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We were outraged when the smiling Marion got eliminated over Satay Sauce! We said ‘Serves him right!’ when Mat got disqualified over the phone fiasco, happy that eye-candies Hayden and Alana were safe. And when Ben and Emma wept at their reluctant face-off, we sobbed at the hopelessness of the situation. But more than all those heart-wrenching, nerve-wracking, tastebud-tickling and tummy-growling moments of watching Masterchef Australia, we have shared the feelings of awe, respect, camaraderie and deep faith that the contestants have for the Masterchef judges George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan, Matt Preston and Matt Moran. For a massive population of TV viewers in India, already primed on soap operas that pull at the heart-strings and tear-glands with equal gusto, this show has quickly acquired  ‘favourite’ status and slipped into social conversations, despite being a niche program. Well, food and emotions need no language, do they?

India’s ‘food renaissance’ is seeing many a gourmet dish/ingredient finding its way onto dinner tables of traditional households, through specialized food stores, and existing grocers upping their game to include ‘exotic’ items. Given this verdant backdrop of curiosity and experimentation around food, the arrival of Masterchef judges George and Gary into India is like the ‘Food Oscars’, served with a gourmet garnish! The media is calling them ‘Food Gods’ (Matt Preston ‘rolls his eyes’ at this!), the Twitteratti is stalking their every move, and fans are screaming their names everywhere. Amidst all this jingoistic hero-worship, this fan (ME!) decided to attempt something suicidal… take part in a Cook-Off to impress these world-famous Chefs!

Penning down a whacky description (on the Godrej Nature’s Basket site) of what I would like to cook for George and Gary was the easy part. The tough part was turning up at the venue after being selected as one of 3 contestants for the Cook-Off… I ALMOST didn’t have the nerve to go through with it! But, as often happens on the show, I drew on a secret reserve of strength (read Teddy!), and ‘put my game face on’!

An hour and a half of prep time is what each one of us had, with an induction cooktop, a basketful of pre-selected ingredients, and a couple of helpful store staff at hand. Soon the aromas from Devika’s Caramellised Onions for her Bruschetta dish, and Amanda’s toasted Pecan nuts for her delightful dessert was filling the store, while I struggled to find the right mustard oil for my Victoria Jhaal Muri. I put my hot and sour sauce on the boil, and then got on to chopping up the fresh vegies and putting them into individual bowls for later. An hour passed quickly while we chopped, fried, roasted, whipped and reduced all kinds of ingredients, oblivious to the crowds building up around us in anticipation of the arrival of the celebrity Chefs. Some curious onlookers dropped by, asking questions about what we were doing, keenly following the frantic processes on the long cooking table that was now a beehive of activity! I started on my flavourful Green Chutney, whipping up a paste in the blender and happy with the emerald green colour. Another quick whir of the blender and the Sweet Lassi was ready, handed in glasses to one of the boys to cool in the refrigerator till serving time.  Finally, with about 15 minutes to go, I roasted the Puffed Rice in a dash of strong mustard oil, set it down in a large mixing bowl and got ready for the critical plating and presentation ‘Pressure Test’ donning my ‘Confidence Headgear’ – the great Indian turban, just for a laugh!

Next Post : Gary and George turn the screws in the Pressure Test! Which dish will win their hearts? Find out soon… 😉

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