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Kitchen experiments .2

What we’re cooking: Spanish Fumet, the Ultimate Seafood Stock

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What is Spanish Fumet, the Ultimate Seafood Stock?

Spanish Fumet, the Ultimate Seafood Stock is an antidote for our times. For most of the world, fish stock comes in cubes and cartons, but in Spain, fumet comes from the heads and tails of the sea. Watching my adopted godmother Maria-Angeles prepare Spanish fumet, the Ultimate Seafood Stock, remains a culinary highlight that flashes back every time I feel like lazily turning to the packaged version. First, she warmed olive oil in a cast iron pot then added onions, leeks, carrots and bay leaves until starting to soften, then all manner of sea creatures were thrown in – prawn heads, baby crabs, monk sh tails, empty mussel shells and, perhaps most impressive, lobster claws, which every gourmet has hiding in the back of their fridge. With a flourish, she pitched in the final seasoning (lemon, white peppercorns and parsley), before covering with water and wine and bringing the pot to a simmer. When strained two hours later, the liquid could have easily passed as a soup, but instead formed the base of an arroz de sepia (squid rice) that left each grain bursting with the flavour of the ocean. When the pace of life allows, I spend hours making fumet. In today’s hyper-connected world where life hacks are badges of honour, setting aside the time to make fumet is priceless. It’s a reward I treat myself to when I need to connect with something deeper and cook with a reference to the older and wiser people that I’ve met along the way.

seafood fumet - ultimate seafood stock

How to make Spanish Fumet, the Ultimate Seafood Stock

Ingredients

Any shell fish you can get your hands on (prawns, crabs, mussels, clams etc) spines and leftovers of any white fish.

1 brown onion, diced
1 leek, cleaned and roughly chopped
2 carrots, cleaned and roughly chopped 5 handfuls parsley, stalks and all
2 litres of water
2 cups of white wine
4 bay leaves
5 whole white peppercorns Peel of 1 lemon
Olive oil

Steps

Heat a large pot with oil then add onion, celery, carrots and sweat over medium heat until beginning to soften then add all the seafood and fry for a further 5 minutes until well coated in oil. Next add the parsley, bay leaves, peppercorns and lemon peel and leave to sauté for another 5 minutes. Now cover this with water and wine and simmer gently for at least an hour then strain through a sieve and set aside. Use it within a week or freeze it for use throughout the year.

Reflections .2

What we’re thinking: Combining Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Connections

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True creativity is about connecting the right dots together; the best ideas always seem so obvious in hindsight

Combining Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Connections

Combining Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Connections

Combining Creativity, Entrepreneurship and Connections, I had the honour of speaking at the ACD*E Creativity Festival in Barcelona last October. A festival that proved to be the perfect place to mix ideas and absorb fresh inspiration. I shared the stage with Iepe Rubingh. At the same time arrogantly charismatic yet also humble and wise, Iepe is a passionate storyteller, innovator, thinker and fighter. Being on the creative side of things as an artist almost all his life, he understood the power of connections when he founded Chess Boxing Global, a company that is creating a professional league for chessboxing.

Chessboxing is everything you can imagine, fighters alternate 3-minute rounds throwing punches and moving pawns, until one of them scores a K.O. or check-mate. Combining two of the world’s oldest sports, it is the ultimate test of brawn and brain and attracts the chess nerds as the thugs that used to bully them.

Crossing paths with people like Iepe and listening to him talk about his vision for the chessboxing community is inspiring, and leaves you tingling with creativity.

True creativity is about connecting the right dots together; the best ideas always seem so obvious in hindsight. But the real genius requires one to find the dots that others can’t, and join them in new ways that haven’t attempted before.

My most creative ideas have come when I step out of my comfort zone, when I challenge myself with the new, when the unfamiliar ignites a reaction. Never stop connecting – with people, new ideas and a future you can imagine, and create.

