from this week’s elimination but also wins a “very special reward”. Eyes light up at the thought of what it could mean and how much Manu it could involve. Thomas is particularly interested.

The festival parade ends where they are in 90 minutes, and they have to be ready to serve their sugary delights accordingly. Time on! The teams claim their marquees, aprons on, and they start pillaging the temporary pantry like ancient Romans (David & Scott manage to pull of their crocs quite well). The teams express varying levels of confidence, originality and dread in their dessert ideas:

Carly & Emily – Choc Honeycomb Cheesecake Cones
Helen & Steve – Fruit & Nut Scroll
Thomas & Carla – Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with cookies and buttercream
Angela & Justine – Banana Lounge Cake
Leigh & Princess Jen – Ginger Wafer with white chocolate cream and tropical fruits
David & Scott – Banana Tartlet with marscapone cream and praline
Simon & Meg – White Chocolate Caramel Mudcakes with brandy snaps
Nic & Rocco – Tropical Fruit and Custard Tarts
Megan & Andy – Tropical Fruit Crepes with passionfruit syrup

The storeroom goes low tech

Steve has decided to doggedly stick with his Con the Fruiterer impressions, much to the chagrin of pretty much everyone. Duzzin’t matta. He and Helen are sure that their Greek/Egyptian fusion will appeal to the Northern Qld masses. Thomas & Carla are anything but quietly confident: “It’s a cupcake, with chocolate. What more could you want?” Quite possibly something edible, Thomas, but we’ll leave you two to it, babe. David & Scott ambitiously intend to make their own pastry (outside, in the tropical heat) for their dish. Will the curse of the Failet(tm) follow the teams north? At least the boys acknowledge it’s not a safe dish.

In what can only be classed as a rookie mistake, Simon & Meg reveal their entire recipe for their mudcakes to camera. Carla can be seen in the background furiously scribbling notes, and when she sees the camera on her, walks away pretending to fix her mane. Meg notes that as New Zealanders they want to beat every Australian team, “so that leaves pretty much everybody.” Nic & Rocco (SA) are in pastry pain as well, and stand to join Team Failets(tm) as well. Carly & Emily (Vic) are so confident they’ve taken to guessing what the special reward for the winners might be. They’ve almost claimed it as their birthright, and postulate wildly as to what it could be – scuba diving, sex on the beach with Manu, credibility – who knows what it could be.

In the first sign that Megan & Andy (Tas) are losing it, Andy’s having all sorts of problems cooking the crepes.
“I mean it’s Pete & Manu – what will they say to us if we can’t cook a crepe?” asks Megan.
“Holy crepe!” offers Andy.
Is there any wonder their relationship is strained?

Back at pastry central, both Nic & Rocco and David & Scott are struggling to get their pastry to work for them. The Nth Qld boys note that by adding a dash of rum to their marscapone if their dish falls in a heap they’ve still got a full bottle of rum with which to drown their sorrows. It would seem that bastardry isn’t the only thing learned once you join the military. One hour to go and the WA and SA girls are all panicking about how they’ll cool their dishes in time to serve them. Helen & Steve’s filo scrolls are splitting as they roll them, but Helen acknowledges they’ve picked the hardest dish to make in the history of the world ever.

"Holy Crepe!"

Team Meltdown (Sorry, Team Tasmania) are pushing on with their crepes and tropical fruit dicing, the latter of which is doing Megan’s head in. Showing he’s learned nothing growing up with his sister wife, Andy starts making light of the size of the diced mango compared to the other fruit. He’s holding a wooden spoon and Megan’s holding a sharp knife. Vale Andy, we hardly knew ye. Carly & Emily are extremely confident even though they’ve not finished anywhere near enough cones as yet. Nic & Rocco offer to help as they’ve pulled more cones than anyone in their time, but are shooed away.

45 minutes to go and the parade starts to arrive, distracting the teams with the pipe band leading the way. Steve is overcome with his non-existent Scottish heritage and mumbles something which manages to offend an entire country. Carla yells out the parade to “come and get your cupcakes, kids!”, delusionally thinking they’ll be able to hear her, even though she has the largest mouth ever seen on a Victorian with clothes on. Thomas & Carla then come to blows over Thomas’s inability to source tea towels. Leigh & Princess Jen (SA) just finish telling us how time consuming and difficult the ginger wafers are to make when their timer goes off and the Princess opens the oven to reveal just how difficult – they’re burnt. “I can’t cook anything without burning it,” says Princess Jen. Perhaps they should have taken that into account before coming on a COOKING SHOW?!?!

