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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Molecular Evening at the Links

For those of you who follow me in my culinary adventures, you will be please to know that i will be hosting a molecular evening at St Francis Links on the 1 September 2012.

The evening will involve the introduction of Molecular Gastronomy into classic dishes, and how the 2 can marry together. It will include an in-depth discussion on Molecular Gastronomy as well as the perception of flavours and all that influences them.

I have been playing with molecular gastronomy for about 18 months now and have found that it can be extremely interesting, but at the same time, it takes a special kind of person to buy into the whole concept, i enjoy playing with it, but i still prefer the old classics and a classic style of cooking, so on this evening i have ventured into doing both, so kind of a "New School" meets "Old School"kind of evening, i personally think that it is going to be a winner combination.

I don't like small poncy plates of food so this will not be an evening of that.
Cost is only R150 per person, this is for a 5 course meal and a demo/talk on molecular gastronomy.

Don't miss it!!!!!!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Molecular Cocktails - Translucent Bloody Mary with Tabasco and Worcestershire Sauce ravioli's

This is a little recipe that i worked on quite a while back, it is the result of a little research into molecular gastronomy. I know it looks like it can't possibly be tomato juice, but i promise it is pure tomato juice, I made this cocktail and tried it verse a normal bloody mary and out of 6 people tasting, all of them including myself preferred this version as it has much better tomato flavours and is not as bland.

Now I will explain as much of the recipe as possible, but I do not have exact measurements of everything, i am just really bad at doing that, and this was still very experimental.

Basic list of Ingredients
2kg Whole Tomatoes
Calcium Lactate
Sodium Alginate
Sodium Citrate
Agar Agar
125ml Tabasco Sauce
125ml Worcestershire Sauce
A whole lot of time
low calcium water
1 tsp salt - additive and preservative free

Basic Method,
First up you quarter the tomatoes and cut out the middle "seed" pods, this is the only part that you want to use in this recipe, salt them and leave them in a warm place for about 6 hours, this will allow all the liquid to be released from the seed pods, now strain and pour the liquid into a long clear glass and store in the fridge for about 12 hours to allow the pigments to settle, now pour off the top liquid that is clear, and strain through cheese cloth that is folded 4 times so that it is thick and catches the last of the particles, take a 1/4 cup of water and dissolve 1/4 tsp agar agar in the water whilst boiling it on a stove top. Once the agar agar was dissolved take it off the heat and leave to cool, then whisk this into the clear tomato juice and place in the fridge to set.

Take 10g of Sodium Alginate and dissolve it in 2lts of low calcium water, you will need to use a stick blender to do this as sodium alginate is hydro-phobic, once all the alginate has dissolve you need to place this mixture in the fridge and leave to settle all the bubbles out, takes about 24 hours.

Take the Tabasco sauce and mix it with 1/8 tsp of sodium citrate and 1/4 tsp of calcium lactate, mix this together and leave so that all the bubbles can settle.

Take the Worcestershire sauce and mix with 1/8 tsp of Xanthan Gum, 1/8 tsp sodium citrate and 1/4 tsp calcium lactate and also leave to settle.

Now take the set tomato juice and puree it in a food processor, this gives it the same "pulp" like texture as tomato cocktail, mix with vodka and pour into a cocktail glass with some crushed ice.

take a spoon of the Tabasco mixture and gently place it into the alginate bath, leave it for 2 minutes take it out with a slotted spoon, it will have a translucent membrane around it that will hold it, gently place this into the cocktail and repeat the process for the Worcestershire sauce.

Garnish with a celery stalk and a straw, sit back and watch in amazement at the beauty that you have created.

Got to love being a Chef!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Basil Crusted Fillet of Red Roman with Asian Styled Noodles

I have been very lucky in being able to live at the coast most of my life, and i really appreciate the salt air, the seagulls and the seasonal smell of fish in the air. I used to fish quite alot myself, but due to mismanagement of time I have not been fishing for a long time, I love fresh fish, there's nothing quite as satisfying than filleting a fish and getting the smell of the sea, I adore it, because i know right then that the fish is going to taste the same!!!!!

I had the opportunity this week to go and visit a local fishery here is St Francis Bay called Balobi, and when we got there they were busy off loading there boat with a fresh catch of Hake, Carpenters and Red Romans, so being the fresh fish enthusiast that I am, I bought one of each to bring back to the kitchen and "test" as us Chefs like to call it. It was absolutely divine, really really fish, i used all the bones to make fresh fish stock which also has the hint of fresh salty sea air to it, got to love it.

