09 July 2011

July 2011- Masterchef (Australia) Masterclass

Our Cooking Club offerings this month, were selected from Masterchef Australia's cache of Masterclasses. We also invited a special guest, chef Cyndi Blake, to join us - not so much for a critique-but more because we figured that when one is a chef, one might not receive as many dinner party invitations for fear of having to live up to (usually perceived) expectations! We first met the lovely Cyndi when we all attended a cooking class she was hosting. I think most of us still apply a lot of the tips and tricks she taught us that night. Thank you Cyndi!

So here's how we started things off - CookV's Pina Colada's!! I'd forgotten how fabulously creamy and pineappl-ey fragrant this retro-ish cocktail is! A couple of large pineapples were blitzed to a pulp before coconut milk and fresh lime juice was added. Then it was up to each of us to add however much rum we wanted. Those glowing little red orbs of maraschino cherry and pineapple garnish perched coolly on the rims made me forget, even if just for one minute, that it was actually about 13 degrees outside on a bitterly cold winter's eve! Get the recipe here http://www.masterchef.com.au/pina-colada.htm

Then onto CookB's starter of "Four Textures of Corn". I love the idea of showcasing a single ingredient so many different ways, in one dish. It looked spectacular, the naturally vibrant sunshine yellow of the corn - makes you happy just looking at it. If you'd like to try it, have a look here : http://www.masterchef.com.au/four-textures-of-corn.htm
I think our version looks much prettier (sorry, George!) and it tasted of summer. The four elements were a corn custard (shown in the middle, shaped like a cone), corn puree, popped corn annointed with saffron butter and a roasted corn and smoked almond salad. YUM.

For mains - well, the dish was SUPPOSED to be "Steamed Crab Filled Baby Calamari" http://www.masterchef.com.au/steamed-crab-filled-baby-calamari.htm The other elements of the plate include candied tomatoes, spiced cucumbers, black olive paste, potato 'chips', basil seed cream and baccala mantecato (salt cod paste)

CookEl produced the first two elements beautifully, they looked exactly as in the picture. The rest was up to me. Problems: 1. there was no fresh, quality crab available at the two reputable fishmongers closest to me; 2. basil seeds? I knew they were used more widely in Thai cooking but left too much to the last minute and was not able to source them on time and, 3. I forgot that you need 48 hours to rehydrate baccala!!

In the end, a mixture of prawns and scallops replaced the crab. It was OK, but nowhere near as delicate as crab would have been. The basil seed cream just got left out, and I decided to make a 'brandade' of sorts using smoked herrings in place of the baccala but stirred through some mashed potato to absorb some of the saltiness. Quite delicious, but you certainly couldn't have a great big wodge of it o the side, as the recipe suggests. In all, I think it was fine but certainly not a very good representation of the original dish.

Finally, my favourite part of any meal, dessert! CookA's Pear Frangipane Tart finished things on a high. Delicate but perfectly poached, spiced pears crowning the almondy, sticky frangipane inside a short, crisp sweet pastry shell. A tumble of spun sugar and a quenelle of creme fraiche rounded it all of rather nicely. Need I say more?? Try it yourself http://www.masterchef.com.au/pear-frangipane-tart.htm

Watch this space for next month's installation as we all flick the switch on the left brain and think outside the square, Heston-style...