Last year my husband, sister and maybe-one-day-brother-in-law were a little hooked on the first few eps of masterchef. It was winter in the Bay of Plenty. Our table of 4 decided to start our own dining, cooking competition. We called it Mastercook. It was a novel and thrilling activity to see us through the winter months in Mt Maunganui and Matua. Our judging categories were Presentation (which encapsulated ambience), Main course, Dessert. We scored (secretly) out of 10 for each category. A friend tallied the scorecards upon completion of the 8 weeks. The winner received a $50 voucher for Culinary Council. The kitty created by a $2 ‘levy’ per person per ‘night out’.
I kicked the comp off with River Cafe’s mushroom risotto, homemade foccacia bread with a green herbed dressing, rocket and parmesan salad. My homemade ice-cream flopped so sister fetched me some killinchy gold vanilla to accompany the from-scratch-made chocolate butterscotch sauce. There would have been a gewurztraminer, there’s always a turkish delight gewutztraminer when I’ve got anything to do with anything.
Maybe-one-day-brother-in-law went next, with individual lasagnes (complete with homemade pasta), green salad, homemade bread (was it garlic?) and his Skye Gyngell’s chocolate (flourless) tart claimed the competition’s Dessert category.
Husband took out the competition with his twice cooked pork belly, bok choy, cauliflower puree studded with charred crumbled black pudding. This was cleansed with a lemon and lime sorbet and completed with a Lemon Zest Golden Syrup Streamed Pudding (which in my opinion deserves the capitals) and millilitres of running cream.
Sister wrapped up winter with a Gordon Ramsay Christmas special – Beef Wellington. There was mash and veges. There were newly bought items to win points for presentation and the night twinkled with light. A refreshing lemon tart with whipped cream coloured our white plates to finish. We had a blast. Husband bought a boning knife with his voucher which has butterflied lamb and kissed many a meat bone.
Fairly instantly we decided episode 2 should get underway. Then winter came and went. Sister and maybe-one-day-brother-in-law have had too many engagement parties, trips to tropical islands for weddings, and exciting birthday parties, to commit to Mastercook, the second season! Finally we pinned them down. This year the competition has an added twist. We decided – International Cuisine. We firstly each wrote our top 10 cultures of food. Mine would have been something like Italian, Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese… From the 4 lists a favourite 4 cultures of food were chosen. What were they? Italian. Indian. Thai. Middle-Eastern. Our brother moved to Tauranga so we pulled out the votes and found Spanish to be number 5. We then drew our ‘food cultures’ from a hat. This year’s competition would see us cook and theme our dinner in the style of these 5 countries. I drew India. This Thursday I served up: Poppadoms Rogan Josh with lamb (kashmir) Chicken in thick coconut gravy ( kori gashi) Peas and carrots with cumin (gajar mutter) Stir fried french beans (beans porial) Jasmine rice. All were c/- Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India. Completed with a fruit salad with mango, pineapple, lychees and a squeeze of lime juice. I laboured over some homemade kulfi (the cheat’s version with evaporated milk) which I wouldn’t recommend. And thanks to Malwa, Gate Pa, Tauranga gave my table of 5, Indian sweets something-akin-with-fudge. Jasmine raided from the neighbourhood perfumed the room alight (the room not the jasmine) with Diwali inspired candles, and a collection of draping saris. Our foreheads were blessed with fortune as we walked in the front door past Lakshmi painted and printed on a highly coloured postcard. Are you going to celebrate Diwali this 4th of November?
My Indian feast took a lot of chopping, spicing, blending, cooking. But the delight in creating something from another land or family was worth it.
So, this post is to encourage you to start your own Mastercook, be it international or not. It could be great fun to image-record it too and blog about the process and product or FB or just DO IT and LOVE IT. It is a really fun, challenging and entertaining event to do on a micro or massive scale. And especially comforting to do and to meet for, during winter. Feel free to send me stories and images: firstname.lastname@example.org
We found these Bay of Plenty places really helpful for exotic or specialty supplies (as a supermarket alternative). Mostly found in Tauranga:
Nosh Mt Maunganui
Choice Food and Spices
Col’s Butchery Mt Maunganui
Simplifoods Mt Maunganui
Wild Earth Organics OPL (Cambrian Meats)
The Fresh Market (My Greengrocer)
The One Stop Gluten Free Shop
Black Forest Butchery Dutch ‘n’ Deli
If you liked this you may like: My Little French Kitchen’s Tian Provencal makes an appearance in Coraleigh’s Mastercook, Taken to Thailand with Mastercook, and Mastercook does Italia, and Ottolenghi potluck party.
Happy eating event, Blessings on the meal, Bon appetite.