How to Master Masterchef Recipes at Home

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While Masterchef might be coming to a close (only 2 shows to go!), that doesn’t mean we have to stop thinking about fancy foods, or how we might learn to incorporate some of their techniques into what we do on a weekly basis. The Masterchef recipes can actually help you spice up your weekday dinners or give you inspiration for what to cook during the week. If you think its impossible for Masterchef to be incorporated into your daily life then take a look at my post on how Masterchef can also teach you how to cook before you read on.

Granted, Masterchef does have a bit of a reputation for creating foods that seem pretty unachievable for the average home cook but that doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Mostly people complain that the recipes are too time consuming, use too many techniques or use really expensive ingredients but there are ways to get around these issues and still make a Masterchef recipe using your own skills and budget friendly ingredients.

Not sure what I mean? Keep reading to find out more.

Don’t have time to cook?
Photo courtesy of graur razvan ionut at

If you can spare an hour to make a healthy meal from scratch for yourself or your family then you can make Masterchef meals. If you can’t spare the time just yet, you might need to look into your habits and find out where you can make some time. Having said that, most of the Masterchef challenges during the show are 1 hour or less, so there are plenty of recipes available on the Masterchef website that will take an hour or less to cook. But don’t forget that some really great meals have been made in challenges with only 30 minutes so look out for them as well. 

My first suggestion is that If you’re pressed for time, don’t look at the desserts – we all know that Masterchef desserts are complicated so don’t start with these. Only move onto them once you have more time (like on the weekends or your day off). For weeknights you want to make something that is tasty and has great flavour and that will keep you fuelled up until breakfast, so spend your time more wisely.

Secondly, just because you saw a recipe on Masterchef that included 6 different parts, it doesn’t mean you have to make all 6 processes for your dinner. Focus on one or two components that you know how to make. For instance, in this recipe for Charred Prawns with Prawn and Paprika Broth from Jessica, I like the prawns she made, but the broth is too complicated for me on a weeknight. I can easily throw together the marinade for the prawns and leave them to marinate while I cook some rice and make a simple salad on the side, both of which fit with my time and budget as well as with my skills.

To save even more time, I’ll use some frozen prawns that I’ll thaw in some hot water. It only takes a few minutes to thaw the prawns in the hot water and I can leave the prawns thawing while I get all the other ingredients out of the fridge and cupboard. I’ll use the frozen prawns as it saves me time having to peel each prawn (which takes forever!). Alternatively you could buy fresh pre-peeled prawns from the supermarket, but its up to you and your budget.

While you can take parts of a recipe to use for yourself, if you find an entire recipe that fits with your time, skills and budget then go for it! For me, I reckon I could make the entire recipe for Ava’s Crunchy Thai Salad with Prawns and Caramelised Coconut Dressing because it seems a lot easier to make and is more time friendly for me. To make this recipe faster I’ll grate the carrot and papaya instead of making them into matchsticks, and it’ll be even faster if I use the grating attachment on my food processor.

My last time saving tip is to search the Masterchef recipes for anything Matt Preston has cooked during the Masterclass episodes (both this season and in previous seasons). Something like Matt’s Sweet Chilli Chicken Thighs from a couple of weeks ago are simple, quick and tasty, but best of all they don’t use too many fancy techniques or ingredients so are more suited to a weeknight budget friendly meal. Matt might be a food critic but he doesn’t fluff around with all the extra ingredients when he’s making food for himself, as evidenced in his cook books if you get the chance to read/buy one.

Don’t know the techniques?

So, you’ve decided you love this amazing Masterchef recipe you’ve just found but you don’t

Should you bake it? Or fry it? Or boil it?

know how to confit, emulsify or make a burre blanc (or whatever) that is included in the recipe. That’s okay because as I said above, you don’t need to make the entire recipe exactly the same way the contestants on Masterchef do it. Use the skills you have for dinner during the week and experiment on the weekend when you have more time. That’s exactly how I taught myself new techniques, so I know it works.

As an example, in this recipe for Spiced Lamb with Braised, Charred and Raw Cauliflower that Billie made last week, I wouldn’t make the whole recipe. I’m not sure if I’ve got the right technique for braising and I don’t know how to char the cauliflower, so instead I’ll grill, roast or boil the cauliflower and still have a tasty meal with the same combinations of foods. 

On the other hand, if I did know how to braise and char cauliflower, I might decide that I need to know more about how to make an apricot or almond puree so I won’t cook those elements mid-week. What I’d do instead is add some gravy (which I can make or substitute for some I bought at the supermarket) so I still have a sauce. Instead of leaving out the apricot and almond flavours though I’d sprinkle some chopped dried apricots and flaked almonds when I serve the dish. It’s much simpler do add this with the apricots and almonds, and they’re within my ability and will save me time and money as well.

Sometimes though you can cheat on a technique by finding another recipe to help. For example, I was looking around the Masterchef recipes and came across this recipe for Matt’s Instant Ice Cream. Seeing as Masterchef desserts always seem to be accompanied by ice cream, but I don’t know how to make ice cream the real way (I’ve only done it once and it wasn’t the best) I’m going to save time and hassle by using Matt’s ice cream instead. It’s a much quicker alternative that uses skills you already have like blending foods in a food processor and freezing foods overnight. 

Don’t have the budget for the fancy ingredients?

Would you believe that the Masterchef contestants also need to stick to a budget? Seems impossible, but I read recently that the Masterchef contestants need to stick to a budget when cooking dinner in the Masterchef house. But what I thought was interesting was that they also made a wish list of gourmet ingredients that, though not guaranteed to be provided, one or two items could make its way into the shopping bags.

I think that for those of us running a household on a budget we could do the same thing. We would have a list of our regular foods and then we could create our own wish list of gourmet items. You could buy items from the wish list when you have some extra cash on hand, or allocate $20 a week to buying an ingredient that you really want to experiment with, or that you found in a Masterchef recipe.

My budget doesn’t really allow for us to spend any more than $60 a month on meat so I make the meat stretch over as many meals as I can. I usually by the same or similar meats like chicken breasts, diced beef, beef or lamb mince and sometimes lamb fillets or minute steaks. Recently my wish list included a whole lamb rack (something we don’t usually buy because its too expensive) and some eye fillet steak because I really wanted to learn to cook with bigger cuts of meat. Though the lamb rack was on my list for about 5 months, when we had some extra cash in May  finally bought the lamb rack so I was able to learn the techniques involved in Frenching the bones, marinating and then roasting the meat, as well as carving and serving it (see picture below).

Another way of saving money is to use one ingredient over many meals, and the Masterchef website gives you the ability to search by single ingredients. For example, say you’ve got way too many lemons because it was cheaper to buy a bag of them this week, you can search for lemons on Masterchef and try out a couple of recipes featuring them. When I did the search I was intrigued by Lemon Curd Tarts, Spiced Lemon Pilaf, Lemon Panna Cotta and Lemon and Thyme Ice Cream Sandwiches. There are plenty of other options depending on what you have on hand, and there are actually some really nice savoury meals as well as sweet ones listed in the recipes.

The lamb rack that was on my wish list.
I think I did a good job of Frenching the bones.

So, after all that I hope that you can see some areas for incorporating Masterchef recipes into your weekly cooking, even after the show has finished. The one thing to keep in mind is that you do not have to make the recipe as it stands. Use some of it, use most of it, and tweak it to your abilities, budget and time constraints.

Nothing is impossible with a bit of planning! 
Question: Who do you think deserves to win the Masterchef title for 2015?

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