30 minutes to go, and Pete says what everyone is thinking: “Today’s challenge isn’t just about cooking with sugar; it’s about ensuring the longevity of a dying primary industry that suffers due to a volatile international market flooded with cheap product, a lack of innovation and poor research funding.” He’s so political all of a sudden. Nic & Rocco’s tarts are blind baked and they’re already assembling, while David & Scott are working on their banana topping. Simon & Meg’s first batch of cakes are beautiful, but the second batch are stuck fast. They get them out eventually but they look worse than their accents. At least their brandy snaps will turn out better. Oh, wait… worse. At least their brandy snaps will turn out worse. Simon has to redo them with 10 minutes to go.

"I'm not sure if these wafers are cooked yet..."

The SA girls aren’t having much luck with their wafers, dropping any decent ones they make on the ground as quickly as they ruin whole trays of the other ones. The Qld boys are chugging through baking their tarts, and notice the Angela & Justine (WA) are essentially finishing their cakes and they look really good. Steve mistakes the tens of people that are assembling with “thousands”, but he and Helen are plating (though they acknowledge there is no presentation in their dish today, only taste). The SA boys are finishing their tarts and they look amazing and they know it: “If we haven’t hit the brief on this one we never will,” says Nic, going on to say, “We’ve done good on the day, it was a game of two halves, and in the end we came out on top.”

30 seconds! There’s primping, plating and prettying from everyone, and Thomas has regressed into cleaning their marquee. The countdown completes, we go to an ad, and on returning they countdown is back in full swing. “Idiot Editing Syndrome” (IES) strikes again. The teams have their wares displayed for the people to come and taste, and at this point we realise that Nic & Rocco have complete 4 tarts. Total. THE CURSE OF THE FAILETS(tm) STRIKES AGAIN! Then they tell us they still have the next hour to complete the rest of the tarts and get them into people’s gobs. Perhaps they’ll deliver bespoke tarts? Perhaps they’ll pick up some bespoke tarts too, as it is Ingham.

“The cupcakes are barely out of the oven and people are just wanting them. I mean, they’re selling like hot cakes,” says Carla, somehow with a straight face. There is no god.

Pete & Manu like T&C’s cupcakes – as do the people who are gorging on them – but Manu offers they’re a little too sickly sweet for his palate. Steve & Helen’s fruit & nut scroll is nice, but is it the right thing to offer in this heat? “It’s a little bit heavy,” notes Peter. “A little bit of cream would have been great,” note two random women who conveniently seem to be the spokeswomen for the local dairy industry. Simon & Meg’s cupcakes go down a treat: “They’re big, but their very light,” says Manu, “A lot like a French chef I know.” He and Pete share a knowing look that lingers a little too long. “Even though I’m an Aussie I love the dish,” offers one lady, thinking she’s being cosmopolitan and enlightened when really it’s just classic regional Australia with racist overtones.

The latest in a long line of transportation innovation

The 11 tarts the Qld boys had prepared are quickly snapped up, but that was the plan. “We’ll spend the next hour serving food, so that the people left trying our food with it being the last thing on their mind when the buzzer blows,” says Scott. That’s military logic right there, folks. No wonder we “won” Afghanistan. Pete and Manu love the tart – the pastry’s short, and it tastes great. “When you eat all the elements together it’s quite good,” says Pete. See how easy Pete said “elements”, Mr Calombaris? Take note, please. The Banana Lounge Cakes from the WA girls are a hit with the kids and Manu – he loves the presentation. The taste however is another thing for the judges as the icing is sickly sweet. You think that makes it a hit with the kids, though the feedback there is that it was too “crunchy”. Nic & Rocco’s tarts are nice, but the pastry may be a little thick thinks Manu.

Carly & Emily had 30 of their cheesecake cones ready when the people arrived, and they’ve vanished so they’re furiously making more also. The judges think it’s unusual by they like it, and they like the presentation. Megan & Andy’s fruit crepes are getting wraps(!) from the gathered masses, but Pete & Manu think there’s not much special about it – it’s just some diced fruit and they can’t identify where the sugar element is in the dish. Both judges are unimpressed with Team Tas’s trip to Crepe Town. Oh yeah, I went there. The SA girls, while falling down in presentation, have delivered a very clever dessert.

