Green Jackfruit Rendang, Pad Thai, Vegetarian!! Jeez, A Day with the amazing Jackie Kearney at Season Cookery School

I was watching Masterchef (UK) the other night after a long day at work. It’s a usual routine for me, GBBO Créme del a Créme, Rick Stein, anything but the soaps which I started to turn off over 20 years ago as they were just too depressing!

That particularly evening there were 3 guest judges, Sara Danesin, Tim Anderson and Jackie Kearney, three previous contestants.  Tim was champion in 2011 and specalises in Japanese cuisine, Sara and Jackie were finalists Jackie being the first vegetarian to get to 4th place, an amazing accolade.

I was fortunate to spend a day with Jackie the previous Saturday, a last minute booking at the Season Cookery School near Winchester and 7 or so hours of watching, listening, learning practising and lots of friendly banter and conversation about food and life in general.This was a VERY popular course, over twenty of us paired up around the numerous workstations, the Season Cookery School is extremely well equipped and Jackie gave everyone time and attention as we worked our way through the various dishes.

Now, I am a meat eater, I am not a vegetarian. This week I have been having a go at making an ‘intricate’ Dome Cake, ha, yep, and one of the team I work with (my testers) is a Vegan. Unfortunately despite buying, Pectin, Agar Agar and who knows what else I struggled to come up with a Vegan version that would be ‘relatively’ simple for a 1st timer (and tastes good). The Dome Cake will be on the blog later and my Vegan friend unfortunately missed out this time round.

So back to the vegetarian subject, I DO like vegetarian food, occasionally choose it when I am dining, and I have published a few recipes on the Blog like my favourite,  Apple and Celeriac Salad with Butternut Squash Stew which I have to say is AWSOME, and way way back I did a ‘Melanzane Ripiene’, an Aubergine Dish stuffed with 3 Cheeses and baked in a rich Tomato Sauce which is quite ‘meaty’ for a vegetarian dish.So, on the menu we had Beef Rendang & Green Jackfruit Rendang! Yes there were meat options too so all tastes were catered for, Pad Thai (Egg Noodles) with Prawns, Thai Green Curry with Chicken and Vegetables, Murtabak (Malaysian Stuffed Crispy Pancake), along with making Curry Pastes from scratch and a really very good Chilli Sambal which was like Sriracha on Adrenaline!!I have cooked both Malaysian and Thai food before, you will find numerous recipes on this blog but I am still glad I invested the money to attend as I learnt so much more around technique which was one of the reasons for booking in the first place.

For example, there is a particular ingredient called Kerisik which is made from Coconut. I cooked a Beef Short Rib Rendang last year which you can find here: Back to August 2016! but the technique for making the Keresik was nowhere near as good as Jackie’s, you will have to attend her course to find out more I am afraid.You can see that each person has a good amount of workspace with a shared Induction Hob and Oven, Knives are VERY sharp, supplied by Flint & Flame and the various drawers contain pots, pans and all the other equipment you will need such as peelers, tongs etc.

Another important aspect of any cooking is the preparation, and I am pretty confident that most times when I have made a hash of something, it is because my ‘Mise en Place’ has not been up to scratch (normally because I am tired)! Putting in place is a french term that means lets get everything weighed out and prepared so when we start to cook, we have all our ingredients to hand.

This is crucial for the 1st dish we cooked, Pad Thai. I think it took 3 1/2 minutes to cook from the 1st ingredient hitting the pan. Prior to this, Jackie had taken us through the flavour profiles for the piquant sauce we were going to make, to cook the dish. We also learnt the importance of preparing the noodles correctly so they did not end up soggy and claggy! The Rendang was started at the beginning of the day as it had to cook for several hours, and two variants were prepared. One with Beef for the meat eaters and the other with Green Jackfruit, something I had never heard of before! It’s a big beast, with fruit capable of reaching 35Kg and between 100 – 200 fruits being produced per tree each year.We had our Jackfruit in cans, it looks a little bit like Pineapple and when we got to taste the Rendang Curry it had a very subtle fruity taste but also savoury at the same time, it was quite delicious and something I will be looking out for in the future.Jackie was great fun and very engaging, her life story is fascinating starting in the NHS and then deciding to ‘chuck it all in’ and move into the food industry via some serious trips abroad with the family. Some of the stories she told were really very funny and she was able to cook and talk at the same time which is actually quite difficult if you watch Saturday Kitchen, and see some of the presenters falter!Murtabak‘ sounds interesting. Another dish and some new skills to learn we prepared a Stuffed Crispy Pancake using extra large spring roll pastry wrappers. A filling of Chicken poached with slices of Ginger or Galangal, Potato with various spices and then the folding and rolling which has to be nice and ‘tight’, they were delicious served with the Chilli Sambal that was also prepared earlier.As usual, there were a number of ‘helpers’ clearing stuff away and making sure we had everything we needed, and Sylvain who runs the Season School was an active participant also getting stuck in when needed.

