Thursday, July 20, 2017

Culinary Exchange - Day Four

What's better than an early morning breakfast of rich chocolate truffles along with some pastries and cappucinos? Nothing, so we headed out at 7am to a little cakery and candy shop owned by a really friendly family who fed us the best chocolate truffles ever. 

Then we drove a few hours (during which I did manage to nap even after all that chocolate). We toured a goat cheese plant and had a tasting of 10 different goat cheese products. Then we went to a nearby restaurant for a buffet-style lunch, where all of the dishes also incorporated goat cheese. Then onto an actual goat farm where the goat milk comes from. I absolutely love baby goats, they are the cutest things ever so I really enjoyed this part of the day. It was great to actually follow the cheese making process, from where the milk is collected, the cheese is made and packaged, and where it is used in local restaurants.

We drove back into the city during which I napped again. We stopped at a small pizzeria where we took over the kitchen and had a lesson on how to make really great ricotta gnocchi. On the way back from dinner we stopped for some really great gelato. 
goat cheese tasting

cute goat

cherries on the farm

gnocchi from scratch

chocolate gelato

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Culinary Exchange - Day Three

pig at the farm
Today began with an early morning breakfast at a local bakery, owned by the instructor of our sugar workshop yesterday. Breakfast was an impressive array of muffins, cakes, squares, croissants, and biscuits, along with quiche, hard-boiled eggs, cold meats, fresh fruit, yogurt and granola, and orange juice.

baby goats
On to a farm that raises sheep, chickens, and pigs. Everything about this farm is how you would want it - small-scale, free-range, organic, happy animals. It is obvious the farm owners really do care about their animals and have done a lot of research and trial and error to use the best possible techniques with the well-being of the animals as their primary concern. Right down to choosing to drive a little extra distance in order to take the animals to a better butchery. The sheep are transferred to a new pasture daily, the chickens are never fed grain, and the pigs are free to roam around the woods and mud and into their little hut.

From there we went to vineyard #1 for lunch, wine tastings, and a tour of the kitchen. Lunch was fishcakes paired with a chardonnay, and a main course of confit chicken leg and breast, fresh summer vegetables, mint pea puree, quinoa sunflower seed pilaf, and jus paired with a rose, and a cake doughnut with ginger honey ice cream, blueberry compote, and lemon anglaise served with a sweet dessert Riesling. 

On to vineyard #2 for a tour of the facilitates.
On to vineyard #3 for a tour and a VIP tasting session.
Explored the small town square of shops for an hour.

fish cake
On to vineyard #4 for dinner and wine. Dinner was all family style, beginning with appetizers of polenta fries, risotto balls, focaccia bread, octopus salad, and a charcuterie boards. This was followed by pizzas of various flavors, then a dessert of little churros, chocolate coffee cream, lemon curd, fresh berries, and ice cream.

chicken plate

doughnut dessert

VIP wine tasting

rows upon rows of grapes

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Culinary Exchange - Day Two

sticky buns!!!
The day began very bright and early with a quick breakfast, then heading into the bakeshop for a bread-making and sugar work workshop. We spent the day at the local culinary college, first learning all the insider details on how to make make Artisan pear walnut breads and caramel pecan cinnamon sticky buns. We also learned how to make poured sugar, pulled, sugar, and blown sugar and how to transform these into some amazing sugar garnishes. 

We had lunch in the college's restaurant - really good food prepared by culinary students. A roasted beet salad with dresses arugula, goat cheese, golden beet chip, and candied walnuts to start, with a choice of: crispy chicken sandwich on a fresh baked milk bun, chiptle aioli, white cheddar, lettuce, tomato, lemon thyme fries, triple crunch aioli

beef burger  on a fresh baked milk bun, merlot chutey, white cheddar, lettuce, pickled cucumber, lemon thyme fries, triple crunch aioli

turkey burger on a fresh baked milk bun, lettuce, lemon feta mayo, lemon thyme fries, triple crunch aioli

crispy tempura fried tofu, Korean bbq sauce, cocnut basmati rice, stir fried bok choy, broccoli, shitakes, red pepper kimchi.

