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Archive for June, 2018

My blogger friend, David Crichton of Fine Dining at Home went all the way to the end of Master Chef UK, 2018! How COOL is THAT? I have to admit, I’m always a little envious of people who actually want to be in front of the camera, I always shy away from it. You may recall Dave and I met in 2016, in London and again in 2017, when he captained a Thomas Cook airplane to Toronto and JT and I were able to reciprocate his hospitality. Dave is so easy to get along with, that we fell right back into conversation as if no time had passed. When we got together, he mentioned that he was thinking of applying for Master Chef UK, Season 14. If anyone can do it, it would be Dave.Fine Dining at Home is a blog about upscale restaurant food you can serve in your own home. Dave makes the recipes easy to follow and uses unusual ingredients. JT and I were in Arizona when his episodes aired and they were addictive! We watched each show intently, fingers crossed that he would make the next round. Judges Gregg Wallace and John Torode never had a bad thing to say about Dave’s food. It was awesome. According to Wikipedia, more than 20,000 people applied to audition for the series in 2010 (45,000 THIS YEAR) and they whittle it down to 56! Can you imagine how stressful that would be? Dave kindly let me ask him a few questions about his experience and I thought you might enjoy it.

What is the process to become a contestant?
Dave: Quite straightforward. Fill in the online form. Then a telephone interview, if you’re successful with that you’re asked to take some food in and
more questions. I guess after this it’s the luck of the gods that get you to the final 56.
Guinea fowl, Masterchef UK

Guinea fowl, French boned leg stuffed with brioche and rosemary and sweetcorn tempura

Were John and Gregg the judges in the interview process?
Dave: Invention tests are exactly that. No preparation, just cook. After this, you are given a little warning of a theme for the next round. This gets especially more difficult as the competition goes on and general life eats up your time. John and Gregg decide everything. They are the only two people you need to impress/influence.
How much time did you have before you had to appear on the show? How did you determine the dishes you would cook for the show? How many times did you practice each one?
Dave: I had about six weeks warning before my first heat. It was quite easy to determine what I’d cook. Just chose my favourite dishes that really say this is me on a plate. It then just became a matter of timings. Each dish would be only be tweaked to fit into the timescale. The hardest dish to practice for was actually my dessert in the final. It was a pistachio/Tonka bean panna cotta with citrus meringue, macerated berries and a basil gel. I had to invent my own way of making the gel. Trying to keep it green is very difficult. This probably took the best part of a day when I only had two to play with for the final three dishes.
Careless Whisper

Careless Wispa. We were given the topic of an idol. This was George Michael. It’s a 70% dark chocolate shell with salted butter caramel, dark chocolate mousse, balsamic vinegar and Greek Yoghurt ice cream

Did MC UK provide all of the ingredients for each dish? And were you able to put in an order for special ingredients? Were you limited by budget?
Dave: MC UK provide all the ingredients, which generally were amazing. There was no budget, but I chose to cook cheap food that everyone has access to and can relate to. I thought the judges can then appreciate the skill of the cook more. I blew the budget in the final though, one truffle for two portions of the starter!

This is the infamous Apple Crumble Mille Feuille that made a John cry!

How much time were you given with each brief before the show taping? Did you get the briefs in advance, all at once? What was the taping schedule, was it all at once or once every couple of days?
Dave: The whole show runs on a rolling schedule. Everything is drip fed to you. Themes for the next rounds etc. It was all generally filmed Monday-Friday.
It’s always a challenge to cook in someone else’s kitchen, did you get a chance to review the layout and equipment before taping the show or was it baptism by fire?
Dave: The first round really is a baptism of fire. You go in there completely blind. No one has any idea where the equipment is or what there is. You all just have to think on your feet. A great leveler.
One thing we kept commenting on was your controlled composure throughout the series, do you feel that your experience in being a commercial pilot helped? What were some of the techniques that you used to help control stress?
Dave: I certainly think my job helped. Panicking doesn’t solve anything. Problems will always occur, the sooner you can think straight to solve them, the better your chances of success. I was nervous, but I thought if I’m nervous how is everyone feeling? I just took it as if I was fighter, show no weakness. One of the best quotes I’ve ever heard was from Conor MacGregor(UFC fighter)
“Winners concentrate on winning, losers concentrate on winners” 
I believed in myself and didn’t worry about what anyone else was doing. Not in a cocky way, but why stress about something you have no control over.
Name two things that you learned from the Michelin Star chefs that you did not know before. Will we see them incorporated in dishes on the blog?
Dave: The Michelin star chefs were the highlight of the show for me. Just watching the way they work, learning their ethos quickly rubs off on you. From Tommy I finally learnt the secret to perfect ice cream and making the rocher shape. It’s all in the texture! From Ashley Palmer-Watts I learnt so many things, but mainly just to take the attitude of every ingredient and “what can I do to make it taste great?”
Do you know what you will do with your celebrity?
Dave: I wouldn’t say I have much celebrity, but I want to do a pop up once/twice a month so everyone can come and eat my food. I’d also like to explore the private dining and corporate dining world. It all fits in better with my flying. I’d also like to write a book based on my website. Just enough to keep me out of trouble.
Thank you so much for this lovely interview. JT and I are so happy for your success. I hope one day to sample your tasty dishes and not just drool over them on the computer! Hope to see you soon.
If you want to watch Dave in action, some kind soul posted the series on YouTube, Dave’s part starts at Episode 13 and goes all the way to Episode 25.