We started at 9:30 and finished about 4:00 – 4:30, its hard work and you come away with a sense of satisfaction and any remaining leftovers to take home and polish of later. It was a really good day, I was a bit apprehensive about the size of the class but in practise it worked well, I was paired with another veteran of cookery courses and we got on really well.I had an amazing day with Jackie, Sylvian and the rest of the ‘pupils’ it was hard work, great fun and highly recommended.

As usual I paid full price for attendance and the views are my own and not influenced in any way by anybody just in case you think I might have been persuaded to write this, I was NOT.

My next post will be the exercise in making a ‘Dome’ Cake, with Coconut, Mango, Sable Bréton, Pistachio and a whole load of other ingredients. I have already been asked for the recipe so they apparently taste pretty good, they are not too sweet though.

 

……………………..Until next time…………….L8ers……………………………..

 

 

 

 

 

Desi, Native, Traditional Yardbird (Chicken, Murgh) – Confused, read on?

WP_20150516_15_43_02_ProYou would think making a Chicken Curry would be simple, Nah……..

I had planned to make some Paratha’s to go with a Desi Murgh I was going to attempt, hence the flour in the picture above, it never happened but I promise to re-visit Paratha’s another day.

The week was rather busy, I meet a new bunch of people I am supporting in my day job and ended up in a fantastic Greek restaurant in Weston-Super-Mare called Demetris, the ‘Sheftalia’ was delicious and the ‘Stifado’ was that good, I got several pats on the back for finding such an amazing restaurant with 5 minutes notice.

The following day I was at a RNIB (Royal National Institute for the Blind) home with some other team mates, doing a days charity work helping get the garden in pristine condition, a really worthy graft albeit left with aches and pains in places I did not know existed.

WP_20150516_15_55_53_ProBack to the kitchen and Desi Murgh, a traditional dish from Southern India. According to the research I did whilst preparing this beauty it used to be a dish for a special occasion, as large scale chicken production did not exist and Chicken was expensive. The reference to ‘Yardbird’ in the title, is that in the Deep Southern states of America, a Yardbird was another name for Chicken, but elsewhere it was a term for a prisoner!!

I have been fortunate enough to attend two 1 day cookery courses with the Lovely Sumayya Usmani of My Tamarind Kitchen, she is currently writing her first cookery book which is due to be published later this year. I learnt to cook Onions the proper way on this course, which you need to do for this dish.

WP_20150516_16_30_55_ProThe recipe is easily available via google, mine came from a book from Indian Chef Vivek Singh, its purely a co-incidence that he is appearing on Sunday Brunch as I am writing this post, he is one of the UK’s best in Indian cuisine!!

The Onions take about 30-40 minutes to cook, its not a five minute job. The trick is to use your eyes, and cook until you see the Oil separate and then add a little water and carry on cooking, stirring to make sure the Onion does not burn on the base of the pan.

WP_20150516_16_49_01_ProYou need to hold your nerve with this process, it seems as if you are cooking the Onion to within an inch of its life, I used two large Onions and by the time the cooking process has finished and you have essentially cooked all the moisture out of the Onions, there is not that much left.

WP_20150516_16_55_46_ProOnce you have passed the ‘Deep Brown’ stage, set aside to cool down and then blitz in a food processor or use a ‘Stick Blender’. You will have a delicious deep sweet base for the Desi Murgh, and many other Indian dishes as this technique is used a lot.

WP_20150516_17_09_42_ProDuring the Onion cooking stage take your Garlic and Ginger and make a paste, I used about 5 Garlic Cloves and 1 1/2 Inches of fresh Ginger, delicious.

This needs cooking out, see above, before adding the Onion Mixture and cooking for 5- 6 Minutes making sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.

WP_20150516_17_13_41_ProThe kitchen will start to fill with amazing aromas by now, adding the rest of the spices like Coriander, Cumin, Turmeric, Black Smokey Cardamon, Kashmiri Chilli, cooking each one out to remove the powdery taste. A Bay leaf finishes this stage of the cooking.

WP_20150516_17_19_49_Pro Next, Tomatoes are added cooking the sauce base until the Oil splits from the rest of the mixture. I did not have fresh so used a tin of chopped tomatoes which were in the cupboard. Finally add some Yoghurt as per the recipe.

WP_20150516_19_14_00_ProChicken is the protein in this delicious dish, slow cooking for about 45 minutes use whatever you have to hand, Thighs, Breast (cut into chunks) or Legs its up to you. I put mine on the oven on about 150 degrees with the lid on. Make sure the Chicken is cooked if you are using larger cuts with the bone in.

