My Kitchen RulesMon-Thu 7:30pm, Ch7

Not. Happy. Jan.

Though they put New Zealand on a plate, it did Simon & Meg no favours yesterday with their dish putting them into the sudden-death cook-off. Tonight though, the teams will compete in a culinary game of Twister than ends up leaving Nic & Rocco sadder than that time they learned that’s not how you say “allaments”. Spin it, Ke$ha.

It’s a bright shiny new day in Kitchen HQ, and Megan & Andy are happy not to be cooking today thanks to their immunity (and she has the BIGGEST. HAIR. EVER. today), and Simon & Meg are feeling the same though for the exact opposite reason. They’re tapering for the big fight on Sunday. The other teams enter and are all intrigued by the presence of presents on their benches. What could it mean? Is it a double rainbow?! WHAT DOES IT MEEEEEEEEAN? Pete & Manu soon set them straight – today they’ll be cooking with ingredients that kids love to hate (anything below the peak of the good food pyramid is my guess). The items are: liver, blue cheese, olives, tofu, sardines and brussel sprouts – these are a few of their least favourite things.

The teams are told to pick a bench, and based on their choice it will determine which of the special ingredients they’ll be working with, but they won’t know until they open the parcel. Negotiations take place promptly between teams hedging their bets on what is in which parcel. Carly & Emily don’t want sardines; David & Scott don’t want tofu. Everyone doesn’t want Steve to do any impressions today. “If we had a choice between tofu and the paper bag, I’d go the paper bag,” says David. The teams are invited to unwrap the parcel, and the chips fall thusly: Angela & Justine – liver; David & Scott – olives; Carly & Emily – tofu; Nic & Rocco – blue cheese; Helen & Steve – brussel sprouts; Leigh & Princess Jen – sardines. Each team is generally OK with what they got, though Leigh is no sardines fan.

The teams are let loose on the storeroom once they’ve decided on their menu. Justine concerns everyone with this little gem: “I love liver. My grandfather taught me how to make liver as a child.” MAKE liver? Who was her grandfather – Frankenstein? Just as the teams think they’ve got it all sorted out, Pete & Manu interject. The last time they had a rapid cook-off, one team member sat out, so today it’s a role reversal and time for the other contestant to cook alone. For some teams, their dish just got a lot harder to prepare in 30 minutes – and the four weakest teams will then compete in another challenge where the loser will face off against Simon & Meg in a cage match tag-team elimination extravaganza!

The Failet(tm) Strikes Back!

“How’s our time going, mate?” asks David.
“You’re 20 seconds down, you’re doing well,” offers a seated Scott.
What a team.

It’s an interesting list of dishes from the teams in this “love to hate” rapid cook-off challenge:
David (& Scott) – Olive Damper, olive tapenade with cream cheese
(Leigh &) Princess Jen – Sardines Escabeche with parsley salad and crostini
Nic (& Rocco) – Blue Cheese & Caramelised Onion Tart with walnut salad
Steve (& Helen) – Brussel Sprouts with Lemon Chicken
(Justine &) Angela – Chicken Livers with Mashed Potato and Brandy Cream Sauce
Carly (& Emily) – Asian Stuffed Tofu

David’s not comfortable cooking by himself, and has to make four or five trips back to the storeroom just to track down ingredients he forgot, and to stand in the corner and shed a silent tear (not for any other reason than he remembers a more innocent time, a time before war…). Leigh hates sardines, but Princess Jen loves them. LOVES them. So much so the camera just cut away as she started to pash one. Nic’s frenetic as he’s making his own pastry – he and Rocco have never been safe, so why start now.

Steve completely mishears the judges and starts preparing coneys for today’s “rabbit cook-off”. His sister whacks him upside the head and reminds him it’s all about the sprouts, so he quickly changes tack and starts disguising the sprouts in little garlic trenchcoats and butter fedoras. Angela & Justine have a moment over the mashed potato – Angela says it’s fine to put cold potatoes in boiling water, but Justine says it’s inhumane and you can hear them scream when you do that, so tips the boiling water out and refills her pot with cold water.

Nic's gutted. How can you tell? That's right, his hair's not done.

