Archive for ‘Cooking Adventures’

December 17, 2010

Sydney Seafood School: Brent Savage

by minibites

One of the best presents are experiences (sometimes… apart from diamonds and shoes) – so my awesome colleagues treated Jen and I to our birthday surprise for a cooking night at the Sydney Seafood School with Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant and Bar. I was super excited particularly since I had been over to Bentley not long ago for their dessert degustation.

The night kicks off with a Brent demonstrating how to cook his Pan Roasted Baby Snapper with Sweetcorn, Zucchini Flower, Black Fungi and Cuttlefish Ink in a lecture styled kitchen, then we moved along into an absolutely amazing industrial kitchen where we spilt into teams of 4-6 to cook the dish!

We learn techniques like sweating off vegetables, the different ways of making puree, tricks of rejuvenating zucchini flowers, deboning and cooking fish. The best lesson learnt really is how to use ingredients outside the square, seriously, zucchini flowers, black fungi and cuttlefish ink!? In one dish?! The ink was surprisingly not impossible to attain after all, Jen was scared thinking we had to do this again.

Brent took the time to wander from kitchen to kitchen answering questions, checking sauces and fish and teaching us more techniques (you can catch a blurred glimpse of him checking our fish prep in the photo above!!!)

After cooking our meals, we shuffle into a glamorous dining room furnished with amazing lights made from fishnets of lightbulbs! We set our tables, pop open the matching wines and we’re ready to eat!

Pan roasted baby snapper with sweetcorn, zucchini flower, black fungi and cuttlefish ink

Ta-dah! Our combined efforts compared to Brent’s, which I think is pretty close to the real deal… we were a little generous with the portions though! The recipe is also in Brent’s new book, Bentley Contemporary Cuisine. Brent was absolutely fantastic to work, with as he did rounds of the dining room talking to each group individually, answering questions and signing copies of his new book! He’s so humble and talks so passionately about his food, be sure to visit him at Bentley!

Sydney Seafood School has classes all year round with the occasional handful with restaurant chefs, check their website for more details.

Sydney Seafood School
Sydney Fish Market
Bank St, Pyrmont

Bentley Restaurant & Bar
320 Crown St
Surry Hills, Sydney

December 13, 2010

Kudu Lounge Cocktail Making Class

by minibites

So after a countless number of girls nights out and cocktail trails, my colleague thought it would be nice to spice up our Wednesday night by checking out a cocktail class at Kudu Lounge.

Splitting into 2 groups, we begin with the humble Mojito, diving into the history of rum, different techniques of muddling, stirring and clapping herbs and most importance about balance of flavours in cocktails. Our cocktails are a little off from the original, but funnily enough it all matched each of our cocktail preferences, whereas I enjoy my cocktails sweet – so my cocktail was sweeter, whereas the other girls’ were either more alcoholic, more sourer and more fruity, just like how we all like it.

Next on the agenda is learning The Bramble, and although I’m only a recent convert to Gin, my Russian counterpart was giggly to find out that we were going to learn a gin based cocktail, that didn’t involve cucumbers, rose petals or tonic. Not as commonly known as the Mojito, The Bramble is gin shaken with lemon juice and sugar syrup, then poured over ice with a shot of raspberry liqueur drizzled over. This lesson was all about the tools, like the Hawthorn strainers and the tricks and dangers of using a Boston shaker, properly.

The Bramble


Ta-dah! Our finished products, The Bramble and Mojito. Great (and slightly tipsy) night taught by wonderful bartenders that not only knew their stuff, but were dedicated in making cocktails and were very down to earth to entertain us after the class with our cocktail challenges.

Class booked on Adrenalin, and includes 2 cocktails and canapes.

Kudu Lounge
225a Victoria Rd
Darlinghurst, Sydney

Kudu Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

October 30, 2010

SIFF 2010 Chef’s Armoury’s Toyko Food Trends – MG & More

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I know I’m probably behind the times but recently I’ve taken greater interest in area of molecular gastronomy particularly after expanding my food adventures. The best thing I would imagine for a chef is seeing the element of surprise this art brings to their diners. Apart of the Crave festival, I attended an intimate class at the Chef’s Armoury playing around with Japanese flavours and molecular gastronomy.

First off the mark was a technique that I was particularly interested in learning how to do properly – having tried and sort of, succeeding, I wanted to know all the inside tricks and secrets. Sphereification is combining a flavoured liquid with sodium alginate and dripping this into a water bath of calcium chloride – then into some clean water to wash off the chloride. If they float, you know it’s not right as there is air trapped inside. And, it’s best to make them just before serving.

Capsicum caviar and kingfish sashimi with ponzu foam

As kingfish sashimi was on the menu, a sauce was in order. Ponzu, a light soy sauce commonly served with gyoza was made into a foam. And as water does not foam on its own, it’s crucial to add a emulsifier such as soy lecithin to the solution, hand blend, and viola! It’s as easy as scooping the flavoured foam onto the dish just before serving.

The dish was fantastic and something we could definitely replicate in our home labs – although, I would have loved to have a greater explosion in the mouth, with a more intense and surprising flavour in the caviar. It’d be interesting to try this with some crazy flavours.

