cooking memories

When life gives you lemons you can make more than lemonade!!

According to the old saying, lemonade is the prominent use of lemons when youre handed a glut of them. I personally dont mind freshly squeezed lemon juice but there are many and varied ways to utilise seasonal fruits and vegetables.

I recently held a class showing attendees how to make their own tomato passata. Simple enough for sure, but being able to create your own base for dishes and knowing what to do with fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables can become the skill set your kitchen has been missing.

Why preserve food items I hear you ask? Can’t you just buy products off the shelf already done? Well yes, of course. I tackled this question in my class as I showed my students the different between store bought pasta and home made passata cooked up with onions and garlic. It does not compare. The depth of flavour and the freshness you can taste from your own bottled items doesn’t compared to the chemical and preservative laden varieties found in a supermarket.

This coming class is all about preserving your own lemons. Why bother? I hear you ask. Preserved lemons in salt can add a delicious and surprising texture to simple sauces, dressings and dishes without fuss. It’s addition to Moroccan style dishes is prevalent and for good reason. It tastes delicious. As for the sweet tooth’s amongst us, who doesn’t enjoy a lemon meringue pie? Getting that buttery tart centre right is simpler than you think. Don’t believe me? Book a ticket to the class and you will never wish to crack open a supermarket jar again. Unless you’re desperate. Which you would have to be. Because my lemon curd recipe is amazing 😉

Preserving food in the height of it’s seasonality makes sense. It’s cheaper, riper, tastier and available. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean you can’t each peaches. Not fresh ones, I understand but bottling your own means you can crack open a jar and slice up delicious peaches and serve with ice-cream. Friends coming around and you need a dessert? Bake some sweet pastry in a tart shell, crack open you jar of lemon curd and serve with whipped cream and entertaining has never been so easy.

Cooking classes with me are created to be fun and informative. This in not high school home economics. You will not be quizzed to see if you are paying attention, you won’t have to answer questions and most importantly you are invited to taste everything as I cook it. This is your class. Does you body love to cook but your brain keeps over thinking it all? Book your ticket today and the only decision you will have to make next is what to cook from what you learnt!

Come join me as I teach you how to preserve the seasons and it may just change the way you cook in your kitchen. At the very least you will sample some tasty recipes!

The nitty gritty:

Price: $60pp

Where: Wandering Cooks, 1 Fish Lane, South Brisbane

When: Wednesday 21st May 2014, 6.30-8pm

How to book?: Click here: events and follow the paypal prompts or email [email protected] to reserve your spot and pay via direct deposit or on the door

Of all the jobs you could choose! Food for thought as to why chefs do what they do

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I love reading. Nothing scandalous about that but I can become lost in the words and world printed on a page to the point where reading about food makes my tummy grumble. I was reading the newish Jodi Piccoult book “The Story Teller” which tells the story of a concentration camp survivor, her granddaughter and an SS officer who has escaped to America. Much of the book is centred on baking and food as the survivor’s dad was a baker and her granddaughter is too. Reading the story and the evocative images of food eaten, food shared and food dreamed of when starvation was a part of daily life, had me considering how much a part food plays in our life. For the majority of the world food is not consumed purely for survival. We are aware that our body requires food as nourishment and energy but food also plays a part in many other ways. Food can be the love story we weave from when parents feed children to ensure their thrival and growth, to the food lovingly prepared by one for another. Food tells of family traditions, recipes born of necessity, it reveals the meshing of cultures and the complexities of flavours that have developed through travel and exploration.

Becoming a chef was almost like an extension of a role I already enjoyed. Cooking for me has always been fun and I have always loved sharing stories at the table and bringing together friends and family for a meal. I am sometimes asked if I enjoy having other people cook for me or do I find it hard as I would lean towards the criticising what they have cooked. For me, if I am not paying another professional to cook for me i.e. eating out, I cannot fathom why I would ever criticise someone sharing their food with me. Even if it is a toasted cheese sandwich, if the person making it has made it with intention and care I cannot help but enjoy it as it far surpasses just being a food item and becomes a statement of their intent to care for and about me.

Food evokes so many different memories of meals eaten and times celebrated.

