Teacher Nerys Kelly from Aberystwyth was the fourth competitor to leave the Chez Dudley kitchen on Thursday as the cook who helped put her through to the competition out in France, Bryn Williams, made an unexpected appearance. Although Bryn was impressed by her Provençal dish, he put Nerys' meal to compliment the rosé wine at the bottom of his list and ex-policeman Aldwyn's steak and red wine at the top.
This leaves four to battle it out in the penultimate round. One thing's for sure, Dudley's going to make the competitors work very hard for their place in the final. The first challenge will stimulate the senses, and include smelling and tasting tasks before the main challenge which will involve working in pairs. Then it'll be an early wake-up call all round for the second challenge which appears easy enough, but which is more difficult than it looks. The highlight of the competition so far, special challenge from the master himself René Bérard, will decide who leaves the competition once and for all...
Herb Pudding Challenge
A challenge to stimulate the senses! The blindfolded contestants had to recognise familiar herbs by their smell only. Then working in pairs, they had the unenviable task of creating a pudding that combined fruits with herbs. Aldwyn, as the winner of the last challenge, chose Nesta to work with him. This left Anna to work with Jan.
Nesta and Aldwyn chose to combine peaches with basil, but René's peaches from the orchard were too soft, so they had to improvise with apricots instead. Jan and Anna chose to combine figs and strawberries with lavender.
Bryn Williams and Jeff Berard were judging and they decided that Nesta and Aldwyn's pudding was the best. So were Nesta and Aldwyn through to the final? No such luck! Once again Dudley wanted 3 to compete in the next challenge and the girls chose Aldwyn. Nesta however, was through to the final.
How hard can making an omelette be? It looks easy enough, but it can be make or break for many an aspiring chef at top restaurants.
After an early morning call, Jan, Anna and Aldwyn had just 10 minutes to make an omelette under the watchful eyes of Bryn and Jeff.
Poor Aldwyn forgot to add butter to the pan and immediately the omelette stuck to the bottom - more like scrambled egg, Aldwyn!
Bryn and Jeff then decided to showcase their own omelette making skills. Bryn's tips for a perfect omelette: make sure the pan is really hot; put plenty of butter in; don't cook it too long; it should be browned on the outside but still soft on the inside.
The judges were impressed with the girls' omelettes. But Anna's won for being slightly more light and fluffy than Jan's. Anna was through to the final!
Challenge from René's Book
The highlight of the competition so far was a special challenge from the master himself. René Bérard has written many celebrated books on Provençal cooking. The final challenge of the day was to recreate one of his recipes - Sea Bass in Puff Pastry with Mushrooms and a Champagne Sauce.
Following a disastrous performance with the omelette, Aldwyn finally cheered up at the prospect of cooking this recipe. Corks flew and the champagne poured - all over Dudley! The two competitors slaved away for what must have felt like hours. Finally the judgement. They were so close... But in the end Jan's pastry was slightly better than Aldwyn's and she won the final place in the final. Poor Aldwyn was content to be leaving on such a high note!
Recipe: Sea Bass in Puff Pastry with Mushrooms and a Champagne Sauce
2 x 250g of skinned sea bass fillets
800g of white button mushrooms
100g of shallots - finely sliced
1kg of puff pastry - rolled into two 40cm x 15cm strips
salt and pepper
2 eggs - beaten with a little salt for brushing the pastry
10cl of olive oil
100g of shallots - finely sliced
5cl of olive oil
1 bottle of dry champagne
40cl of fish stock
60cl of single cream
salt and pepper
Wash and finely chop the mushrooms. Using a high-sided pan, sweat the shallots in the olive oil, add the mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook until all the water from the mushrooms has evaporated. Put aside in a cool place.
Sweat the shallots with the olive oil in a saucepan - do not allow to brown. Add the Champagne and reduce until the equivalent of just 1 glass of liquid is left. Add the fish stock and reduce by half. Add the single cream and simmer gently for 20 minutes until the sauce is nice and creamy. Blend using a blender or food processor, then strain. Check the seasoning and put aside.
Sea Bass in Puff Pastry:
Lay the two fish fillets on the worktop and season both sides. Spread some of the mushroom mixture evenly over one fillet (3cm coating approx). Place the second fillet on top of the first coated fillet to reconstitute a whole fish.
Lay one strip of puff pastry on the worktop, place the reconstituted fish in the centre and brush the edges with the beaten egg. Place the second pastry strip on top, pressing gently to get rid of any air. Cut off the excess pastry neatly. Brush the top with the beaten egg and use a knife tip to decorate your 'fish' with scales.
Bake for 30 minutes at 190°C/Gas 5