Just another day in paradise

Wacky and Wondrous fun at the poolside

 

Depending on which hotel you work at, the pool can be either an incredibly boring place or the centre of all the action. Usually, the poolside scene at city hotels is not that exciting, but a poolside at a beach resort fronting the sea normally keeps the staff busy-especially if the hotel has a sunken bar for people to get intoxicated at while ogling sun worshippers, as mine did.

            I was walking past our sunken bar to the pool kitchen area to check on things when I saw my idle chef leaning on the counter, checking out the poolside talent, unaware of my presence.

            “Busy, are we?!” I asked.

            “Just making sure all our valued customers are well taken care of, chef,” smirked the startled chef. I stood on the edge of the pool area, shaking my head in disappointment and glanced out at the clear turquoise sea, the powdery white sands and the tourists running around, burning to a lobster-like shade. I wondered how many were going to ruin their holidays with third-degree burns.

            “You know, you have the best job in the hotel,” I said, “Here you are, cooking a few burgers and hotdogs, while watching all the action and working on your tan at the same time!”

            I was about to continue when a rather large chap sitting in the water at the sunken bar chipped in first.

            “Hey there chef, great dinner last night! What with the braised cabbage and all. Breakfast was great too, although I ate too many baked beans,” he said rather unsteadily. He seemed to have consumed a few drinks too many as well.

            “I topped all that off with six ice-cold beers and now my friends and I are having a wind breaking competition,” he continued loudly.

            Before I could continue my conversation with the chef, the wannabe entertainer lifted his bottom and broke wind, sending noxious bubbles floating to the top of the water.

              “There goes the ozone layer!” he announced, eliciting howls of laughter from his equally obtuse friends.

            I could not help myself. “I am so glad to see we have finally managed to attract the exclusive market segment we have been working so hard over the years to reach! It is about time we upgraded our client base, and we now have wonderful customers like yourselves enjoying the million-dollar facilities,” I said, as sarcastically as I could manage.

            The guy stared at me, trying to fathom what the heck I was talking about, at the same time announcing the arrival of another torpedo with “Here comes another, chef!”

            Wonderful start to my day. In addition to the bubble-blower, there were screaming kids running around, couples throwing each other in the water, two fat men competing to see who could make the biggest belly flop jumping into the pool screaming “Yeeha!” and an elderly man pushing the oldest, most rusty-looking bicycle I have ever seen, hung with coconuts.

“Now that is what I call an old bike,” I said to the coconut vendor. 

            This antique bike has been with my family for generations, and it is one of our most prized heirlooms,” he replied proudly. Announcing that he would sing a beautiful song to advertise his wares, he coughed slightly to clear his throat and closed his eyes for a second, as if to pluck up courage.         

Everyone crowded around, eager for some entertainment. “Coconut water, good for your daughter, coconut … baby coconut. Coconut water good for your daughter, coconut, I am selling coconut,” went his song.

            “Well then,” I said, clapping and attempting to give him some support, “If that does not help you sell your stuff nothing will …”

            The guests who had gathered just wandered off shaking their heads and giggling among themselves.

            As I was getting ready to depart the scene, a rather burnt-looking fellow came towards me looking disturbed. “Hi chef, my red flag has been flying in the garden for ten minutes-what is the point of having a red flag system if nobody offers me service when I raise it?!” he said irritably.

            “How can I help you, sir?” I answered wearily.

            “Gin and tonic, young man … and please be quick,” he replied.

            As I turned around to look for a waiter, another obviously happy chappy came over. “Chef, this pool is a circus! There are kids running every where, drunken bums blowing large smelly bubbles into the water in which I submerge my face, a fella selling coconuts and a guy complaining about his red flag, when the only red flag I see is that I cannot seem to get any peace around here!” he raged.

            I was about to try and show some obviously much-needed compassion when I heard a “cling cling” sound. As I turned around, wondering what else could possibly happen, I saw one of our service staff on the new ice-cream delivery bicycle, frantically ringing the small bell on the handlebars.

            This bicycle was designed to help distribute ice-cream to sweltering guests on the hotel grounds. As he came towards me, I realized that he was looking a tad unsteady on his new mode of transportation. He was veering to the left, looking like he was going to fall off, and the front wheel was wobbling back and forth. The area surrounding the pool was concrete and this guy was well in his way to engaging in a nice bruising affair.

            Luckily for him, he held it together long enough to stay on well past the concrete, far enough in fact to make it right to the edge of the pool and… right into the pool itself.

            As he and the soon-to-be-soaking-wet ice-cream went headfirst into the busy pool, he flapped his arms frantically, shouting “I can’t swim!”

            Looking at him, I calmly said, “Stand up.”

            He immediately calmed down and stood up, realizing that he had fallen into the shallow end. I looked at the red flag chap, who was looking on in horror. “He has not taken his test yet,” was the only comment I could muster.

            A huge monitor lizard chose that moment to come running through the garden and grab some leftover food off a plate. It plunged into the pool to cool off, climbed out the other side and disappeared into some bushes.

            “Now that is not something you see every day, chef!” shouted the impatient drinker, adding “Gin and tonic, please!” to any waiter within earshot.

            Unwilling to be outdone, Mr. I Want Some Peace and Quiet chipped in with, “It’s not just a circus, it’s a zoo as well!” 

            I steadied myself, glanced at my chef and whispered, “I have changed my mind, this job is not easy-and it’s all yours!”

