Master Chef…….Master Class………….master That!

Masterchef Australia has had South African foodies glued to their seats every night for the last couple of months and although it was an old 2009 edition, it showed us all what is possible if you have a passion that drives you. The grand finale had me in tears ( according to Twitter,I don’t think I was the only one though) but I think Julie is worthy of the title.
She gives us little people hope that if you apply yourself and dream big, anything is possible…even a career in the food industry!
In my attempts to move a little closer to my goal of becoming a master chef even if it is only in my own kitchen, mastering a dinner for my family, I attended a master class by chef Neill Anthony on Saturday! Now, I have to say right away that I am always reluctant to go to these classes, because I seldom learn something I do not know already. I do however have great respect for Juno from Scrumptious South Africa as a cook and I know that she likes to challenge herself in the kitchen, so when she invited us all, I knew it had to be something good, otherwise she will just not do it.

 Chef Neill Anthony showing off his skill

The class was everything I had hoped it would be, entertaining, informative, informal and just what I needed to give me that nudge in the right direction. Apart from all the amazing recipes and techniques that Neil demonstrated, I walked away from the class, having new respect for prep work and attention to detail when doing so. Even the most intricate recipes become do-able when it is broken down into easy, logic steps.  I also walked away with lovely products from The Smoking Shed, Verlague and Willow Creek. Thank you all for a most enjoyable experience.

 Plating up…we cannot wait a second longer!
First up was hand-made ravioli and tortellini with a baby spinach, ricotta and liquid egg-yolk filling, served with a butternut purée and an onion and milk froth. Neil explained all the do’s and don’ts when making fresh pasta and again to me it was invaluable, because it is information that you seldom read in a recipe book.
Hand-made ravioli and tortellini with a baby spinach, ricotta and liquid egg-yolk filling

Next up was the Norwegian salmon with baby beetroot, whole white beans and puréed beans with tarragon. To watch Neil meticulously filleting the salmon was truly awe-inspiring. Again..detail, detail, detail!

 Salmon Fillets

The meal ended with a totally decadent Prune and Brandy Souffle. Even here I learned a few “tricks of the trade” and I cannot wait to try it! For more elaborate reviews of this most enjoyable event, you can visit Scrumptious South Africa or Drizzle and Dip.

Now you may ask, why am I carrying on about Master Chef and Master classes? The thing is, I like to challenge myself in the kitchen. Always trying new flavors, textures and methods. That is why I can boldly say that in the 3 years since I started this blog, my family has not had exactly the same meal twice. I always add a new ingredient, a different tweak. So if you don’t like change, my kitchen is probably the wrong place to come to!
The salad that I am going to show you to day is a result of  two methods/recipes that I saw on Masterchef  Australia that really fascinated me.  The first being a sous vida technique that George Calombaris showed in on of the episodes, cooking a piece of pork belly. The other is the simple Apple vinaigrette that Gary Mehigan made in the second last show.
Pork and apple is a classic combination and to me it was just simple maths to combine these two elements in the same dish. For those of you who do not know, in short sous vide  is a process of cooking food at a very tightly controlled temperature, for a very long time. Food cooked in the sous vide style is vacuum sealed, so when it is cooked it does  not lose any of the moisture or flavor, compared to braising, where most of the flavor is transferred to the sauce. It was quite a tedious process and it is hardly something I would do on a daily basis, but it was fun exploring a new technique. I am sure you can roast the pork in the oven and have good results too.
This is the method I used:
Wrap the pork in layers of cling wrap and then 2 layers of tin foil.

Place a pot of water on the stove with a thermometer 

After the pork has cooked, remove from water and cool down.

Pork Belly Apple and Broad bean Salad with a sour Apple and Blueberry Vinaigrette
Serves 4


500gr lightly smoked Pork Belly
1 tsp fennel
1 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp brown sugar

Mix the spices and rub it into the pork. Use clingfilm and wrap the pork very tightly in a few layers of plastic. After the plastic, wrap the pork in a layer of tinfoil, like a parcel and secure with elastic. Fill a biggish pot with water and place the pork in the water, weighing it down with a river stone or something heavy. Place your thermometer in the water and slowly heat until it reaches 100C. The temperature must never go below or beyond 100 C, so regulate it by switching off the heat or adding cold water now and then. This process goes on for about 6 hours. After 6 hours, remove pork from the water and cool down. When you are ready to use it, unwrap it and brown it slightly in a hot pan. Slice into cubes and use for your salad!

For the Salad dressing

1 big Granny Smith apples – must be green apples
125 gr fresh blue berries
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp sugar
about 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Take the apple, cut in chunks and push through a juice extractor. The juice has a lovely luminous color. Quickly add the other ingredients and mix. Make this at the very last minute, because it does use it’s beautiful color.

For the Salad

1 pillow bag fresh wild rocket
1 small punnet broad beans – blanched and shelled
about 8 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
the belly pork cubes
1 granny smith apple
2 red spring onions 

First you have to make the Parmesan crisps. Spray a baking sheet with some non stick spray and scatter the cheese in four long strips, about 5cm wide and 15cm long. Place in a hot oven and allow to melt and brown slightly. When it is ready, remove the pan from the oven and rest for a few seconds. Roll the cheese up as seen on the photo or just break into crisps.
Now start to assemble your salad by placing some rocket on a plate. Place the cheese curl on top of the rocket and surround it with cubes of pork belly, broad beans and spring onions. Just before serving, drizzle the luminous sour apple dressing over the salad and dig in. Your taste buds will explode, I promise.

So, what have I learned from Masterchef and  the masterclass? I have learned that:

-NOTHING is impossible if broken down into easier steps.
-exploring in the kitchen is so much fun
-true to my logo….there is a chef in all of us, waiting to be released!!!!