Never one to sit on the fence, Manu explains that if the contestants get it right tonight “it could be amazing; get it wrong, get out of my effing kitchen you effing mutants.” Carly reveals she’s stuffing her tofu with Asians and no one bats an eyelid. Also, she does her recaps to camera afterwards like the emotionless robot that she is. She’s like a tofu terminator, sent back from the future to, at first, destroy a tofu John Connors and then in a later iteration protect him by stuffing him with Asians. It’s just all so confusing.

David’s forgetfulness extends to him trying to chop olives for his tapenade without the blade in the stick blender. ‘Nuff said – back to the storeroom for another sniffle. Meanwhile it’s taken this long into the competition for Angela to realise she superfluous; and Princess Jen tries to pickle Leigh from the inside out. 15 minutes to go and Pete & Manu remind us that last time Nic & Rocco did a tart it wasn’t very nice so they are wary of anything tart related from these young whipper snappers, unless they’re talking about their conquests from Saturday night out on the town.

The robot sisters have started steaming their tofu, and Helen is lecturing Steve about the brussel sprouts being the hero of the dish. It’s been a long time since anything from Brussels was a hero, so Steve carries a heavy burden. Justine’s put the liver into the pan already, but lets us know that you only need to cook it for a couple of minutes each side because you don’t want to kill the liver. She doesn’t even realise she’s saying it, which makes it even MORE hilarious.

The non-competing team mates are barely able to contain themselves, shouting ‘helpful’ reminders to their cooking partners like “did you heat the cream for your mash?” and “don’t waste time on hiding the bodies now, do that during tasting!”. Rocco, however, is eerily silent, like the single thought he’s maintained throughout the competition has escaped him and he can’t remember where he left it. Just smile and flex, young man. Though he does offer a work of encouragement at one point about the pears without moving his mouth once, like he mind-melded with the entire audience and Nic at the same time!

Rocco works on his first cone in weeks

The beating drums increase their intensity as the clock ticks down to 5 minutes remaining. There’s all sorts of final issues flying around Kitchen HQ like David’s time management, Nic only just putting the tarts in with the cheese on them now, and Carly constantly lifting the lid on the steaming tofu to check it. Minutes zip by, and now that Megan has the chance to relax in the Peanut Gallery, she’s become Little Miss I-Do-Everything-Correctly. “They’re in all sorts of trouble, I’d be plating up by now,” offers the Tasmanian Oracle. Nic grabs one of his tarts from the oven and upends it out of the mould onto the chopping board, and it goes to pieces as he tries to grab it. The Failets(tm) strike back!

For some reason Kochie & Mel tell us the cooking segment they’re hosting on Sunrise is the “ultimate My Kitchen Rules cook-off” – are they not watching the show at all? Then the show offers us a tautological “bonus extra”, focusing on David & Scott… who’s steering this ship now?!

We return to the show PROPERLY as fever pitch plating is in full swing, including Nic ruining his second tart while attempting to plate. Instead of leaving the second tart on the plate he mysteriously wipes it off and replaces it with the first demolished tart. Time’s up and while others celebrate, Nic is feeling gutted. “It’s painful,” he admits, and for the first time this season he looks harried. The judges swing by the benches to taste what has been prepared and let nothing slip as to their opinion, though offer Nic looks gutted at what he’s prepared and question Steve who said he tried to hide the flavour of the brussel sprouts. Pete gives him his best Julie Bishop death stare as he moves on. The judgement offered is swift and unmerciful: David & Justine made their ingredients “shine”, while Steve & Nic both offered mis-steps. Who will not have to cook again this evening (that’s right, we’re only half way through…)!

Congratulations Angela & Justine and Leigh & Princess Jen – you guys get to put your feet up and relax while the others squirm one more time tonight. The other teams have to “battle it out in the showdown, where the weakest performer will face Simon & Meg in the next elimination cook-off”. For this challenge though, the teams get to work with the “Miss Congeniality of the culinary world – chocolate”. There’s knowing nods and winks as the possibilities melt into the crevices of their minds and sink into their synapses.