WP_20150516_19_24_22_ProAt the end, add some fresh Coriander and cook on the hob for a further 10 minutes until the Oil splits out again.

I served the Desi Murgh with some Basmati rice that had been flavoured with Clove, Cinnamon, Green Cardamon, roasted Coriander Seeds, I guess it was Pilau Rice without the colouring, a ‘flourish’ of fresh Coriander was also added, I love the stuff!!

It takes a while to prepare this Desi Murgh but the results are delicious, if you like your food a bit hotter, add extra Chilli Powder as the dish is mild and fragrant. Its supposed to be quite a ‘wet’ curry so some Indian bread would go well, I was too tired after a busy week so fried some Popadoms instead!

…………………….Until Next time L8ers………………

Celebrating 25 Years, Pain D’Épice, Babi kecap & Foie Gras

WP_20140824_13_22_45_Pro25 Years ago today I got married to a wonderful lady, 25 years later I am proud to say we are still together and everything is fantastic. We had planned a few days on the south coast, but cancelled at the last minute when we saw the weather forecast!! Instead, we have booked a trip to Tunisia in October, where I celebrated by 21st birthday MANY years ago!

My better half has recently had an operation and is still suffering with back pains so when I offered to book a nice place to eat, the answer I got was ‘please can YOU cook me something nice, I would prefer it’! Its a double celebration this week as it’s her birthday so I sat surrounded with cookbooks and my trusty Mac, and scoured for something nice to prepare.

WP_20140824_15_55_31_ProDavid Lebovitz is well known in the food blogging world, an accomplished Chef and writer, I recently got hold of his latest book, My Paris Kitchen. Its a brilliant piece of work and contains some really good recipes, two of which caught my eye.

As previously blogged, I spent a week in Gascony earlier this year and learned some new skills and recipes. One was preparing Foie Gras using something called Pain D’Épice, a spicy bread like cake and very tasty. The one we used was purchased, I had found a recipe to make it myself  In David’s book, you can see the end result above.

The reason I picked this was that it is also a component of Carbonnade Flamande, a delicious Beef dish from Belgium which I am cooking on our anniversary today, I will be posting the results later this week. You may wonder why I picked a dish that does not seem s0 special, a beef stew! Well our son Justin was conceived in Brussels on my 40th Birthday, and so the trip holds MANY fond memories for both of us including trying my first Carbonnade Flamande.

The big Red bag of Spice above is something quite special, Piment d’EspeletteIt has AOC status, the origins of AOC date to the year 1411, when Roquefort was regulated by a parliamentary decree. In practise this means its production, marketing and sales are tightly controlled. You CAN get it mail order from ‘The Spicery”, I ordered it Friday last week and it arrived Saturday!!!!

Piment d’Espelette is a component of preparing a particular style of Foie Gras, hence my purchase. i also plan to experiment with some Basque cooking, I have just ordered a new cookery book which focusses on this particular cuisine, more on that later.

WP_20140824_17_55_48_ProSo for the Birthday treat I turned to Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey and Babi Kecap, you can see the ingredients above, along with those for Som Tum (Green Papaya Salad), which I have described before. Both were to be served with Coconut Rice to balance and join the flavours and textures.

WP_20140824_13_48_46_ProTo Start Babi kecap you need an ‘Asian Chicken Broth’, essentially a spiced Chicken Stock. Mine was made with a whole Organic Chicken, the flavour enhancers included Star Anise, Spring Onions, loads of Garlic and Galangal and Red Kampot Pepper from Cambodia, (I had recently re-stocked my spice cupboard using Steenbergs mail order and added this to the list as something new to try). You can find the recipe at the back for Rick Steins book, its needs bringing to the boil, skimming to remove the sludge and gently simmering for 1 1/2 hours, job done!

The next stage is to fry loads of shallots until golden brown, then add more Garlic and Ginger, some pork shoulder and colour. Then add the stock and all the other ingredients including the Kecap Manis, a sweet Soy Sauce from Indonesia. After 1 1/2 hours I removed the meat to a warm covered dish, sieved the remaining sauce and hard reduced until shiny, sticky and unctuous!

WP_20140824_20_25_57_ProServed with the Som Tum salad and Coconut Rice it was absolutely stunning, well worth the effort in finding the Sweet Soy Sauce which is available mail order, (just google the name) or, from Asian Supermarkets. I got mine from See Woo in Reading who seem to have all the unusual and difficult to get ingredients including Fresh Turmeric and Green Papaya.

The missus had a great birthday, some food cooked with love, and very tasty too. Watch out for the followup later this week as I have more cooking to do.

Until next time…. L8ers……