Monday, June 30, 2014

A newly appointed chopping god

Oliva Elite 7 Inch Kullenschliff Santoku Knife
Ok so thankfully from the get go we decided that the giveaway winner had to be picked at random - thank god because some of the stories are simultaneously stomach turning and completely awesome. Its nice to know that there are other people out there with forever changed fingers, nails, wrists and forearms thanks to a little accidental hokey pokey in the kitchen. But we are all still cooking, which is a seriously wonderful thing.

The winner of the two amazing, totally beautiful Olive Elite knives thanks to the generous folk at Messermeister is......(cue drumroll)...JN.

Here is her hilarious account of a knife injury. Hilarious only because she is obviously a-ok to tell the story.

I left my chef’s knife standing upright in the drying rack with the intention of drying it after closing the sash window in front of me. While closing the window, my left hand slipped and I stabbed my left forearm with the knife (it was so sharp I didn’t feel it!). The force was great enough to get the end of the knife embedded in my forearm bone (ulna), which then broke off and shattered into several pieces in my arm. A trip to A&E, a few X-rays, several hours and four cosmetic surgeons later, they had managed to remove all the pieces of shattered knife from my arm – except for the piece that was lodged in the bone. A visit to the orthopaedic surgeon the next day concluded that the only way to remove the remaining piece of the knife was to break my bone. I declined, and endured another few months of weekly X-rays so the surgeon could monitor that the bone was successfully knitting over the knife. It’s still there to this day (as is the scar), and I do sometimes set off metal detectors in airports! Most amusing part of the whole story – my partner arriving at A&E wielding the rest of the knife (why?!) resulting in a security commotion. The worst part of the whole story – losing my beautiful chef’s knife :(

There is some more info on the knives here if you are keen to see the full range. 
The steak knife and the Santoku most definitely are on my birthday wish list. Seriously ahhmmazing.

Friday, June 27, 2014

A chat with a professional flavourologist and a chocolate tart to soften the blow

So it turns out that being a flavourologist is a thing. Yep bugger the astronauts, racing car drivers and ballerinas, I want to be a professional flavourologist at Cadbury when I grow up. Seriously, where was that memo at all those bullshit career days and planning sessions we all endured growing up. Teenage angst would reduce dramatically if we even knew such jobs existed.   I get to chat to Carla Filia – Cadbury Dairy Milk Flavourologist and probably the happiest person on the planet. This woman is involved in just about every aspect of the way Cadbury Dairy Milk blocks are made, advertised, packaged and sold in Australia.

Describe what you do in 3 words.
Experiment. Create mess. Listen.

Where does your inspiration for flavour come from?
It’s a little bit research, a little bit listening to fans and little bit messy creative process where we get in a room with a bunch of raw ingredients and liquid chocolate and test crazy (and sometimes brilliant) ideas.
Has the success of any flavour combination ever surprised you?
Jelly popping candy and beanies in Marvellous Creations is a totally different way to experience chocolate. You have the noise and crackle from the popping candy, chocolate within chocolate with the beanies and a really surprising and delightful ‘mouthfeel’ overall (which is some Flavourologist lingo for you).

What would you call yourself? Scientist? Chef? Artist?
I’m a marketing manager who doubles as a Flavourologist because the process of creating flavours is central to what I do. I have research and science teams that feed information into the creative process so that a select few of us Flavourologists can lock ourselves away in a secret bunker and eat chocolate all day. So I would say I’m a chocolate eating athlete slash artist slash connoisseur.

Describe the elements of the ultimate chocolate flavour combination?
With my Cadbury Flavourologist hat on I’d say a good flavour has to surprise and delight, but also appeal to a reasonable sized group of people. That’s where we have to be smart with our research and try to put ourselves in the shoes (or tastebuds) of a particular group. You pick up quirky insights as you do that. Personally I’m an absolute Black Forest tragic (like a lot of our Facebook fans). There’s something very satisfying about the juicy jellies that have a little bit of chewiness and the crunchy biscuit pieces that surprise you after you work through the delicious outer chocolate layers…. This is making me hungry by the way.

Mint, pop rocks or caramel?
Everything! Let’s see if it works.

How much chocolate do you eat per day?
That’s for me and my personal trainer to know and for no one to find out.

How long does it take to develop a chocolate bar from concept to customer's belly?

It can range from 12 to 24 months.

Are you looking for any chocolate eating interns? If so how would I one apply?

