Monthly Archives: April 2010

We made it!

Flying is not my favourite activity in the world and so I was dreading it slightly.  M and I got up at the crack of dawn to go for a run, in an attempt to calm our pre flight jitters.  I think it might have helped, by the time we had run 6 kms I had no energy left to be fearful.  Well…I was fearful enough to force M and C to hold my hands during take off and I needed a glass of red wine at 11 in the morning but that’s just how I travel!  We got here in one piece and my what a beautiful city.  Lots of lovely churches and old buildings and gorgeous, old stone houes. 

We checked into our apartment and then quickly hopped back in a cab to check in our live Marron and Pork at the college where we will be competing.  Hopped back in another cab to go and register our team at the Intercontinental hotel where; as we were entering, Antonio Carluccio, Rosemary Schrager, Anthony Warrall Thompson and Paul Mercurio were just on their way out for a spot of dinner.  See, Adelaide is the place to be, after 1 hour we’ve already spotted celebrities.  Well, they’re celebrities in my world… 

After a lot of running around we finally had time to explore the city and find some much needed nourishment and we found it in Gouger Street.  It was postively packed with restaurants, vying for your attention.  Luckily we had it on good authority that Ying Chow was an awesome place and a cheap eat.  And so we sat down to drink jasmine tea and share some perfectly pink and moist Tea and aniseed smoked duck.  This was followed by Chicken with salty coriander and celery, sounds a bit strange but it was delicious and had just the right amount of chilli.  We also tucked into Broad beans and bean curd with chinese chutney, all coupled with steamed rice and yet more jasmine tea.  It was just what we needed after a very long day and it was a bloody bargain! 

Tomorrow we have a disgustingly early meeting and then we are shipped off to the supermarket with 100 bucks and our rather lenghty shopping list, in the hope that they have all that we dream of and then another round of meetings and briefings. 

I better be off to bed as I have to be up in a few short hours and we’ve got a competition to win!  Let the games begin…

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Finally

Firstly, I must apologise for my absence.  Here it is, finally…

There is a lot to be said for food and wine matching.  Slightly less to be said for the stonkingly bad hangovers they induce.  After a week of trying, we finally got our hands on the pig.  We minced it, we sliced it, we diced it, we pan-fried it, we boiled it, we blanched it, we roasted it and then many hours later, we finally ate it.  By this time, my small and ill-equipped kitchen looked like a rhinoceros had run wild through the encyclopaedia of ingredients we had been teasing and coercing into desirable dishes.  

Having not even recovered from last weeks Marronthon (like a marathon with crustaceans), I was filled with deep joy when I learnt it was my turn to peel the Marron…again.  I think my use of the word peel is somewhat misguided; undressing a Marron is more like prising off steel-like sections from the world’s biggest and spikiest prawn.  My thumbs are still determinedly trying to rid themselves of the splinters left by the first marronthon, three weeks ago.  This time, I showed those Marron who was boss, whilst lightly peppering the experience with the occasional ‘motherf###er’!  C and I discussed whether I was allowed to yell expletives in the competition and we concluded that if they are in French then that should be fine.  

And so, four or five hours later, we had finally decided on our three courses, sort of.  We have the structure of the dishes in place and we are going to allow the produce on hand to guide our choices on the day.  Food has been tasted, wine has been drunk and chef’s jackets were finally picked up from the embroiderer.  One more sleep and we’re leaving, on a jet plane.

I will be posting updates every day throughout the comp so keep reading; if you’re lucky I might even blog via my mobile from the awards ceremony on Saturday night!  Adelaide, here we come.

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I love silly questions

My lovely readers have brought up some interesting questions, which I figured I may as well address on the blog directly. 

A reader asked  ‘if a recipe calls for regular potatoes, can you substitute for sweet potato?’

Firstly, there is no such thing as a dumb question. I see this blog very much as a forum in which I hope to glean as much knowledge from my readers as they glean from me.  In answer to the question, it depends on the recipe really, it is a very interesting question though, in most cases I think it would be fine.  However, sweet potato obviously has a sweet flavour and therefore might make some dishes taste a little challenging, shall we say. 

