MasterChef: Cooking doesn't get more Scottish than this
What would a caber-tossing, hammer-wielding Scotsman want to eat on a chilly September afternoon? Not a consideration I thought I would ever have. Well, that was before I entered the MasterChef kitchen...
For tonight’s MasterChef programme, I was summoned to King's Cross St Pancras railway station along with the other nine remaining contestants. We were instructed to bring warm clothes and, tantalisingly, our passports. As we gathered in the concourse, we speculated as to the nature and destination of our first off-site task: could we be taking the Eurostar to the continent? As we were herded towards the platform, the realisation that we were heading north rather than south dawned – we were off to Scotland, Invercharron to be precise.
The following morning saw us in wellies and whites, standing in a marquee in a huge muddy field, facing a magnificent display of the finest Scottish fare – whole salmon, venison, beef, langoustines and loads of veg. The task? Each team of five contestants had to produce 60 portions of two different main courses and 80 portions of dessert. The catch? We were feeding the competitors at the Invercharron Highland Games and by the look of them, they like their food. Purées, fondants and jus weren't going to pass muster. We’re talking hearty fare, and lots of it.
With Kennedy, the only Scot left in the competition, on our side, we felt we had the advantage, and we decided on venison with neeps and tatties (can you really get more Scottish than that?!) and a hearty fish pie. Pudding was a pear and blackberry crumble with custard. We were confident that the prize of cooking with Tom Kitchin in Skibo Castle was ours for the taking.
There were a couple of minor concerns, the first being that we were cooking in a field kitchen with limited equipment and for large numbers, something none of us had done before. Another concern was that Tim, the Yank, didn’t know what the neeps and tatties in his dish actually are! But with Kennedy by his side all should have been well.
Then, disaster - Kennedy sliced the top of his finger off with a potato peeler - and, as the loose flap of skin fluttered in the wind, so did our chances of winning the task. It quickly became apparent that there was nowhere near enough neeps and tatties to accompany the venison, and we had to persuade people to go for fish pie instead. There was a glimmer of hope: the other side’s langoustine broth was really unpopular - perhaps not the ideal choice for the day’s customers.
Decision time and we heard the dreaded words that we lost and had to head back to the MasterChef kitchens for an elimination challenge. Now it became clear why we needed our passports, as we were sent on our way in double-quick time. Deflated and exhausted, I wasn’t sure what disappointed me the most - the fact that I faced elimination, or missing out on the chance to cook with a Michelin-starred chef. When I heard the winning team reminiscing about their experiences in Skibo Castle with Tom Kitchin, I knew that I let a fantastic opportunity slip through my fingers.
When I was subsequently eliminated from the competition in the cook-off challenge, I left the MasterChef kitchen for the last time with a heavy heart, but hugely proud of what I had managed to achieve and full of anticipation for what the future holds. My dream of my own country pub is now becoming a reality – I’ll see you there!
What Scottish dish would you have made in the competition faced with the Scottish fare of salmon, venison, langoustines and local vegetables? Take a look at all the recipes from the series.
Peter Seville was a contestant on BBC One’s MasterChef.