Sunday, May 8, 2016

Fulfilling a Dream - Part 1

Lemon Meringue Tart 1

For most of my adult life, I've dreamt of doing some kind of culinary training - not necessarily with the idea of becoming a chef, mostly just for the sheer joy of it, and of course always with the hope of developing new skills and becoming a better cook.

Several months ago when I discovered the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, which offered courses (both onsite and online) that bring together innovate and creative culinary arts with optimal, plant-based nutrition, I was completely captivated and I really felt that this was my ticket to realising that dream.

Finally, last month I had the opportunity to complete Level 1 of the Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine through Matthew Kenney's online academy, and to say this was an extraordinary experience would be an understatement.

Of course, the food was fabulous, but it was also very satisfying to learn classical techniques - knife skills, food safety, flavour balancing, plating and presentation - skills that you would learn in any typical culinary training, and with techniques that were applied to raw food.  Typically raw food is not heated above 45 degrees C (115 degrees F) to preserve the enzymes in food which are normally destroyed during cooking.

You might think that this would mean going without a lot of things, but it was very inspiring to find new and creative ways to ensure that this food was highly enriching rather than any form of deprivation.

Working through the online academy, I did miss the camaraderie of working in the kitchen with others;  however, there is plenty of opportunity for students to connect with each other online, and tutors are incredibly helpful and supportive.  Every effort really is made to make students feel as connected as possible.

So, I'm sure you're all dying to know what I learnt - well, I can now safely say that raw food is so much more than just 100 ways to chop lettuce!  From tacos to tarts, soups to salads, and everything in between - here's a little glimpse of some of the things we made.

Juices, Smoothies and Almond Milk ...

Green Juice
Green Juice 2

Apple Aid

Blueberry Bee Smoothie
Blueberry Bee Smoothie 2

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
Pumpkin Spice Smoothie 2

Almond Milk
Almond Milk 2

Beautiful salads ...

Sesame Noodle Salad, with tamari almonds and spicy almond sauce
Sesame Noodle Salad

Zucchini Tartare
Zucchini Tartare 3

Zucchini Tartare 2

A simple but delicious Butter Lettuce Salad
Butter Lettuce Salad

Kale Caesar Salad, with rosemary croutons, pine nut "parmesan" crisps and shiitake "anchovies
Kale Caesar Salad 2

Seaweed Salad, citrus laden and very fresh
Seaweed Salad 2

We pickled and fermented ...

Dill Pickles
Dill Pickles

Pickled Ginger
Pickled Ginger

Kimchi 1

We made sushi ...

Nori Rolls with chipotle mayonnaise
Nori Rolls

Spicy Tuber Hand Rolls with mango chutney
Spicy Tuber Hand Rolls 2

You don't need pasta to make ravioli, lasagne or dumplings ...

Red Beet Ravioli, with cashew cheese filling, pistachio pesto and yellow pepper sauce
Red Beet Ravioli 1

Heirloom Tomato Lasagne, with macadamia ricotta, tomato marinara, and pistachio pesto
Heirloom Tomato Lasagne 1

Kimchi Dumplings, made with coconut wrappers and served with a sesame ginger foam
Kimchi Dumplings 2

This Bahian-style soup, was a taste sensation and one of my favourite dishes of the course, and it was the inspiration for this Quick Curry Noodle Soup
Bahian Soup 1

Breads, cookies and pancakes didn't escape the raw food treatment either ...

Tostadas with pico de gallo, guacamole, and cacao mole
Tostadas 2

Flatbread Pizzas
Rocket, Pear & Walnut Pizza

Rocket, Fennel & Zucchini Pizza

Portobello Sliders with bbq sauce and caramelised shallots
Portobello Sliders 1

Banana Bread
Banana Bread

Sweet Maple Pancakes
Sweet Maple Pancakes 1

Chocolate Chip Cookies
Chocolate Chip Cookies

We made cheeses out of nuts ...

Cashew Nut Cheese & Macadamia Ricotta
Nut cheeses 1

Fermented cheeses
Fermented Cheeses

Cheese Plate 1

And, of course, there were sweet treats ...

Banana Chia Chai Pudding
Banana Chai Pudding 2


and a Lemon Chamomile Meringue Tart
Lemon Meringue Tart 2

The course also offered plenty of opportunity for creative expression, giving us the ability to explore our own ideas around the various techniques we learnt.  I'll share some of my own creations with you in  Part 2 of this story later in the week, along with a glimpse of the dishes I made for my final project.

If you would like some more information about this course, or one of the many other courses offered through the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy, please email your contact details to me at yoga(dot)tapas(at)gmail(dot)com, and I'll get in touch with you.

Strawberry Hibiscus Punch

Strawberry Hibiscus Punch 2

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs, we're wetting our whistles, exploring Curtis Stone's repertoire of drinks and beverages.

Checking out the drinks section of Curtis' book Good Food, Good Life, I was actually immediately drawn to his Italian Rhubarb-Orange Soda - how good does that sound?!  Unfortunately, though I couldn't get my hands on any rhubarb.