            As I turned around for a speedy retreat, I saw five people in full scuba gear coming to attend beginner scuba diving classes….you guessed it, in the swimming pool!

            As I was leaving, I heard someone shout, “You have got to be kidding!” as he spotted the pending arrival of the team, who were going to give the bubble-blowers a run for their money. “Chef!” screamed another, “You better make that gin and tonic a double!”

            Another day in paradise, I mumbled under my breath.

Note:

This is new material that is not in “Chef’s Tales” the book and was first published in Flavours Magazine.

Simple Hoisin Sesame Fruit Salad

Hoisin Sesame Fruit Salad

Ingredients:

  • 200 g Cucumber, skin on, cut in to wedges
  • 200 g Pineapple, seeded, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 200 g Green guava, seeded, cut in to ½ inch cubes
  • 200 g Starfuit, cut in to ½ inch cubes
  • 200 g Green apple, cut in to ½ inch cubes

Dressing;

  • 250 g Hoisin sauce, (Chef Kasdi Proposes the brand of Lee Kum Kee)
  • 150 g Chili sauce, Heinz or Maggi
  • 3 nos Birds eye chili, crushed
  • 60 g Palm sugar, grated
  • 30 gm Shrimp paste, roasted – Optional
  • 3 tbsp Sesame seed, roasted
  • 3 tbsp Peanut, roasted and coarsely ground

Method:

  1. Cut all the fruits and place in a fridge to cool and stay crisp.

Dressing:

  1. In a large mixing bowl mix together the hoisin sauce, chili sauce, bird eye chili and palm sugar.
  2. Use the back of a large spoon and stir until the palm sugar and shrimp paste is dissolved. (Shrimp Paste is Optional)
  3. Just before serving add the fruit, sesame seeds, peanuts and mix well.
  4. Correct seasoning to taste.

Notes:

It is important that the final mixing is completed just before serving the salad as the sauces will “cook” the fruit and give it an appearance of being soft and soggy spoiling the visual effect of having nice fresh and crispy fruits. Biting into crispy fruits mixed with the wonderful sauce will give your guests a wonderful mixture of textures and taste sensations. You can make this salad with any mixtures of your favorite fruits including, grapefruit, orange or pomello segments. You can serve the salad by itself or use it as a side garnish presented on a large different shaped white plate accompanying grilled fish fillets or a chicken breast. Chef Kasdi has styled his fruit salad with Asian crackers and chervil sprigs.

Let the hospitality industry be the template for racial harmony worlwide

When I was watching television last night and saw how President Obama tried to reconcile with a Harvard Professor and a Cambridge police officer, I could not help but feel disappointed with our level of tolerance and understanding that many of us share. I would not want you to think that I am overlooking this very complex issue and waiving it away lightly, as I do understand that racial harmony worldwide will take time to heal due to the deep down scars inflicted over history. 

However, I would like to share one of my many cultural experiences that I have witnessed over the years. In 1987 I was based in one of the largest hotels in the Caribbean, we had around 15 outlets if I can recall and many of these outlets were themed restaurants with a culinary global feel; there was a French, German, Bahamian, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and even an Indian restaurant. 

All of these restaurants had their own signature chef from the country the restaurant was representing and we all had to work very long hours, in hotter that heck kitchens, under very stressful conditions and would you believe it, yes TOGETHER and without killing each other. 

Most of these professional hoteliers were well travelled people who had “been there and done that” in many different parts of the world. We did not fight, use racial over tones with each other, showed no signs of discrimination whatsoever in fact quite the opposite. 

We used to eat together every day at the chefs table and each chef would bring a dish from their restaurant thereby creating an international buffet of sorts to be enjoyed by everyone. 

Of course there were a few cultural exchanges and winding up going on, but this content of our daily conversations was never taken serious and the chefs knew that no harm was meant. 

Every day in the hotel industry, we meet hundreds of people from all around the world whom are just passing through our doors and we feel that its our responsibility to ensure that they have a clean hotel, great services and yes to ensure that they are safe. 

Every Hotelier worth their weight in course sea salt feels that it is their personal responsibility to ensure every foreign guest is safe in their hotel, hurting them in any way, physically or verbally would be considered an outrage. 

When we travel around the world to work and blend in with different cultures, it teaches us tolerance, a deeper understanding of different races, religions and cultures and ensures that we become, well a member of the world community. 

Instead of countries conscripting their youngsters and sending them off for a 2 year stint in the army, why don’t we consider sending them off to another country as a hotelier for a couple of exchange years instead. 

They could work hard, acquire good discipline and mix with people from all over the globe gaining a lot more understanding of others. 

A crazy pipe dream you may be saying, what will we do without our army, good points I guess, but if we all understood each other a little better, we may not need the armies in the first place.

