Tried and tested: Blind tasting, like the folks on MasterChef
The Mystery Box challenge (in reverse)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re familiar with MasterChef Australia and its famed Mystery Box challenge. Contestants are given a box of ingredients without a recipe and they’re challenged to create a dish with those. The show teamed up with Food Talk India and chef Sujan Sarkar to host a four-course blind tasting at Olive Bar and Kitchen, Mumbai. Except this time the Mystery Box challenge worked somewhat in reverse.
Here’s what went down: I walked in and was immediately directed to the bar, where I nursed my cocktail – a task that would prove harder in the course of the evening. Once I had settled in and taken my seat I was given an adorable eye mask from Play Clan. On the table I could only find cutlery specific to the course I was about to have; guess they ensured fumbling was reduced to a minimum.
The first course arrived while I sat blind-folded, making awkward conversation. Then came the fun part. After I was done savouring the course, I was asked to guess what I was served. Cheese and beetroot? And was that chocolate or something sugary? Chef Sujan resolved this by revealing the contents of the first Mystery Box of the evening: goat cheese and burrata, choco-bar with heirloom beetroot, plum, hazelnut and orange, all tossed up into a refreshing salad.
At some point in the evening, my Shiraz almost made its way on to my plate and bits of hazelnut landed up in my lap. No matter, the meal was worth the risk. The second course arrived: cauliflower mousse (which tasted exactly like mashed potatoes, I swear!), prawns, pine nuts, sweet garlic crunch and truffle oil. The third course was a personal favourite – slow-braised pork belly, piccalilli puree, mash, mustard apple, kale, pork crackling and black rice granola. The pork belly was cooked just right, delicate and ever so slightly crisp. My meal ended on a sweet note with some Valrhona chocolate ganache, poached kumquat, orange sorbet, caramel popcorn mousse, quinoa and some cocoa nib crunch. Quite a mouthful, and even harder to guess.
If I’m being honest, the entire experience made me feel like a two-year old trying to get a decent amount of food on my cutlery and trying to avoid getting it all over my face. For a night that had me feeling as vulnerable as the contestants on the show, I’m glad I didn’t do too bad, and came away well fed and watered.
MasterChef Australia Season 7 airs on Star World and Star World HD Monday to Friday, 9pm