Now there was one thing that was bothering me however and that is the fact that I am an avid supporter of SASSI and the WWF when it comes to selling sustainably caught fish and sea foods, so the first thing that I did was research the fishing method that is being employed by this specific fishery and if the fish they were selling was green, orange or red listed, as I prefer to only buy and sell green listed fish species, and as my knowledge served me I knew that Red Roman and Carpenters and Orange listed species and so is long line caught hake.

So at my visit i did ask the questions, how many hooks on your long lines, how many long lines at a time in water, what do you do with you by-catch, how many sea birds to you catch on average, what do you do to try and prevent the capture of sea birds and by-catch. Now I don't want to sound like everything is doom and gloom, you are allowed to still sell orange listed fish species but they are under threat with they are not monitored and a plan is in place to try to sustain the species.

I then phoned SASSI to find out if i would be doing the right thing from buying these fish, and the advice i got was awesome, as everything this fishery does in it's fishing practices are in line and they also explained that they cannot look at each fishery individually, but as a industry on a whole and that is why long lining is orange listed.

I believe in trying to support local where you can, it always helps boosts the towns internal economy, so i am know getting my fish from this fishery, beautiful fresh hake!!! The line fish I am staying away from for other reasons, but this is a recipe that i done with one of the amazing fresh fish that I did buy.

Basil Crusted Fillet of Red Roman with Asian Styled Noodles

Difficulty: Easy
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cooking Time: 10 Minutes
Serves: 2

Part A
2 fillets of Fresh Fish
2 TBSP Basil Pesto (delish does a great one or pesto princess, as basil does not grow in winter I usually substitute with a good bought one)
4 TBSP Butter softened
1 Cup Bread Crumbs
1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste

Part B
1 medium carrot
1 small red onion
½ each red, yellow and green pepper
1 large baby marrow
6 cherry tomatoes
1 thumb size piece of ginger
1 clove of garlic
2 blocks Chinese egg noodles (or you can use 2 minute noodles, they are the same thing really)
1 small chilli
2 TBSP Oyster Sauce
1 TBSP Soy Sauce
2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp sesame oil
Handful fresh coriander
1 TBSP Olive Oil

Take all the ingredients from part A except the fish and mix them together in bowl.
Then take a piece of cling film about 40cm long and place in on the kitchen counter, put this mixture on top of the cling film and spread it out so that it is about 2 cm thick, then place another piece of cling film over that, now take a rolling pin and roll it out to form an even layer of the mixture that is about 3mm thick, place this onto a cutting board and place it in the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to set. Take it out of the refrigerator place the fillet of fish on the rolled out mixture skin side up, using a sharp knife cut around the fish, now take a baking tray and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt, place the fish skin side down on the baking tray, peel the plastic off the crust mixture and place it perfectly over the top of the fish, place in the middle of the oven with only the grill on, and grill for about 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Whilst the fish is grilling cook the noodles in salted boiling water for 2 minutes.  Peel and julienne all the vegetables from part B, fry them on a high heat with the olive oil for about 5 minutes until they start to soften, now add in all the other ingredients and cook for another 30 seconds then add in the noodles and toss until everything has mixed. Place the noodles on the plate, and top with the grill fish, serve with a lemon wedge and freshly chopped coriander.

Now i must urge all of you reading this blog, please whenever you are about to order fish whether in a super market or in a restaurant, always ask the questions like is this fish green listed? if so where is it caught? i reputable supplier of fish will always be able to trace the fish back to which specific boat it was caught on. So they should always be able to tell you!!! and then if a fish is orange listed try to stay away from it as they are under threat unless there is a sustainable program in place by the specific fishery, and lastly if it is red listed report them so SASSI there information is on , as well as all the information of the listed fish species.

Bon apetite enjoy the meal

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pancetta, Parma Ham and Bacon

A little something that i have been playing with this winter is cured meats, very interesting thing this, i have played around with some bacon, I made my own smoked streaky bacon, absolutely wonderful, totally totally different to any store bought stuff that you find. I have now got curing some savoury bacon, maple bacon, parma ham and my second batch of pancetta, I have had my first batch an almost failure and have researched it a little more and found out where I went wrong so no it is off to making the parma and a second batch of pancetta that is going to be much more successful. All of this is in aid of being able to offer as much food on our menu's that is produced in house without artificial curing agents and extra added preservatives and all the other stuff that your body 1) doesn't want 2)doesn't need 3) wasn't designed to use. Salt curing of meats and the use of nitrites in curing meats has been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, it just seems that of late "my generation" is losing touch with all of these wonderful and amazing crafts like making cheese, eating organic vegetables straight out of the garden eating meat that doesn't have growth hormones and antibiotics injected into them on a regular basis.