Balinese Beef Rib Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Sliced beef ribs
  • 2 liters of Water
  • 250 g Large red chili halved, seeded and sliced
  • 40 g Bird’s eye chili or Thai chili, finely and sliced – Optional
  • 50 g Garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 200 g Shallot, peeled and sliced
  • 50 g Ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 150 g Galangal, peeled and chopped
  • 2 ½ tbsp Black pepper corn crushed
  • 2 ½ tbsp Coriander seed crushed
  • 100 g Candlenut, or substituted with macadamia nuts
  • 40 g Palm sugar, chopped
  • 150 ml Corn oil, peanut oil or any oil low in cholesterol
  • ½ Piece Small fresh lime
  • Lemongrass for garnishing
  • Flat parsley for garnishing
  • 3 Bay leafs
  • ¾ tbsp Salt

Method:

  1. Combine all ingredients except ingredients for garnishing, lime and the bay leaves, place them in a food processor, add a little water to help the process and grind coarsely to make a marinating paste.
  2. Place the ground ingredients in a heavy bottomed pot and cook over a medium heat for approximately 60 minutes or until all liquid is evaporated and the marinade changes to a golden brown colour.
  3. Set aside and let the mixture cool off.
  4. Then mix and rub the mixture over the sliced ribs and let them marinade in a fridge for 12 hours.
  5. After the marinating time is complete, take them out of the fridge and place them in another heavy bottomed pot.
  6. Add the rest of the water, add bay leafs and place the pot on a stove bringing it to a simmer.
  7. Simmer for at least 2 hours or until the ribs are tender or until the meats falls easily from the bone.
  8. Before serving, squeeze half a small fresh lime over the top of the soup to give it more kick.
  9. Chef Kasdi has garnished his soup with a single stem of lemon grass, a split sweet chilli and some Coriander sprigs.

Notes:

This particular marinade can be used to marinade meat, chicken or lamb and cooked by different methods. How about grilling, barbecuing or even wok frieing your choice of meats…or trying all of them until you find your favourite! Any vegetables you want to choose can be added to create your own style of ribs. If you want it to be more spicy you can simply add more of the tiny hot chillies to ensure that you make your guests “glitter”. To ensure the ribs are really tasty, marinating them over night or even up to 24 hours will ensure that the taste of the marinade really penetrates the ribs.

Happy Cooking!

A cook's top priority is to know how to cook

Michael wrote to me today and sounded as if he was heart broken due to the fact that, after he has now reached a certain level, has been over looked for a promotion as he has been told that he does not have a formal education in the culinary field. He explained to me that he has been cooking for 10 years, worked in numerous countries, even on a private yacht and now that he has landed a plum job in a 5 star international chain hotel has unfortunately been told that he has reached a level where he is unable to escalate further. He also explained to me that some chefs who have just recently graduated from school, have now received better promotions unfairly as he believes they can’t cook anywhere near as good as he.

I would like to offer my 2 cents worth of advice and opinion here by starting to answer this question on a personal note. I always believe that others feel heart warmed by the fact that people understand their disgruntled feelings and have gone through it them selves thereby knowing how they feel. I am such a person, so I can open my closet a little and tell you that I have qualifications from a hotel school and went to college for 3 years before graduating. I do not however have a degree in business, what I do have is 34 years of practical experience in overall hotel operations which have sent me on a journey through the school of very hard knocks.

I had reached the stage in my career where I had been an Executive Chef for over 12 years and then there were Food & Beverage Managers that were coming out of school with degrees and certificates to show how clever they were…and were now my new supervisors whom were now going to tell me how I should conduct myself and how I should do my job.

It never made sense to me that I would not have a say on how the department was going to be run after so many years in the game and that this fresh graduate with no experience at all would be guiding the company in the right direction when it came to making money. Unfortunately some of the larger chain hotels have certain criteria built in to their manuals that state what qualifications you must have to be confirmed for certain positions and they are not flexible with this criteria, experience seems to count for little I am afraid.

However the good news is this, not every company has the same philosophy and we all have to find the company most suited to the way we work or most suited to the way we like to manage. I have no animosity towards Food & Beverage Managers I truly don’t, but it did not make business sense to me at the time as they just did not have the experience to make the right decisions at the right moment. In life you only get better and gain more experience by either making mistakes yourself or watching others make them and then taking notes so you don’t do the same. Standing by watching my boss making the same mistakes that I had made years ago was taking its toll on me and as I did not see this changing, I decided to move on, find a job as a Food and Beverage Manager myself and I have never looked back.

Michael has to do the same, he has but a few choices to choose from and they in my opinion are as follows:

He can go to his present employer and explain to them his worth, tell them he does not have the culinary qualifications needed to go further and request his employers to help him go through school, even offering to sign a longer contract so that the company can get back their return of investment. If his employer does not agree, then he must slowly look around for an employer who has different priorities, as in my experience many of them do.

Some companies for example like their General Managers to sit in the office all day and do reports for them to read, some hate this approach and want them to be available for the customers thereby hiring a secretary to type all the reports, some hotels today even put the General Managers office right in the lobby.

When he does find another position and he hands in his notice, he must still handle himself in a professional manner, never leaving on a bitter note due to the fact that he never knows when one day he has the qualifications and he may want to return to the same hotel.

Michael, the bottom line is this, nobody can tell you that you are finished, nobody can tell you that you have reached a dead end or that you can’t progress further, its just that you can’t do it with them. The only person that decides what you can and can not do is YOU. Nobody can convince you to believe that you are a Chocolate Chef if you KNOW that you are a Golden Chef. You must go and look for another employer who understands your worth, who deserves your commitment and understands that the most important trait about being a great cook is that you can cook.

Michael….Happy cooking young man.