The challenge is starting to wrap, and all the teams are giving away their final plates and accepting plaudits from the people of Ingham. Manu calls it closed, and Pete asks the people to vote for their favourite dish before they go. It’s a poignant moment filled with montages of people voting and leaving. Addressing the teams, Pete repeats what the winners get based on the winner of the people’s choice, and that the losers face the elimination cook-off based on Pete & Manu’s decision. Thomas winks knowingly at Manu while patting his top shirt pocket, and Manu returns the signal. Could there be a fix in?

"I wonder if this dish can transport us to Crepe Town?..."

In revealing their judgement, Simon & Meg are called out for their cupcakes (“They were as light as long white clouds” – Manu) and Leigh & Princess Jen for their ginger wafer (“Presentation wasn’t great but I definitely loved it” – Pete). Angela & Justine’s cake was notable because the icing was gritty and Pete didn’t like presentation – Manu liked the presentation but his cake was dry. Thomas & Carla’s cupcake may have been a crowd pleaser “but… there is no but. It was rich and it was moist and it was chocolate,” says Manu. Pete starts on David & Scott’s tart like it was a mess, but in classic Pete double-twist style he says they really pulled it off. “It was fantastic,” offered Manu. The cones from Carly & Emily come under scrutiny for presentation, causing the girls to defend what they did, but in the end it was all a trick! Again! The judges though the cheesecake cones were a great dish, and a great idea. Steve & Helen’s scrolls had filling that tasted great, but the filo was average and it didn’t look great. The crepes from Megan & Andy were OK but the judges felt they hadn’t matched the brief – “sometimes cooking ripe fruit isn’t the right thing,” says Pete. Manu reveals a new twist when judging Nic & Rocco’s tart: “I closed my eyes when I bit into the tart, and I was in Paris,” said Manu. So *THAT* was what the SA boys were messing around with for so long – they included a transporter in each little tart case to allow the consumer to travel anywhere! Surely they’ll win based on this element alone.

Manu and Pete have judged the dishes, and reveal the team going straight through to the sudden death cook-off (by way of Nic & Rocco’s tart) is the gut-wrenched Megan & Andy. “I was so sure it was gonna be us,” says Angela sounding relieved, if not a little jealous she won’t get a go travelling by tart. Andy’s shattered, and Megan tells us she wasn’t expecting it – not even a minute ago. Megan tries in vain to explain to the judges how there was sugar in their dish, but realises the futility of it all and surrenders willingly. “Darling,” says Manu, setting a dangerous precedent for future losers, “It wasn’t a bad dish; out of all the team it was less impressive.” The judges quickly stroke Megan’s ego to ensure she doesn’t stab them where they sleep.

In announcing the People’s Choice winner – David & Scott (ramming home to Thomas & Carla that the home ground advantage CAN pay off if you play it right) – the judges reveal the special reward is the best that tropical North Queensland has to offer… a quick trip to Magnetic Island for a full moon party with two bottles of rum. In truth, they’re actually going on a tropical North Queensland holiday (thanks Tourism Qld!) which begs the question – given the boys live in the region, is it wasted on them? David & Scott are just relieved as they didn’t think they were even close. Pete announces the soldiers are “officially on leave”, and the other teams are green with envy. Particularly Leigh & Princess Jen. “Yeah”.

"Your dream date is taking you to... Weribee Zoo!..."

The sting in the tale is that David & Scott get to pick a team to take with them on the holiday – hard enough in itself – however in doing so they’re also offering the team they choose immunity from the next elimination. There’s an extended beep (f#$k me!), and the boys have to make a choice. Simon & Meg remind us this is still a game as if it were them choosing they’d be making sure it was the stronger teams remaining and competing to ensure it was one of them going through for elimination. Sneaky Kiwis.

In a pretty safe bet David & Scott choose the best drinking partners in the group – Nic & Rocco, who are understandably over the moon. It’s not without reason though, as Scott tells us they picked the SA boys because they know so much about food and both he and David want to pick Nic & Rocco’s brains for knowledge. Shouldn’t take long at all.

Tomorrow night, it’s a road trip to Port Douglas, revealing competitive streaks, downright rudeness and the lengths some will go to in this competition… and that’s just the judges.