Matt Pre­ston:

Here are my picks of the best home cook­ing ideas that we can all bor­row from MasterChef’s lat­est con­tes­tants

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TASSIE LIVING - MATT PRE­STON

Divulges MasterChef’s top trends

EACH sea­son of MasterChef we get an in­trigu­ing glimpse of what taste-trends the best Aussie home cooks are adopt­ing; trends that could help any of us make our home cook­ing bet­ter. Here’s what’s on the menu this year:

ROAST AND PICK­LED GRAPES

Us­ing grapes for their burst of fresh­ness, acid­ity or sweet­ness is a smart idea.

Roast them un­til they wrin­kle slightly to throw on roast pork dishes, toss into cous­cous with roast chicken, or even just to strew on desserts like Greek yo­ghurt. Pickle them to bring bite to sal­ads, es­pe­cially those served with cheese, or cut them so their cool, wet flesh con­trasts against drier tex­tures.

RICE CAKES, WAFERS AND CRISPS

We judges are tex­ture junkies and these fried, crispy, of­ten chewy de­lights are a far more in­ter­est­ing way of adding carbs to Asian-in­spired dishes. So head to an Asian gro­cery for gluti­nous rice flour.

FLAKY PAS­TRIES

The con­tes­tants have done very well with home­made ver­sions of thin, flaky pas­tries such as roti, brik, ka­toumari and rough puff, prov­ing that a good recipe and a lit­tle tech­nique is all it takes to make them at home.They are also a clever way to build a dish us­ing sta­ples.

FRA­GRANT LEAVES

The gar­den at MasterChef has never been more in play, as con­tes­tants use in­gre­di­ents such as nas­tur­tium, horse­rad­ish leaf, lemon myr­tle and lemon ver­bena in in­ter­est­ing ways. They’ve gone into desserts, lighter dress­ings to serve with seafood, or are oven-dried or fried to add tex­ture.

MISO

Ja­panese miso is a great way to add a salty savoury hit to gravies and broths. This year it has also been used as a glaze or caramelised for an ap­peal­ing crumb.

SPICY SAUCES AND BROTHS

We all also love bold flavours and this year many of the con­tes­tants have ex­celled at knock­ing up quick ver­sions of spicy de­lights, in­clud­ing sam­bals, XO sauces and Asian broths. Make them your­self with in­gre­di­ents from your lo­cal Asian gro­cery, or pick up pre-made chilli sauces like XO or sam­bals to spice your din­ner. Move over sriracha!

HOME­MADE DUMPLINGS

Ravi­oli and tortellini have al­ways been pop­u­lar ways to stay out of trou­ble in Mys­tery Box chal­lenges, but this year the dumpling has be­come the leader.

So, pop won­ton wrap­pers on your shop­ping list for the su­per­mar­ket or Asian gro­cery if you want to save time.

CON­CEP­TUAL DISHES

He­ston Week on MasterChef al­ways gen­er­ates lots of con­cep­tual dishes. They are sup­posed to elicit an emo­tional re­sponse from the diner and very much “take you there”.

This year, Mr Blumenthal’s in­flu­ence ex­tended out­side our week with him as a guest on the show, with con­tes­tants cre­at­ing dishes that at­tempt to take us ev­ery­where from beach bar­be­cues in Broome and smoky street stalls in Shang­hai to grandma’s ap­ple tree or a hum­ming bee­hive.

PICK­LED MUSH­ROOMS

We’ve seen a lot of beef fil­let this year, usu­ally art­fully trimmed into a per­fect Snick­ers-sized rec­tan­gle. If it wasn’t hid­ing un­der nas­tur­tium leaves, it would be nestling un­der pick­led oys­ter mush­rooms.This just shows that we’ve moved on from just quick pick­ling car­rots and cu­cum­bers to …

GRILLING CU­CUM­BERS

I don’t want to say I told you so, but this year the con­tes­tants caught on to the Scandi trend of roast­ing cu­cum­ber over

char­coal,which some of you tit­tered about when I put it in my last cook­book. OK, now I ad­mit that I am over it too.

BABY CORN

Ewww! That was my first re­ac­tion when I saw baby corn in con­tes­tants’ dishes. But canny ideas like char­ring or but­ter-poach­ing have helped.They’ve made it sur­pris­ingly ed­i­ble.

BRONZE FEN­NEL

Fen­nel is al­ways a MasterChef favourite, given its ver­sa­til­ity to go sweet or savoury. It’s still pop­u­lar but this year your top chefs’ favourite herb gar­nish, ex­pen­sive bronze fen­nel fronds, is what the con­tes­tants have been go­ing mad for. Luck­ily, we’ve had loads of it grow­ing with wild aban­don in the gar­den. Go on, plant some to­day.

CARAMELISED WHITE CHOCO­LATE

For­get bis­cuit crumbs – this year the crumbs were made by roast­ing white choco­late un­til golden and tasty. Easy to do in your oven at home.

ICE CREAMS

Af­ter a spate of par­faits last year, this year con­tes­tants have re­ally nailed ice creams in ev­ery flavour from choco­late and yo­ghurt to lemon ver­bena, fen­nel and basil.

We’ve also en­joyed the re­turn of salted caramel – per­haps as a salty but­ter­scotch sauce. Not that it ever went away in my house.

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