Next, onto the college's brewery, where students brew beer to sell at the college, for a tour and a tasting. A tour of the greenhouses and gardens which grow some produce, herbs and flowers used in the restaurant. We even got to plant out own mini pots of herbs. And onto the college's winery for a tour, walk through the vineyards, tastings, and a fun little competition of crushing grapes the old fashioned way - with our feet. 

Finally, we ended our dinner with a beautiful multi-course meal. A charcuterie board with cured meats, deep-fried head cheese, fried perch, pickles, homemade bread and butter, a quinoa salad with beet hummus and tempura fried apple. Next a pasta and pesto dish. A main course of 45 day dry-aged beef with potato, sauce bordelaise, brown butter hollandaise, and some vegetables. To finish off a dessert of lemon tart, passionfruit cake, and strawberry kiwi sorbet. 

Goat Cheese Salad

crushing grapes






Culinary Exchange - Day One

Day One on the exchange was mostly a day of travelling, as junior chefs from across the coutry came together to meet in one location. We were all met at the airport in the afternoon, drove for about two hours, and checked into our hotel.

The only real event of the day was dinner - we went to a small winery (as we are in wine country here). We got a tour of the facility, the cellar, the shop. Then we had a charcuterie board and tastings of five wines (three white, one rose, one red). Next we had the opportunity to purchase wines. Dinner was served al fresco on the patio and consisted of a family-style, pass it along the table meal, so the ten of us could become good friends.

We had: smoked corn salad, braised red cabbage, beef brisket, barbecue chicken, bbq ribs, fresh ciabatta bread, salsa verde, horseradish aioli, fries, and homemade hot sauce. For dessert we had strawberry rhubarb pie with homemade vanilla rum ice cream.

The staff at the winery were extremely accommodating (they opened on a Monday just for our group), friendly, and helpful. They let us sample as many wines as we wished, made suggestions, and poured the spirits freely! 
The Winery

Barrels of wine

More barrels 

charcuterie board + wine tasting

family-style bbq dinner

strawberry rhubarb pie and vanilla rum ice cream

Sunday, July 16, 2017

National Junior Culinary Exchange

Tomorrow I leave for the National Junior Culinary Exchange. This is a program offered each year to several junior chefs who successfully complete and pass the application process. It is basically a week long culinary convention with plenty of field trips, outings, great meals, tours, meet and greats with famous chefs, wine tastings, stages, and much more. Here is a sneak peak for the schedule of events in the upcoming week.

  • dinner at a winery
  • sugar training workshop
  • barrel and tank samplings
  • visiting an organic farm for lambs, pigs, and chickens
  • lunch and dinner at different vineyards
  • plant tour
  • goat tasting
  • garden tour
  • farm visit and milking
  • exploring the waterfalls
  • working with guest chefs
  • meet and greet with famous chef
  • visit to a farmer's market
  • cool climate chardonnay tour grand dinner
  • brunch at a vineyard
  • and much more!!!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Lemon Curd

Lemon Curd
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice 
1/3 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cubed

In a small saucepan, heat the lemon juice and sugar together until it comes to a boil and the sugar dissolves.
In a small bowl beat together the eggs.
Temper the eggs by slowly streaming in the hot lemon juice, whisking constantly. Pour back into the pot.
Return the pot to the stove and constantly whisk over low heat until the mixture has thickened.
Continue to whisk pretty constantly over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture has thickened. 
Stir in the butter until melted. 

This is a really easy lemon curd recipe to make - it doesn't take long at all and requires only four ingredients. It can be used in a variety of applications, and has a strong citrusy flavor.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Citrus Pound Cake

Citrus Pound Cake with a citrus syrup, lightly spiced whipped cream, and lemon curd. 
Citrus Pound Cake = flavored with lemon, lime, and orange
Citrus Syrup = reduction of orange juice and lime juice with sugar
Lightly Spiced Whipped Cream = flavored with ginger and nutmeg
Lemon Curd
Lime Twist
Fresh Mint Leaf

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Strawberry Chocolate Cheesecake Trifle

Here is a dessert special I did the other day for work just using leftovers we had around. It is basically a miniature trifle in a mason jar. On the bottom I put some small pieces of coconut cake. I topped that with a fresh local strawberry compote, followed by chocolate cheesecake cream, then a lemon cookie crumble and a fresh strawberry. This made for layers of contrasting flavors and textures. 

