Spinach, Ricotta and Pine nut Cannelloni with creamy mushroom sauce

Spinach, Ricotta and Pine Nut Canneloni

Ingredients:

  • 1 pkt Cannelloni, cylindrical shaped pasta
  • 150 gm Pine nuts, toasted
  • Parmesan cheese

Spinach and Ricotta Cheese filling:

  • 600 gm Baby spinach
  • 300 gm Ricotta cheese
  • 4 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • 1 no Onions, chopped
  • 2 pcs Bay leaves
  • 1 sprig Fresh thyme
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 3 tbsp Olive oil
  • 150 ml Fresh cream (cooking)
  • A pinch of nutmeg powder
  • Fine sea salt and a pinch of black pepper

Method:

  1. Pre heat the sauce pan with medium heat, melt the butter, then sauté the chopped onion and garlic until translucent, but not brown.
  2. Transfer the mixture into a small container & place to one side.
  3. In the same pan, pre heat the pan with high a heat, once the pan is smoking, add the olive oil and spinach, quickly sautéing the spinach until the spinach is cooked.
  4. Then add the sautéed onion and garlic, mix well.
  5. Pour in the cream, ricotta cheese, nutmeg and herbs.
  6. Mix well, once the mixture is thickened adjust the seasoning.

Creamy mushrooms:

  • 150 gm White button mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 tbsp Butter
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Flat parsley, chopped
  • 250 ml Fresh cooking cream
  • 2 clove Garlic, chopped
  • Fine sea salt and a pinch of black pepper

Method:

  1. Pre heat the sauce pan on a high heat, melt the butter and olive oil, then sauté the garlic and mushrooms until they are slightly browned.
  2. Then add the cooking cream, mix well, adjust the seasoning once it’s thickened.
  3. Just before serving mix in the fresh chopped flat parsley.

Assembly:

  1. Blanch the cannelloni (half cooked) in salted water, then soak the blanched cannelloni in cold ice water afterwards.
  2. Then using a piping bag, pipe into the cannelloni the spinach filling & then arrange the cannelloni on your choice of plate or platter.
  3. Pour the creamy mushroom sauce on top of the cannelloni, sprinkle it with parmesan cheese, then bake in an oven until golden brown.
  4. Sprinkle with warm toasted pine nuts, just before serving.

Notes:

Chef Kasdi has served his cannelloni topped with whole roasted pine nuts which offer a great taste combination with the hot and sticky cheese topping. It is important to ensure that the Cannelloni sits on a small bed of sauce before it goes under the grill or in the oven for browning purposes, without the sauce it will burn and the cannelloni will stick to the bottom of the cooking receptacle of choice.

Happy Cooking!

Pesto and Garlic Toasted Farmer Loaf

 Pesto bread

Pesto:

  • ¾ cup Grape seed oil
  • ½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves Roasted garlic
  • 2 clove Garlic
  • 3 cup Fresh basil leaf
  • ½ cup Pine nut, lightly roasted
  • ½ cup Freshly grated parmagiano reggiano cheese or any kind parmesan cheese
  • Fine sea salt and a pinch of black pepper.

Method:

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor; let it rest for at least 4 hours at room temperature before serving.

Garlic Butter:

  • 250 gm Butter, unsalted
  • 10 cloves Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Flat parsley, chopped
  • A few drops of L&P Sauce
  • Fine sea salt and a pinch of black pepper
  • Your choice of bread although farmer loaf or any kind of crusty rustic bread is best.

Preparation:

Mix all the ingredients; spread over the bread, and toast in an oven until golden brown, then serve with pesto as a dip.

Notes:

Chef Kasdi has rubbed his bread chunks with the pesto before toasting, when doing this you must ensure not to burn the topping when grilling, you can toast the bread first and rub the toast with the pesto if you desire to do this, the choice is yours.

Happy Toasting!

Culinary Fest at Gleneagles

Gleneagles has brought together talented chefs and purveyors of fine food
for a Culinary Fest weekend from Friday 5 – Sunday 7 March 2010.

