|Photo courtesy of Grant Cochrane / Freedigitalphotos.net|
Gary Mehigan is my favourite of the three judges on Masterchef Australia. I also think that he is the key to
winning the show, if only people would follow what he says and what he likes. For instance, if you watch closely you will see that if you can make the perfect pork crackling the way that Gary likes it, then you’re safe from elimination and probably well on your way to stardom. Thankfully I don’t have to please Gary each time I cook, but I do want to improve the way I cook so I’ve been observing Gary, his likes and dislikes, and taking in his advice so that I can take on board as much as I can without having to sign up to a cooking class.
- Gary doesn’t like his meat undercooked or overcooked. He might forgive a slight undercook, but he will eliminate you the second you bring him overcooked meat – and it doesn’t matter whether its beef, chicken, lamb, rabbit, quail or anything else. Be especially careful of overcooking your seafood though, because this is sin upon sin to Gary. In this respect, Gary and I don’t see eye to eye. I want my meat as dead as possible, but I’m learning about respecting the product and producing greater quality dishes from this observation.
- Gary likes traditional foods cooked in traditional ways. He’s not much into the deconstructed foods that fellow Masterchef judge George Calombaris is a fan of. Gary likes his meat pies rustic like in the country, and his lamb heartily cooked. I suspect he’s the driving force behind the reappearance of Maggie Beer for each season of Masterchef. Check out his Beef Onion and Guinness Pie from Masterchef 2012. Hopefully you’ve got plenty of time to make this one cause you’ll need around 3 hours, but it’ll be totally worth it in the end. I agree with traditional and hearty meals, but I’ve already got traditional views so I haven’t really learnt much from this observation myself, other than hearty foods bring satisfied smiles all around the table.
- Gary has a sweet tooth when it comes to desserts. He will happily lap up anything that has a good cream, ice cream or crème anglaise with it. Forget the creamy accompaniment and forget the title. Make that ice cream full of flavour, make sure that custard doesn’t split and don’t overbeat the cream and you’re onto a winner. Don’t forget to make a smashing dessert to accompany the cream or it wasn’t worth presenting it in the first place.
- Gary likes his pasta al dente. Never ever overcook pasta or he will say it doesn’t have enough flavour or that it’s stodgy and never ever mix your pasta with tongs, especially when it’s overcooked, as you’ll destroy the delicate body and shape of the pasta. Liliana learnt this mistake this year with her pasta entre in one of the early episodes. Since observing this gem I have made a conscious decision to make sure I cook the pasta better and I don’t just throw any old pasta in any old sauce and just toss it back anymore. I make it quality pasta and quality sauce (homemade by me) and I think about how to cook it and how I can combine the foods together for the best results.
- Gary loves his butter. He’ll add it to mashed potatoes and use it to cook with in so many dishes. It adds flavour where olive oil wont. It’s essential in the pastry dishes Gary makes, and Gary does love a tart or a torte or a quiche. This is one observation I have struggled with. I grew up in the low-fat world and didn’t try butter until I was an adult. I have since swapped to using it rather than margarine because its less processed and I always use it when cooking white fish as it gives a better flavour than oil. I still haven’t been game enough to try my own pastry making, but I’m almost there!
- Gary’s expression says it all, and if it doesn’t, he’ll voice his opinion loud and clear. He will roll each flavour over his lips and tongue, he’ll savour each bite and he’ll think carefully about the combinations of foods or flavours on the plate. He is a genuine connoisseur of food and he genuinely loves his food and wants it to be the best. He won’t take something that has no flavour or hasn’t had any thought put into it. Creative is good to Gary, and ingenuity is best. I cherish this observation and have made it my own. I taste everything I make, except the red meat, and I make sure the food is prepared to my tastes before I serve it. I want flavourful foods and I don’t want anyone to feel like they’ve been given a bland bowl of mush to eat when they come to my house. And just like Gary, my husband also voices his opinion loud and clear, and thankfully its usually in the positive after he’s tasted each meal I make.