I put this all down to people becoming more driven by money and the lust for it that globalization has reigned supreme, i know for a fact that my grand parents used to grow all of these things and produced all of these things on there own, and this was not the way that they only lived my gran father still had a job on the gold mines, but it was the norm back then to have your own chickens, a big vegetable patch, some pigs and sheep. Now all we want it live is convenience and ease of living hence nice big houses with small gardens. So it gives me great pleasure in being able to do something that is now classed as Artisan, i love making sour dough breads, my own sour dough culture i have been using for 4 months now and is thriving, I enjoy making my own sausages so much so i do not buy any in anymore, it is too easy to make and a heck of a lot cheaper. I really enjoy making my own cheeses and have now found a way to make REAL ricotta instead of throwing the whey away, so it costs me nothing to make just a little time, and then i have the advantage of using this ricotta in making some pasta dishes, which I also make my own pasta as well.

I can see by December offering a Ploughmans platter with Homemade sour Dough Bread, Homemade pork and beef sausages, homemade pickles and preserves, pancetta, parma ham and homemade cheese, and all of this in an upmarket restaurant setting. I couldn't think of anything better to be doing other than something that has been forgotten over the years, it is the same when it comes to my cooking, i love to recreate old restaurant classic - again because these things are being forgotten.

Now i know i have gone a little off the beaten track here in this blog as the main aim was to talk about the productions of hams. So let me get back to the point........

The basics of making any hams and cured meats the most important thing is hygiene and sterilization of everything used in the production process, then secondly is good salt that is free of any additives, and then thirdly is good quality pigs!!

Now this last one is the hardest one to find, i am battling tremendously to find naturally reared pigs that have only been feed on raw vegetables and natural proteins and not fed on pellets and old restaurant scraps, i have been battling so much so with this that i have now decided to rear my own little porkers to make hams and bacon and so forth with. I have a supplier and friend who i get all my organic produce from and he would love to rear them for me, the area he has for them is probably around 30m x 5m and is it totally free range, with some citrus trees on on of the boundary fences (that means lots of lovely windfall fruit for the piggies) and then it has a beautiful roofed area that we will concrete for them to sleep in, now i know that are might not sound big but it is if you consider that i only want to rear 3 pigs at a time. they will be fed on all the off cuts of the organic produce, i also have alot of vegetables peels that i keep for a worm farm at the moment that i can fed them, and also the left over whey from my cheese making to give them as protein, so it seems if all goes according to plan that i will be growing some really good A-grade pork soon.

Ok now to get back onto track again, so if you have these essentials you're more than half way to making good ham, the last thing that you need is a storage area that is around 15c and about 80% humidity, this is a lot easier than you think, I have used a double door standing fridge that has been set to 15c, and i have a  couple of buckets of water in there to create good humidity, you can buy a simple humidifier that can be set.

Now you have everything you need and you want to make ham, lets start with the most famous of them all the Parma ham, who you can only call Parma Ham if it comes from certain parts of Italy and has been through all the strict checks, so for ease i am going to call it prosciutto, which is the same thing.

You will need 1 Pork back leg whole with the trotter still attached
2kg additive free salt
500g black pepper
500g pork lard (you can buy some pork back fat from the butcher cut it up small and cook it gently for a couple of hours to render out all the fat) now if you are rearing your own pigs, this would be something to use instead of just throwing it away.

Firstly you need to cut out the aitch bone, so that the only bone that is visible is the ball joint of the hip, any exposed bones poses a higher risk of spoilage, now you must liberally salt the leg, and especially concerntrate on the exposed meat section of it, them place this into a non reactive container cover with cling film and place 10kg weight on it, you need to leave it in the refridgerator or 1 day per 500g weight, i started with a 8,2kg leg so i left it in for 17 days, you will need to check it every day and if there is any liquid at the bottom of the container you will need to pour that out, dry the container and re-salt the meat.

Once you have done this process so can wash off all the salt and pat the meat dry with some kitchen paper, once it is dry pack the exposed meat part with lard and then black pepper, the black pepper stops bugs and insects from sitting on it exposing it to bacteria.

Now comes the fun part of all of this, you need to hang this for about 12-24 months at 15c at 80% humidity.
it will lose about half its original weight when it is ready. then slice super thin and enjoy!!!!!!!!!

here is a quick little interesting thing that i am sure more people dont know about,
Proper Bacon the way it is meant to be made takes around 8-10 days to cure, commercially produced bacon from the time of starting the curing to being sliced and packed ready for resale is about 3 hours!!!!!!!