Tomato agar jelly and sesame sand

Next up was sands and soils. A common purpose of sand and soils is the element of texture or to plant a protein on top. In this case, sesame was mixed with a sugar substitute like isomalt – the isomalt doesn’t absorb much moisture so it can be combined with flavours, melted and left on a silicon mat to cool, then grounded into powder. If you took this one step further, it would be baked in the oven and shaped – much like the one used for the Snow Egg (it would have been handy if we attended this class before we failed at Masterchef!)

This dish was definitely more intriguing than the first, with a cube of savoury jelly and very sandy sesame. It reminded me of the grounded peanut and sesame treats we would devour during Chinese New Year.

Miso soup

Another very commonly used method in the molecular gastronomy world is reverse sphereification – where calcium chloride is combined with the liquid and submerged into a water bath of sodium alginate (so the opposite to sphereification!). This allows larger spheres and greater bursts of flavour.

On the menu were spheres of miso soup that was taken down like a sake shot. Once bitten, the warm miso soup bursts into your mouth. It definitely drew a “wow”. To make spheres warm, submerge them into a warm water before serving.

Sous vide has been around for quite some time, and it can become quite a heated dinner table discussion amongst foodies – some love it and some hate it. It’s all a matter of preference, like how do you like em eggs? The concept is French meaning “under vacuum” and involves cooking proteins in a vacuum sealed bag submerged in a temperature controlled water bath. The argument for sous vide also dervives from the point that food is best cooked in their own juices to maximise and maintain the flavour. Chef Leigh makes the good point that when carrots are boiled, the water tastes like carrot water but the carrots then taste absolutely bland and unflavoursome.

Using the sous vide machine, Chef Leigh demonstrated how to cook the one ingredient that determines the skill of a chef, eggs. Using an egg clacker to remove the top of the eggs, the inside slipped out effortlessly leaving a clean empty shell. Eggs were cooked in the sous vide machine at 64 degrees for an hour.

Sous vided eggs, onions, rice and chicken oyakodon

The outcome was a take on the humble chicken oyakodon. At the bottom of the egg was a slightly runny yolk and white, topped with onions and sushi rice drenched in a absolutely addictive sauce of mirin and white soy, served with sticks of chicken. My favourite savoury dish of the night alongside the warm miso spheres.

Whitebait sous vided with parsnips and carrots with microherbs

Another sous vide dish is demonstrated using whitebait and good ol’ carrots and parsnips. The whitebait was delicious and perfectly cooked, falling apart as my fork sliced through and the vegetables did indeed taste like carrots and parsnips, although they’ve been cooking for an hour. The broth was a simple as white soy sauce, mirin and dashi – lightly flavoured so the fish and vegetables could be the stars of the dish.

Yappies with miso butter bathing in potato and yuzu foam

Chef Leigh explains how crucial for any cuisine it is, to cook with produce that is in season. With our luck, yappies are on the menu tonight – cooked with miso paste and butter in a iron caste pan and served with a potato, olive oil and yuzu flavoured foam. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that could be described as the baby of a lemon and a lime. Presentation for this dish was brilliant, humour is the best part of dinner. The yappies were delicious with a hint of the miso butter, although the foam was just a little too sour for my liking.

Green tea and honey parfait served with green tea soil and azuki beans

Onto dessert, Chef Eddie serves us a gorgeous dessert that leaves the table silent for a solid five minutes with the occasional hmm and aahh. A green tea soil served with a green tea and honey parfait rolled in a macadamia praline with a side of azuki beans. The best desserts have a balance of flavours and most importantly, textures! I love how the praline left a crunching sensation while the parfait was soft and just melted in the mouth.

Blackforest cake

Second dessert for the night was a DIY blackforest cake and being in a molecular gastronomy class, it was only fitting to ensure it was really a black cake… Eddie places plates of ingredients like charcoal cake bases, Chantilly creme, chocolate mousse, cherries, chocolate sauce and a sour cherry gel. The charcoal didn’t really taste like much, but entire cake had amazing flavours and it wasn’t as sweet as I had anticipated it to be – my favourite layer had to be the sour cherry gel which was amazing in texturally in the cake and flavour.

Amazing class, both entertaining and delicious!

Classes now ended, but keep checking Chef’s Armoury for any upcoming classes.

Chef’s Armoury
747 Botany Road
Rosebery, Sydney

October 17, 2010

Masterchef Challenge 2010 – Team Blue

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So the war paint came on for the next night which was Team Blue’s time to shine and show off their skills in the kitchen. Team Blue opted for an Asian influenced 3 course meal with Hanoi crisp parcels, Drunken chicken with bruised salad and Peter Gilmore’s Snow Egg.

Hanoi Crisp Parcels

Inspired from Luke Nguyen’s Masterclass, Hanoi Crisp Parcels are not your normal spring rolls; made from rice paper rolls and lightly shallow fried, they’re juicy and tender on the inside and nice and crisp on the outside. The accompanying sauces were perfect that packed freshness and a chili punch. Team Blue also opting to use chicken mince instead of pork to cater for our Halal friends and it works just as well!

