Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rhodes Mezzanine Cooking Class - 27 July 2010

As a birthday treat we went to Rhodes Master Cooking Class today in Rhodes Mezzanine. The restaurant which Michelin star Chef Gary Rhodes took over couple of years ago. This was the first time we were joining to such an event; in fact this was our first cooking class. Besides the incredible meals we cooked (was assisted to cook), we were so impressed by the kitchen atmosphere, in the back of our minds we’re ready to leave our professions, go to cooking school and start all over again. The equipment, the set up, the team work, the smells, the colors, actually feeling the food, even the heat, I genuinely felt I was made for this. But of course this was in the middle of the day when the restaurant is closed so there was no stress in the kitchen. We got the whole attention of our Chef and his team and pampered and assisted so I know this is no way closer to real kitchen environment but we felt the positive energy and peace in there.

So the day started with a warm welcome by the Chef Paul and the restaurant manager Natissa with a beautifully set up table, fresh croissants and bakeries and champagnes on it. There were four of us as students. After 45 minutes of general conversation about cooking, Gary Rhodes and Dubai, we put our aprons and hats on and went into the kitchen. First we started with the dessert of the menu (raspberry soufflé), prepared it and put it in the fridge for waiting to be put in the oven after the main course. We got couple of tricks here (as we tried couple of times before mostly unsuccessful soufflés). The key is to distribute the right amount of butter in the ramekins properly - you brush the butter in the ramekins in such a way that every corner of the ramekin should taste the butter and take the excess with upward strokes around the edges. Hence no less no more but everywhere. By the way as we already knew it butter is the key to cooking! And the other crucial element in soufflé making is filling the ramekin with the mixture in a way that there won’t be any air bubbles; you pat the mixture in the ramekin to make sure there is no bubble.

Then we went on to cooking our starter – broad bean soup with poached eggs. The key thing we got here is actually making the perfect poached eggs! As we would never thought of poaching the eggs in a very large pot and let it swim. Ah and don’t forget to add a little bit of vinegar in the water. And the eggs should be really really fresh. The freshness test can be done by breaking the eggs into a small cup and check the wateriness of its white. The more watery the less fresh. And if you use a not so fresh egg you’ll probably fail. The soup was wonderful and this recipe can be used with any other vegetable. We had a really nice Chardonnay from Chile (I’m generally not a Chardonnay fan but I really liked this one).

And then comes the salmon on top of spinach with a caviar-champagne sauce around. Finally we got the main trick for pan-frying the fish (other than for tuna of course). To be honest our pan-fried fishes are generally ok but I don’t think you can go wrong doing like this. First of all either with skin or without (our salmon was with skin), you pat some flour on the presentation side of the fish (if there is skin, skin side is the presentation side) and then brush it with butter, put some olive oil on a warm pan (NOT hot!) and fry the fish on the presentation side 70% of the time, see the color is changing starting from the bottom and after the color change is more than halfway through, turn the fish upside down and cook 30% of the time. In total it should be about 6 minutes for a normal size salmon fillet (but not the super thin ones). Just perfect, crispy on the outside, translucent in the middle (isn’t this what all the cook books say – make sure the salmon is translucent in the middle!). And sea bream, sea bass, halibut, all these types of fish can be cooked the same way. And with caviar sprinkled champagne sauce (which is simply butter, shallots, cream, champagne and caviar) around the buttered spinach, our main meal was superb. And we drank the remaining Champagne that we used for the sauce.

As we finished the salmon and starting to feel full but excited at the same time for our soufflés, they are put in the oven for 10 minutes (for normal size ramekins, for small size 8 minutes and for big size 12 minutes).  Of course we were all amazed with the result as almost all of them came out like big mushroom explosions. With raspberry sauce and raspberry sorbet on the side the soufflé was probably one of the best we’ve ever eaten. And again we were spoiled by a beautiful sweet wine from Chile (which I’m again surprised by myself as I really don’t like sweet wine). 

