Jason Ford has over 25 years of extensive experience in the food service industry. He is a professional chef, qualified commercial cookery lecturer, published food writer and culinary entertainer.
Episode 52: Turning A New Leaf
Sometimes referred to as ‘Chinese parsley’ or ‘cilantro’ – coriander is a native herb of the Middle East and Southern Europe.
However, it has also been popular throughout Asia for thousands of years.
It grows wild in Egypt and the Sudan, and surprisingly can also be found growing wild in English fields.
Most Australians would recognise coriander as an ingredient regularly used in Thai cuisine.
The pungent tasting fresh green leaves almost look like the leaves of parsley, but with more of a flat and jagged appearance.
The fragrant dried seed is globular and almost round, brown to yellow red, and 4mm in diameter with alternating straight and wavy ridges. The seeds have a mild, distinctive taste similar to a blend of lemon and sage.
The taste of the fresh leaves and dried seeds are so different from each other, that some people may love one, yet loathe the other.
Some recipes, such as Thai curry paste often calls for the use the fresh roots of the coriander plant for its earthy, depth of flavour.
Coriander tastes great with ingredients such as chilli, lime and ginger.
Zucchini with Garlic and Coriander
1 ½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground coriander
salt and pepper
Quarter the zucchini lengthwise, and then cut pieces in half crosswise.
Add zucchini to a medium saucepan of boiling salted water and cook uncovered over high heat for approximately 3 minutes or until just tender, but still firm.
Drain the zucchini well and transfer to a shallow serving platter.
Heat olive oil in saucepan used to cook zucchini, add garlic and cook over low heat for approximately 15 seconds or until light brown.
Add ground coriander and stir over low heat a few seconds to blend.
Then immediately add to zucchini and toss.
Season to taste with salt and cayenne pepper.
Episode 51: Spice of Life
My wife is of Hungarian and German heritage. Growing up, she relished visits to her Grandfather’s home to indulge in all manner of Hungarian culinary delights.
The corner-stone of this Central European cuisine is a distinctive blend of spices – of which paprika is ‘King’.
There are very few aromas that beat the combination of onion, garlic and paprika frying in a pan. This simple combination of ingredients results in a depth of savoury flavour that is uniquely Hungarian.
Paprika is the name commonly given to a wide selection of red powders, ground from various members of the chilli pepper family.
Although there are many grades of paprika, they often share similar flavour characteristics such as sweet, savoury and subtle warmth.
The differences in colour depth are due to the amount of ‘Capsanthin’ found in the ripe chilli pepper. And the scale of heat is dictated by the quantity of ‘Capsaicin’ which is found in the seeds. The non-spicy, sweeter paprika is made by grinding the dried chilli flesh without seeds, while spicy paprika contains varying quantities of dried flesh and the chilli seeds.
Paprika’s delicate flavour has the ability to compliment other ingredients without overpowering or dominating them.
The spice is used as a seasoning in many recipes such as soups, stews, rice dishes and sausage fillings.
However, the world’s most famous paprika flavoured dish would have to be Hungarian Goulash. Most people recognise Goulash as a stew, and that’s how it is mostly prepared nowadays, but it is originally a soup.
If you are unfamiliar with paprika, a great way to introduce it to your dinner table is as a simple seasoning for homemade French fries or generously sprinkled on steaks, lamb chops, grilled chicken or fish fillets.
One thing Hungarians are passionate about, is cooking. And, my wife’s late grandfather was no exception. My fondest memory of him will always be the Goulash he cooked in a camp oven suspended over an open fire.
No matter how stealthily I tried to find out his cooking secrets, he always knew what I was up to and would rarely share his recipes. He even went as far as physically removing me from his kitchen while he was cooking – all in good fun though.
Here is my personal goulash recipe, not quite the same as the genuine article, but it’s reasonably quick, easy and great soul food for the cooler winter months.
500g veal, diced
100g onion, diced
100g red capsicum, diced
100g potatoes, diced
1/2 tsp pepper
2 tsp paprika (approx.)
1 tbsp chili sauce
1/4 tsp fresh chill, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp olive oil
750ml chicken stock
2 tsp cornflour for thickening
Heat oil and add the chopped chilli, onion, capsicum and potato, cook gently until tender.
Take out of the pan and put aside.
Heat a little more oil in the pan and seal the diced veal. (Do not overcook)
Add the paprika, chilli sauce, some stock and return the vegetables to the pan.
Bring to the boil. Mix cornflour with 1 tbsp water and stir into meat mixture.
Cook for approximately 2 minutes to thicken.
Adjust the seasoning to taste.
Cook for approximately 1 – 1 ½ hours.
* Goulash is delicious served with creamy mashed potato or dumplings.
Episode 50: The Sweet and the Sour
Balsamic vinegar is very popular, due to it’s rich, sweet characteristics.
It features prominently in many Italian recipes.
It is so sweet in fact that it can also be used in desserts.
Unlike most vinegar, Balsamic vinegar is not derived from wine but from newly pressed grape juice.
In its most traditional form, balsamic vinegar is made from the Trebbiano grape, which flourishes in the Modena region of Italy.
It is aged by transferring between barrels made from oak, chestnut, juniper or cherry, ash and finally mulberry. The transferring from one barrel to the other is known as ‘rincalzo’, which normally takes place in spring.
Throughout the prolonged aging process it gradually evaporates, requiring incrementally smaller barrels. Due to the dramatically reduced yield from the original volume of grape juice, balsamic vinegar is quite expensive.