When I think of my Polish grandparents I think of many food items

– my grandfather’s Sunday pork roast and apple sauce

– my grandmother’s chicken curry made from shredded chicken out of the stock pot

– my grandmother’s periogi which we used to fight over

– warm jam donuts from the polish church canteen

– poppy seed stollen and other cakes whose names I forget

When I think of my dad i think of

– A garden groaning with vegetables

– Green beans which he ate by the bowl full and boiled eggs

– Pasta in all forms

– Loaves of bread ripped apart to be dunked into the leftover sugo

– Percolated coffee and numerous biscuits for dunking

My mother evokes

– Handmade pasta and biscuits

– Apple tea cakes

– Crostoli and donut balls

– Spaetzle and chicken broth when we were unwell

– Pickled cucumbers and grilled vegetables

– Margarine containers of home made brawn which made me recoil in horror

When I hear of these foods or eat them the memories of those that nurtured and cared for me are evoked and recalled. These are the stories and memories of those that came before me that I hope to share and expand upon with those that will come after me.

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It can be argued that we place too much emotional emphasis on food and that can certainly be the case, but we can have enjoyment from food and evocative memories without shovelling the meal down. There is no reason that a small version of one’s favourite dish can’t be made to celebrate an occasion or just because. What if we could create easy and enjoyable meals that become part of our family’s story? I have my mother’s recipe books from high school, carefully hand written and graded accordingly. I love that I have this part of her history with me, tangible evidence of foods she cooked and shared with her parents and siblings and then it turn the family she create with my dad, us. Two recipes from that book feature here, the pumpkin scones and jam drops. Two old fashioned favourites that I recreated and shared, a little part of my mum, a little part of me. We can’t help but be influenced by those around us at the best of times, but to me it is delightful when that influence is the sharing of ideas and stories from which we can choose what we take from it and create as our own. To me the most interesting and enjoyable recipes are the ones in which a chef or cook or just you or me have taken an idea, an example and had some fun creating it for enjoyment and tweaked it to suit the individual palate.

As a chef it is always the objective to create food that is stimulating and interesting. Flavour combinations and techniques are akin to a painter’s tool box, they are the colours and textures we use to tell a story or create an experience.

One of my favourite catering jobs was for a previous co-worker that was in the finance department. She asked if I could create a surprise five course menu for her and her husband as an anniversary present. Her only guidelines were he likes Asian style food. This was so much fun to prepare and I scoured my cook books and dialogued with her the ideas and a menu was born. Five courses from light (soup) to heavy (curry) from mildly spicy to something with some kick. Each dish was only three to four mouthfuls but each was created to be full of flavour. Her husband arrived home from work to find us in the kitchen, the table set and me in my uniform and a look of puzzlement on his face. ‘Surprise’ she said, ‘Welcome to your anniversary dinner’. The fact that I could create an experience for these two, memories and enjoyment at home created in their kitchen was the beginning of the idea that this could be how people choose to eat more often. What if we could create fun menus to celebrate or just enjoy? What if your wedding menu consisted of your favourite meals shared through your dating years?

Recently I made baked stuffed apples for my brother and sister in law. My brother smiled fondly as he recalled how my mother used to make this very dessert for us all. It created a space of quiet contemplation as a lovely memory was recalled. What if the mere consumption of the food was only half the story? What if the act itself of creating the meal was half the fun? 99% of the food I create professionally I don’t eat myself. Well except for some sneaky mouthfuls. So what’s in it for me? What drives us chefs to create meals we never eat? I believe it’s the knowing that those that come and choose to dine at our tables enjoy sharing that which we create. They enjoy the experience of eating well prepared food and the expertise and experimental flair of those that love to create with food. ? A part of me smiles as I recall all the beautiful meals I have made, all the near misses I have salvaged and the team work that has created a successful food service. Why indeed? Are we crazy? Are we silly? Or do we just know that for us, creating food, sharing food and talking about food is just a part of who we are. We couldn’t imagine it any other way. Nor would we want to.

What are your favourite foods to make for yourself or loved ones? Are there items you make when it’s just you as the other doesn’t like it as much? Do you have a family recipe that has been handed down for generations and is part of your story? I would love you to share these ideas with me as I have with you.

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