Today was like a dream thanks to Rhodes Mezzanine Chef and his team for sharing their knowledge with us in their kitchen and Natissa who really took care of us, taking our pictures and enlightening us about the wines. As Anton Ego said at the end of Ratatouille: We will be back at Rhodes Mezzanine, hungry for more!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Spaghetti with parsnip and pancetta - 26 July 2010

After a night of lots of wine and champagne, i can't think of better option than a tasty, filling pasta. This simple pasta dish from Jamie Oliver takes no more than 10 minutes of cooking and this unusual combination of parsnip and bacon is delicious but the real key is the herbs. We used both rosemary and thyme. And it went so well with yesterday's Turkish delight dessert.

Parsnip and Pancetta Pasta -

Small Birthday Party - 25 July 2010

We decided to call a few people for cheese, cold cuts and wine for tonight. When we do small get-togethers like this we have some couple of tapas-like dishes we prepare besides usual cheese and cold cut platter - cheese quesadilla, tuna salad on toast and Spanish bruschetta. For cheese quesadilla, we simply prepare a mixture of feta cheese, mozzarella cheese and chopped coriander for filling. We put the filling in the middle of two tortillas. Blend a handful of deseeded black olives (kalamata or any other nice black olives) and olive oil in blender and make a paste. You can add some chili if you like spicy. Spread this olive paste on top of the tortilla and put it in the oven for about 15 minutes. We generally prepare three of these quesadillas (six tortillas) for small gatherings. 
Tuna salad is very typical – mixing canned tuna (the one in olive oil but discarding the oil), light mayonnaise, capers, spring onion and sweet corn. And as bread we simply toast slices of white / whole wheat baguette, take a big clove of garlic and rub the garlic on top (Spanish style - just to give flavor) and take one half of a big red tomato and do the same. Perfect for cheese and cold cuts, and tuna as well.

By the way the dessert I mentioned in the previous post turned out to be delicious. It became the birthday cake of this year. And everybody liked it.  Perfect for summer as it is like ice cream and its waiting in the freezer and I’m looking forward to eating it after dinner tonight.

Birthday Pancakes - 25 July 2010

Woke up with Asli this morning feeling a lot better but still fluish. While she is watching mickey mouse, I made the best and simplest pancakes (guess from where!). As always with pancakes the first two got a bit heavy as I think I put too much butter. Only a knob to cover the pan should be enough. With honey, toasted almonds on top of the pancakes and mascarpone cheese on the side and of course strong black coffee - all on the bed-breakfast tray… perfect way to start a beautiful day or a birthday!

Chicken vermicelli soup for flu – 24 July 2010

In our family whenever someone starts sneezing, coughing, getting flu, immediately all the chicken legs, thighs, wings (whatever part of chicken we can find in the freezer) goes to the largest pot with two celery sticks, one carrot, two small zucchinis, one onion, a small bunch of parsley, a handful of green beans (if you have) – all vegetables will be cooked as whole pieces (we discard them after cooking). And we cook it with water. After everything is cooked (for about 45 minutes), we take out everything (or use sieve to take apart the broth), slice the chicken, fry a handful of vermicelli in butter briefly in a separate pan and put it in the broth with the chicken pieces (before combining the pasta and chicken with the broth, you can keep aside some of the broth and freeze it for near future).  Season the soup with salt and pepper and boil it shortly. And it’s ready with a slice of toasted bread on the side. You can drizzle with a little bit of olive oil if you wish. Afterwards, take a cold tablet or aspirin C and go to bed. Most probably you’ll feel much better in the morning. Well at least I’m feeling much better this morning (25 July). I better be as today is Alp’s birthday!