Afternoon tea on Friday afternoon is elevated by marrying the flavours with
whisky, followed by a malts and whisky blending masterclass.

On Saturday morning guests can either attend a VIP tour of nearby Glenturret
Distillery, or Perthshire smokehouse and fishmongers, George Campbell &
Sons.

Or back at Gleneagles, watch the skills of award-winning Scottish butcher
Simon Howie and the innovative cooking of Executive Chef Alan Gibb come
together in a ‘Nose to Tail’ cooking demonstration and listen as Head Pastry
Chef Neil Mugg, reveals his secrets for creating indulgent treats with 18
carat gold and Valrohna chocolate.

Following a showcase lunch in Deseo, the afternoon tastings are hosted by
Pommery Champagne and Le Dome.

The highlight of the weekend is a spectacular banquet in the Ballroom
prepared by Alan Gibb and Michelin Star chef Nigel Howarth of Northcote
Manor in Lancashire, with fine wines presented by Veronique Drouhin, head
winemaker of Maison Joseph Drouhin.  The evening closes with Scottish
artisan cheeses and classic malt truffles and an opportunity to meet the
chefs, winemakers and suppliers.

Prices per Estate room based on two adults sharing, including overnight
accommodation, full Scottish breakfast, VAT and the culinary events are:

Friday 5 March: £219
Saturday 6 March: £599
Sunday 7 March: £219

For full information or reservations, please call 0800 704705, email
resort.sales@gleneagles.com or visit www.gleneagles.com.

Make an omelet like a professional chef

Making an omelet looks harder than what it actually is and like everything else, with enough practice, along with enough trial and error you will be making professional chef like omelets in no time. Confidence and faith in being able to do something will arrive automatically, when you do it often enough. It’s like riding a bike and only negative thoughts you may have & ones that shout out “I can’t do it” will stop you.

All you need is a simple, small and shallow non stick frying pan, a wooden spoon and the ingredients and away you go.

Let’s talk about the omelet pan first shall we;

If the cooking surface is too large the eggs will be spread too thin and cook too quickly, if the surface is too small the eggs will be spread too thick and take forever to cook. The ideal size with regards to the cooking surface of the pan should be approximately 6-8 inches in width. It should be non stick, rather sturdy and easy to wipe clean with a kitchen cloth after the omelet is finished.

The wooden spoon should have a smallish head which would be about 3 inches in length, it does not really matter if it is flat or with a dimple inside, but it should be round in shape to move inside the pan easily. A square shaped wooden spoon will make it difficult to collect the eggs as you stir the eggs in a round shaped pan, leaving eggs here and there to then over cook.

Now let’s talk about the ingredients;

All you need is 2 eggs (some people like to use 3, but with the ongoing cholesterol issue 2 will suffice. Also if you make the mixture too much, then you go back to the pan and cooking surface being the incorrect size for the amount of mixture you are cooking), salt & pepper and a small touch of milk (cream if you would like to be decadent).

Now to making the actual omelet;

Place the omelet pan on your stove; add a little clarified butter or low cholesterol oil in the pan. We should not use fresh butter as the butter may burn and discolour the finished omelet surface and spoil the presentation.

When the clarified butter is hot and almost starting to smoke, you add the eggs, immediately stirring vigorously and not allowing the eggs to stand still for a second.

When the eggs are almost cooked and there is a little wet egg left, you should then stop and take the pan off the stove.

You then take this opportunity to use your spoon and move around the liquid egg that is left, thereby filling any holes left behind from the stirring wooden spoon. The entire surface of the pan should be covered now with moist eggs.

You then use the wooden spoon to roll the eggs as you would roll a swiss roll cake after baking. Whilst holding the spoon in your hand, you start from one end and slowly roll the eggs tightly moving in to the middle of the omelet and then to the far end.

When the eggs are rolled and resemble an omelet you then turn the pan upside down tipping the omelet on to a clean warm plate. You can then use a clean towel to cup the omelet in your hands and shape the omelet for presentation purposes.

