Archive | September, 2012

Back to school…cooking school that is!

18 Sep

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I’ve liked to cook since I was a child. My father would always be shouting from the garage for his never to be found assistant. I would be perched up high on a kitchen stool trying to help or at least watch my mother cook. The garage just didn’t excite me and brought no joy to my curious taste buds or ever rumbling stomach.

Since then my love for cooking has never faded, only grown into a serious passion. Nowadays, I’m no longer satisfied with the basics and have had a need to go beyond the ordinary. So last Saturday, I checked myself into Mondo Organics Cooking School in West End, Brisbane.

I’d found out about the cooking school after dining at the adjacent Mondo Organics restaurant in June, earlier this year. The cuisine was exquisite yet unpretentious. And yes, everything was organic (there is a difference I can assure you). I’m not sure whether it was the duck or the deconstructed pumpkin cake that prompted me to pickup the cooking school flyer; either way, I’m glad I did!

Saturday morning was manic. It began with groceries, then flattening chickens and smothering them with my special Portuguese marinade. An evening barbecue was on the cards. I finally made the dash to the car only to discover that the battery was dead. Next best option was my bike. 20 minutes later I was over the hill at Mondo: with a glass of water, name tag and playing introductions with about 12 other students.

After all the students had arrived, we marched into the school. My dawdling landed me in pole position, right next to the chef. Whilst daunting at first, it didn’t take me long before I was enjoying the bird’s-eye view of Chef Brenda Fawdon working her magic. I was like a lap dog, eager to please: chopping onions, whizzing up pesto and stirring risotto.

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So what are Super Foods? They are foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and other nutrients.  Some examples include pearl barley, quinoa, kale, turmeric, nuts, acai and cacao to name a few. In addition to having incredible health benefits, they’re usually unique in taste, texture and appearance.

What goes on in a 3 hour Super Foods class? Besides learning how to use Super Foods, there are cooking tips like how to: make garlic paste using only a knife, chop onion (safely), poach chicken and blind bake. But that’s not all. You get to interact with fellow foodies and ask loads of questions to debunk myths or misconceptions. Then you finish off by chowing on everything that you’d prepared.

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Have you attended a cooking class before or are thinking of taking one? Chances are that you won’t regret it, would definitely learn something new from it and if all else fails; go home nourished by a restaurant quality meal. There are classes about baking, bread, barbequing, pasta making, desserts, chocolate and even express meals in minutes. The list is endless and the number of schools are on the rise.

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What else did I learn?

Pecorino Cheese – did you know that it comes from an island called Sardinia off the salami and prosciutto coast of Italy where the locals are predominantly vegetarian? This hard cheese is made from ewe’s milk, has a mild taste, is slightly salty and melts nicely.

Tofu – is not bad! There are several types which can be used to complement meat dishes or as a stand alone protein for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike. In my opinion, Tofu is underrated and can be incorporated or used as a substitute for many thick and creamy ingredients like mascarpone, double cream and mayonnaise (with only a fraction of the fat and same creamy texture).

Who attends such classes? Wives, mothers, daughters, sons, couples, foodies, amateur cooks, orienteering champions, herbivores, carnivores, basically anyone with an interest in food or cooking.

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How to make real falafel

11 Sep

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Although the origins of falafel may still be in dispute, there is agreement on one thing: these vegetarian fritters are extremely tasty and very nutritious! They are very popular and virtually available every where from fast food outlets to the common supermarket shelf.

So how does one make a “real” falafel? For starters, try to avoid the dry mix that is sold in the supermarket. Adding falafel powder to water may sound appealing but it won’t give you crunchy falafel with a soft centre. To achieve that, all you need is rehydrated chick peas, fava beans and a food processor. Make up a large batch, separate into smaller portions, freeze and you’ll never get have to go back to the dry mix version.

Similar to most Arabic dishes, ratios can be adjusted to suit personal taste. Ask 10 different falafel connoisseurs for their recipes, you’d probably get 10 different recipes. However, one thing that doesn’t change is how falafel is served: pickles, salad and tahini sauce wrapped in pita bread. Savoury pickles include beetroot stained turnip, gherkin, mild long chilies and cabbage. Salad is usually shredded lettuce, tomatoes and chopped parsley. Leftover falafel can also be served cold for breakfast also with pickles and labna. (thickened yoghurt)

Below is my falafel recipe which borrows heavily from mum’s kitchen. Included below are some photos of the family table on Father’s Day. Yes, dad wanted falafel, not barbecued lamb nor seafood!

You’ll need to begin this recipe the day before.

Ingredients (makes about 40-60 small falafel balls depending on size)

  • 500g of dried chick peas
  • 500g of dried fava beans
  • 1 bunch of parsley, chopped roughly
  • 1 bunch of coriander, chopped roughly
  • 2 large white onions, peeled and dice roughly
  • 2 tbsp of ground coriander
  • 2 tbsp of ground cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of ground pepper
  • 2 tbsp of sesame seeds (optional)

Directions

Soak the dried chick peas and fava beans in cold water, overnight.

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Place drained chick peas, fava beans, parsley, coriander and onion in a food processor then process until smooth. You may need to add a little water if the mixture is too thick, dry or grainy. (I went a step further and used a hand grinder, very laborious but the texture was unmatched)

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Scrape out mixture into a bowl then add coriander, cumin, salt, pepper and sesame seeds (optional). Mix until spices until well incorporated then rest in the fridge for at least an hour.

Shape into small bit size patties and arrange on a plate then heat the oil, preferably canola or rice bran oil.

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Deep fry or shallow fry about 6 at a time. (Don’t overcrowd the pan or they won’t flash fry and probably turn out soggy)

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Drain on paper towels and repeat with the remaining falafel.

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Tips:

Leftover falafel may be frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge when ready to use. Once defrosted, use within 2 days and don’t refreeze again as it is uncooked!

Father’s Day Lunch 2013

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I’ve used a 50/50 chick peas to fava beans ratio but the one above used a 70/30 ratio. Note the bright yellow tone from the higher chick pea content?

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