I did however have everything I needed for the Strawberry-Hibiscus Punch.  Hibiscus flower is one of my favourite ingredients - I love the fresh, slightly astringent flavour it brings, and the colour it adds is gorgeous.

I made a couple of changes to the recipe.   Firstly, I halved the recipe, since a didn't need the slake the thirst of a whole party;  I further reduced the amount of sweetener by half, and replaced caster sugar with agave.  I also added a tiny pinch of salt - not enough to actually make it taste salty, but just enough to bring out all the flavours of the hibiscus and fruit.  Lastly I added the juice of a lime, which did a great job of balancing out the sweetness, and really brought that nice tropical vibe.

This is beautiful, refreshing drink, and for a special occasion (or really even just for the heck of it) you could mix this with prosecco for a bit of sparkle.  It would also mix well with soda water, coconut water, or even a bit of sake.

Strawberry Hibiscus Punch Recipe
Adapted from a recipe by Curtis Stone
from Good Food, Good Life
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

2 cups water
1/4 cup agave
1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
1 cup strawberries
2.5cm (1 inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced
pinch salt

to serve
juice of 1x lime
2 cups water extra (or soda or prosecco)
extra strawberries

Put water and agave in a small saucepan and set over medium heat.  Stir until liquid just comes to a boil and the agave has fully dissolved.

Remove from heat, and add the hibiscus flowers, strawberries, ginger and salt.  Leave standing to infuse for about 2 hours.

Strain into a jug, and discard the solids.  Add extra water (or soda or prosecco) and lime juice.  Stir to mix thoroughly.

Serve over ice and garnish with extra strawberries.

If you would like to get to know Curtis Stone a little better, and would like to wet your whistle with all the fabulous beverages my friends have come up with this week, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links. 

I promised last week also to tell you a bit more about the training course which I've just done through the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy - you can now find that post here.  I hope you find it inspiring.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Quick Curry Noodle Soup

Quick Curry Noodle Soup 1

Regular visitors here will know that I like to cook along with my friends at I Heart Cooking Clubs, where each six months we choose a new chef and take an in-depth exploration of their recipes and cooking techniques.  What you won't know, because I'm shamefully guilty of not having posted for the last month, is that we have now moved onto our 14th IHCC chef - Curtis Stone.  Curtis is of Australian origin, pursued a cooking career in London (including working under Marco Pierre White, and, in addition to a number of popular television shows, he now has a well-known restaurant of his own in Beverley Hills, California.

This week at IHCC is actually Potluck Week, which means we actually get to choose any recipe we like from any one of the 14 chefs in the IHCC stable.  However, since I've yet to join in with cooking any of Curtis' dishes, it seemed only fair that I should dip into one of his many culinary tomes.

It was the Quick Curry Noodle Soup from Curtis' book Good Food, Good Life which provided my initial inspiration. Curtis' soup incorporates beautiful prawns and fresh fish in a rich coconut broth with lots of Thai flavours of lemongrass, ginger, coriander, and kaffir lime - delicious!!

However, as I've just spent the last month doing a Raw Food Chef's training course through the Matthew Kenney Culinary Academy (which I can honestly say has been truly amazing, and you can visit this post to find out about my experience and see what we made), I was inspired to see if I could make a raw version of this dish.  Further inspiration also came from a Bahian style soup which we made on the course.

Quick Curry Noodle Soup 3

I went about making my version of this soup by substituting the seafood for vegetable "noodles" - carrots, zucchini and beetroot - and whizzing up my coconut milk and loads of zingy flavourings in the blender instead of in a pot. Obviously, because this is a raw version, it's not a hot soup, but there's actually plenty of heat comes through from the chilli, so it was still plenty comforting even on an autumn evening.  The wild card I guess in my version was the beetroot - not something that you would generally expect to find with these bold Asian flavours, but the sweet yet earthy flavour of the beets actually worked surprisingly well, and there's no doubt that they certainly add some visual impact to the dish.  I would have no hesitation including them again.

You might not have thought about raw food before, but I urge you to try this dish - it just might surprise you.

Quick Curry Noodle Soup 2

Quick Curry Noodle Soup Recipe
Inspired by Curtis Stone & Matthew Kenney
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

coconut milk
1 cup dessicated coconut
2 cups water

1/2 medium carrot
1x small zucchini
1/2 medium beetroot
sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1-1/2 cups coconut milk
1/3 cup carrot juice
5cm (2 in) piece spring onion, white part only, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, leaves and stems, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1x small clove garlic, minced
1/2 medium red chilli, remove seeds if you prefer less heat
1x lime, grated zest and juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1x avocado
1x large tomato, seeds removed and diced

to serve
coriander leaves
kaffir lime leaf, finely shredded
lime cheek

Begin by making the coconut milk - pour the water over the dessicated coconut and leave to stand for at least 10 minutes.  (Go have a cup of coffee, put your feet up, have a snooze - nobody dies!!)  After a suitable rest period, add the coconut and water to a blender, blend thoroughly (really thoroughly), and strain.