Notes:

If you would like to have something a little different and special (showing your loved ones you have a couple of tricks up your sleeves) you could add another single egg white to the two egg mixture. You then need to whip the mixture vigorously to trap as much air as possible. Making the omelet in the way I have shown you, after the finished omelet is on the plate you can place it under a hot grill for a second and watch it rise like a soufflé.

The air you have trapped inside during the whipping process will now expand and rise taking the egg mixture with it. Although omelet purists will tell you that this method is not actually an omelet, the nice colour from the grill, the almost double in size omelet will definitely impress the people for whom you are cooking.

The only problem is, is that as it is kind of like a soufflé in its cooking process these kind of omelets need to be served straight away as if they are not they will sink rather quickly.

Happy Cooking!

Lemongrass tomato infused oyster shooters

Oyster Shooters

Ingredients:

  • 1 dozen Fresh live oysters
  • 1 can/163 ml Tomato juice
  • 2 nos Juice from ripe roma tomatoes
  • 5 tbsp Lemon grass juice from 3 stalks, ground with water
  • 50 ml Freshly squeezed pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp Finely chopped red chili
  • 1 tsp Finely chopped coriander leaf or Chinese parsley
  • A few drops of Tabasco
  • Fine sea salt and a pinch of cracked black pepper

Method:

Mix all the ingredients; let them chill at least 4 hours before serving. Garnish with celery stick.

Notes:

Chef Kasdi has presented his shooters in shot glasses on a bed of crushed ice for effect. When we do this, the ice will ensure that the oysters stay very chilled and will taste fresh.

Happy Slurping!

Making a homemade non stick pan

In the hotel industry many of the old style hotels would never purchase non stick pans, one reason was in the “old days” they did not exist and another was that for heavy usage they would never last long. They would get scratched, dented, burnt, broken, smashed and even stolen, so to avoid this they would make their own non stick variety that would be hardened, sturdy and last forever.

I have done this many times personally and this is how they do it:

When I was conducting my training there was no such thing as non stick pans and they would use cast iron, very heavy and durable pans which needed to be “seasoned” for them to be able to be non stick.

On receiving a new, straight from the supplier, cast iron frying pan or sautéing pan, we used to first place it on a solid top stove, empty with absolutely nothing inside and get it so hot that it would be smoking.

We would then place enough course sea salt in the smoking hot pan to cover its entire cooking surface until it was about 2cm thick. We would leave the hot pot on the stove with the salt and slowly burn and cook the pot with the salt inside. The salt will very slowly “cook” by smoking, burning and turning the salt very slowly to a dark brown colour.

We would then discard the salt in a bin, get a piece of cloth (a towel cloth like an old bath towel or face cloth) dip it in oil and wipe or rub the pot until the hot metal would absorb the oil making the pan shiny.

When the pan is smoking hot, we would them wipe the pan clean with another piece of kitchen towel and then proceed with the whole process all over again from the beginning.

After doing this 2 or 3 times the metal will have absorbed the oil making the metal very shiny, “seasoned” and have a homemade non stick effect. When you have done this you need to try out the pan by making an omelet, if the eggs stick, you have to start all over again until the pan cooks an omelet without the eggs sticking.

The act of “seasoning” the pan may take a few days, a week on more than a week, but it is definitely a loving care process.

It is VERY important to know that this kind of pan, once seasoned can never be washed in water; they are just wiped clean with a dry kitchen cloth or paper towel. Water and this type of non stick pan are worst enemies, washing the pan with soapy water will ensure that you have to start the whole process again from the very beginning.

Once any metal which includes a barbecue grill, pots and pans or skillets absorb enough oil and become seasoned, nothing will ever stick to them again if you take care of them.

Even when you are using a barbecuing grill, you must rub the grill irons with an oily cloth enough times to ensure the metal has absorbed it. The metal will look moist and shiny and no food will stick to this metal. If the bars are hot, very dry and dull, anything you add to this grill will immediately stick and when you pull away the food half of it will still be stuck to the grill bars and then burn.

