Friday, February 13, 2015

Masterchef Junior comes to Suzhou!!

No, not the real Masterchef - but our Dulwich version of the show!! No wonder kids here love school so much - leave aside the production and Fobisia, which are the 2 biggest events - there's ton of other stuff happening all year round!! It's a wonder they get any time in class at all!! Anyway - Michelin star chef Marc Fosh is visiting Dulwich College Suzhou in March, and Masterchef Junior will be one of the highlights of his tour!

Of course, there's rarely an event that Manasi and her friends don't participate in - and they were all really, really excited - except for the teensy fact that none of them can cook. Let alone cook, I don't think any of them has set foot in a kitchen in all of their 10 years. And although Manasi very indignantly pointed out that she can too make a jam sandwich - I'm sorry, sweetie, but I think it's safe to assume that Masterchef will certainly be a little more complicated!!

In any case, this wasn't as simple as just putting down your name and entering the contest. First, the girls in teams of 2 had to submit recipes for a 2 course meal. Based on the recipes, 4 teams from each House would be chosen for a cook-off. The winning teams from each house would then compete in the Masterchef contest. I figured it was quite a long shot that our girls would make it to the final - so when Manasi and her friend SW decided they wanted to make something Indian, I thought it better to humor them - be supportive, good parenting and all that jazz!

The challenge was then to find an Indian recipe easy enough for the girls to make - a lot of chopping, tempering, frying in most dishes - sharp knives, hot oil and distracted girls - not really an ideal combination, not even close!! Narrowing it down then - a recipe with minimum knife skills and not much oil - a sandwich or a wrap, maybe? But no, the girls were adamant that they wanted to 'cook' - no sandwiches for them, and no easy out for me!! We finally settled on a simplified version of egg curry as main course and shrikhand for dessert...

My only condition was that the girls come to my kitchen and make the dish before they submit the recipe - and they surprised me, by showing up at the right time, all eager to cook! Writing down the recipe took some time - spent a lot of time explaining sauté, simmer, garnish - all alien terms!! They thought the shrikhand recipe was way too simple - no cooking there, only mixing ingredients. Manasi asked if they could make gulab jamun instead - ok, let me think about that - well, maybe not just yet...
And of course, when I said 'blender', they both heard 'vending machine' - that led to a lot of confusion. Me: "Do they have a blender in school?" Girls, sassy: "Of course, they do!" Me: "Never mind, you can just take mine in if you need to." Girls, awestruck: "You have a vending machine at home??" Me: "Then put the onion-tomato mixture in the blender." Girls, perplexed: "How do you put stuff into a vending machine?" And so on...until I figured out what they were thinking. Giggles all around - these girls are too precious - and totally clueless!!! Help!!!

More fun in the kitchen - I did my best to only give instructions and not plunge into the fray - which was quite hard. Cutting onions - watch your thumbs, girls, yes, that thumb, which is right under the knife, watch it!! Eggs in the water - gently, gently now, don't just lob them in, no, we want the shell on until the eggs are boiled! Now the wok - don't splash the oil, and don't lean over, you don't need to look at the oil, let's not throw the onions in, careful now, hot oil. Tomatoes now, no don't touch them to see if they are cooked, actually don't touch anything in the hot wok. Put the lid on the blender jar before you turn it on, wait, wait, lid on first!! So much talking - very, very exhausting!! 

To their credit, the girls actually did a pretty good job - considering their amateur status, of course!! We came up with a pretty decent curry - looked nice, tasted good! They weren't satisfied with just making it though - we had to go through plating and presentation, and what a gorgeous dish that turned out to be! The dads got to judge this very first effort by their daughters - and they both unanimously voted this to be the best curry ever!! There was enough for dinner at both houses - which made all the work totally worth it!!

The judging!!

So the recipe has been duly submitted - we won't know until after the Chinese New Year break if they've made the cut or not! In either case, I'm glad that they got a chance to actually get in the kitchen and cook, to try something different - and I had a surprisingly good time too!! They are pretty confident about their chances - and I'm keeping my fingers crossed too!! Good luck, girls!!

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