It's not so much a cake as an explosion waiting to happen

With 90 minutes to burn the teams are all intending to get creative to deliver a deliciously decadent dish dedicated to the dark lord of desserts. In just writing the dish names I put on 100 calories:

Nic & Rocco – Chocolate Rum Delight
David & Scott – Chocolate Three Ways: sponge, ganache, mousse
Carly & Emily – Bittersweet Chocolate Cake with chocolate mousse
Steve & Helen – Chocolate Cake with chocolate ganache

The only problem with a cooking show is that people like to crown contestants far too quickly. Leigh tells us that “Nic & Rocco have the reputation of being the Dessert Kings,” but she fails to qualify it. At best they’re the Dessert Princes, possibly even the Jesters depending on the outcome of this challenge. Leigh’s possibly misunderstood what Nic & Rocco are offering, as she mumbled “I’ll have that chocolatey afternoon delight anytime”. David & Scott reached into the recesses of their history together and raise plenty of eyebrows with their Chocolate three-way. Adding alcohol to their dessert, the smug robot sisters think they’re making their dish “an adults only delight; x-rated”. Are they twelve that they think adding alcohol to food is impressive?!

Pete & Manu acknowledge that Nic & Rocco have got so much to complete in 90 minutes they’re unsure they’ll get it all done in the allotted time. The boys themselves even acknowledge this dish usually takes 3 hours to set and they’re preparing it in half that. Nic looks at Rocco with a face that suggests he hadn’t done the maths right in his head and it’s only just hit him that they don’t have enough time. David & Scott are too busy making up metaphors (“laughing like a fat spider, mate”) to be of much consequence right now.

Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate, and Helen & Steve forget that water is the mortal enemy of melting chocolate (one serving of ganache dumped, let’s start again). Manu is expecting something magnifique while Peter is simply looking forward to something edible. 30 minutes remain and the teams are working very hard to bring all their elements together. Cakes are being born forth from spring-form tins like fat spiders, while Rocco is hard at work making his special conical toffee twirls like a fat spider (best cones he and Nic have had in weeks). I have no idea what David & Scott were talking about earlier as I can’t make anything work with that damn metaphor. Though everyone really needs to let their chocolate dishes cool like a fat spider before they plate them, though with only 10 minutes to go who has time for that!?

You put on weight just looking at this picture

Helen & Steve are in a world of pain as their cake is far too hot to cut and serve, yet they keep attempting it. So much cake ending up in the bin, so many wasted chocolate dreams. TWENTY SECONDS! PUT THE SPRING ON! CUT THE CAKE! WHERE’S THE CHEESE?! Piss off, Peter Russell-Clarke. TIME’S UP!

Rocco’s not 100% happy with his & Nic’s dessert, but considering the time they’ve had it’s come out alright. Pete & Manu more than agree – they’re really impressed with the dessert. The judges think that David & Scott have hit the bullseye with their dessert, after so many misses and poor explanations of their dishes in the past. Manu clowns around after tasting Carly & Emily’s dish – “Wow, how mush alky-hol did jus put in fiz dissssh?” – and admonishes them for putting too much brandy in the dish. Helen & Steve’s chocolate cake looks shocking, but to maintain a sense of drama Pete & Manu can’t say anything. It’s time to find out who performed the worst in this challenge and will be facing Simon & Meg in Sunday’s elimination.

The judges offer glowing reports for Nic & Rocco (“The presentation was amazing; very proud of you guys”) and David & Scott (“It had texture, it had layers, it had a little bit of love”). Manu loved Carly & Emily’s bittersweet cake, but Pete felt the alcohol almost ruined it but they stopped just before they “went over the edge like so many schoolies before you”. Helen & Steve’s cake was good, but by comparison it was found lacking. “It just didn’t cut it today,” says Pete, acknowledging that his comment was the only thing that cut for the brother and sister team successfully today – and that they’ll now be up against Simon & Meg in the sudden-death elimination cook-off. Steve spews forth a Nic & Rocco-esque diatribe as to how he and Helen will compete in the cook-off, and it leaves us all wondering: if he loses, who will fill the all the stupid moments for producers in the remaining shows?

WHO. CARES! Next week, it’s elimination week with a team going home after Sunday, Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday’s episodes (how’s a recapper going to keep up?!), and to top it all off: Peter & Gary and Thomas & Carla return to act as the MKR jury. How can Carly & Emily survive that???!!! It’s like the perfect storm of hate!