Iepe’s chessboxing idea reminds me of one of my favourite books, The Medici Effect by Frans Johnansson and makes the case for how breakthrough ideas often occur when we bring concepts from one field into a new, unfamiliar territory.

Stay hungry and keep connecting!

Watercooler .2

What we’re reading: Taste Mashup with The Flavour Thesaurus

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Taste Mashup with The Flavour Thesaurus

Taste Mashup with The Flavour Thesaurus is an activity every chef should engage in while experimenting in the kitchen. The Bible has always been a collection of interesting and sometimes inspiring stories, but my real guide has been a small unassuming book called the The Flavour Thesaurus by Niki Segnit.

If you were ever wondering what to pair almonds with, what goes with cauliflower, or how to make smoked salmon stand for more than just an accompaniment to cream cheese and dill, then this is your Bible. Weird and wonderful combinations and my go-to reference when vermouth doesn’t provide the necessary inspiration. Cinnamon and cocoa seems like an obvious combination but is strangely not common. It’s exotic and intoxicating and is perfect in a crisp icy sorbet.

In my kitchen, the most delicious dishes happen in moments of curious experimentation. When the rational chef in me can’t give up on mixing turmeric with butter and dates or combining ground black sesame with double cream and Umeboshi plums. Chasing new discoveries is what being a creative and visionary in any industry is all about.

Mixing colors to their limit used to be a job for artists, now it’s better suited to a computer. Music for the rockstars is now generated by heavy duty synths. But taste mashups are still the domain of chefs, who are the arbiters of how to blend sweet, bitter, acid, salty and that all encompassing umami.

So for anyone that thinks all the flavour combinations have already been discovered, let me introduce you to Niki Segnit and her inspiring and surprising Thesaurus.

Taste Mashup with The Flavour Thesaurus

Taste Mashup with The Flavour Thesaurus

Gluttony .2

What we're eating: the Ultimate Chocolate Experience

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What is the Ultimate Chocolate Experience

Ultimate Chocolate Experience hunting makes one realise, sooner or later, that chocolate transcends the world of food. None of the normal rules and norms apply. Chocolate should be neither chewed nor chomped. Neither gnawed nor gulped. And definitely not munched or masticated.
It must be savoured, relished and adored. It must be loved.

Every square of chocolate has only ever satisfied one human need. The need for pleasure, while being cheaper than the pleasure givers that work in the street and those that follow Freud.

I grew up in Australia where chocolate was milky and bland (thank you Cadbury and your 23% cocoa solids). And while Spanish chocolates sent every year from gastronomically-minded grandparents made life a little smoother under the harsh Tasmanian sun, the world of the dark bean was uninteresting and I spent my meagre pocket money on gob stoppers and wizz fizz.

And then I met Lindt who gave the word its colour.

The dark tablets produced by the Swiss chocolate-maker made their way onto popular shelves in the early 2000s and have since boomed to become the premier luxury global chocolate brand. They now stock more than Mr Lindt could have ever imagined: Almond, Orange, Chilli, Cinnamon, Coffee, stopping just short of the peanut butter that America has ruined for the world of confectionery. But Lindt only captured my business with their cocoa. I dipped my toes in at 70%, became adventurous and before long sought after the now mainstream 85%, and in a blackening spiral, let go of all inhibitions and savaged their 99% gold label.

Like my coffee, I now take my chocolate strong and black – hold the milk and sugar. And so when I came across Miquel aka Señor Brown, I stopped propping up Swiss banks and started to invest in the future of cacao in Barcelona.

The man is an artist, but more than that, he makes the simple graceful and the complex fun. Sure, he’s a bit crazy, and using butter infused with marijuana is testament to that. But he’s playful and steals chocolate from the rigid walls built by the Swiss and French and gives it to the people with a brash smile.

But there is a serious side to this genius. The side that created truffles rolled in Japanese Matcha green tea powder, that draped gold leaf over tempered chocolate cones, and that, made the perfect black tablet peppered with crunchy flakes of sea salt. And I hear a rumour he is now experimenting with Middle Eastern spices including Za’atar and Sumac direct from Amman – give the man a plate of hummus now!