Next prepare the vegetables.  You can run the vegetables through a spiraliser to create your noodles, or if you don't have a spiraliser, a vegetable peeler that creates fine juliennes or ribbons will do just fine.  Place the carrot and zucchini noodles in a bowl, sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt and a teaspoon lemon juice, toss well and set aside to soften slightly while you prepare the broth.  Do the same thing with the beetroot noodles, keeping them in a separate bowl from the other vegetables so that the beetroot doesn't turn everything pink.

Now, onto the broth.  Put all of the soup ingredients, except the avocado and tomato into a tall jug or deep bowl. Using an immersion blender, blend everything until smooth.  Add the avocado and blend again, at which point the broth will thicken up.  Lastly, add the tomatoes and blend until smooth.

To serve, arrange a pile of the vegetable noodles in a bowl, and pour the broth around the noodles. Garnish with a few coriander leaves and finely shredded kaffir lime leaf.  Serving a lime cheek on the side would also be a nice addition.

If you would like to get to know Curtis Stone a little better, and to see all the wonderful Potluck dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links. 

I'll also be sharing this post this week at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Rockmelon Gazpacho

Rockmelon Gazpacho 3

I know a lot of people get pretty excited about the arrival of autumnal fruit such as apples, pears, quince and figs.  And whilst I can get pretty turned on about the brief appearance of quince and figs, apples and pears - not so much.  Don't get me wrong, I don't mind them, I just don't get excited about them.

No, by and large, I am a summer fruits kind of girl.  There isn't a single summer fruit that I don't adore, and what gets me properly excited is the arrival of melons just as late summer almost begins to give way to autumn.  Rockmelon (or cantaloupe as you may know it in your part of the world) is my all time favourite melon.  I love its juicy lusciousness and slightly "perfumed" flavour, and this time of year I just can't get get enough of it, though sadly the season is now almost at an end.

For that brief period from the end of February through to about now, when they seem to be at peak availability, I buy them up every opportunity I get.  I cut some of them up into chunks and store in the freezer to use in smoothies and gelato during the year;  I love big chunks of it in salads such as this Shaved Sprout Salad or tossed with some shaved fennel and pine nuts;  I love to eat big wedges of it just on its own (ideally leaning over the sink to catch all the juice that runs down to my elbows);  and I make it into these rockmelon & coconut yoghurt popsicles.

Rockmelon & Coconut Yoghurt Popsicles

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we are saying farewell to Ellie Kreiger who has been our guest chef for the last six months, and this seemed like the perfect time to try Ellie's Golden Gazpacho from Weeknight Wonders - a recipe which I have had bookmarked for ages.

Rockmelon Gazpacho 2

Although weather here has definitely cooled and there is often an autumnal nip in the affair, we have still been blessed with some warm evenings, enabling us to cling to those last vestiges of summer before we begin to break out the winter woollies.  Just such an evening was the perfect time to enjoy this gorgeously fragrant, chilled soup.  To me there is always something about a chilled soup that seems very luxurious and elegant, and for some reason I can't explain seems to elevate soup from "comfort food" to something quite special.

In any event, if you can get your hands on some melon, I urge you to try this.  The colour is glorious, with a flavour to match - but I do urge you to make the soup at least a couple of hours before you want to eat it to allow the flavours to fully develop.  Actually even better if you can make it the day before.

I didn't really make any changes to Ellie's recipe in terms of ingredients used, but I did vary the quantities somewhat, particularly the vinegar and seasonings - I think this is an area where you totally need to add these according to your own taste, and what is required is going to vary enormously depending on the acidity of your tomatoes and the ripeness/sweetness of your rockmelon. You will also need, I found, to adjust again after the soup has been standing and just before you serve it, because the balance of flavours will change over that time, also the flavour will be slightly different when the soup is well chilled than when it is at room temperature.  So taste, taste, taste, and adjust as necessary.

Rockmelon Gazpacho 1

Rockmelon Gazpacho Recipe
Adapted ever so slightly from recipe by Ellie Krieger
from Weeknight Wonders
Click here for a printable copy of this recipe

1/2 medium rockmelon, skin and seeds removed
700g (1.5 lb) yellow and/or orange tomatoes
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled
1x large handful of ice cubes
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
flaky sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Cut rockmelon, tomatoes and cucumber into cubes.  Reserve a couple of tablespoons of each cut into tiny cubes for garnish, and transfer the remainder to a blender.  Add the ice cubes, and a generous slosh each of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar to the blender, along with a generous seasoning of flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Blitz until smooth, taste and adjust the vinegar and seasonings to your liking.

Decant soup into a bowl or jug, and chill in the fridge for at least a couple of hours and up to 24 hours for the flavours to develop.  Taste again and once again adjust flavourings to your liking.

Serve in individual bowls, garnished with the extra cubes of tomato, cucumber and rockmelon.  Finish with a drizzle of the extra virgin olive oil.

If you would like to get to know Ellie Krieger a little better, and to see all the wonderful "Goodbye Ellie" dishes my friends have come up with, then do go visit I Heart Cooking Clubs and check out the links.  And come back next week, when we begin another six month culinary journey cooking with our new guest chef, Curtis Stone.

I'll also be sharing this post this week at Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays hosted by my lovely friend Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

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