Drunken chicken with bruised salad

For mains, we’re served Alvin’s Drunken Chicken with Bruised Salad and fluffy jasmine rice. The chicken is cooked in a broth of Shaoxing (Chinese rice wine), Mirin (Japanese rice wine), Malaysian palm sugar and generous amounts of ginger. This dish immediately took me time traveling back to when my grandmother would cook for us. The bruised salad was super refreshing with crunchy textures of cucumber, snake beans, peanuts and dried shrimp doused in a light tangy lime dressing.

And drumroll!! – for dessert, we had the infamous Snow Egg! Although I haven’t had the pleasure to try Quay’s Snow Egg, this one was absolutely delicious. And I admire all the efforts Team Blue put into this from vigorous planning through to intensive prep work and pulling through the numerous changes made to meet the seasonal demands and to cater to their Asian influenced menu, as traditionally it is made from guava and custard apple.

The team also enlisted me to assist them (and a pleasure it was!) and we did try making the maltose tuiles, but we failed miserably. It looked successful when we had poured it onto the silicone mat but unfortunately the tuiles didn’t set as mentioned in the recipe and it still had not set the next morning.

The preparation for this dessert was absolutely tedious and fiddly, with the team prepping for the dessert the night before, making the poached meringue eggs, lychee and vanilla bean puree and coconut granita. It took on board bags and bags of sugar, egg whites and a hardcore Kitchenaid for the meringue, constant stirring, hand blending and sifting for the puree (and a little bit of hot puree into my eye!) before we got some shut eye.

The Snow Egg

The final outcome was a gorgeous white snow egg encasing a generous serving of black sesame ice cream topped with toasted coconut. The egg was served on a bed of vanilla bean custard base as well as lychee and vanilla bean puree and coconut granita.

Absolutely amazing work Team Blue!!

October 15, 2010

Masterchef Challenge 2010 – Team Red

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Our arms shot up at the opportunity to run our dinner service on the first night as a majority of our menu consisted of seafood – so it was absolutely crucial that we could serve our seafood nice and fresh! Our menu consisted of four courses with seafood as our main proteins and a completely overindulgent chocolate dessert. Our inspiration for menu stemmed from stepping outside the square, by using proteins that we wouldn’t usually use, incorporating fruit into our main courses and exploring techniques beyond our skill set!

Chili calamari with watermelon & cucumber salad

For our entree, we served Fuzzy from Celebrity Masterchef’s Chili Calamari with Watermelon and Cucumber Salad (and funnily there was no cucumber in the salad at all!). The calamari was crispy with amazing flavours of paprika and garlic served with a refreshing watermelon salad tossed with red onion, mint and a fresh lime dressing. And although it was a pretty final outcome, the journey was quite messy indeed…

So we wanted fresh squid… and boy did we get fresh squid – covered in squid ink and when they opened up, we discovered that we definitely paid more than we bargained for, the squid’s lunch! Kudos to the amazingly good job my team members did for cleaning this outside and in!

Savoury zucchini muffins

Next on the agenda was Savoury Zucchini Muffins served with cream cheese and smoked salmon (which we cheated a little as they were adopted from the season of Junior Masterchef…) And although I’m not a fan of savoury muffins, this was an absolutely perfect dish in between our courses. Rising perfectly with their little muffin top flowing over the tin; inside was light and fluffy with a little crunchy outside.

Fennel, orange and apple salad with BBQ marinated prawns

Our second main dish was Courtney’s Fennel, Orange and Apple Salad with BBQ Marinated Prawns. Yes, another dish with fruit! This dish was amazingly fresh and perfect for a balmy summer night. Fresh prawns that were lightly panfried and marinated with chili and lime served with salad composed from crunchy granny smith apples, segmented oranges, finely sliced fennel and celery  – with a dash of tangy handmade vinaigrette.

To end the night, it was finally our (my cooking partner Matt and I!) time to shine with Gary’s Chocolate Gluttony. Each glass contained a bed of whipped cream, gooey chocolate nut brownie with a large dollop of vanilla bean ice cream with homemade raspberry coulis and dark chocolate sauce, topped with spun sugar.

And I was absolutely over the moon that our spun sugar turned out perfectly during our live demonstration. We had secretly hoped that this would woo our “judges” a little. We also took a shot at molecular gastronomy, spherification from raspberry coulis to make “look alike” caviar. It involves mixing a liquid such as raspberry coulis with sodium alginate and dripping this into a water bath of calcium chloride.

Forgetting the syringe back at home, we put on our thinking caps to use straws and individually dripped each ball into the solution. Not perfect as we hoped but we could definitely see the result! At least all of us had a little fun in dripping them into the solution. Brownie points for interaction! And definitely have syringes, scales and a hand-blender whenever attempting molecular gastronomy. Molecular gastronomy ingredients were from Simon Johnson and tools from Chef’s Armoury.

Chocolate Gluttony

Very very proud of Team Red for pulling this dinner service off! Amazing job!