Dubliner makes it to semi-finals of BBC MasterChef

Alison O’Reilly ‘totally over the moon’ to make the final nine in the UK cooking show

Alison O’Reilly competes in the semi-finals of MasterChef this week

Alison O’Reilly competes in the semi-finals of MasterChef this week

 

Dubliner Alison O’Reilly competes this week in the semi-finals of the BBC television show MasterChef. From more than 25,000 initial entrants, the London-based marketing consultant has reached the final nine in the competition.

On Friday, in the final challenge of knockout week, the contestants were given 90 minutes to produce a “showstopper” dish of their own choice.

O’Reilly cooked pigeon breast with barbecue glaze, sweetcorn puree, parsnip crisps, pigeon, prune and bacon croquette, bacon jam and coriander oil, and presented it artfully.

Judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace both placed it in the top two dishes of the round, and sent the Mount Anville school and DIT graduate straight through to the semi-finals.

Perfect pigeon

“I think it looks delightful, that pigeon is absolutely perfect, it is cooked by someone who has got an expert touch. That’s just absolutely delicious,” said Wallace, while Torode was also impressed. “There were a couple of star dishes today and Alison absolutely nailed it with that pigeon.”

O’Reilly, who has a Masters in creative digital media and has been working in London since 2013, told The Irish Times that her dish “just sort of evolved”.

“I really wanted to do something with game, but something quite different. You don’t tend to see pigeon on menus often and it’s such a strong flavour that it stands up to a lot of bold and different ingredients. I thought sweet and smokey barbecue flavours would be really fun and unique, and pairing this with the creamy sweetcorn and salty bacon worked very well.”

Praise

The other dish that the judges singled out for praise was the confit cod with crispy skin, crab cannelloni, with spicy tomato sauce and squid ink mayonnaise, cooked by sound engineer Steve Kielty. Despite Gregg Wallace finding a sizeable chunk of crab shell in the cannelloni at the judges’ table, this too earned its creator a top two finish and a place in the semi-finals. “I’m willing to overlook that he nearby had one of my dentures out,” the former greengrocer said.

O’Reilly told The Irish Times that she was “totally over the moon” after this round, and that being called out in the top two was one of the best feelings of her life.

“I pushed myself with that dish and the standard was very high in that round, so I was really proud,” she said.

The 13th series of MasterChef continues on BBC One this week, with the first round in the semi-finals to be screened at 7.30pm on Monday.

High-pressure

Later in the week, the remaining contestants, from 64 amateur cooks who reached the televised rounds, will undertake a variety of high-pressure tasks. In Wednesday’s episode of the series, filmed last winter, they will cook for the cast of the TV series Holby City. On Thursday, they visit Billingsgate Fish Market and cook lunch for a group of fish industry experts at Fishmongers’ Hall.

On Friday, the six remaining contestants will each cook three courses for food critics Jay Rayner, William Sitwell, Tracey McLeod and Amol Rajan, in the hope of winning one of five places in finals week.

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