Two Irish cooks reach final 12 in BBC MasterChef
Both women make it through to the next round, but there is drama along the way
Dubliner Alison O’Reilly’s calm approach and creative cooking has secured her a place in the final 12 in BBC MasterChef where she is joined by Shauna Kelly, originally from Sligo.
Alison O’Reilly and Shauna Kelly, the two Irish women who have reached the knockout stage of BBC MasterChef 2017, survived Monday night’s round – only just in the case of Kelly, who found herself in the bottom four, with two facing elimination – and have made it to the final 12 in the competition.
Monday’s challenge for the contestants was to cook a dish inspired by a family favourite or food from their childhood.
Dubliner Alison O’Reilly, who has lived in London since 2013, once again delivered a sophisticated and beautifully presented dish. “Open crab sandwiches eaten in the west of Ireland” was her inspiration, but it was presented as a composition of dressed crab and crab cakes, served with a black pudding soda bread cracker, pea puree, Marie Rose sauce, pickled dulse, and cucumber and pea gazpacho.
“One ripper year” was how Australian-born judge John Torode described this year’s final group of cooks, and O’Reilly is right up with the best of them. “I really, really like it”, was Torode’s verdict on her dish, while Wallace commented on the marketing consultant’s “wonderful eye” and “very good palate”. With comments that good, O’Reilly was straight through to the next round.
"This was probably my favourite challenge of the whole competition," O'Reilly told The Irish Times. "I got to think about home and my childhood and come up with something really meaningful. A lot of the things I cook are influenced by flavours and dishes from all over the world, but this dish was about Ireland and I really tried to reflect the west coast in both the look and taste of the dish."
Shauna Kelly, originally from Sligo but based in London, took the full Irish breakfast as her starting point. “My relatives on my mother’s side used to own Limerick Bacon Company and would send us a few deliveries a year of their amazing products like bacon, sausages, hams and puddings,” Kelly said on Tuesday, from her Hampstead home.
“So, I cooked my version of a childhood favourite, the classic Irish breakfast with a twist.”
A twist? More like a complete reinvention.
Asked to describe the elements in her breakfast plate, Kelly said it was composed of: “Streaky bacon with a lapsang souchong tea, maple syrup and whiskey glaze; black pudding (made from scratch) with spiced apple; roasted cannellini beans with garlic, lemon and thyme; sweet potato rosti; rainbow heirloom tomatoes; baked duck egg with morel mushrooms, smoked cheese and creme fraiche; cherry tomato ketchup; Guinness and black treacle bread with dillisk butter, and a shot of draught Guinness”.
Not surprisingly, John Torode questioned whether she would manage to get it all done in the allotted 90 minutes, and Kelly herself voiced concerns over how she would present it.
Too much on the plate, and poor presentation, were the judges’ final comments. But it was the almost completely uncooked baked egg that almost ended her MasterChef career.
“Sadly, my baked egg needed approximately four more minutes in the oven. It was a really intense knockout round as the pressure was full-on, not to mention the heat in that kitchen. I think we all lost 10lbs of body weight in the hour and a half,” Kelly said.
Both Irish women now go through to the next rounds of competition, with O’Reilly cooking a lunch service in the kitchen at Ormer Mayfair restaurant under chef Shaun Rankin in Wednesday’s episode (BBC One, 8pm) and Kelly cooking at Roux at Parliament Square with Steve Groves in Thursday’s installment (BBC One, 8pm).