Pineapple Fried Rice

Pineapple Fried Rice

Ingredients

  • 500 g Any leftover cold rice
  • 100 g Pineapple (fresh or canned), diced
  • 2 Garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
  • 4 Shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 100 g Chicken meat, sliced or diced
  • 10 Prawns, peeled and deveined – Optional
  • 3 tsp Madras Curry Powder
  • 2 tbsp Thai Fish Sauce, or Nam Pla Sauce
  • 50 ml Olive oil, peanut or any non cholesterol vegetable oil
  • 1 Egg – Optional
  • Salt and white pepper to taste

Method

  1. In a bowl, place the cold rice, add the madras curry powder and mix well.
  2. Add the oil into a wok or non stick frying pan and heat it up.
  3. Add the chopped shallots until translucent, then add the chopped garlic and sauté stirring consistently until fragrant.
  4. Add the chicken, prawns and fish sauce.
  5. Lastly, add the seasoned rice and stir continuously over a high heat for a few minutes.
  6. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  7. Garnish with Julienne of Omelet and shredded lettuce.

Notes:

Any kind of Asian fried rice works much better if the rice you are going to fry is at least a day old. This dish is perfect for using the leftover rice from a meal the day before, it is economical and very versatile. Even if the rice is a little older than a day, it is still usable and just as good. After you follow this recipe a few times and get a grasp of the fundamentals, you can start to create your own version by adding almost anything to make the fried rice to your preferred taste. It is an easy dish for students to make in their apartment and will not cost them a fortune. Chef Kasdi has garnished his Pineapple fried rice with shredded omelet, shredded lettuce and a few slices of chili. He has also placed some pickled vegetables and a couple of crispy Asian crackers on the side.

Happy Cooking!

The power of dreams

I always wanted to be a chef; I don’t know why it just happened that way. I remember the first time I walked through the back door of a hotel on my very first day of employment and it was like walking into a totally different world. A world of madness, lunacy and endless stress that no one of sound mind could possibly want….and yet I loved it! 

After spending a few months on the job and struggling with this new world, culture shock and daily abuse by the more experienced chefs, I still loved it. That was until my executive chef exclaimed out loud in front of the whole kitchen team, “I have come to the conclusion Saxon, that you will never make a chef as long as you have a hole in your arse!” The other chefs seeing an opportunity to lower my self esteem even further for their personal gain, started laughing to ensure that the pain I was feeling reached the maximum level possible. 

I still remember how I felt that day, at 3 am I laid in bed looking at the ceiling and contemplated throwing in the towel, but if I did they would win you see. This is what flames my determination to fulfill my dreams and what keeps me going no matter what happens or whatever life throws at me. There is always someone who will tell you what you can do and what you can’t, but there is only one person that has the final decision on what you will become and that is you. It is your job to ignore all of these trivial obstructions, smile and go about your challenges and the sole purpose should be for you to show everyone who doubts you that they could not be more wrong. 

Physical abuse of any individual is horrific, demeaning, criminal and disgraceful, but verbal abuse has taken a back seat and does not get the attention it deserves. People who are suffering with self esteem issues are the most venerable and most affected by verbal abuse. Having gone through this on numerous occasions during my climb to where I am today, I can tell with an open heart that verbal abuse can make people feel worthless. 

Although I am far from perfect I do try to choose my words carefully when I am getting hot beneath the collar. It always amazes me how some senior managers expect their staff to smile with a happy face greeting their customers when deep down they are heart broken after being abused or scolded in public. 

Each and every one of us is beautiful, valuable, special and without doubt able to be an incredibly important pillar of society. We must not let anyone destroy our soul with words that are intended to penetrate our perceived fragile heart. We must believe that we are educated, as educated people do not react to belittlement, if someone calls you a fool and you are not then the words are ridiculous and harmless. 

We are all responsible for the people around us, we are jointly responsible for their state of mind and we must help them feel better than they are feeling at that moment in time when we converse with them. 

I would encourage all my readers to never give up on your dreams, no matter who tells you that they are out of your reach, that they can not be accomplished, that you are not capable and that you don’t deserve them. 

After reading this, I urge you to write down what you want to accomplish, plan out a path how to reach your goals and whoever is standing in front of you with their arms spread out trying to convince you that you can’t reach them, smile and walk on by, as today is your day and tomorrow holds your dreams. 

I am typing this as I look at my soul mate and two beautiful daughters playing together and with my hand on my heart, I can assure you that I am living my dream and you can and must live yours…Happy dreaming!

Chicken Rendang – Stewed Chicken with yellow curry paste

 

Ingredients

  • 1 whole Chicken, still with bone, cut to 8 pieces
  • 225 g Shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 125 g Cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 125 g Ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 60 g Galangal, peeled and sliced
  • 125 g Fresh turmeric peeled and sliced or 3 tblsp powder.
  • 50 g Chili paste, or Indian dried chili soaked over night and then ground
  • 50 g Palm sugar, chopped
  • 500 ml Coconut milk
  • 2 stalks Lemon grass, bruised
  • 3 Lime leaves
  • 250 ml Water
  • ¾ tbsp Salt
  • 4 tbsp Toasted desiccated coconut (optional) Add in at the end before the sauce starts to thicken

Method

  1. Grind all ingredients in a food processor (except lemon grass, lime leaves, chicken and coconut milk), and process until they become a fine paste.
  2. Place in heavy sauce pot, add all remaining ingredients.
  3. Sear off the raw chicken in a thick bottomed sauté pan just enough to ensure the juices are trapped inside.
  4. Add the chicken to the mixture and cook over a medium heat for approximately 60 minutes or until the sauce has naturally thickened.
  5. When the chicken is cooked and the sauce the correct consistency, switch off the flame and let it rest o the side of the stove.