Never underestimate the power of chocolate. Next time you are in Barcelona visit the man who dreams in chocolate.

How to Enjoy the Ultimate Chocolate Experience

The Ultimate Chocolate Experience

Kitchen experiments .1

What we’re cooking: Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

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Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers deserve a story. Piquillo, deriving from the Spanish for ‘little beak’ are another classic tapa, but it wasn’t in a bar where I discovered these little red beaks. Road trips are best when planning is kept to a minimum and it was on one of these I found myself on hurtling through Catalonia towards the French border. As hunger pangs intensified and the peanuts began to run low, we decided on an unplanned desperate picnic using the three aisles of the service station as the basis for the resulting feast. Prowling the aisles, I found a tin of piquillo peppers, manchego cheese, a miniature box of basil, a wedge of quince paste, a yellow plastic tub of allioli and a small jar of tuna escabeche. What transpired in the next 10 minutes was a picnic that when eaten on a random concrete bench looking out towards the postcard-like snow-capped Alps became etched in my memory. That day with those stuffed piquillo peppers, I learnt that the best picnics are always spontaneous and that taste is a volatile variable, influenced wildly by where and with whom you are sharing the feast.

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers

Stuffed Piquillo Peppers filled with Orange Goats Cheese and Walnut Crumble

Ingredients

8 piquillo peppers (fresh or jarred are equally good) 100 g of soft goats cheese
100 g of toasted walnuts
1 orange, zest and juice
1⁄2 lemon, zest
2 tbsp of sherry vinegar
2 tsp of thyme, leaves picked
1 tsp of rosemary, nely chopped Cracked black pepper
Salt, Olive oil

Steps

Use a fork to combine goat cheese with orange juice and zest, sherry vinegar, rosemary, thyme and a pinch of salt until smooth. Carefully open up the pepper and fill with goat cheese then arrange on a plate and top with a drizzle of olive oil, cracked black pepper, and sprinkle with some leftover crumbled walnuts and fresh picked thyme leaves. In the summer, chill them and serve with crackers and in the winter place them under the grill for 10 minutes and serve with crusty baguette to mop up the delicious melted cheesy filling.

Reflections .1

What we’re thinking: The Ultimate Food Experience

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The chef is the ultimate artist, playing on all the senses including the most personal one, taste

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience goes like this:
– A table for two
– A bottle of something
– A few plates to share
– One dessert, two spoons and coffee
– The cheque, our coats and a hasty photo for posterity

Or does it? The restaurant is a predictable pleasure. But a pleasure that becomes more prosaic as the experience repeats itself again and again around the world. It doesn’t matter who I’m with, where I am or what the occasion – I know what’s on the menu.

Because the restaurant experience is a product that works. The restaurateur turns a profit, diner expectations are met, and the chef has an easy model within which to fit their creativity.

But when menu fonts start to look the same, Maldon sea salt comes standard, waiters may as well be wearing an anonymous Guy Fawkes mask, and I can swear I’ve seen the tables, chairs and lights in an Ikea catalogue, we have a problem.

Eating is a basic human need, but eating out is an escape that lets us forget about setting the table, an indulgence that let’s us dress up and get messy, a luxury we can consume. But when we can envision the ultimate food experience, the escape, when we know what’s coming, well…it all becomes a bit bland.

The chef is the ultimate artist, playing on all the senses including the most personal one, taste to create the ultimate food experience. But demanding any artist, particularly a chef, to reproduce their creativity again and again is a recipe for consistently good food, but not for the culinary escape we seek.

Chefs need freedom to take risks and create outside of the restaurant format that bashes any artistic instincts into dollar-shaped actions to match cliente palettes and investor demands. Chefs want to cook on a blank canvas and the diners are desperate for the signed original that comes with the ultimate food experience.