Summer Salmon Cake - 23 July 2010

On the weekend, we craved for a light seafood dish.  I came across this recipe in recently from Gourmet. We’ve done salmon fishcake before but this one seemed lighter to us especially with the fennel-zucchini coleslaw on the side which makes the dish really fresh and summery. It was delicious, I can say, although it doesn’t seem very charming on the photo above. And the fennels look like chicken! (I think I have to improve my food photographing techniques, eventually we’ll get there, I hope!). Alp fried the fish and he says it needed something to hold the cake together (like eggs). The fennels should have been sliced thinner (we could use a parmesan shaver) and although we used half the mayonnaise, the sauce was strong. However with a glass of petits chablin for each we were really satisfied with our dinner. And guess what we watched (again!) on dvd afterwards? ‘Julie&Julia’ and we felt somewhat overwhelmed. The movie is wonderful of course. One of the favorite top 10 list.
Next morning, I wanted to try to make a dessert (probably I made less than 10 desserts in my life half of it gone to garbage directly!) I’ve seen in good old ‘Comfort’ cook book by Tina Bester (link). The only reason being is I wanted to use the Turkish delight box which came from Turkey before the expiry date! And this recipe includes almost whole 250 gr box of Turkish delight (as chopped). And it should be kept in the freezer overnight. Hence we’ll see how it will be like at Alp’s birthday celebration tomorrow night! We’ll keep it posted.

Quick Chicken Sandwich before movies - 22 July 2010

I don’t know about you but we generally suffer to find something to eat in the mall before going to cinemas. As we have 10-15 minutes maximum before the movie starts plus add another 5 minutes waiting time in popcorn queue (this is a must) hence popcorn generally becomes the dinner. Well at least for me. Alp gets the tasty, healthy hotdog from the counter!
This time, we made a quick chicken sandwich from ‘Comfort’ (what would we eat if Susie hasn’t sent this to us!). The chicken breast is crusted with parmesan and cooked in the oven for half an hour.  And the sandwich is ready with a fresh white baguette…Delicious and nutritious with a bottle of beer (not if you’re driving to go to the movies!) Unfortunately it looks like a normal chicken burger in the photos. Hence we didn’t bother to upload it. Ah, we watched a good action movie ‘Salt’. A fun one and a half hours. Like a female version of Born Identity series with an out of this world female!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Steak Sandwich with Mustard Butter and Caramelized Onion

This is our third post since we decided to start our blog couple of days ago. Hence, here is a little bit of background. Why we want to blog? First of all we wanted to motivate ourselves, as we are lazy cooks, not to be lazy after coming home from work every night and do what we really love to do – to cook! Also, we always wanted to record what we’re cooking to ourselves and to friends and family. So basically this blog will initially be for us as a cooking diary and a motivation tool. And eventually it may become a medium to communicate with the outside world.  Since I am (Nurbanu) a keen blog reader, I think blogs are a wonderful way to share our experience, thoughts and ideas.

So, tonight we cooked from a lovely cook book which is a gift from our lovely friends Susie and Mike. The Book is ‘Comfort’ by Tina Bester. She has a beautiful, happy restaurant in Cape Town called Queen of Tarts which, if I’m not wrong, we have been to five years ago while we were there with our same friends.

We (I mean Alp) prepared the mustard butter which is the crucial element in this dish along with the caramelized onions and grilled the steaks, while I prepared the mixed salad with fennels, avocado, herbs and feta with a balsamic dressing (as the story teller of the family, I have commitments before our daughter goes to sleep while Alp, as the chef of our family, starts cooking. So generally I make the salad which is actually one of my favorite activities). We were too late to make the beer bread when we started cooking (this recipe was a last minute idea) hence we used fresh white baguette instead. Result was amazing with a bottle of beer for each of us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Slow cooked lamb with green peas in vegetable broth

Tonight's dish was a bit more traditional. We cooked lamb with peas in vegetable broth with fennels. Plain rice as side dish. The recipe is from good old Ekrem Yegen!
Tonight we cooked ‘crispy fried salmon with vegetable broth’ from Jamie’s kitchen - with brown rice accompanying. Great recipe. Simple and delicious. The vegetable broth turned out to be superb so we’re saving it for tomorrow night’s dish.