Metal which is used for cooking needs to be seasoned with oil and this takes patience, time, tender loving care and lots of effort, but once you get the pan the way you want it, protect it with your life as you will be the envy of the chef community.

Happy Pan Seasoning!!

Braised Duck with Star Anise

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole duck
  • 250 g Peanut oil or corn oil
  • 60 g Sesame oil
  • 60 g Shao xing wine
  • 400 ml Chicken stock
  • 250 g Dark soya sauce or thick soya sauce
  • 40 g Rock sugar, crushed
  • 5 g Star anise
  • 40 g Dried chili, chopped
  • 20 g Spring onion, white part only chopped
  • 40 g Ginger, fine slice
  • 10 g Garlic, fine slice
  • Sea salt

Preparation:

  1. Cut the duck into 8 large pieces.
  2. Score the skin and fat of each piece in a diamond pattern with a sharp tipped knife.
  3. Toss the duck in sea salt, heat the oil and fry the duck pieces until golden brown on all sides, remove and keep warm.
  4. Heat the sesame oil, add the star anise, dried chillies, spring onions, ginger, garlic and fry them until they smoke.
  5. Add the duck and sauté all the ingredients together, add the wine and flambé.
  6. Add the stock, soy and bring to the boil, skim and simmer for 1 hour.
  7. The meat is ready when it pulls away from the bones easily – the jus/cooking liquid should be reduced by 2/3 from the original amount.
  8. Finish the dish with rock sugar and cook until the meat is glazed/caramalized.

Notes:

The recipe is donated by Chef Bob who is currently the Executive Chef of the Kanpei Restaurant and Bar in Kuala Lumpur which is the capital of Malaysia.

Sincere thanks to Chef Bob and Happy Cooking!

The Chilling “Lovely Bones”

I would like to share my latest “Musing” with you today if I may and I must warn you in advance that it has nothing to do with food or cooking.

Here is what I know and this is an undeniable part of real life that we unfortunately cannot hide from and for which we have to learn to deal with every day of our lives.

A young man will go through many stages in his life, all of which will be pivotal in creating the person he is going to portray to his wife, children and to the people around him later on in his life. Many young adult men, whether we like it or not have volatile hormones and a terrible testosterone abundance which drives them crazy. This burden ensures that they have sex on their minds every minute, gives them an erection for no apparent reason, it ensures that they look at every girl with reasons that are not exactly the most pure and the constant media, music scene, fashion and movie industry all contribute to ensure that all they want to do is have sex.

I want to talk open here whilst speaking candidly and say that many of these young consenting adults (I say many and of course I do not mean all), will tell their girl friends at the heat of the moment, anything they think the girl needs to hear to ensure they take their clothes off. Of course we all understand that the girl should say no and encourage the boy friend to wait until they get married, but if we think this is always going to happen then we are living in a fish bowl or in Disney Land.

They go though this stage of unknowing lack of respect for women due to ignorance, immaturity, lack of knowledge, uncontrollable urges and the primal need to mate.

I remember living through my twenties and enjoying every second of my bachelor life, although I would like to feel that I showed respect to all my girlfriends I have to admit here and now to the whole world that, as a normal young adult male, I never thought I wanted to marry all of them.

After my soul mate and I were married, Beatrice came to me, asked me to sit down and told me we were having a baby. I was very happy, at 39 years of age, yes 39; I had finally managed to start a family after meeting the woman of my dreams. There I was 9 months later inside the operating theatre after finding out our angel was a primary breach, watching the doctor slice open my best friend’s tummy and pulling out this miracle of life by both of her feet with their fingers, I remember crazily comparing it to the way you would pull a couple of beers out of a crate.

An hour later, after holding my daughter in my arms I finally travelled the full circle & for the first time the penny dropped, my eyes welled up and my mind opened wide to the concept that all the girls I had dated before were actually someone else’s daughter. The realization of placing myself in their father’s shoes would haunt me for years to come and only by treating my wife and daughter with total respect and with the love and kindness they deserve would I make amends for my personal perceived past mistakes enabling me to move on with my life.

