APRIL 16 — Every single non-chef on the planet often wonders why when they purchase that wonderful and rather expensive glossy cookbook, their dishes never turn out as good as they look in the same cookbook.
The reason for this is simple. Professional chefs go through years of cooking school and many more years in an active productive kitchen where the daily army style-like trial-and-error culture continues.
The glossy cookbooks have pictures with recipes supposedly enabling you to be able to make these dishes with professional ease.
Unfortunately, all the basic cooking skills acquired through years of sweat and torture are not included so even if you made the dish right the first time, it will not necessarily be right when made the second time, reducing you, the reader, to total frustration.
This increases the risk of the cookbook being relegated to collecting dust on the tallest shelf in the house.
These said cookbooks are placed on the highest shelves with the sole purpose of keeping them out of sight and mind so that you don’t have nightmares re-living the pain of not being able to use the book versus the amount of hard-earned cash you paid for it.
I will try, through this column, to alternate between stories of everyday life and basic cooking tips which involve wonderful dishes that my beloved colleagues are making every day with ease.
Here goes my first food entry inspired by our very own Chef Steve Allen at Dish, Dua Annexe in Kuala Lumpur:
Sautéed scallops with cauliflower puree, turkey bacon and almond crumbs
When making any dish, one must try to bring the dish together using three simple aspects and then evolving from there.
The three aspects of this particular dish are the cauliflower puree is just milk, cauliflower and seasoning; the scallops are seasoned with a light curry powder salt and the apple vinegar caramel is made from just apple vinegar and sugar.
To produce a great dish every time, you should touch the plate as little as possible. The more times you have to add ingredients to the plate increases the chances that you will make a mistake, forget to add something and thus cause anxiety amongst the diners or it might take so long to finish the dish that the food becomes cold.
If there are fewer ingredients on the plate — making the dish as simple as possible — there are better chances that the dish will combine well.
When preparing this dish, the scallops should be as fresh as humanly possible and seared in a very hot pan for a few seconds only. The smoking hot pan will brown the scallops on the outside sealing in all the juices, enabling them to stay nice and moist for consumption. If they are overcooked for only a few seconds, this greatly increases the chances of them becoming dry and lifeless like a tiny shrivelled hockey puck.
Every dish you make should have different textures and tastes that jump out at you. However, they must go together well whilst keeping the diner’s senses entertained, sometimes forcing them to close their eyes to maximise the taste experience.
The finishing sprinkles of turkey bacon and almond crumbs add a little crunch to the dish that gives texture and a nice saltiness to the sweetness of the whole dish.
I hope this gives you an idea of how a restaurant dish like the one above is put together. If you want to try and make this dish yourself, do tweet me or leave a comment and I will answer you.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.