Chocolate Cheesecake Cream
Beat some cream cheese until smooth. Beat in some cocoa powder and sugar. Then gradually pour in some cream and keep whipping until the mixture is stiff. 
I don't have amounts for this recipe - but I would say it's about equal amounts cream cheese and whipping cream. Then add enough cocoa powder and sugar to flavor.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Brown Bread Ice Cream

Brown bread ice cream is an Irish thing - probably originating from the fact the Irish always seem to have leftover soda bread on hand and needed to come up with creative ways to use it. This way certainly is unique and quite tasty. You may be skeptical at first, but think of it as "Cinnamon Toast Crunch" ice cream, and it sounds a little better. Basically, that's what this is. It goes well with a variety of desserts and toppings too - sticky toffee pudding, strawberry shortcake, Eton mess, caramel sauce, banana splits, etc!
Caramelized Bread Crumbs
4 thick slices soda bread
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup salted butter, melted and browned slightly

For the Caramelized Bread Crumbs: Crumble the bread into a bowl. The crumbs should be no larger than a kernel of corn. Toss with the sugar and cinnamon, pour the butter over top and toss to coat.
Toast at 350F for 20-30 minutes, stirring every so often, until toasted and crisp. 

For the Brown Bread Ice Cream: Immediately after the ice cream comes out of the machine, fold in the bread crumbs until evenly distributed, then put ice cream in the freezer to firm up. You may do this in batches if required, and may not need all the crumbs. They can be saved for another time, used elsewhere, or snacked on.

Prepping Ahead: Ice cream base can be made a day in advance before churning.
Ice cream can be churned and will last in the freezer for at least a week. You can keep plain ice cream base on hand and stir in the crumbs when needed. You may need to soften the ice cream a bit prior to doing this.
Bread may be baked up to three days in advance before caramelizing.
Bread crumbs can be caramelized up to three days before being added to ice cream.

When freshly made, bread crumbs retain some of their crunch in the ice cream. They will soften over hours while the ice cream sits in the freezer. 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Ice Cream Base

This is a super easy, quick, and almost no-fail ice cream recipe to make. The base consists of only four ingredients, and you can have ice cream, from start to finish, in under 3 hours. The plain ice cream is tasty on its own, but the possibilities for flavorings are endless!

Ice Cream Base
2 cups milk
4 cups whipping cream (35%), divided
1 1/2 cups granulated (white) sugar, divided
12 large egg yolks

Place the milk, 2 cups cream, and 3/4 cup sugar in a pot and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool until just hot.
Beat the yolks and remaining 3/4 cup sugar in a large bowl until pale yellow in color.
Slowly temper in the hot milk mixture. Whisk in the remaining 2 cups of cold cream.
Chill mixture until cold, then process in an ice cream machine as directed by manufacturer. 

Steeping: For steeping flavors into the ice cream, add ingredients immediately after removing from heat, cover, and let sit for 30-60 minutes to steep.
Flavoring: Add ingredients along with second amount of cream.
Stir-ins: Fold into ice cream immediately after churning.


Steep: fresh gingerroot, fresh mint, coffee, tea, sesame seeds
Flavoring: vanilla beans, melted chocolate, cocoa powder, extracts, citrus zest, caramel, fruit purees, spices
Stir-Ins: bread crumbs, chocolate pieces, nuts, fruit pieces

Monday, July 10, 2017

Strawberry Pastry

It's strawberry season!! That means strawberry muffins, strawberry crisps, strawberry pies, fresh strawberries out of hand, and the classic strawberry shortcake. This is a little dessert I made tonight from my mother's request. It could be considered a type of strawberry shortcake. It consists of my infamous homemade puff pastry - the one I used for vol-au-vent, mini pastries, appetizers, pot pies, mille fueilles, and more. I cut them into thick squares and baked them for this recipe. I then split the squares in half horizontally, and topped with whipped cream and fresh, sweetened strawberry pieces. Add a sprinkle of cinnamon on top and have a delicious strawberry treat!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Bailey's Buttercream Frosting