Then, when I felt that life was progressing in the right direction and that I was coming to peace with my memories and finally starting to learn what a real man was, I read in a magazine or a newspaper about this new movie coming out named “Lovely Bones” and as the movie is not out yet I went and bought the book to have a read.

I have seen a lot of scary movies when I was young, “Halloween”, “Friday the 13th”, “A Nightmare of Elm Street” and the rest, but I can tell you now that as a loving father who would put his life on the line for his daughters, these stories pale in comparison to the chilling “Lovely Bones”.

Here’s the thing, whilst most of the other “horror” stories are scary, they appear to be not real and when you walk out of the cinema whilst scary inside you never think for a second that Freddie is waiting for you round the corner. “Lovely Bones” is very different as this is real life, the actual story line happens every day and the extremely scary part is that if you let your guard down for a second, Freddie might actually take your daughter away from you.

Beatrice and I have two lovely daughters, but if I may I would like to open my heart and my very private life to you just for a fleecing second. We had a family tragedy; 5 years ago we were having a son, after naming him Bradley and talking to him every day whilst he was growing in Beatrice’s tummy, he passed away at birth when he was almost full term.

Bradley had but just 3 weeks to go before the big day and we went for our normal routine final check-up only to receive this dreadful nightmare news that I would not wish on my worst enemies.

We took our eldest daughter out of school for a while so that we could get through this terrible loss together and when she went back to school they asked her to draw a picture to show what she had done during her holiday. The teacher called me to go to her class after she had gone home and she showed me the picture that she had drawn.

The picture was a picture of her holding her mummy’s and daddy’s hand in a cemetery and the words at the top announced, “This is a picture of me, mummy and daddy saying goodbye to my brother” I took the picture from the teacher, said thank you and instantly walked back to my car with the intention of driving back to work, but instead I sat in the car and cried for an hour.

I had a whole bunch of mixed emotions of anger, guilt and the terrible thought that my young daughter had to learn the hard lesson of loss so early in her very young life.

We struggled through unimaginable grief for about 2 years before the pain begun to subside, whilst the pain will never go away and we will carry the grief forever, only by supporting each other did we manage to get through it together. The biggest issue I had personally was the thought that as a father I should have done more to help my son, the guilt was something that I struggled with heavily; constantly going to his grave to aplogise begging for his forgiveness and although I still have the same thoughts, whilst still horrible are now at least manageable.

I am only telling you this to place on record that I do understand loss and that I am in a way regrettably somewhat qualified to try to understand what it must be like to lose your child in such a fashion.

So, after going through what I went through as a daddy, when I tried to place myself in the father’s shoes and I tried to imagine the pain and the unimaginable feeling of guilt, I was unable to come even close to what a parent must feel after living through such a terrible nightmare and to have some monster take away their angel.

Lovely bones forces us to rethink our conventional thought process that the next door neighbor is someone with whom we can trust, the “leaving the house keys with them whilst we go on holiday in case there is a problem”, or telling the children that if you are not home in time and the house is locked “go and stay with uncle next door and wait for us to come home”.

I have lived next to my neighbor for 3 years now and whilst he is lovely, “Lovely Bones” forces me to ask myself, how well do I actually know this man, as he is now 60, what did he do for the first 57 years of his life and I have come to the realisation that the fact is I don’t know anything about him at all.

Trust me, I do understand that we cannot wrap or daughters in cotton wool, we cannot be over protective so they feel suffocated, learn to hate their child hood and grow up hating us as parents, but reading “Lovely Bones” has definitely changed my perspective & thought process somewhat and ensured that I will make an even bigger effort to keep an extra eye on my two princesses.

When I sit by their beds at night and look at my girls sleeping, it’s extremely hard to imagine any person in their right mind who would even think about hurting them never mind doing so, but the fact is that there are people out there who would do exactly that.

We cannot teach our children to be scared of everyone, we can not teach them that they cannot trust anyone and we cannot teach our daughters that all men are only out for one thing, I know that I really do; but somehow we have to ensure they know that real monsters do exist and we unfortunately do not always know who they are.