Notes:

When you start to understand the basic cooking fundamentals and start to “cook and create yourself” you can add more dried chilli for example to ensure that it is more spicy or less to ensure it is milder. By cooking the meat inside the sauce, any flavors leaving the chicken will go right inside the sauce adding to the finished flavor. In the presented picture Chef Kasdi has styled it with rice cubes and garnished it with coriander and Chinese Chives, but you can serve it with plain rice, crispy breads or anything your heart desires and the same recipe can also be used in the same way for beef and lamb.

Happy Cooking!

Chef's Tales Evolves

As in any venture, business or private, if you are to be successful, you must listen to your circle of friends, advisors, readers or customers and include their constructive criticisms to your growth formula. I started Chef’s Tales wanting it to be a very basic blog, thereby trying to teach readers the cooking fundamentals needed to ensure they could follow recipes presented to them without failing. I was not really planning on adding any food pictures and was trying to be a little different to other food blogs. However, many readers have requested me to add some delightful pictures to liven up the blog and to enable me to do this, I have entered a partnership with a very close chef friend of mine, Chef Kasdi. Chef Kasdi is a very well know chef here in Malaysia and we will start to post some of his pictures and recipes real soon. We will continue to enable our readers to be able to follow recipes by explaining how, what and why. We hope that readers can get the best of both worlds, lovely recipes from Chef Kasdi along with a Myself, an Ex Executive Chef on hand to answer any questions put to him. I will also continue to write my Musings about every day life in the hospitality Industry, hopefully to give Chef’s Tales as much variety as possibly. Happy Cooking!

The Sauce Mirror “Glace de Viande”

If you have made your beef stock correctly & have followed the basic stock recipe and method, your beef stock should be almost clear….but unfortunately thin. If you then made a sauce with this liquid stock, the sauce would have to be thickened with another thickening agent. Your sauce would then not have the depth in taste, or have the wonderful colour and would not have the shine or “mirror” effect of a quality sauce that looks so dynamic on a white plate. Glace de Viande or meat glaze also makes it far easier to freeze and store to be used later as it is far more concentrated and keeps longer.

  1. When the beef stock is ready, pour all the liquid through a fine strainer and in to another empty clean stock pot, thereby taking out any bits and pieces floating around or mixed inside the stock. Ensure that after the task is completed that there is only solids in the bottom of the pot and all the valuable stock is saved, discard the left over solids.
  2. Place the stock back on the stove and return to a steady boil, as there is no sediment left and all solids discarded, there is no longer a problem if the stock boils rapidly.
  3. As the stock steadily boils, a brown scum will form and follow the flow of the boiling stock and settle in the centre of the pot. This “scum” has to be steadily and continuously skimmed off with a ladle and discarded.
  4. The amount of the “scum” will depend on the colour of your stock, if your stock is light brown or coffee colour, this would signify that when making the stock, sediment has boiled into the stock and this will eventually separate from the stock as it steadily ticks over.
  5. The more coffee coloured “scum” you retrieve and discard, the darker and more beautiful your stock and soon to be Glace de Viande will become.
  6. It is important to understand that as the stock reduces, all the impurities are separated and as the water evaporates through the steam, the stock will get thicker.
  7. It will get thicker due to the fact that the bone marrow in the joints of the bones retrieved when making your stock will become more and more apparent and thicken the stock making the Glace de Viande.
  8. When the stock has been reduced by at least two thirds of the original amount, there are no more impurities emerging and the glaze is shiny dark brown in colour, the Glace de Viande is ready.
  9. The Glace de Viande can now be poured into shallow stainless steel trays and placed in a fridge to cool off.
  10. When the glaze has cooled off and taken out of the fridge it should be quite hard & almost like rubber.
  11. It can then be used straight away, or cut into cubes, wrapped with plastic cling film individually and frozen so it can be used piece by piece when necessary.
  12. When making sauces with a good Glace de Viande, the finished product will be staggering, it will drizzle, shimmer and shine on a good quality white bone china plate and create a mirror like effect.
  13. The sauce made with this glaze will be full of flavour and if it is made properly, will make your lips stick together slightly after eating the sauce…this is reduced bone marrow and very high in cholesterol so should be eaten in moderation.

Notes: Glace de Viande can be stored in the freezer for months without spoiling as it is concentrated and free from any impurities. The longer your stock was simmered and the more bone marrow retrieved the better the glaze will taste and the easier it will be to thicken your sauces when the Glaze is added. A Glaze can be made in exactly the same way with any kind of meat stock such as veal, duck, pheasant, lamb or venison. However, Glace de Viande is a term only used to describe beef glaze as the others will be usually named Duck Glaze, Lamb Glaze and so on and so forth.

Fresh home cooked and fluffy mashed potatoes….every time!

  • 1kg  Potatoes
  • 30gr Butter
  • Egg yolk
  • Cream, fresh ground black pepper and seasoning.

Making mashed potatoes is the easiest of tasks when it comes to cooking, especially if you have the very basic knowledge of cookery and you are able to look at the process logically. Having a certain level of understanding when it comes to cooking fundamentals will set you on the way to know and grasp why things go wrong when trying out recipes. When you have a solid understanding of these basic principles, making mashed potatoes is as easy as could possible be and they will turn out perfect every time.