So how can we bring mystery back to an experience that is less about functionally satisfying our nutrient requirements and more about feeding our souls? How can we excite and delight with more than flavoured salt and petit fours? What will it take to make a meal truly memorable, without needing Instagram to remind us what we ate last night?

Around a table filled with good food, wine and generosity, human contact is a given. We sit around tables to initiate romantic liaisons, to strengthen, and sometimes test family ties, and to reinforce old and start new friendships.

So where are the tables that allow for this interaction? Family dinners are naturally private affairs and romantic liaisons are limited to two (in the corner table or on the couch). In restaurants, being able to spontaneously join in conversations with other tables is unheard of, and the most you will see of a chef is a hunched figure of concentration controlling the kitchen pass. In this environment, connections are scripted and interaction is limited, it’s not the ultimate food experience.

Around a table filled with good food, wine and generosity, human contact is a given.

Entrepreneurial chefs and forward-thinking restaurateurs have seen this gap in emotional engagement and are filling it with creative endeavours which provide an outlet for the chef to produce their art and an experience diners will remember long after the taste has gone.

Using new platforms and technology they are creating food experiences that are fresh, original and exciting.

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Popup

The concept of the popup is to take over an amazing space and create something magical. There is an exclusive quality to the ultimate food experience (limited time and limited seats) that makes it even more desireable. The entire event is created from scratch – the concept, brand, visuals and voice, menu, format design and execution. Chefs and restaurants have the opportunity to redefine and diversify their brand and connect with an entirely new community.

Monkey Town came to Barcelona in 2015 combining challenging video art with refined food all contained within a giant screened wall to create a food experience that encouraged you to taste, see and hear the creativity of curator Montgomery Knott.
http://monkeytownhq.com/

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience

Supper clubs are a dining experience created entirely through the eyes of the chef

Hidden Factory is is one of Barcelona’s longest running supper clubs. Hosted by Xavi and Nico in Raval, nights are filled with mind-blowing flavours, art, music and dance, and unexpected connections with other diners around their exclusive chef’s table.

https://www.facebook.com/hidden.factory.barcelona

The Supper Club

Supper clubs are the ultimate food experience that is created entirely through the eyes of the chef. The chef selects the venue – their own home, or a private and unique space (think art galleries, design stores, boats, vacant parking lots, and secret gardens). Next the chef creates a menu, not limited by economics, restaurant logistics, monotone palettes or brand expectations. They have a clean dish on which to plate their most aggressively imaginative culinary visions. The supper club also removes the ‘pass’ (the famous bar that separates the chefs from the front of house), in effect making the chef a touchable and tasteable star.

The supper club is exciting. It possesses an unpredictability and tendency to surprise that attracts even the most hardened foodie. It is as exclusive as it is democratised making it accessible but also just out of reach of the lazy and unimaginative. It is social enough to allow for for wild cross-table conversations with diners who just moments ago were strangers. Yet also offering an intimacy that allows for pleasure to be shared with just one other. Supper clubs are where wild chefs roam and adventurous foodies hunt.

The Food Truck

The food truck is romanticised for good reason, all around the world childhoods were punctuated by scoops of ice cream, crunchy cinnamon-dusted churros, tacos, burritos and enchiladas, and hot dogs with the lot. Food trucks today are less cute and more cool and the people lining up are more likely to be food hunters than hungry kids. The format offers the chef a moveable format through which to share their food vision and engage directly with the hungry streets.

The ambitious food lover is on a never-ending quest to eat the ultimate food experience of their lives; every plate should beat the last thereby maximising lifetime gluttonic satisfaction. The unpredictability of the popup, supper club, or food truck makes it particularly enticing, with menus, formats, guest lists and locations always up in the air until the doors open.

The restaurant works, the restaurant is spectacular, and it will always be, but we are hungry for a delicious diversity studded with random popups, secret supperclubs and food trucks that do more than just play repetitive jingles.

I believe the chef has noble aims, in that food is not just what they cook, but what they make others taste. With ambitions to create the ultimate food experience, chefs know that taste doesn’t just happen behind closed restaurant doors.