For instance, if you were making Shepherds pie and wanted to change the mash topping for sweet potato mash, I think that would be downright delicious.  However, if you were making a traditional leek and potato soup, I’m not sure how that would work with sweet potato.  The beauty of cooking and food though, is the versatility, if you want to know how it tastes, try it.  Be brave, make a mess, get excited about food! 

Sweet potato is one of those ingredients that I always forget how much I like, until I have it again.  My favourite way with sweet potato is, chop it up into 1 inch chunks, toss it in a bowl with some oil (this helps to get an even coat without smothering it), chuck it onto a roasting tray, and sprinkle with just a little bit of cinnamon and fresh or ground chilli.  Roast at 180 degrees til it’s soft and caramelised around the edges.  If you don’t like chilli then don’t use it or just try something new, maybe a bit of Ras el Hanout (Moroccan spice blend) or mixed spice.  Sometimes if I’m feeling naughty I sprinkle a wee bit of brown sugar over before roasting, just for good measure. 

Right, I’m off to research recipe ideas for the great pork cook off tonight and also to hand roll 40 meatballs for my birthday dinner later this week.  Wish me luck…

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Marron marathon

Wow, thanks for the support everyone. 

The day of reckoning is edging ever closer.  And so it was time for us to take on the mighty Marron.  For those of you not in the know, Marron is a name given to large freshwater crayfish found in the south-west corner of Australia.  Small as they may be, they sure are feisty!  Gentle humans that we are, we put the Marron in the freezer to send them into a slightly chilly coma.  However, there is always one uncooperative one that fights to the death and makes you feel even more guilty for being a Marron murderer.

As soon as I pulled him out of the bucket he was flicking his tail wildly and attempting to do backflips, maybe he thought if he could impress me with his gymnastic ability, I wouldn’t eat him.  Sadly, he was wrong.  After he threw himself off the kitchen bench several times, I finally got him in a headlock and roughly thirty minutes later, he was a delicious, light as air, Marron souffle. 

I should probably backtrack at this point and refresh your memories.  The Marron marathon was a practise cook off to ready ourselves for the ‘Tasting Australia’ culinary competition.  This particular cook off was held at M’s house; there were three chefs, a crying puppy pawing at the door and lots of wine.  What more do you need to prepare yourself for a cooking comp?  A wild array of weird and wonderful ingredients that we had bought at the supermarket earlier that evening, that’s what. 

So, we cooked and we talked and we experimented and ultimately came up with some promising and surprising food.  It was also a day of firsts, the first time (and hopefully the last) that I killed about ten Marron in one day, that can’t be good for my karma.  And also the first time I put a piece of raw, river dwelling creature in my mouth, worryingly, I think I even detected its last desperate little muscle twinge.  The souffle was delicious though…  

Only two days to go, then we’re going to tackle Pork, hopefully I won’t have to kill a pig, I still have nightmares from reading ‘Lord of the flies’!

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Little chef finally makes it online…

For weeks I have been pondering how to start my food blog, actually it’s probably more like years, if i’m being honest.  I knew it would have to be something earth shatteringly exciting, something that everyone could relate to, something everyone has dreamed about; and recently the news finally came.  The city of dreams beckons, a city where the streets are paved with gold, the air is thick with hope and dreams, a city where the sun shines brighter and the birds sing sweeter.  Yes, my friends, it is true; I am going to Adelaide. 

Now, joking aside, Adelaide is currently a city where my dreams could be made.  Being that I have never been to Adelaide I am not going to weigh into the ‘is Adelaide boring?’ debate.  I’ll let you know in a few weeks when I have actually been there.  Somehow, after spending a lifetime successfully avoiding competition, I now find myself knee deep in competition, bogged down by all the arrangements that must be made before we even get on the plane. 

The competition is this, ‘Tasting Australia’ regional culinary competition.  Two very busy chefs and one not so busy apprentice (me) are heading to Adelaide to compete against 32 other teams from around Australia.  It is a little like ‘Masterchef’ and a little like ‘Iron Chef’ but hopefully the mystery ingredient won’t be the pickled brain of a sea urchin.  Although I’m told they’re delicious. 

So, hopefully this blog will keep you updated with our efforts in ‘Tasting Australia’ and after that, will become a vessel for my endless food musings.  Next step on the road to Adelaide is a Marron cook up, if you don’t know what Marron is then go and ‘Google’ it!

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