  1. After peeling and washing the potatoes you need to cut them in half or quarters to reduce the cooking time and to ensure that they cook evenly.
  2. Place the raw and peeled potatoes in a boiling pot and cover with cold water. Ensure that the potatoes do not have any “eyes” or black pieces left on them, as they have to be all peeled or cut off to ensure that the potatoes are all the same white colour when finished.The water needs to be salted before you place the pot on your stove to bring it to a boil. This is where the basic understanding of cooking comes in and the simple methods you follow will make your mashed potatoes lovely or terrible. When you bring the water to a slow boil to cook the potatoes it is imperative to understand that the water will cook the potatoes from the outside in. This happens by the water penetrating the potatoes layer by layer and as the water sinks in to the centre of the potatoes, the water and the flavour thereof will enter the potato. If you add too much seasoning or salt, the potato will taste exactly like the water the potatoes are boiled in and will become inedible or unpleasant to eat as best. Adding no salt or seasoning to the water and leaving it plain will ensure that the potatoes just taste like….well, water!
  3. Slow boil the potatoes until they are cooked. To test the potatoes you will have to prick them with a sharp tipped knife, they are cooked when the knife enters the potato with little resistance. There should always be a little resistance or “bite” as if they are overcooked they will have absorbed too much water making the potatoes stodgy and heavy.
  4. When the potatoes are cooked they need to be taken off the stove and poured directly in to a colander allowing all the hot water to run down the sink. Let the potatoes sit there in the colander allowing all the hot steam to escape, until there is only a little steam left. It is important to understand that the steam is actually water and by allowing all the steam to disperse you are allowing liquid to escape therefore allowing your finished potatoes to be light and fluffy. When the potatoes have but a little steam escaping, this is the time you need to mash them and in doing so allowing even more steam to escape from inside the potatoes. If there are only a few potatoes you can use a simple dinner fork, but if there are lots you need to invest in a potato masher that you can purchase at your local kitchen utensil shop.
  5. You never ever cool off your potatoes in cold water; this will give the potatoes a chance to absorb even more water making the end product again very stodgy and heavy, when allowing them to cool off in a colander you are letting them cool off naturally and on their own. Water is the enemy of mashed potatoes and the least of it the better.
  6. When the potatoes are mashed and still warm, you can add your egg yolk, butter, a couple of twists of fresh ground black pepper straight from the mill & a splash of cream and grated cheese if you desire. Tasting the potatoes before adding any more salt is a good idea as they will have absorbed salt when the water penetrated them and we do not want to over salt them as the salt cannot be retrieved when too much has been added.

Notes: You could add the ingredients to the finished potatoes and just incorporate them all with a wooden spoon, but the flavour will have then just been added at the last minute before serving. This will not allow the taste of the added ingredients to be absorbed properly as it would if they were cooked together in the water. You start to cook when you understand that the potatoes will absorb the taste of anything you add to the water you boil them in. Remember, the water cooks the potatoes by penetrating the potatoes from the outside in thereby carrying the flavour of your added ingredients with it inside the potato. How about changing the water with a light chicken stock, you can add anything to the water or stock when cooking the potatoes and you can experiment and create your own recipe with any type of herbs, spices, garlic, even chili pepper if you wanted….lemon, cinnamon or anything your heart desires. Happy Cooking!

The power of words

If there is one thing that I have learned over the past 30 years is the fact that words are extremely powerful. If we are to use people skills correctly, we have to read people and try to understand what drives them to go to work every day. One never knows what is happening in their private lives and what they are carrying around on their shoulders each and every day. Dealing with people from all walks of life and from all the corners of the earth has taught me that essentially all people, once you have scratched away the rough exterior, are all the same and that we are all some what fragile.

Words can make people believe that they can single handedly conquer the entire word, or, if the words are not chosen properly ensure that they go home feeling worthless. It is up to us to build up our team so that they all feel confident, powerful, to ensure they have pride in them selves and to ensure they go home with a feeling that their dignity is still intact.

The kitchen steward who washes the dishes and cooking pots everyday for example, has to be made to feel that without him the whole kitchen would collapse. I always brief my colleagues, that not taking care of these wonderful individuals will ensure that one day we may have to wash all the dishes ourselves.

The next we all walk into our working environment; let us all not forget to ensure that we pay attention to the people doing the most menial jobs. If we can ensure that these people feel that they are important and have self worth, everything else will take care of itself.

So, the next time we go to work, let us try to use words that will ensure that our people follow us to the end of the world, ensure that they will be willing to die for us and follow any instructions given without hesitation…use words that may destroy them and we will live with it forever.

It is all our responsibility to help each other to be better people, to understand that words hurt, that unfortunately words once said can not be retrieved and to develop the people we care about to ensure that they feel pride in themselves.

Every day, let us look in the mirror and honestly ask ourselves if we like what we see, if we do not, the good news is that it is never too late to change.

Last but not least, let us not fall in the trap of falling in love with television chefs who shout, swear and belittle people, as may people may want to be like them one day, but nobody would want to work with them any day.

Beautiful cook books with beautiful pictures

I urge non trained chefs to go to their local bookshop today and purchase any cook book that is filled with fantastic food pictures. Take the first recipe and picture that catches your eye, follow the recipe and instructions to prepare the dish. Lay the dish on chosen crockery and compare the finished dish with that of the dish in the book and see if they look the same. If they do not look the same, this is because you do not have the basic cooking methods that the chefs have who prepared the dish in the book. However, all is not lost and it is never too late to start to get these basic cooking fundamentals to ensure that every dish you make will turn out just fine as if prepared by professional chefs. I try to keep Chef’s Tales as simple as possible to ensure everyone understands that basic fundamentals are whats needed to ensure you have the gift and skills to experiment on your own. Sometimes chefs even use terms and words that you do not understand and get lost in translation making the finished dish impossible to duplicate. I would hope that Chef’s Tales becomes like a classroom to arm you with the skills to follow any recipe given and to ensure that you are cooking wonderful meals for your loved ones you can be proud of at home. I will also start to compile a list of culinary terms used by trained chefs so that when these terms arise in cooking methods you understand what they are talking about which should help you follow the instructions more easily. Happy Cooking!