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In late March/early April, we spent two glorious weeks in Arizona. We stayed with friends for this duration because we had offered to puppy-sit (Jordan) while they took a quick 7 day holiday in Ireland. We had never puppy sat before but their beautiful black lab, Jordan is quite possibly one of the laziest dogs we have ever met so she was really no problem at all. We did get her used to three walks per day, that is, until we bumped into a woman carrying a black light, walking her dog after dark. I had to ask and yes, it was to detect scorpions. That was the end of our after dark walks. Period.

I like to arrive with gifts in hand and these basil Parmesan Straws were the perfect hostess gift because I had a bunch of basil that needed using a couple of days before our departure. Plus they are pretty tasty. Jordan thought so too.

Sun-dried Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Straws

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 pieces

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 290 g flour
  • 10 g Fresh Basil, finely chopped
  • 50 g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, roughly chopped
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced
  • 110 g unsalted butter (cold)
  • 30 g  grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 eggs, beaten separately
  • 15-30 mL water or milk
  • Sea salt

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  2. Put all dry ingredients into a food processor, including the basil, sun-dried tomatoes and garlic, and process to mix well.
  3. Add the butter and process to coarse granules.
  4. While the blades are running, pour in the egg and process until a soft ball forms. If this does not happen, drizzle little bits of water until a soft ball forms.
  5. Remove from processor and using a small amount of flour, roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thickness. Cut into 8cm x 7 mm straws and position evenly on a cookie sheet. Brush with second egg and sprinkle with sea salt.
  6. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool. This will store well in a cool, dark place or freeze.

Notes:

  • I like to use a plastic ruler to cut the straws evenly. My ruler is a dedicated food ruler that never is used with pens or pencils or markers!
  • This type of rolling pin gives you evenly thick dough, but as I have mentioned previously, it is a pain to unscrew the disks and I inadvertently have to wash all of the disks each time I use it.
  • This dough is a bit wetter than some of my other recipes because of the sun-dried tomatoes and fresh garlic.

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In the Spring edition of the LCBO’s (our liquor store) Food & Drink magazine, they featured a Turmeric, Miso & Ginger Soup that immediately caught my attention. In mid-March, we were still craving soups, believe it or not, so I thought I’d give this colourful soup a go in my humble kitchen. The flavours were earthy, brightened by the lemon juice and sweetened by the peas and corn, everything one could want from the spring soup.

An Earthy soup to warm and ward off any spring colds.

Turmeric, Ginger, Miso Soup with Peas and Corn

Makes 1 L soup

For the original recipe, please click here.

To print this recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 15 mL EVOO
  • 70 g sweet onion (such as Vidalia), finely chopped
  • 50 g celery, sliced
  • 1 L vegetable stock, divided
  • 20 g ginger, roughly chopped
  • 2 g garlic, roughly chopped
  • 5 g turmeric powder
  • 20 g white miso
  • 15 mL freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 70 g each, frozen peas and frozen corn

Directions:

  1. In a medium stock-pot, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion and cook until translucent. Add the celery and cook for a minute or so longer.
  2. In a small measuring cup fitted for your stick blender, add about 125 mL vegetable stock, the ginger, garlic, turmeric and miso and blend until smooth.
  3. Add the turmeric mixture to the celery and onions and cook for a few minutes, until you can smell the garlic. Add the remainder of the vegetable stock and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add the frozen peas and corn and stir for a minute.
  4. Serve hot.

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In mid-March JT and I went to the large National Home Show at the Enercare Centre. I found discounted tickets on Groupon AND I also found a Groupon discount code, which made the two tickets $17.80; that was an awesome deal because the regular price of the tickets are $20 each! These shows are getting more and more expensive and I really don’t understand why, the vendors pay through the nose to exhibit, AND the public pays a hefty entrance fee. The kicker was parking at $21! The Enercare Centre is not located downtown, it is slightly west but still within the city, but there is not much else around it — total money grab! And that completes my rant.

While at the show, there are always a few food vendors exhibiting and one of my favourites is a shortbread company who generously hands out samples. JT and I sampled one of their savoury shortbread cookies and I knew I had to make a batch. On the drive home, we brain-stormed the possible flavours and I knew the moment JT said caramelized onion that it had to be the one. We bought a very special sharp cheddar to accompany the sweet flavour of the caramelized onion, they were absolutely perfect!

Caramelized Onion and Cheddar Shortbread Cookies

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 75 cookies that are about 3 cm in diameter.

To print recipe, please click here.

Ingredients:

  • 114 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 80 mL caramelized onions, slightly dried out, see notes
  • 120 g sharp cheddar, grated
  • 5 g sea salt
  • 120 g “00” flour
  • 90 g cornstarch

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter, caramelized onions and grated cheddar until light and fluffy (about 5-8 minutes).
  3. Sift the salt, flour and cornstarch into the creamed butter mixture and mix until well combined but do not overmix.
  4. Create two disks and wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 minutes or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. Turn out to a lightly floured surface and roll about 4 mm thick.
  6. Cut with 3 cm round cookie cutter. Continue until the dough has been used up. Bake for 14-16 minutes or until lightly golden. Cool on a wire rack.
  7. Serve with wine or your favourite cocktail.

Notes:

  • We used the KitchenAid Flex Edge Beater, it creams the cheese, butter and onion beautifully.
  • We always keep caramelized onions in the freezer in ziplock baggies for such uses. I use this recipe.
  • Spread the caramelized onion on a piece of parchment and allow it to sit for 10 minutes, this allows some of the moisture to wick out and will allow the shortbread its melt-in-the-mouthfeel.
  • The cheddar we used today was a Welsh cheddar.
  • The “00” flour we used was an imported Italian flour.
  • The rolling pin we used was this one. To be honest, I don’t love it, it’s a pain to unscrew the disks that are not required but it does roll the dough out evenly.

The flavour of the caramelized onion shines in this delicate little savoury cookie.

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