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Mastering Masterchef

May 20, 2011

Because I’m a student whose bursary is mostly spent on an addiction to good food, I don’t have DSTV. My wonderful friend Emily however does, and because she’s just as interested in food as me, she religiously watches masterchef. She invited me to join her for this daily ritual this week on monday, with a view to us having our own masterchef inspired cookathon on tuesday.

The episode we watched involved two teams battling it out to cook the best 3 course dinner for a family. One team made a spinach and feta frittata, followed by a delicious stuffed lamb and a mousse based dessert. The other made a singapore inspired spiced prawns, with a fish curry for main and a poached peach dessert. We weren’t overly impressed by the finished dishes but decided to develop their ideas in to our own feast. Emily put forward the idea of spanakopita – inspired by the first teams use of spinach and feta, whilst I worked on a variation of a roast lamb I’d seen made of the British masterchef. For our dessert we thought it appropriate to go with a warm fruit (its chilly here now!) so we baked some persimmons with sugar and served them with a vanilla cream.

We were running a little short on time as we all had work commitments (the life of a PhD student sadly leaves little time for long days of cooking) so we paired the spanakopita with our delicious roasted lamb.

Roasted lamb with yoghurt and spices served with spanakopita and tzatziki

Serves 4


1 boneless leg of lamb (ours weighed about 700g)
1 lemon
A handful of fresh thyme
1 tsp of sea salt
250ml greek yoghurt
2 red chillies
1 tsp chilli powder
3 cloves of garlic
1 tsp ground coriander
A small handful of fresh coriander
1 tsp cardamom seeds (a couple of crushed pods)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cinnamon

8 sheets of phyllo pastry
200g feta
300g English/baby spinach
3-4 spring onions
1 large white onion
2 tbsp of melted butter

250ml of greek yoghurt
A large handful of mint
1/3 of a large cucumber
Juice of half a lemon
1 clove of garlic
A pinch of cayenne pepper/chilli powder
A glug of olive oil


Begin by marinading the lamb. In a roasting pan, roll the lamb out and rub it with the salt, thyme and juice of the lemon, then chop the lemon up roughly and add to the dish. I’d recommend leaving it for a half hour or so if you can, we didn’t but the dish was still delicious. Make a paste out of the chillies, garlic, coriander (both types), turmeric, cloves and cinnamon. Mix this with the yoghurt and spread all over the lamb, rubbing it well in to the flesh. Again leave to marinade for as long as you can (we left it while we made the spankopita). After this, tie the lamb up with string into a nice rolled roast with the lemons and plenty of marinade stuffed in to the centre. Roast the lamb on 160 degrees for 20-25 minutes per 500g plus 20 minutes – ours took around 55 minutes in the end and was perfectly cooked – slightly pink in the middle.

Slicing the roast lamb.

The roast lamb, looking delicious and rich - I love the way the spices give the marinade and meat such an awesome colour, but don't eat the string 😉

To make the spankopita, begin by chopping the spring onions and washing them in a colander with the spinach. Leave to soak for 15 minutes. Meanwhile chop the onion and soften in a little butter or olive oil. Mix these into the spinach and spring onion with the feta (chopped roughly). Butter the bottom of a baking dish (a fairly deep one) and layer with 4 layers of phyllo pastry, buttering each one in between each layer. The edges of the sheets should overlap the rim of the dish as these will be folded on top. Fill the pastry base with the spinach mix and then layer with another 4 sheets of phyllo – these should be cut the fit over the top – and butter in between layers again. Fold the overlapping edges over and brush with a little melted butter. Bake this in the oven for the last 40 minutes of the lamb cooking time.


To make the tzatziki simply mix the yoghurt with the finely chopped mint, cucumber and garlic. Season with the lemon juice, some black pepper and sprinkle cayenne/chilli powder over the top and add a splash of olive oil.

Serve slices of lamb with a portion of the spanakopita and a large dollop of tzatziki. We accompanied this meal with a glass of Cloof wines Inkspot. This a great red blend which received 4 stars from Platters and at around R45 is a bargain.

Baked Persimmons with vanilla cream


4 Persimmons
3 tbsp brown sugar
1 tub of double cream
Vanilla – pods/essence.


Cut the persimmons in half and place skin down on a baking tray, sprinkle with sugar and bake until soft. Whisk the cream until stiff and add the vanilla. Spoon the cream over the baked persimmons and enjoy.

Dietary advice: For gluten-free folk who can’t eat the spankopita pastry, why not try it with a frittata as they did on masterchef? Or with a saag aloo?. If you are vegetarian I think the marinade used here could be worked in to a delicious vegetable curry too!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 23, 2011 10:28 am

    much better than what they came up with!

  2. George Atkins permalink
    April 22, 2012 3:07 pm

    Wahooo, I am trying this out tonight, yummy. It was cheaper to buy an organic leg of lamb from New Zealand than buy british from Waitrose, no shit.


  1. Tandoori roast chicken and a saag aloo inspired salad « Science, sightseeing and sustenance

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