Fresh wonderful fluffy & smooth mashed potato every time (Easy as one, two, three).

Are you afraid to admit that you don’t know how to make real mashed potatoes and you cheat by opening a packet. Are you embarassed to tell your friends that you don’t know how to poach an egg for your loved ones for breakfast. It’s easy if you know how and I know how….you can too if you contact me and ask THAT private and embarassing question on cooking that you need answering. Contact me for all your very basic needs in your quest to start cooking real food at home and I will share my 30 years of knowledge with you for free so that you can cook good wholesome food like professional chefs. Come on what are you waiting for!

Tapenade–Mediterranean rich olive spread

RECIPE

  • 23 Gram Black pitted Calamata olives
  • 90 Gram Capers
  • 2 Tsp Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Cloves Roasted Garlic
  • 2 Sprigs Fresh rosemary
  • 2 Pinch Fresh cracked black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt
  • Anchovies and Pine nuts (optional)

METHOD

  1. Place all ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Add a little of the olive oil at the beginning just so that there is enough for it to chop freely.
  3. Turn on the processor on a slow speed at first just to get it started and then turn up the speed to chop up all the ingredients once the mixture has started moving.
  4. Add more olive oil until you get the desired consistency.
  5. The Tapenade should be finely chopped, but not entirely smooth.
  6. Take off the lid and use a soft plastic spatula to scrape off the mixture round the inside edge of the processor to ensure that all the mixture has been incorporated and chopped evenly.
  7. Turn the processor back on until finely chopped to the desired consistency.
  8. Add the cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

NOTES

The olives should be of the oil cured variety as they have the most aromatic flavour, the olives and capers should be drained properly to get as much liquid off them as possible before processing. The rosemary leaves can be taken from the stem by pulling them backwards with your hand drawing your fingers slowly down the stem of the plant. The leaves will end up sitting between your fingers and can be easily added to the mixture before being chopped. Do not add the salt until the very end as sometimes there will be enough salt already mixed together with the oil cured ingredients to fully season the Tapenade. Always remember that you can keep adding salt slowly until there is enough inside, but once inside you can not remove it. So if you add too much salt the dish will be ruined. Please enjoy this recipe which is donated by my close friend, Chef Kasdi.

All Meat Stocks

General proportions of ingredients for all stocks except fish stock

  • 4 liters Water
  • 2 Kg Raw bones
  • ½ Kg Hard Vegetables (onion, carrot, celery, leeks)
  • 1 Piece Bouquet Garni (thyme, bay leafs, parsley stalks)
  • ½ Pc Whole Garlic Bulb (not a segment the whole thing)
  • A dozen assorted peppercorns
  • 60 Grams Tomato Paste (Brown stocks only)

General method to make all types of white stocks

  1. Chop all bones and remove any fat.
  2. Place in a large thick bottomed pot and fill with cold water.
  3. Bring it to a slow simmer.
  4. As the stock comes to a simmer, scum will form in the centre as it is pushed from the outside of the pot, this has to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and discarded.
  5. When it is simmering without any more accumulation of foam or scum, the other ingredients can be added.
  6. The stock should be simmered for at least 8 hours, for optimum results and to ensure that all the flavour is out of the bones, they should be simmered until the bones can be crumbled with your thumb nail.
  7. When the stock is simmered for a long period of time, clean cold water can be added to top up the stock level due to the ongoing evaporation process.

General method to make all types of brown stocks

  1. Chop all bones and lay them in a heavy roasting tray.
  2. Carefully roast the bones without burning (burning will make the stock bitter)
  3. When the bones are golden brown, drain off all oil.
  4. Add the bones to a large thick bottomed pot and fill with cold water.
  5. Pour most of the oil out of the roasting pan and then add the tomato paste.
  6. Cook on top of a stove for 5 minutes then add the hard vegetables & Garlic bulb.
  7. Stir until golden brown, again without burning.
  8. Add all ingredients to the bones in the pan.
  9. Bring it to a slow simmer.
  10. As the stock comes to a simmer, scum will form in the centre as it is pushed from the outside of the pot, this has to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and discarded. (you must ensure that you do not skim off all the ingredients you just added when you do this).
  11. The stock should be simmered for at least 8 hours, for optimum results and to ensure that all the flavour is out of the bones, they should be simmered until the bones can be crumbled with your thumb nail.
  12. Every few hours any scum or oil collecting in the middle of the pot again, has to be skimmed off.
  13. When the stock is simmered for a long period of time, clean cold water can be added to top up the stock level due to the ongoing evaporation process.

 

 

Notes:

When making stocks, especially meat stocks, they should be a labour of love and lots of care has to be taken to ensure the stock has the most flavour possible. Every day you can go through the fridge to find any bits and pieces of hard vegetables, tomatoes, herbs or even small scraps of the types of meat the stock is derived from and add them to the “works in progress” (all meat must be browned first before being added). However the stock pot is not a garbage bin to add all rotten ingredients that have to be used up, always remember, Garbage in Garbage out! The “Stock Pot” can be simmering for up to a week at a time, whilst the chefs keep scooping off the contents of the pot with a ladle as they use it to make soups or sauces during service. The better the quality of the stock, the better the quality of the soups and sauces made form the stock. Most of the televised cooking shows do not explain the importance of the quality of stock when making any dishes that require it, the difference to the end result is astounding.

