I’ve just moved back to England from Barcelona and while I’m not 100% relishing the cold wind and grey skies, I am loving being able to catch up with some old British TV favourites,including Masterchef the Professionals.
It’s been funny being re-introduced to UK food culture in this way, after nearly 2 years away. I’ve really enjoyed watching all the talented cooks coming up with dishes and combinations that I would never have thought of, or working hard to perfect a classic dish.
And I’ve also enjoyed spotting this year’s Masterchef trends. I am reliably informed by Sally that some of these have been around for a little while, but they are still going strong in this year’s edition. So, I thought I’d take a moment to share a round-up of these trends, with some suggestions for how you can take inspiration from them for your Christmas Dinner.
1. Burnt stuff
Now, if you’re not a keen observer of high-end food culture then it would be reasonable to make the assumption that top chefs don’t want to burn their food. That, in general, serving up something with black bits and scorching would be frowned upon.
That, my friend, is no longer the case. In almost every episode of the season so far we’ve seen something burned added to a dish, from burnt onion ‘petals’ (that’s whole pieces of small onions to you and me) to a burnt orange sorbet. Interestingly this year there hasn’t been much emphasis on burning to create ash, but more use of the burnt flavour in gels, sorbets, sauces and so on.
If you’ve got 12 hours on your hands and fancy adding a burnt flavour to your food then check out this Daniel Clifford recipe.
Or alternatively if you make a mistake and burn the Christmas turkey just claim you scorched it to add a smoky, bitter element to the dish.
2. Natural Presentation
This has been high on the agenda this year. Whereas in previous years we might have seen a lot of towers and stacks, some fancy paintbrush work and careful geometric plating, this year it’s all about “natural” presentation.
If you haven’t watched the show, this means a plate that has been carefully, painstakingly arranged with tweezers and finished with microherbs to look as though it all just tumbled there into a beautiful balanced composition all by itself.
Like this beautiful dish by chef Tom Kitchin:
Or this by the team behind the Michelin starred Wild Honey restaurant:
Stunning. And oh so natural.
I suggest just freely scattering vegetables right across the table this Christmas, for that lovely low-key natural feel.
If you’ve entered this year’s Masterchef the Professionals and you haven’t pickled something in your signature dish then the chances are, you’re going home.
I’ve never seen so many different things being pickled, from asparagus to mackerel, walnuts to watermelon. It seems like every dish brought up to be judged has something cooked in three (or more) ways – ‘textures’ of onion for example – and is finished off with a surprising pickle.
This is something I was introduced to by the other Glutton last year at our Christmas dinner. We had a light little salad starter with some rather fabulous pickled mushrooms adding a surprising, sharp and sweet note and really lifting the whole dish:
The vinegar hit is perfect for cutting through rich food and really helps you to taste all the other flavours on the plate. I can’t recommend it enough, and here’s a link to Sally’s pickled vegetables recipe if you fancy giving it a go over the holiday season.
Or alternatively, feel free to just open a nice bottle of wine and slowly pickle yourself.
So that’s my round-up from Masterchef the Professionals. It’s been a good year so far, with lots of exciting food cooked and I can’t wait to see who wins the grand final and just how many of the trends the winning dish will include!
Have you been watching? What have you spotted and will you be giving any of the trends a go?