Only if you’ve got some bright ideas for us! We have a yearly graduate program that people can apply for via

Advice for anyone wanting to become a flavourologist?
Our Flavourologists come from different backgrounds, but mainly from research, scientific and marketing disciplines. My advice to anyone wanting to work with flavours is to a) go for a job where you’ll get exposure to the flavour creation process and b) get creative and trial things at home. Then make sure they’re good ideas, bring them to work and hopefully others will agree. You might want a friend to help you filter out the crazier ones along the way. I’ve had a lot of conversations with friends that began, ‘what if we mixed…how does this this genius or am I crazy’?

Chocolate hazelnut soufflé tarts
1 x portion chocolate pastry (I used Careme)
225g hazelnut chocolate
110g butter, chopped
2 small eggs
3 egg yolks
75g caster sugar
Melted good quality dark chocolate for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 190˚C (fan-forced). Grease and line 4-6 individual loose bottom pie tins. Roll over the chocolate pastry, cover with a piece of baking paper and fill with baking weights (or dried beans or rice), and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce oven to 180˚C (fan-forced), remove the weights from the pastry shell then bake for a further 5 minutes, or until the shell is just dry. To make the filling, heat the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir every now and again until the chocolate and butter have melted. Remove and set aside to cool.

In another heatproof bowl, add the eggs, yolks and caster sugar, and place the bowl over the saucepan of just simmering water. Whisk the mixture until it’s thick and holds a trail when you move the whisk through the mixture. Pull the bowl off the heat and gradually whisk in the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture until fully incorporated.
Place the pastry shells on a baking tray then pour the chocolate mixture into the pastry shells. Place in the oven and cook for 12-15 minutes or until just set – you want the centre of the tart to be slightly soft and fudgy. Allow to cool slightly before drizzling over melted chocolate if using. Alternatively serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

How to chop an onion

First thing to master is chopping onions. As glamorous as it might seems. The ye olde onion is the powerhouse of any kitchen. No onions, no food. Seriously. So start there. Below are a few really handy videos I found on the big world wide web to help you see some popular techniques for chopping onions. I call these the traditional (aka what I suffered through at Le Cordon Bleu) and the hack - what lots of chefs use- and pretty dam sweet in my humble opinion. Master these and you are on your way

The traditional
Cut the onion in half

Perform vertical and horizontal cuts, keeping the root intact.
 Hold gently until ready to dice

The hack
Cut the onion in half.
Remove the root.
Slice along the grain then push the slices down at an angle - almost like you always do when slicing avocado - sort of at a 45 degree angle then chop to fine dice
Don't forget to enter the comp for two of the glorious Oliva Elite knives by Messermeister. Comp running until Friday and winner announced next Monday 1 July. Comment here or on the Kitchen Coquette facebook page. A winner will be picked at random. Or you can tweet me @kcoquette. Get amongst it. They are pretty special!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Chop Chop. Who wants to win some knives?

Chop chop

Dear Mary Mother of God making knives. Would you look at these!!!



Are they not some of the most beautiful knives you have ever seen? I love my job, I truly do and that love is taken to lust worthy proportions when I get the opportunity to give you, my dear readers, some god damn sexy amazing knives. I had actually been coveting these ever since I saw them in an issue of Gourmet Traveller then boom.

How lucky are we? Cue delirious happy dance.

Messermeister knives have released the Oliva collection – possibly some of the most beautiful hand forged German knives with a natural Italian olive wood handle. They are so good looking. And an absolute joy to use. They are solid, but light enough for you to remain nimble. I think that’s one of the hardest things to balance when finding a few all purpose knives for use in the kitchen. You want weight in the steel but a lightness in the handle so you can continue a smooth slicing/chopping/hacking motion (and yes sometimes hacking is the only way).

I’ll never forget my first day in the kitchen in culinary school. There we were, fresh deck of knives in front of us, nervous as hell. Some pretended they knew a whole lot more than they did, there were those who just started chopping, and some who stared at them in trepidation with what can only be described as pure fear. The day was bloody. While I managed a few superficial nicks and only about seven blue band aids, there were spraying fingers, wrists and hands. Knives are a weapon, no doubt, but when handled correctly and maintained (aka seriously sharp) they really are a beautiful thing, and an absolute pleasure to use in the kitchen.

So this week I am going to post a few hints and tips on getting the most out of your knives each day with some links to find out more. Feel free to comment on each and every post. I am a sucker for knife injuries – love those stories – keep em coming and a winner will be picked by me and the team at Messermeister then two glorious knives will be on their way to a new home. A 20cm Stealth Chefs Knife (RRP$219.95) and a 9cm Paring Knife (RRP$99.95) (Australian residents only). In the interests of full disclosure yes Messermeister are doing a knife giveaway but these posts on knife skills are just some ramblings and hard won lessons I have encountered along the way.