Bailey's - or Irish cream liqueur - is some kind of magical. I don't know exactly what makes it so smooth, sweet, delicious, and easy to drink, but it must be some kind of good Irish witchcraft!
Bailey's is great as a shot alone, but it is most commonly used as an add-in to coffee, or in baked goods such as cheesecake or truffles. What I recently discovered is Bailey's makes an excellent addition to a regular buttercream frosting. It replaces the milk for thinning the frosting out and bringing it to consistency, and adds a deep, rich flavor. I think the fat and sugar in the frosting help to cut some of that alcohol, so you don't get that burning, raw alcohol flavor from the frosting either. The only potential drawback is the Bailey's colors the frosting quite a bit, so you won't end up with a white frosting in the end. The Bailey's flavors the frosting so well, I didn't even add vanilla or almond extract to this one!

Bailey's Buttercream Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 kg icing (confectioner's sugar)
Bailey's original Irish cream liqueur, as needed

Whip the butter until soft and pliable. Gradually sift in the icing sugar, beating until combined. Once the mixture starts to become thick and stiff, start gradually adding in some Bailey's as needed to reach desired consistency. 
Use to frost cake, cookies, cupcakes, brownies, or whatever else as needed. It is best to use the frosting right away, but the Bailey's does help to keep it softer than a regular buttercream. Just try not to sample too much during the process and get tipsy!!

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Chocolate Stout Cake

This is the recipe I used for my chocolate stout birthday cake. It is a moist, versatile dark chocolate cake. The addition of stout gives the cake a slightly pleasant bitter, beery flavor.

Chocolate Stout Cake
4 cups granulated (white) sugar
3 ½ cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1 ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant coffee
1 cup buttermilk
3 cups stout beer
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350◦F and grease four 8-inch round baking pans.
In a large bowl, sift together the sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and coffee.
Make a well in the center.
In a separate bowl, whisk together milk, beer, oil, eggs, and vanilla;
Add wet ingredients to dry, and beat until well combined. This will form a smooth, thin batter.
Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake 30-35 minutes until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then remove from pans to a wire rack to cool completely before

Friday, July 07, 2017

Pouring Beer Stein Cake

The pub where I work recently celebrated their fifth birthday, from the day they first opened their doors. We had a big celebration during service that night  - a live shucking oyster bar, special appetizers and beer pairings, live music, and of course, cake. The owner asked me to make the cake, which they would be serving to customers late in the evening for free. She did not give me a lot of guidance for the cake - mostly left it up to me. Just said that the restaurant seats 60, and we expected a full house plus for the party. Because I wanted to make sure the cake met her approval, I did give her a few samples beforehand, but didn't share my design. I spend over a week planning the cake and was very happy with how it turned out in the end.

I made a chocolate stout cake using the stout beer we brew in house. Then I made a Bailey's Irish Cream buttercream frosting to go with it. The cake was my standard chocolate cake recipe with the substitution of stout for coffee. Then my signature buttercream frosting for filling, frosting, decorating and piping - except this time I used Bailey's Irish Cream instead of milk for the liquid, for a very rich (and alcoholic, in a good way). I also made some of my candy clay/modelling chocolate for the handle and stability in the hidden pipe (under the buttercream foam).

So my cake was designed to look like a beer stein - it's an eight inch round four layer cake frosted in 'beer colored' buttercream, a candy clay handle, and some white buttercream foam on top. Then I covered a pipe inserted into the center of the cake, at an angle, with candy clay and buttercream. This pipe supported the beer can making it look like the can was being poured into the cake. I finished off the cake with a little green inscription. The cake was very well received - in fact the 50 or so pieces I cut from it disappeared very quickly, and some people were amazed by how the beer can was 'levitating'.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Potato Pancakes

When you are looking for a different type of pancake or unique potato side dish - this is the one! Even easier than it sounds. 

