I know, I know, TWO Petits Chefs posts in the space of days. But I wanted to take this opportunity to talk a little but about why I decided to start the cooking club in the first place. Last November, I heard Jamie Oliver speak in Toronto (I wrote about it here), mainly about his Food Revolution and “Pass it On” campaign. Throughout that talk I kept on thinking how irresponsible it would be of me to NOT take part (even in a tiny, drop-in-the-ocean kind of way) in Jamie’s Revolution and a few short weeks later, Les Petits Chefs was born. I mean, I am not the world’s greatest or most knowledgeable cook but I do know my way around a kitchen (or in this case, a science lab/kitchen!). Why not pass on some basic skills to the students I have to offer a club to anyway? It’s been the greatest thing – very often, the highlight of my teaching week (and certainly a bonus for the boys’ parents who look forward to tasting our creations each week!) and a wonderful way for the boys to get to know me outside the classroom, doing something I love (which can only be a good thing!).
I was fortunate enough to hear Jamie speak again in Toronto last week (with an upgrade to a VIP ticket courtesy of The Art of Cooking) and whilst it was a very different scene ( can you say 3500 people – it was more like a rock concert than a Q&A with a famous chef) with a fair number of repeat stories from last year, the message was still inspirational and re-convinced me that even baby steps towards “passing it on” and the Food Revolution are so worthwhile.
After a lengthy (and, for me, unnecessary) “support act” by Bob Blumer which ran overtime, Jamie conducted the entire evening as a rather off-the-cuff Q&A, answering questions submitted by the audience, running overtime himself, given the sheer volume of questions (though he probably only got through about 20-30). As he spoke, he also demoed two dishes from his gorgeous new book, Jamie’s America (which you can buy on Amazon US or Amazon Canada) – a Peruvian red snapper ceviche and a steak with both a peanut sauce and a chopped salsa.
Watching him cook was mesmerizing – it was simply so effortless (with super knife skills to boot) and you *nearly* forgot you were in a room with 3499 of your closest friends He gave tips and tricks as he cooked, some of the more memorable ones being:
* All you really need in terms of knives are sturdy, balanced carving (12″), chef (10″) and paring knives with good weight. These three knives will get you out of 99% of trouble in the kitchen.
* Don’t be shy of the salt in ceviche – after all, you’re not going to drink the juice, just cook the fish in it;
* Oil the steak, not the pan you cook it in;
* Season the steak by rubbing it with a garlic clove as it cooks, just after you turn it when the fat is “dancing” atop the meat, then “spank” your steak with a sprig of rosemary that you have rubbed in the cooking fat;
* Oil the cutting board you will use for your steak and add some herbs. As you cut and rest the meat, it will absorb these flavours.
Jamie was entertaining and charming throughout, despite some rather inane questions (which, props to him, he refused to answer -”You can’t ask someone what is their favourite country to eat in, it’s like asking them to name their favourite child. Impossible.”) and I loved how unprepared and unscripted it was. A few times, he actually just said “I don’t know” which I think is very endearing. As a teacher, I have learned there is nothing more important than being able to say “I don’t know, let me find out” and being ok with that. At the end of the day, your students will respect you so, whilst some audience members might not have been satisfied with such an answer, I much preferred it to a scripted “right” answer.
It was very unfortunate that the whole evening was running so overtime as the advertised hour-long VIP reception ended up being only a short time with Jamie present (+/- 15 minutes), during which a (very) few lucky people were afforded the elusive picture with Jamie or an autograph, whilst others used up “question time” proclaiming how much they love Jamie. Which I get, yes, but it’s not a question. Many left that reception disappointed that Jamie didn’t sign books personally, or answer their questions (that would be me) and sad that he wasn’t able to spend more time in the VIP reception.
In any case, I know that I am very lucky to have been able to hear him speak twice in the space of a year and, like I try to model for my own students, took away some ideas and thoughts that really resonated with me and which bring me to this week’s Petits Chefs recipe.