Kicking off today’s post. Some basic rules for using knives
  • -       The sharper your knife the less you cry
  • -       Right tool for the job
  • -       Dry, clean work surface
  • -       Concentrate
  • -       Let the knife sit in your hands, don’t grip onto it with white in your knuckles. Relax.
  • -       The speed will come. Work on precision and technique first

Harissa spiced chicken braise with olives and chickpeas

I had every intention of making a coq au vin and ended up with something entirely different but that is the joy of cooking isn’t it? Adding what you have on hand to make something superbly tasty.

This dish still lies in coq au vin territory – it is essentially the kind of cunningly rustic French cooking designed to pull on every last bit of flavour from some very standard cupboard staples with a few extras. I also made a nutty side of burghul, cashews, pine nuts and fresh green herbs – a great carrier for the sauce, which is the sort of sauce you want to drink straight from the bottom of the plate. This is not coq au complex, it is very much based on the idea that it is pretty much impossible to cock up a coq au vin, and we all need a few of those dishes in our repertoire.

Serves 4-6 (with sauce for 8)
50g butter
1 tbsp grapeseed oil
2 brown onions, peeled, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped
500g chicken thigh fillets, bone removed
1 cup Sicilian olives
1 x 450g chickpeas, rinsed and drained thoroughly
3 tablespoons of harissa paste (or to taste depending on strength of the paste)
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
500ml white wine (I used a dry chardonnay)
200ml thin cream

Nut grains
1 cup Burghul
Chicken stock to cover
1/2 preserved lemon, very finely chopped
1.2 cup parsley, finely chopped
½ cup dill, finely chopped
½ cup salted cashews
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
½ cup raisins
Melt the butter in a heavy based, deep pan and pour in the oil. Add the onions and garlic leaving to cook over a moderate heat until the onions have softened. Add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides until the skin is just golden. Add the harissa paste and spices until fragrant then pour over the wine. Leave to boil for a minute or two, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for twenty minutes, turning the chicken now and again. Add the chickpeas and olives and stir to warm through. Pour in the cream and stir to combine. Season to taste and continue to cook until the cream starts to thicken.

While it is cooking, add the burgul to a saucepan and add enough chicken stock to cover at least 2cm above the burgul. Place over medium heat, and cook for five minutes, stirring continuously or until just cooked and the stock has been absorbed. Remove from the heat and stir through the remaining ingredients.

Serve the burghul topped with the chicken and extra spoonfuls of sauce. Top with extra chopped parsley if desired.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Your sticky dated antidote to winter blues

So there’s this thing about me. I like desserts that are sweet, spiced, cake like in some form, and definitely doused in caramel. So sticky date pud (SDP to those suffering the affliction) pretty much means edible nirvana. This version is part gingerbread, part molten caramel and it is rich, dark, spicy and unapologetic.

Although it's often grouped with other stodgy heavy hitting desserts, SDP is more like cake made with a more liquidy batter rather than a creamy mixture of beaten eggs, butter, sugar and flour. And the honey pot is without a doubt the vanilla laced dates macerated for texture – making it rich and silky - without making it heavy like other puddings.

This version has less sugar than other recipes because I added white chocolate and I didn’t want it to be mouth-cloyingly sweet. Ditto the caramel with the addition of molasses giving it a deep malt flavour profile rather than super sweet.

85g butter, plus extra for greasing
200g Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
200ml milk (full fat)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground clove
85g dark muscovado sugar plus extra for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
¾ cup Lindt white chocolate chips

Molasses caramel
1 tbsp molasses
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp butter

Heat oven to 180C.
Lightly grease a deep 2-litre (about 28 x 20cm) oval baking dish or 4-6 1 cup capacity ramekins or
baking vessels. Add the dates and vanilla to a saucepan. Pour over the milk and place over
medium heat and bring to the boil. Remove, add the bicarbonate soda, stir gentlyand then set aside for 
fifteen minutes for the mixture to macerate. Sift the flour, baking powder and spices into a bowl, then 
add the sugar, butter and eggs. Beat for five minutes or until well combined then fold through the date
mixture and white chocolate chunks then pour into your serving dish or individual cups. Sprinkle over a 
thin layer of dark sugar then pour over boiling water – you want the water to sit about 2 cm above the
batter. Do not stir. Bake for 40-45 mins (if making one large pudding) or about 30 minutes if making 
individual serves, or until the pudding is just firm to the touch. To make the caramel sauce, add the 
butter, sugar and molasses to a saucepan and place over low-medium heat. Cook until the sugar has 
dissolved and is beginning to bubble. Remove from the heat and stir through the cream.

Serve the puddings with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle over the molasses caramel.