Soft Potato Cakes
1 cup hot mashed potatoes
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup grated raw potato
1 cup all-purpose (plain) flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until well combined (you may need to knead the mixture with your hands).
Form the mixture into small balls about the size of golf balls. Flatten into large, flat pancakes.
Fry in hot oil until golden on both sides.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Pecan Jam Thumbprint Cookies

These are a real special cookie (read: tedious and time-consuming). They look great on a Christmas cookie platter, next to a cup of tea, or with a glass of milk. Use any type of nut and jam you wish! Pictured here are pecan and strawberry. 
Pecan Jam Thumbprint Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
2 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
pinch salt
1 cup chopped pecans
jam of choice

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the egg yolks and vanilla. Stir in flour and salt. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350◦F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
Roll dough into one inch balls, dip in egg white, then roll in nuts Place on prepared baking sheets.
Make an indentation in the center and fill with 1/2 teaspoon jam.
Bake for 12-15 minutes until cookies are set.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Muffins
1 3/4 cups all-purpose (plain) flour
1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk
1/4 cup oil
1 large egg
Preheat oven to 400◦F. Line muffin cups with paper liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the first five dry ingredients. Make a well in the center.
Whisk together the remaining three liquid ingredients and poor in the well. Mix until just combined. Fill cups 3/4 full and bake for 20-25 minutes until muffins text clean.

Monday, July 03, 2017

Cilantro Walnut Pesto

Sure, pesto is supposed to consist of basil and pine nuts and even contain some garlic and Parmesan cheese. Forget about the rules, I have made pesto with many different herbs. Whatever herb I have left lying around, no longer in its prime state, is what I use to make pesto. Also whatever nut I have on hand. Pine nuts are crazy expensive and not that tasty in flavor. Also whatever oil is nearest; doesn't have to be olive. Basically for me pesto = nut pureed with oil + herb + seasoning, That's it. And it's delicious every time. 
one bunch leftover cilantro
one handful walnuts
a few drizzles of oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Blender, food processor, robo coup, mortar and pestle, really good potato masher - whatever you've got!

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Crispy Fried Onions

These fried onions are one of my go-to garnishes. Fast, easy, and always tasty. Simply slice an white onion (or more than one, depending upon how much you want) into thin rounds (or half rounds, if you prefer). Place them in a plastic bag and coat them thoroughly with a small amount of all-purpose flour. You can also add any spices and seasonings to the flour as you wish. Drop the onions (in batches as necessary) into hot oil. I always use a small amount of oil in a pot on the stove to do this. A deep-fryer could also be used. I don't know what temperature the oil should be and I don't think it matters too much. As long as it sizzles when you drop an onion piece in it it is good to go. Stir the onions around very once in a while so they cook more evenly. Drain them on paper towels once they are golden and crisp. Sprinkle with a little salt and enjoy as a snack, side, or garnish.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Giant Potato Roesti

Roesti consists primarily of grated potato and is very easy to make. Even faster and easier if you have a grating machine, but much more fun if you grate the potatoes by hand. Roestis can be made as one big pan and then cut, or formed as individual servings and then cooked. They are typically flavored with salt, pepper, and sometimes onion or shallot, but I added a little extra flavoring. And of course the key is to cook in plenty of oil or butter.
Giant Potato Roesti
2 large baking potatoes, peeled and grated on a cheese grater (or use a machine if you have one)
salt and pepper
garlic powder
dried cilantro
soy sauce
hot chili sauce
about 1/2 cup all purpose flour

Make sure the potatoes don't have any excess moisture. Then mix together with all the ingredients, seasoning as desired. To check for seasoning, fry a teaspoon of the mixture in oil until cooked and taste. Check the consistency, you should be able to grab a fistful of the mixture and have it stick together in a ball. If it is still too wet, add more flour as needed. 

Coat a large frying pan with oil. Pat the potato mixture evenly into the pan. Cook over medium heat until bottom is browned. Carefully flip to the other side and cook again until browned. Then place on a baking sheet and bake at 425F until inside is cooked through. Cut into wedges and enjoy!