Sunday, November 7, 2010

Take Home Chef - Curtis Stone

To foodies and avid cooks, Curtis Stone is a familiar name. I had a close encounter with the famous chef yesterday when I attended "A special cooking class with this celebrity chefs Curtis Stone and Sama Ahad", which was part of Singapore Sun Festival. It was a very special cooking class and demonstration with Australia's own "Take Home Chef" Curtis Stone and Singapore's own celebrity chef and host of the very popular television show "The Food Bachelor", Samia Ahad. The cooking demo took place at Coriander Leaf Restaurant, located at Clarke Quay (for party animals out there, this resto is right next to Attica).

It was really interesting to see these two outstanding chefs come together in the kitchen to create dishes using the same produce and ingredients but infusing their own individual styles and methods. It was a really enjoyable (would be perfect if not for the freezing cold air-conditioning) cooking demo as I learnt lots of new tricks and picked up some inspirations.

For those who are not familiar with Curtis Stone, he is a master chef, author and host of TLC’s hit series Take Home Chef. He began cooking at the Savoy Hotel, in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia, at the age of 18. On completing his qualifications as a chef, he set off for Europe to experience life and the cuisines of Italy, France and Spain, before finally arriving in London. In London, he worked for the legendary Marco Pierre White (who's the youngest chef in the world to be awarded three Michelin stars). He also worked with Terence Conran to relaunch the famous Bluebird Club in London’s Chelsea district.

Curtis looks better in person than on tv. He is fun and entertaining, genuinely nice and down to earth. He is definitely a chef that everyone wants to take home. I wish he would open a restaurant or film a series of "Take Home Chef" in Singapore .

We might not be able to take Curtis home with us, but we took home a signed copy of his cookbook. The recipes are simple to follow and Curtis stays true to his cooking philosophy: keep things simple and use naturally produced ingredients that are in season. "If you get your hands on good ingredients and treat them properly, you don’t need to do much," he says.

Here's what we learnt and ate...

ROUND 1 : Mozzarella

Deep-fried Aubergine and Mozzarella with Basil - by Curtis Stone
This is a really simple dish that is really delicious and makes a great appetiser. This is definitely love at first taste and I am going to try making it this week. Curtis wanted to show that Mozzarella tastes good when cooked too. A great departure from the usual caprese salad.

Roasted Cherry Tomato, Pomegranate and Mozzarella Salad - by Samia Ahad
This is a great salad that you friend will be impressed with. The slow roasted tomatoes is a refreshing change to the usual raw tomatoes.

ROUND 2 : Okra (a.k.a Lady's Finger)

Brazilian-Style Chicken with Okra - by Curtis Stone
A good hearty dish that can go well with rice, potatoes or pasta. You can also substitute the chicken with fish, lamb, quail, or grilled portobello mushrooms for a vegetarian option.

Roasted Okra with Shallots in Tomato Sauce - by Samia Ahad
This is the best okra dish I have ever tasted! Healthy and delicious, I will try to make this dish soon. Samia also gave some tips on cooking okra. She said best to buy okras that are small and skinny and avoid the big fat ones. Okra must be dry when cooking, and they are best cooked whole, as cutting them will induce the slime from the seeds.

ROUND 3 : Lentil

Petite Sale Lentils with Duck Confit - by Curtis Stone
Love the duck confit, but not a fan of lentils in such huge proportion.

Tagliatelle with Lentils and Crispy Fried Coriander - by Samia Ahad
Half of the portion of lentils was made into a paste to make the paste stick. The remaining portion were left whole to create texture. It was also interesting to see Samia break the tagliatelle into bite-size for this dish.

ROUND 4 : Seafood

Tagliatelle of Crab and Chilli - by Curtis Stone
According to Curtis, a slab of butter tossed with the pasta makes the dish perfect. I personally practice this rule.

Shrimp Pilaf with Kesba Spices and Yogurt Cucumber Relish - by Samia Ahad

This is not the actual dish that we had as I was so hungry I forgot to take a picture of the pilaf. I learnt the difference between bryani and pilaf. Bryani is when 2 components (rice and a meat/seafood) are cooked separately but layered together when eating while pilaf is when the 2 components are cooked together.

Yogurt Cucumber Relish - by Samia Ahad
This is good with the pilaf rice dish or as a dip. Light and refreshing. Perfect for the tropical heat.

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