Our kids are currently on school holidays and yesterday, my 10 year old daughter issued me with a “Mystery Box Challenge”.
If you haven’t been watching Masterchef, a Mystery Box Challenge involves mixing what can seem a very erroneous combination of ingredients, into more than a “concoction” or worse still, a “mixture”. Speaking of mixtures, my kids have been very good at wasting swags of ingredients making mixtures over the years so I’m not so keen on mixtures!
Yet, there was that excitement in her voice and before I knew it, she’d lured me in. I have to admit I was more than a little curious about whether we could take any four ingredients and make something worth eating…or not?
At the same time, all that really mattered was her smile, spending time together and knitting memories together into some kind of never-ending spangled scarf.
With all of that at stake, who cares whether ingredients get wasted, frying pans and saucepans BURN or even if the kitchen goes up in flames…just as long as nobody gets hurt?!!
Getting back to the challenge, it appears Miss has the whole thing sorted and I’m told that we each get a mystery box containing four ingredients, an open pantry and we decided to leave our staples in the fridge. By the way, if you’re thinking that “staples” are those metal things you push through paper, you’d be wrong. These are your cooking staples such as eggs, milk, flour and butter.
So, the adventure begins with selecting the four ingredients for my daughter’s Mystery Box. When it came to choosing these ingredients, I decided to be kind. She is an incredibly picky eater and is the incarnation of the Princess and The Pea. So, I gave her a Granny Smith apple, toasted muesli and honey. I half expected her to mix it with Greek yogurt to make what she calls a parfait, which she’d made a few times before.
However, she had other plans…
She sliced the apple and fried it up in melted butter and brown sugar. This turned out really well and was a real success. She served it up with some fresh basil, which went surprisingly well with it. From there, however, she went a little overboard and used way too many ingredients and couldn’t seem to decide whether her dish was savory or sweet. She fried up some corn and peas with the muesli, which wasn’t too bad but while she was plating up, she added a few spears of tinned asparagus. These really clashed with the rest of the dish.
While this plate is already sounding rather overloaded, wait! There’s more!
She also served her dish up with a cup with a pouring sauce, which, just let me say wasn’t the best element of her dish. I can’t quite remember what was in it but there was chocolate topping, Mixed Spice and Golden Syrup and I did actually try it on the food. I might not earn full marks as a Mum, but I do try!
Besides, I know just how sensitive cooks can get about their creations and that it’s best not to be too blunt when things don’t work out.
Overall, she did really well although she’s gone away to my parents’ for the weekend leaving me with a stack of dirty pots and pans…some of which, are looking rather caramelised!
I might also mention that as Madam was plating up, she burned her fried cheese. Moreover, in her haste as those last seconds were running out, she threw it out of the pan and straight onto the blazing hot plate. Immediately, the cheese started smoking and nearly caught fire. Master Mum to the rescue once again!
Meanwhile, Miss had given me my Mystery Box. She wasn’t so kind with her selection of ingredients. She gave me a tin of sardines, a tin of tuna, a packet of Grain Waves (chips) and salt.
I decided to make a Tuna Mornay and this was going to be dinner. However, my husband can’t stand “cat food” and so rather than trying to make the tuna the “hero of the dish”, I needed to hide it. That’s the opposite of what they do in the Masterchef Kitchen. I guess this could, therefore, mean casting the tuna as “the villain”. I immediately fry an onion and once it’s browned, add the tuna. Added some left over chick peas from the fridge, cream and grated cheese. I’m trying to think of ways of transforming tuna mornay into something inventive, tasty. In other words, how to turn it into something else. I add about a handful of sliced macadamia nuts for some crunch (Masterchef is huge on crunch!!) and would’ve liked to add some lemon juice and thyme but we were out. Added dried Rosemary instead, longing for that very well-stocked Masterchef pantry!! After adding an egg and more cheese somewhere along the way, I coated the patty in the crushed grain waves and grated cheese and turned up the heat. I wanted to turn it crunchy. Broke it up into smaller patty sizes and thinking of sang choy bow, decided to serve in up in lettuce leaves.
Presentation isn’t my strength but I felt compelled to go to some effort to get into the spirit of things, especially as my daughter was making a few comments about it not looking “very Masterchef”. After crunchifying my patties, I served them up on lettuce leaves with a splattering of diced Granny Smith apple for tartness and a few slices of tomato and a drizzling of French dressing.
After adding all of that camouflage, I successfully managed to de-heroify the tuna to my husband’s liking and I was pleased with my dish…what ever it was in the end.
Getting back to the sardines…as much as I was tempted to drape a few sardines over the top of my dish and forcing my daughter to eat them, I decided not to buy into her trickery. Instead, I fed them to the dogs. After all, I’d bought them for Bilbo after his coat was moth-eaten and mauled from a severe flea allergy. As much as my daughter might have wanted to disgust me with this addition to the mystery box, eating sardines was just taking things too far!
Of course, no home Mini Chef Challenge is complete without photographic coverage. With my camera out in the boot, dashed out to the car towards the end of the cook, which my daughter decreed “wasn’t very Masterchef”! I don’t think she was very impressed. However, my dish was finished well before the hour was up and I couldn’t possibly have a Minichef Mystery Box Challenge and NOT photograph it! This is one of those Kodak unforgettable moments!
I have always found such meaning in cooking/baking for those I love but there’s also something truly beautiful in cooking with them as well…mixing a good dose of love into whatever your making, which has to be the ultimate secret ingredient!
Have you done any family cooking or baking lately? How did it go? Any mini of Master Chefs?
Hope you’ve had a great week!