The Ultimate Food Experience

The Ultimate Food Experience

Watercooler .1

What we’re reading: The End of Food Trends

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The End of Food Trends

The End of Food Trends. Now that is a headline I look forward to reading this year! December is all about making predictions about the coming year, and then looking back on just how wrong we were (someone find me the genius that foresaw a 2016 filled with highlights like Brexit and Trump).

It’s fun to imagine the future. The first time I tried picturing it was as a 9 year old being faced with the task of drawing what the year 2020 might look like. I have three more years to make that picture mean something but unless Elon Musk clones himself the odds aren’t good that cars will fly and we will live on mars.

But the days of the futurist as a niche profession are over. Companies pride themselves on clickbait stories that promise lists of future trends in food, health, technology and attitudes and after a while they all merge into one unimaginative view of the world. We saw the dangers of trusting consensus this year, no-one wanted to be the outlier so recent political seismic shifts were only predicted by great cultural icons like The Simpsons.

When it comes to food, predictions are a tired medium filled with the usual soundbites; ‘we’ll all be eating bugs’, ‘kale is still king’, ‘ancient grain X’’, ‘purple food’, ‘coconut blah blah blah’. It all sounds so familiar. When we drew flying cars 23 years ago…now that was a prediction you had to stand by.

Those of us who both eat and write feel compelled to tell you what you should expect from the year ahead

It’s fun to imagine the future

The End of Food Trends

A friend of mine who knows food got it right, “those of us who both eat and write feel compelled to tell you what you should expect from the year ahead”. But you probably shouldn’t listen to us. Just like you should probably switch from the analysts to The Simpsons for your political forecasts, you should also exchange people in the food world for an equally iconic source, i’m placing my bets on Futurama (think Bachelor Chow and the amazing addictive Slurm.

Check out his quick piece on food predictions for 2017 here and then my own unfortunately consensual predictions here.

Gluttony .1

What we're eating: My Mother Makes the Best Tortilla

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My Mother Makes the Best Tortilla

My Mother Makes the Best Tortilla. I had to get that out of the way first! Despite settling some 20,000 kilometres from her Spanish heritage, my mother managed to retain the integrity of one dish that remains the domain of all Spanish mothers. The tortilla I grew up with was made in a weighty chipped black cast iron pan – an item my siblings and I are still arguing about who should be the final owner.

Tortilla appeared on Mondays – a day filled with a long day of school that led into an afternoon of tennis practice and an evening of orchestra rehearsal (I was raised by a tiger-mother). But it was all worth the pain when I barged through the door to the sweet smoky aroma of caramelized onions, fresh purple thyme and fried potatoes. The golden tortilla is a meal all on its own and inevitable leftovers guaranteed for sandwiches the following day at school. Little did my playground companions know, with their white-bread sandwiches filled with cartoon-like pink meat and plastic cheese, that my tortilla bocadillo – jeered at by the unwitting brats – was the same one revered in tapas bars across Spain.

This was no limp omelette or papery crepe, but a wedge of strength that inspired bravery and spirit. There is a reason the tortilla remains Spain’s national tapa and one I continue to rely on as fuel for endless adventures. Long live my mother, Spain and the tortilla.

I spent the week eating tortilla, the dish that defined my childhood and kept Spanish cuisine in my stomach and my heart

My Mother Makes the Best Tortilla

Kitchen experiments .0

What we’re cooking: Grilled scallops with Sweet Corn and Jamon

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Grilled scallops with sweet corn and jamon

Crispy Scallops on Saffron Almond Cream with Jamon Shards

Ingredients

16 large scallops, roe removed (keep the shells for presentation)
1/2 a head of cauliflower, broken apart
1/2 cup of almonds, blanched and peeled
A pinch of saffron threads
1 shallot, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
6 slices of jamon
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked Zest of 1⁄2 a lemon
1⁄4 cup of almonds, toasted Olive oil
Cracked black pepper
Salt

Steps

Add chopped cauliflower to a pot of simmering water and cook for 5-8 minutes until tender then remove, drain, squeeze lemon juice over the top and set aside. Heat a pan with oil then add shallots and garlic and sauté for five minutes. Add saffron, thyme and cauliflower and continue to sauté until shallots are sweet and sticky. Scrape into a blender along with blanched almonds and blend with 3-4 tablespoons of oil and a pinch of salt and cracked black pepper until smooth.