The most authentic balsamic vinegar, aceto balsamico tradizionale di Modena, is one of the most expensive liquids on earth. It is aged and blended for up to fifty years and each bottle is signed and numbered.
Drizzle this simple and delicious dressing on your favorite garden salad, which goes great with Italian food.
1 small garlic clove
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
75ml extra virgin olive oil
Blend garlic clove with a little salt.
Add Balsamic vinegar and half a teaspoon of Dijon mustard.
While continuing to blend, gradually add extra virgin olive oil until a smooth emulsion is formed.
Season the dressing with salt and pepper.
One of my all time favourite uses is with strawberries. Yes, you read correctly! The following is a pretty standard and well-known recipe. You could also add a little cracked black pepper.
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons icing sugar
Wash and drain strawberries, then remove the hull.
Cut the strawberries into quarters and place in a bowl.
Gently toss the strawberries with the vinegar and sugar.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving with double cream.
Episode 48: Sweet Succulent Sea Scallops
Scallops are named after the fanned, fluted appearance of their shell.
They are categorised as a bivalve mollusc.
There is hundreds of species found throughout the waters of the Atlantic, Mediterranean and Pacific Oceans.
The closer you live to the ocean, the better your chances of purchasing scallops still alive – but in most cases they are sold already shucked (removed from the shell) and frozen.
The reason for this is that scallops deteriorate quickly when removed from the sea and after they have been shucked.
If not frozen they should be eaten within a day.
Scallops should be light pink in colour, moist, shiny and with a fresh seawater smell.
I have purchase scallops with and without the bright orange roe – this depends on what you prefer.
Some people don’t like the strong taste of the roe, or the reality that it’s the reproductive organ of the scallop. Personally it doesn’t bother me, and the orange row looks spectacular on the plate. In fact I’ve worked in some restaurants where we only served the roe.
Scallops should be cooked quickly (grilled or seared) served medium-rare to remain plump, sweet and succulent.
Seared Scallop Salad
Dress a salad of mixed baby lettuce leaves with vinaigrette made with freshly squeezed lime juice, honey, white wine vinegar, olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. Lightly toss fresh scallops in a little oil and place on a very hot grill plate – cook for about one minute on each side. Arrange scallops on top of salad, and Bob’s your uncle.
Episode 48: Whip It Good
Pavlova wouldn’t be half the experience without lashings of whipped cream. And, in the absence of whipped cream an ice-cream sundae would be just… a bowl of ice-cream.
People have been whipping cream in Europe for centuries, and now-days it has found its way into the cuisines of most cultures.
But, whipping cream is not quite as straight forward as you may think, there is some important science involved in the process.
To begin with, pure cream has to contain at least 30% fat or it will be unable to hold air bubbles. To make lower fat creams whip successfully, the manufacturers add thickening agents.
Basically, while whipping cream (by hand or machine) the fat droplets connect into a network that collects and holds the air bubbles being incorporated during the whipping process.
This method is referred as ‘aeration’, and results in a thick, fluffy mixture approximately twice the volume of the original cream.
However, if you continue whipping for too long the fat droplets will stick together and begin forming butter. So don’t whip it too good. This will collapse the mixture, and turn into a yellowish slop of butter and liquid. Trust me, I’ve gotten distracted and made butter quite a few times.
Whipped cream can have flavourings such as sugar and vanilla added, as in ‘Crème Chantilly’, which is delicious.
It can also be folded through a chocolate mousse for enrichment. Whipped cream makes a fantastic accompaniment to scones, pumpkin pie, cakes, waffles or dollop on liqueur coffees
250g strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp icing sugar
30ml strawberry liqueur
2 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
Combine the strawberries, icing sugar and liqueur in a bowl and leave covered in the refrigerator for 1 hour to macerate.
In a bowl, combine the cream, caster sugar and vanilla essence.
Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks.
Fold the macerated berries into the whipped cream, spoon into a glass and serve immediately.
Note: Can be garnished with orange segments and a fresh mint sprig. Crumbled meringue can be added for texture.
Episode 47: Dodging Bunya Nuts
A few years back, while picnicking at the Bunya Mountains, one of my children was almost hit by a bowling ball sized Bunya cone, which hurtled to Earth faster than the speed of sound.
It exploded into the ground, making a crater before rolling down the hill into our picnic blanket. Good thing my son had just moved away seconds earlier.
Bunya nuts are one of Australia’s greatest indigenous bush foods. They are large almond shaped nuts that grow in tight cones, on giant rainforest pine trees of South-East Queensland – particularly the Bunya Mountains.
The Aboriginal people used to eat them raw, or toasted in the fire and eaten like chestnuts, or even ground up like flour.
Nowadays, chefs have found many other uses for them, such as soups, quiches, pastries, cakes, biscuits and condiments. They easily absorb other flavours.
The biggest problem with the nuts is their hard and fibrous shell. As yet, nobody has come up with an effective method of harvesting and shelling them.
You can find shelled and frozen Bunya nuts at many bush food suppliers around the country – or just wait to dodge one before it clobbers you on the head at a picnic.
Bunya Nut Pesto
This recipe came from an apprentice chef I trained.
2 cloves garlic
55g Bunya nuts
55g fresh basil leaves
70g parmesan cheese, grated
125ml extra virgin olive oil
pinch of salt
Blend garlic and Bunya nuts to a smooth puree.
Blend in basil leaves and parmesan cheese.
While blending, gradually pour olive oil until the desired consistency is achieved.
Note: You could also add a little melted butter. Use as a sauce for pasta, or spread on crispy Italian bread. Serve the meat and sauce with mashed potato or creamy polenta.