MasterChef recap: It's all about the wow factor in this flantastic vanilla pressure test

Strike a pose there's nothing to it.
Strike a pose there's nothing to it. Photo: Supplied

So, you're told that you get to write your own pressure test, it has to be sweet, and it has to feature vanilla. What do you do? Obviously, you get some Saos and make a vanilla slice. Or, thinking really laterally, a Magnum.

But not this lot. Oh no. The simple pleasures of a Sao-based afternoon delight are apparently beneath them, fancy-pants culinary social climbers that they are. So naturally they have to go all "sophisticated", just because Darren Purchese is there.

Darren Purchese is of course a legendary pastry chef, who rose to fame on the back of his famous catchphrase "Looking for pastry? Purchese it from Darren!" It's natural that the green team who won yesterday's service challenge are looking to impress him, but even so, they end up going a bit overboard.

Andy tells the amateurs that they're looking for the "wow factor", which he has hidden somewhere in the pantry and will not say where. Melissa tells them that the judges will be leaving the room and not watching any of the cook, before tasting the dishes blind. It will just be Darren in the kitchen, laughing at how pathetic their attempts to ape his genius are.

Depinder is incredibly jealous at not being allowed to cook for Darren Purchese. If this were a well-written drama this would foreshadow Depinder taking some kind of revenge, planting a bomb in the blast chiller or something. But I fear the Depinder's Jealousy storyline is going nowhere. As is the storyline suggested by Justin's declaration that he wishes to "milk" Darren, as we quickly realise he means it figuratively. I guess it's just going to be food and stuff.

Tommy is making a "flanilla": a combination of a flan and Godzilla. Wait, no. It's a vanilla flan. With coffee and tea and all kinds of weird stuff piled on top of it obviously. He is very excited, but then when isn't he?


Minoli declares her intention to make the hardest thing she can think of: a baroque church. No, god, why do I keep doing that. She's making a tarte tatin, and she is making the puff pastry from scratch. She tells Darren this and he looks at her as if she's just told him she's going to genetically engineer a vanilla-flavoured dromedary. He tries not to say so out loud, but clearly he believes Minoli is quite quite mad.

Meanwhile Kishwar is drawing inspiration from Persian cuisine and the Mughal Empire, so there's a chance she's not making a vanilla slice. She's doing something rather tantalising with rosewater and pistachio and even at this early stage her dish is starting to verge on the erotic.

On the balcony, Depinder tells Minoli she has to move faster. On the floor, Minoli silently wonders when she asked Depinder for her opinion. Minoli has not left herself enough time to make the puff pastry, but she is still giving it a red-hot go, which is courageous if not very intelligent.

Darren meets Linda, who reveals that she is making a South-East Asian inspired dessert that takes her back to her childhood. To demonstrate what she means, she shows Darren a picture of a brain that she has drawn. He is effectively frightened away, heading off to say hello to Justin. Justin is making a beetroot and vanilla mousse, so what hope is there for him at all? He gives Darren a long list of flavours, making Darren wonder if there's enough vanilla in there. Justin doesn't know. He thinks maybe he could add vanilla to his chocolate soil, but will it then not resemble soil enough? It would be a tragedy if he served the judges something that did not genuinely look like dirt: who'd want to eat that?

Minoli has arranged her pineapple in a beautiful pattern – at least a beautiful pattern if you really love looking at pineapple arranged in patterns. She is going to be cooking her tarte tatin at a slightly higher temperature due to the whole inadvisable-puff issue. It seems like, if you don't have time to cook something, turning the oven up higher would be a good idea. But it's hard to shake the impression that this is the kind of thing MasterChef contestants do that completely destroys their dreams.

Meanwhile Linda has successfully created a weird little shape, but her dish doesn't taste right. "How you going Linda?" comes a call from the balcony. "NOT GOOD!" the usually mild-mannered Linda snaps back. "I just need to concentrate," she added, leaving the words "so can you shut your dumb mouths and leave me the f--- alone?" hanging unspoken in the air.

Meanwhile Tommy is doing everything right and coming off super smug. Depinder tells him he's doing great. Depinder then asks Linda how she's going. Linda makes a Herculean effort not to throw a knife at her head. Elsewhere, Kishwar is stunningly calm and collected given her dish is insanely complicated and might literally be witchcraft.

Suddenly Justin asks everyone to sing him a song. No one is quite sure what's happening. An air of chaos and madness has descended on the kitchen. Justin holds up a large pink cube and seems happy. He attempts to make edible cellophane, and fails, and seems unhappy. If only someone had told him beforehand: cellophane is not edible.

Linda has calmed down a little and is making a granita, in accordance with MasterChef terms and conditions which state that if at any time any contestant is unsure of what to do next, they must make a granita.

Meanwhile Tommy is still doing everything right.

Minoli pulls her tarte tatin out of the oven and it looks great. Puff pastry isn't so hard after all eh. With one minute to go Justin has finally succeeded in making edible cellophane and persists in his belief that this was worth doing.

Time is up. "Well done guys!" shouts Darren, who has done practically nothing for his money today. Everyone seems fairly happy with their self-inflicted pressure tests, though imagine how happy they'd be with a vanilla slice.

The first dish to be served to the judges is the lotus flower pond, made by Linda – but they don't know it's hers. As the tasting is blind, the judges can't do their usual thing of just picking whoever has the prettiest face, which is good news for one contestant. You know who I mean.

Linda's lotus flower pond, which is, despite appearances, food, is a big hit. "Big, bold flavours," says Andy, marking the 1000th time he has said this on television.

Next is Minoli's pineapple tarte tatin. "Wow," say all the judges, words failing them in the face of the round yellowy-brownness. But then, "Oh no!" they cry, as they dig in and discover that the pastry is raw. It turns out, yet again, that physics really doesn't care how big and bold your flavours are.

Next is Justin's beetroot and vanilla mousse, with edible cellophane and chocolate soil. The judges admire how beautifully Justin has combined things that seem totally inedible – soil, cellophane, beetroot – to make something that is not technically poisonous. Andy declares it a "full wow", so…there you go. But it doesn't have enough vanilla in it, and Darren bloody warned you, Justin.

Next comes Kishwar's Vanilla and Pepper Kulfi, which is mind-bogglingly ornate and seems more art installation than dessert. But the kulfi is grainy and again, not enough vanilla. All flash, not bang.

Last, Tommy's "Flanilla". As you might expect given Tommy's complete lack of concern throughout the cook, it makes all the judges melt with pleasure as if being sensually massaged by unicorns.

At the announcement of the two winners, Darren says he was so impressed that he doesn't even think the amateurs needed him as a mentor, and he is right because he did nothing. Then it is revealed that the bleeding obvious is in fact true: Linda and Tommy, by virtue of not stuffing anything up, go through to Thursday's immunity challenge.

Tune in tomorrow, when everyone is stunned by what Jock has under his box.