Wash scallops and pat dry then season both sides with salt. Heat oil in pan and once hot, fry scallops for 2-3 minutes until golden and caramelised then flip and fry for another minute so they remain translucent in the centre. Remove and set aside.

Fill the empty scallop shells with the cauliflower cream then top with the scallop, torn jamon and thyme leaves. Place under a hot grill until jamon is beginning to crisp then remove and serve still hot – a taste of grilled scallops with sweet corn and jamon is pretty close to a taste of heaven.

Reflections .0

What we’re thinking: The World Demands Creativity

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The World Demands Creativity

The world demands creativity – creative people, creative ideas, creative solutions and a creative future. These days, creativity is the ultimate caché. It crosses politics, business, the arts, and everything in between. It is untouchable and unteachable. It sits in our subconscious fermenting away, invisible until that day the dots line up. It demonstrates an ability to see the world differently, connect it in new and exciting ways, and fundamentally influence how we evolve. Creativity is inimitable and by default denotes influence.

When I reflect on what drives me, I can pinpoint the exact moments in my life when it was power, money or sex that forced my hand. But these days, with Maslow’s basic needs taken care of, I keep coming back to creativity. The moments I feel that deep sense of calm contentment and that euphoric bursting pride come from the endeavours whose intangible results laugh in the face of the KPI and ROI.

Papalosophy is my take on the world and my dreams for the future, it’s my philosophy. It’s about combining all of my passions into one unique and original style.

Papalosophy is where I give in to creativity

The World Demands Creativity

Anthony Bourdain

The world demands creativity and this expression can take many forms. My first hero was Frank Abagnale Jr., the con-artist Leonardo DiCaprio became in Catch Me If You Can. He gave the kid growing up on the farm a life of flash and glamour to dream of one day living. I saved my $6 an hour minimum wage working on a tomato farm until I could afford the hulking silver Tag Heuer DiCaprio sported. I started to become expert at caressing my CV for my next job, no matter whether I was stirring cocktails, laying bricks or playing economics in an expensive suit. I idolized the character and the nonchalance with which he switched from story to story, profession to profession, life to life. It wasn’t fake, it was confidence adjusted to different circumstances.

My next hero, Hunter S. Thompson was also about the excesses, but there was a chaotic creative bent that filled my head as I wandered the corridors of the 11th floor in a convict-striped suit. Hunter prodded my journalism background and his all-consuming dangerous passion to create with abandon was intoxicating. I really started to believe that “Freedom is something that dies unless it’s used.” And with that heaved my spreadsheet-filled monitor out of the window, reduced my collection of silk ties to ash, and left.

Then I discovered Anthony Bourdain, that rare freak that lived by Hunter’s rules that “’Crazy’ is a term of art; ‘Insane’ is a term of law.” The World Demands Creativity and with food and all the beautiful madness that goes with it now being the driving force in my life, Bourdain’s influence on this glutton cut deep and continues to this day. Because he was the first chef that gave the category we broadly call food an oversized serving of sex, drugs & rock ‘n’ roll. I read his books, watched his shows, saw him literally own the stage wherever he talked. Bourdain gave me the confidence to become multi-faceted chef I slowly transformed into – cooking, eating, writing, entrepreneuring and above all else creating.

The World Demands Creativity and to create this future I’m going to be madly doing my part in and out of the kitchen. Following Hunter S. Thompson’s advice, I bought the ticket and I’m going to damn well enjoy taking the ride.

I bought the ticket and I’m going to damn well enjoy taking the ride