Wednesday, November 23, 2011

20 Questions with Gourmet Goddess

I am frequently asked questions about cooking and my thoughts on various other food related stuff, so this week I thought I would answer a few of the most commonly asked ones. So ladies and gentlemen, welcome to...... 20 Questions with Gourmet Goddess!

1. What is your earliest food memory?
Being a young kid and sitting at our kitchen table, eating prawns and Blue Manna Crab still steaming hot, pulled right from the boiling water with bread and butter and vinegar. We used newspapers as placemats and then used them to wrap up all the shells afterwards. It was summer in W.A and we would go prawning in along the Swan River at night and bring home our catch which would be cooked right away. I remember how fresh and beautiful the prawns were and how I got to stay up late on a "prawn night". Bonus!

2. What is your greatest culinary “guilty pleasure”?
A Chiko Roll. I adore them (and yes, I know how wrong that is!)

3. Gas or electricity?
I prefer to cook with gas. I find electricity really hard to control as effectively. Unfortunately I’m stuck with an electric stove, so I just have to put up with it! My very favourite form of cooking is actually outside, over coals. Nothing tastes better than food cooked that way.

4. Favourite chef?
I mean, do you really have to ask? Heston Blumenthal of course. A true culinary alchemist and constant inspiration.

5. Most overrated chef?
Donna Hay. Tying a pastel coloured doily and some raffia around a cupcake does not a chef make.

6. What are your pantry must haves?
Olive oil, capers, good quality Italian tomatoes, Maldon sea salt, Kampot pepper, anchovies, kalamata olives, good quality ready made stock – and a few pots of fresh herbs at the back door.

7. Guests arrive unexpectedly, the fridge is practically empty and there’s no time to go to the shops. What do you serve?
Spaghetti from the pantry, cooked till al dente and served in a gigantic shared bowl with a simple sauce of fresh herbs from the garden, garlic, chilli, fruity extra virgin olive oil and plenty of freshly grated parmesan.

8. What is your favourite comfort food?
Lasagne, with crispy edges and plenty of bechemel sauce. And when I'm unwell? A big bowl of fragrant Vietnamese Pho with plenty of fresh chilli. It never fails to make me feel better.

9. Most misused/overused ingredient?
Sweet chilli sauce. It isn’t the only condiment people!! Stop glugging it onto everything. (I know a local pub that even serves it on their nachos. Ewwww!) And second in the misused catergory - truffle oil – it may make your dish sound a bit more posh, but it is a very distinct flavour that needs to be paired with other ingredients carefully. Beautiful when you get it right – hideous if you get it wrong. And most people unfortunately get it wrong.

10. Best meal you’ve eaten in the last year?
The degustation menu at Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant, The Fat Duck. It was a magical mystery tour that changed how I look at food forever.

11. Biggest restaurant gripe?
Restaurant patrons who treat wait staff like dirt. Just because you are paying for a meal doesn’t give you the right to treat the people serving you like some kind of indentured servant. If you want something or aren’t happy about something, expressing this calmly and politely will usually do the trick. From my observations, the worst culprits for treating wait staff badly seem to be middle aged “professional” men in high end restaurants, doing an “alpha male” turn. Please note gentlemen- speaking to staff in a condescending tone, or just being plain rude doesn’t make you look like a big man. Just an ignorant dickhead.

12. Favourite cooking show?
Gourmet Farmer (SBS) I was completely riveted by the adventures of food critic Matthew Evans as he began life on the land in Tasmania. Self sufficiency, beautiful, honest food and that stunning scenery has me glued to the TV every Thursday night. It has also prompted a planned trip to Tasmania and an overwhelming desire to acquire piglets.

13. Sweet or Savoury?
Savoury hands down. Salt in particular – I just love salty flavours. I could happily give up all things sweet forever if I had to.

14. What culinary skill would you most like to add to your repertoire?
Cheese making – and I plan to make this a reality in 2012.

15. “Masterchef” – appalling reality TV or inspirational?
A bit of both actually. I love that the show has got people more interested in cooking and food, particularly kids. I love that it celebrates cooking as a creative outlet. I also love seeing some of my favourite chefs alongside the contestants doing their thing. But there are lots of niggles - primarily the insane level of product placement, followed by the histrionic outbursts of the contestants. I vote that they bring in a rule that if you start blubbering, you get disqualified instantly! Chefs don’t cry. I mean, do you see Peter Gilmore sobbing over his snow egg or Tetsuya having a weep as he plates up his confit ocean trout? No. More cooking, less crying folks! Then there is the infuriating dragging out and then recapping of…… every….. single…… moment, followed by endless commercial breaks. It was this that has ultimately made me lose interest in the show. That and the random guest choices – case in point, the Dalai Lama. What were they thinking? It trivialised him and came across as tacky and cringe worthy. A bit of respect please.

16. Favourite drink?
When I can get it, Cape Grimm sparkling rain water from Tasmania. I have never tasted sparkling water so pure and delicious in my life. And when I can’t get it? Sydney tap water made fizzy by the magic that is the Soda Stream. You thought I was going to say booze, didn’t you?

17. Do you ever get sick of cooking?
Very, very rarely. That’s when I remember that home delivery was invented for a reason.

18. Biggest mistake home cooks make?
Under seasoning food. A bit of judicious seasoning can turn a dish from bland and nothing special to delicious. I think people are too scared of salt and pepper these days. Just taste as you go and you can’t go wrong.

19. Food philosophy?
Firstly, eat seasonal produce – it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, the quality is better and you get the pleasure of experiencing the change of the seasons. We were never meant to eat the same food all year round. Secondly, support local producers - not the big name supermarkets - wherever you can. It helps the local economy, it means that your food hasn’t travelled as far to get to you (meaning a lighter carbon footprint and better quality food) and you are more likely to be able to trace the provenance of the food you eat, which means you can make informed choices about what you are consuming.

20. What would your last meal be?
A menu cooked by Heston Blumenthal, with all the thrills, spills, dramatic presentation and culinary excitement he could muster. Something to shake up all of my senses and go out with a bang!


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