MasterChef recap: The quest for the perfect tuna wellington leaves one cook feeling pretty crepe

It's fish guy, aka Josh Niland, night.
It's fish guy, aka Josh Niland, night.  Photo: Network Ten

It's pressure test day in the MasterChef kitchen, and you know what that means: somebody's life is about to be ruined for our entertainment! Yay!

Today's guest chef is Josh Niland, which is…yeah, he's OK. I guess. I mean it's just that yesterday we had Maggie Beer, so this feels a bit…no, look, it's fine. He's a very accomplished chef and it's a great thrill to, you know, have him…it's just that compared to Maggie…no, seriously, it's great to see Josh. Well done.

The cooks have four hours to re-create Josh Niland's tuna Wellington with mash and tuna gravy.
The cooks have four hours to re-create Josh Niland's tuna Wellington with mash and tuna gravy. Photo: NETWORK TEN

If you don't remember Josh Niland – although how could you NOT – he's the guy who's really into fish, a bit like Troy McClure. Daniel is very excited to see him. "He changed the way people think about fish," says Dan, who is, in his defence, from Darwin.

Josh loves everything about fish as long as they are dead, and today he will be presenting yesterday's losers with a fiendishly piscine challenge. Those losers – Billie, Melanie, Matt and Harry – will have to make tuna wellington, a dish inspired by the Duke of Wellington's pet tuna. It is accompanied by mashed potato and tuna gravy, which Josh says "shouldn't taste like a fish-based sauce" – always a difficult thing to achieve when making, you know, a fish-based sauce.

Billie, Mel, Harry and Matt - who's going home tonight?
Billie, Mel, Harry and Matt - who's going home tonight?  Photo: NETWORK TEN

Melanie is in a tight spot, because as she is gluten-intolerant she cannot taste the wellington for herself. Did Josh deliberately set this dish out of personal hatred for Melanie? I see no reason not to assume so.

The losers have four hours to cook the tuna wellington, with the dish that is least like Josh's sending its maker home in tears and ignominy.

The contestants begin by putting something called "tuna frames" in something called an "oven". This is necessary to caramelise the bones in order to make the sauce, which sounds slightly serial killer-y, but that's the path we went down as a species when we decided to eat the flesh of living creatures.


Harry moves on to what sounds like "mushroom duck sal", but I'm almost certain isn't. Duxal? Ducksell? Anyway, it's a thing with mushrooms and it goes in the wellington around the fish.

Tragedy strikes as Melissa shouts, "I hope you're all doing wellington!" and the entire production has to be shut down for a week to grieve. When they return, Andy and Josh visit Harry to tell her that her bones aren't caramelised and she's a bad person. Harry has no time to start again, but she notes that "this competition is about pivoting". She's wrong though: it's about cooking. If she spends all day pivoting she'll get nowhere.

The smiling fish assasin, Josh Niland.
The smiling fish assasin, Josh Niland.  Photo: NETWORK TEN

Billie is starting on her crepes, which is so typical of her. "I may be biased, but I think Billie is the most suited for this pressure test," says Alvin, which is a bit weird. Is he hinting that he's in love with Billie? Keep an eye on that going forward, I reckon. Anyway Alvin believes Billie has a killer instinct, which isn't really an advantage in a pressure test unless the protein starts out alive.

Having done her crepes, Billie moves on to her pastry. "It's pretty hot in here," she says, with a sultry look to camera. Oh yeah. Now I see what Alvin was getting at.

Meanwhile, Harry is in big trouble, lagging well behind the others. "I almost can't watch," says Ali, but it's not THAT boring. "I just need to keep pushing," says Harry, but this is her problem: she keeps pivoting and pushing when she's supposed to be cooking. No wonder she's behind.

We pause here briefly to note that Matt is actually involved in this pressure test. Which is more than the producers did. Also involved is Melanie, whose natural talent for cookery is clashing problematically with the fact that she has no idea what she's doing. Melanie begins suffering a pastry-inspired breakdown such as we all go through from time to time, but to the surprise of all, snaps out of it and gets on with the job without attracting a hug from Melissa, so she's still in with a chance.

Oh, there's Matt. Hi, Matt.

As Alvin – who for today has apparently been appointed narrator – explains why cooking tuna is extremely hard and should really not be attempted by anyone except the bravest and most hardened of professionals, we enter the noble ritual of the construction of the wellingtons. Suddenly Billie realises her tuna is too big. Checking the recipe, she sees her mistake: she skimmed over the bit where it said, "don't make your tuna too big". It's too late to make the tuna smaller: the wellington has been wrapped, the die has been cast, the fish has been butchered and it is now up to Fate.

Melanie begins wrapping her tuna. She doesn't have enough crepe to wrap it. She uses a bit more crepe. A creeping sense of doom begins to permeate the air. She's used one and a half crepes and the pastry is too thick and you can't help but worry about the tall skeletal figure wielding a scythe that is following Melanie around the kitchen.

There's Matt again. Hi Matt!

The one thing Harry is not worried about is mashed potato. Which is a very white-person take on the music of Jay-Z. Harry's sauce, on the other hand, is a disaster. Jock and Josh pop round to tell her that, once again, she has failed them. Her sauce needs more clarity. She desperately recommends a reading list to it and prays that works.

Melanie's wellington isn't cooking properly. Josh reveals to her that she was supposed to weigh her tuna so it was 300 grams. She has put in too big a piece of tuna (known in the business as "pulling a Billie") and must now have a little cry.

With one minute to go, everyone starts clapping and yelling for no reason. A minute later they do it again. Time is up, and the judges must now perform the most unpleasant part of their jobs: eating fish.

Matt is the first to serve his tuna wellington. After a long argument with the judges who refuse to believe he was actually in this one, they taste his thing. It is a good thing. Josh says his pastry is "glassy" in a tone of voice that suggests this is somehow a good thing.

Next, Melanie, who has no idea whether her dish is any good, although were she a betting man I doubt she'd put a fiver on herself. The judges immediately note that her pastry is thick and raw and nothing like glass. "I think we need to commend Melanie for pushing as hard as she could," says Melissa, which is a terribly kind way of saying, "wow, this tastes like badger poo". Melanie's sauce is nice: everything else is awful.

Next, Billie. Her tuna was also too big, but is it less too-big than Melanie's? Her pastry is amazingly thin, to the point where one might suspect some kind of diuretic. Overall, despite her big clumsy tuna, she's pulled off a great dish and justified Alvin's passion.

Finally Harry. Harry has done well except for her sauce, which is just revolting. "It's a bit muddy," says Andy, and that's a problem because most conventional cooking texts recommend food not resemble mud to any significant degree.

Time to judge, and it's Harry's terrible sauce versus Melanie's terrible everything except the sauce. Shockingly, it's Melanie who's going home. "I've had a great time," she lies, and leaves. It's terribly sad unless you don't like Melanie in which case you'll probably have quite enjoyed it.

Tune in tomorrow, when a misunderstanding over an artichoke leads to romance.