You never, ever boil a stock as this will ensure that impurities in the liquid will boil back into the stock making the stock cloudy and dull. When the stock is cloudy, the finished sauce made form this stock will be light brown in colour and will not have the dark clear shine to it when added to any dish and will not be impressive when spooned on a white dinner plate. Stocks can be made from all bones including, beef, chicken, veal, pheasant, duck, lamb and so on and so forth. When serving any meat, the stock to make the sauce should be the same as the meat being served, when serving duck for example, duck stock should be used to make the sauce to match the meat being served and thereby increase the taste and aroma of the dish.

An Angel In Waiting

The first time I walked through the back door of a hotel, I was 15 years old and I walked in with visions of romance, dreams and glamour…I still have those visions today as they have never changed. After finishing cooking school, I left England and set off to Canada starting my life’s adventures that would eventually hand me a gift that only God could create and only an endless collection of jigsaw puzzle like decisions would put me in the right moment, at the right time, for me to be in the right position, to be able to accept this beautiful gift. When I was in Canada I spent a night on a frozen lake, sitting there, looking down at hundreds of feet of dark water moving beneath me whilst watching the full moon turn the entire lake white and then the sun rise turning the same lake into a wonderful sea of orange and red. I went on to the Bahamas, walked on pink beaches and swam in a sea that was so clean and untouched that it could only be described as breath taking. I sat on tiny islands that had the feeling that they had never, ever been walked on before which made me feel like I was somehow special and that I had accomplished something that others could only dream of. I then went to Hong Kong and laid on a car bonnet, staring into the sky whilst a jumbo jet came roaring over the top of the building I was parked outside before it landed in the city airport, the noise was so deafening it appeared as if the engine was in my lap and it was so close that I felt that it was possible to actually reach out and touch it.

I drove with break neck speed round a mountain road in Penang, after being promised to savour the king of fruits only to find fresh Durians waiting for me at the end of the journey. I stood in awe and watched millions of gallons of water flow over Niagara falls, I saw poverty in the Philippines that would break you in to tears and visions in India that I will carry to my grave. I played pool with Dustin Hoffman, Drank with Duran Duran, talked to Stevie Wonder, Steven Segal, Donald Trump and Charles Bronson. I saw friends die young and the wife who I thought at that time I would be with forever, walk out on me for another man on my birthday.

I then moved on to Penang, a broken man, heartbroken, devoid of all hope and forcing myself to push through life’s motions every single day. Every morning I woke up wanting to turn over, go back to sleep and not even bother getting up at all. The simple task of pulling my legs over the side of the bed ready to stand up became a task of monumental effort. On one fateful lunch time whilst eating my Caesar salad on Penang island, I looked up to see whose attention I could catch for some parmesan cheese and then I saw her. For a brief second, I was squinting as I tried to focus through blinding sunlight streaming right into my eyes. It made a direct hit on my face while brilliantly shining from behind her. A passing cotton wool cloud blocked the direct sunlight, dulling the glare, and there, through a ray of beautiful golden sunshine, I saw a woman with a perfect smile that could only derive from her soul.

For no reason at all, it just made my eyes well up with treacherous tears. Beatrice and I have now been together for over 12 years, married for 10 and have two beautiful daughters. How I ended up there after all I have been through and after working in over 9 different countries is beyond me. All it would have taken was one single decision to go somewhere else at any time and the meeting of my soul mate would never have happened. I would like to promise to all of my friends, colleagues and readers that there is always hope, always love and that you should never stop dreaming. I would like to say from the bottom of my heart that the hotel industry and life in general really is beautiful! Never, ever, ever give up.

Simple Fish Stock for Everyone

FISH STOCK

  • 4 Liters Water
  • 2 Kg White Fish Bones (red fish bones will darken the stock)
  • 200g Onion
  • 50g Butter
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • Parsley Stalks
  • 6 whole white peppercorns

METHOD

  1. Melt the butter in a thick bottom pan.
  2. Add the sliced onions, the well washed and rinsed fish bones.
  3. Cover with a lid and sweat for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the water, bring to a slow simmer.
  5. Skim and continue to simmer for at least 20 minutes.
  6. Strain through a fine cloth.

Notes: It is very important to wash the bones stringently, therefore getting rid of as much blood off the bones as you possibly can, otherwise the blood will darken the stock. If you require a light in colour fish stock to be used for a cream sauce for example, it is important not to brown or add colour to any of the ingredients whilst they are sweating. Any colouration of the ingredients will darken the stock therefore darkening the finished cream sauce. When bringing the stock to a simmer, it is important not to boil the stock; as if the stock boils the rising impurities will mix inside the stock and make it cloudy.

As the stock simmers impurities will rise to the top and all these are not needed, therefore they have to be skimmed off with a ladle or spoon and then discarded. When skimming off the impurities it is important not to skim off the ingredients that you have just added at the same time, if you do that then you waste them by throwing them away as well and the stock will not taste as good. Due to the fact that fish bones are smaller and softer, 20 minutes of simmering time should be enough to get out all the flavour and the marrow from inside the joints. Fish stock is an essential base that can be used for all fish sauces and soups.