Jamie said: “The Naked Chef kitchen might have looked lovely on telly but it was rubbish.” I *loved* hearing this! When I look at what we produce in club each week, I am totally amazed, given that most weeks, we use portable single burners in our science lab and pots and pans and utensils from the dollar store. Jamie also says with about $100 of pantry items and a couple of good pots and pans, you can work miracles. According to Jamie, “ten to 20 minutes is more than enough time to put out a healthy meal” – as we prove weekly. Yesterday we started at 3.10pm. By 3.40pm we were cooking, with cleanup over and by 3.50pm we were doling out portions in Tupperwares. “Kids aren’t born programmed to eat only nuggets,” claims Jamie – this week’s recipe included jalapeño peppers – not at all scary for my intrepid little chefs who proclaimed “Yessss!” when they saw them. Even Michael, who had a bit of an upset with some onion fingers rubbing in his eyes earlier this term was proof positive of Jamie’s “Just get in there” message, clamouring to be the one to chop the pepper (and doing a damned fine job at it – and not touching his eyes ONCE! Go Michael!)
• Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1 cup long-grain or basmati rice (we used brown rice leftover from last week’s muffins)
• 1 x ½ pound top loin or sirloin
• A thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½ a fresh red chile (we used green)
• 2 scallions
• A small bunch of fresh cilantro
• 2 tablespoons sesame oil
• Peanut or vegetable oil
• 2 tablespoons of good-quality black bean sauce
• 2-3 tablespoons soy sauce
• 2 limes
• 1 egg, preferably free-range or organic
main courses | serves 2
This works best with rice that has completely chilled down or, better yet, has been made earlier and kept in the refrigerator. But if you can’t prepare rice for this dish in advance, you can still cook it and pop into the refrigerator while you’re cooking the rest.
To prepare your stir-fry
Bring a pan of salted water to a boil, add the rice and cook according to the package instructions.
Drain the rice in a strainer, run it under a cold tap to cool, then allow to dry out in the fridge.
Trim any excess fat from your steak and slice the meat into finger-sized strips.
Peel and finely slice the ginger and garlic
Finely slice the chile.
Cut the ends off your scallions and finely slice.
Pick the cilantro leaves and put to one side, and finely chop the cilantro stalks.
Get yourself a big bowl and put in the ginger, garlic, chile, scallions, cilantro stalks, and steak strips.
Add the sesame oil and mix everything together.
To cook your stir-fry
Preheat a wok or large frying pan on a high heat and once it’s very, very hot add a good lug of peanut oil and swirl it around.
Add all your chopped ingredients from the bowl. Give the pan a really good shake to mix everything around quickly. Stir-fry for 2 minutes, taking care to keep everything moving so it doesn’t burn.
Add the black bean sauce, and stir in 1 tablespoon of soy sauce and the juice of half a lime. Keep tossing. Taste and season with black pepper and a little more soy sauce.
Remove the pan from the heat, transfer everything to a bowl, and cover with aluminum foil.
Give the pan a quick wipe with
ball of paper towels and put back on the heat. Add a lug of peanut oil and swirl it around. Crack in your egg and add a tablespoon of soy sauce – the egg will cook very quickly, so keep stirring.
Once it’s scrambled, stir in your chilled rice, scraping the sides and the bottom of the pan as you go. Keep mixing for a few minutes until the rice is steaming hot, then taste and season with a little soy sauce.
To serve your stir-fry
Divide the rice between two bowls or plates. Spoon over the meat and black bean sauce and sprinkle over the cilantro leaves. Serve with wedges of lime — great!
And the result of our “under 1 hour with eight little people under the age of 11 in the lab”?
I didn’t actually take pictures of the making of the rice – we added some scrambled egg into the rice as per the recipe which the boys were fascinated with. Me? I was having so much fun that the camera sat by its lonesome for much of this week’s session. But that’s ok because Jamie says we need to “have fun with food” which I clearly was.
Jamie, I wasn’t able to say this last week in Toronto, but thank you. From me, the boys, their parents, their future girlfriends and wives. We are truly grateful.
I am thrilled to announce I have made it to Round 8 of Project Food Blog. I am one of 24 people left from an original 600 contestants. Thank you all for reading and voting (and watching my video!) – my next post (getting creative with baked goods featuring pumpkin) will be up next Sunday.