Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Something Fishy About Masterchef


The dish I decided on for the Masterchef audition was tuna tartare with cucumber and wasabi soup. Don’t ask me why. I’d seen it made in a restaurant somewhere and decided to copy it. It was piss-easy to make, but it looked good. And, after all, as Egg and Toad liked to point out - you eat with your eyes...

You dice sashimi-grade, raw tuna and salmon, and do the same with an avocado. Then mix sesame oil, salt, pepper, lime juice and soy sauce in a bowl, and stir in the fish and avocado cubes. Leave it to marinade, and cut a peeled cucumber in half lengthways and remove the seeds by running a spoon down the middle. Blitz the chopped cucumber flesh with chicken stock, cream, wasabi, Worcester sauce and Tabasco, then strain and chill.

You plate the dish by putting a chef’s ring (oiled on the inside) in the middle of a soup bowl, and fill with layers of marinated salmon, tuna and avocado. Take off the ring, pour the chilled soup round the tartare tower, and garnish with a sprig of chervil and a few salmon eggs.

And here was the problem. I couldn’t get salmon eggs anywhere in London. Every shop had either sold out, or didn’t know what I was talking about. After a few hours traipsing around, I realised I had more chance of getting my hands on a fucking Dodo egg.

The last place I tried was a Japanese fishmonger called Atari-Ya hidden away in the suburbs of West Acton. They didn’t have any salmon eggs either, so fobbed me off with red and green tobiko, or flying fish roe. I bought a chiller bag, and a thermos flask to carry the soup in, and thought about the next day. I practised the dish a few times and went to bed.

The Masterchef narrator’s husky voice begins...

“After everything he’s learned, can Lennie deliver a faultless dish? He’s attempted a delicate combination of tuna tartare with a cucumber and wasabi soup...”

Toad destroys my tower like a spiteful child in a sandpit. The plate looks a fucking mess. He picks up a spoonful and sniffs the raw fish before sticking it in his gob.

“I think your flavours are good. You’ve got the rich oiliness of the fish; you’ve got the sweetness of the soup...”

Egg holds up a napkin to stop soup dripping down his Armani.

“That is deep! It’s well seasoned - both the salmon and the tuna are cooked perfectly...”

What would I do? Tell the ignorant bastard the fish was raw?

The alarm clock went off and I jumped out of bed.

:: This blog eventually became a bestselling book, called Down And Out In Padstow And London by Alex Watts, about my disastrous attempt to train as a chef, including stints at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck and Rick Stein's kitchens in Padstow. You might like it if you're a foodie or have ever entertained the ridiculous idea of entering the padded asylum of professional cooking. It's here on Amazon as a paperback or Kindle book if you want a read...

6 comments:

MsMarmitelover said...

The soup sounds great.
Masterchef sounds as cynical and manipulative as everything else on tv.

Lennie Nash said...

Thanks MsMarmite,

The bloody heathens! Couldn't agree more. Don't ever let the TV cameras film your Underground Restaurant - even though it'd make a great programme - they'd take all the soul out of it.

Nicky said...

Mmm, nice soup. You must have learned the first (and only) rule of cookery journalism by now ... never reveal your sauces :o)

Msmarmitelover said...

Well I am getting lots of offers. Not sure what to do about it.

Kate said...

So ... what happened next? I have to say that watching Masterchef makes me cringe - I'm pleased my gut feelings are justified.

Julian said...

the old master chef with Loyd Grossman was a lot better i think...