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interviews

Lunch at Marion’s Kitchen

Reviews July 18, 2013

The other day I was fortunate enough to be invited along to taste the Marion Grasby range of products for easy, quick and delicious Thai meals at home. As if that weren’t enough, Marion would be cooking the meals herself! Since Marion and I both share a love of cooking and we both have south-east Asian mums and Aussie dads, I had a feeling she would definitely be someone I’d get along with!

With degrees in journalism, law (yes, law!) and gastronomy under her belt, as well as starring in Masterchef Australia Season 2, Marion is clearly more than just a pretty face! She is a truly inspiring person as well as great role model for all us aspiring cooks out there!

Someone who is so successful and smart would normally seem somewhat intimidating to me, but Marion was a really lovely, down to earth lady and I really enjoyed having a chat to her about her heritage, her mum’s village in Thailand and, of course, her love of food.


Marion’s Thai Green Curry
We started off with Marion’s most popular bestseller – her Thai green curry meal kit. After tasting it, I could see why! The sauce was incredibly rich and flavoursome. Even a spoonful of the sauce over some steamed rice was extremely satisfying. I must admit I do love green curries but I never usually go to the trouble of preparing them at home. Marion’s curry kit makes it so much easier by providing not only the curry paste, but also the coconut milk, Thai herbs and chilli, fish sauce and bamboo shoots. It really is a complete meal kit and only requires you add your choice of protein and veg (and rice to serve it with). I definitely can see myself making this with some chicken or beef strips at home for a quick and tasty meal.



Marion’s Malaysian Curry
Next up was Marion’s chicken and potato Malaysian curry, which is a new addition to her line of meal kits. I really enjoy a good chicken and potato curry and this one did not disappoint. I really loved the hearty, rich sauce of the curry, which really flavoured the chicken and potatoes well. If I had to make any (very small!) criticism, I would say I would have liked a touch more salt, but that’s something you could easily change to taste at home. If anything it’s probably better that it’s less salty to suit a wider range of tastes rather than too much.


Marion’s Red Curry
Last but not least was Marion’s red curry, which she paired with some fresh salmon fillets. I generally do not cook salmon fillets with curries at home (I usually bake them with spices, or with some kecap manis and garlic, which are my faves!) but after tasting Marion’s curry, I definitely need to branch out with my salmon dinners! The salmon was cooked to perfection and was so buttery smooth with the rich red curry sauce. Definitely a great combination, especially with some freshly steamed rice! I also enjoyed the added kick of the sliced chillis and shallots which gave the dish an extra boost of flavour. I love how much these small additions can really punch up a dish.

I was also lucky enough to do a short interview with Marion using some questions from likers of the Cooking Crusade Facebook page.

Marion, you’ve just moved to Bangkok! Do you have any favourite local dishes or restaurants you tend to frequent? We would love any recommendations you may have!
Bangkok is such an amazing eating city! My favourite high end Thai restaurant is David Thompson’s Nahm. And for regional southern Thai food I love a homely little place called Khua Kling Pak Sod. They make an amazing yellow curry but beware… it’s SUPER hot!

I’m sure you have many fond childhood memories of favourite foods. We would love to hear about a favourite memory, or a funny food story from your childhood days.
I can remember the first time my mum tried to make me eat durian. I nearly puked and cried for half an hour. Durian has the most offensive smell… but actually I’ve grown to like the taste now.

Speaking of your childhood, did you have any personal heroes that inspired you to be the cook that you are today?
My mum is my biggest inspiration. It’s thanks to her love of food and her Thai heritage that I have such a deep passion for Asian cooking. And she still teaches me stuff in the kitchen even now!

Aside from Thai food, what is your favourite cuisine to eat out at restaurants or make at home?
At the moment I’m obsessed with Sri Lankan food. I would like to travel there this year but haven’t had the time, so I’ve been cooking Sri Lankan curries at home instead.

What is your greatest food passion?
My Marion’s Kitchen food range is now my biggest passion. I love traveling all over Asia finding amazing dishes to bring back to Australia for people to try. And I can’t believe that more than 150,000 people eat a Marion’s Kitchen dinner every month! Amazing!

Tell us about your favourite kitchen gadget or tool.
I can’t live without my traditional Thai mortar and pestle.

What is your most favourite, decadent dessert (that you’ve eaten or made)?
I once made Peter Gilmore’s 8-textured chocolate cake. It took me 10 hours and by the time I’d finished I’d tasted so many different chocolate layers that I didn’t even feel like eating it!

Readers Questions

What is the most difficult ingredient you’ve ever had to work with?
Sea urchins! They’re so prickly!

Would you recommend the MasterChef experience to people wanting to get into the same business or another avenue to pursue jobs in the food industry? (Would love some recommendations!)
Masterchef opened a lot of doors for me but it was really only a starting point. The real work came afterwards when I set up my business, started writing cookbooks and worked on getting my own TV show. It really depends on what you want to do. If you want to be a working chef then an apprenticeship is a much better option. But if you want to write about food then starting a blog is an excellent way to get noticed.


It was so great getting to meet the lovely and talented Marion Grasby and her at-home meal kits really are a credit to her. It was wonderful listening to her chat about her passion and love for learning more about her mum’s culture as well as her desire to bring the best and most authentic ingredients for her products so that her customers are getting the best at-home experience possible.

I enjoyed trying Marion’s fantastic Thai products and definitely see myself buying them in future for authentic Thai dinners at home.

The Thai green curry was definitely my fave of all of Marion’s curries we sampled. It was an incredibly flavoursome sauce that looks like such a snap to put together at home and customise with leftover meat and veggies in the fridge, which makes for a very quick and convenient dinner from the cupboard. No surprises at all that it’s her best-seller!

Thanks so much for a delicious lunch and taking the time to interview for us, Marion! I bet there are plenty of those who would empathise with your initial reaction to durian, although I must admit that I also really enjoy it myself (I’m glad I’m not alone)!

Thanks also to Magnum PR for inviting me to this fun event!

Just as a funny little coincidence, a day after I had lunch with Marion, she actually ended up flying out to Bangkok on the same flight my dad was working on (my dad is a flight attendant). They had a chat and good old Dad asked Marion to hold up this little sign for me, what do you think? Thanks Marion and Dad! 😛


The world really is a small place sometimes don’t you think??

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Interview with a Chef: Matthew McCool

Articles March 29, 2013

I will admit… Right now, I am exhausted. It’s past 1am and I’ve been going like mad all day to finish everything going on at work before the long weekend and my month long trip to Singapore/Japan. One of my jobs at work is to prepare events for the teachers who work in our Conference and I made the slightly tiny error of planning my holiday (clearly, waaay too early in advance!) to realise that I would literally be away for a whole month prior to the big event and come back on the actual day of the event – meaning that everything had to be completely organised one month in advance. Well, crunch time came today and I managed to pretty much finish everything but I am completely zonked out (mentally AND physically!) and SO ready for this holiday, bring it on! While I’m gone, I (hope) to have a few posts ready for you while I’m gone but I must apologise that I won’t be reading my usual blogs (I will definitely be catching up on my return though!)

Fortunately for me, I am very pleased to share a recent interview I had with the newly appointed head chef of Altitude, Matthew McCool (how awesome is his name, seriously). Matthew is an incredibly talented, young chef whose passion for food is really evident in his dishes and the kinds of ingredients he sources for them. I really enjoyed learning more about his background and some of his kitchen secrets and do hope you enjoy the interview too!

I was also fortunate enough to be invited to dinner at Altitude for last week’s Earth Hour (love seeing companies getting involved with this!) so I could sample some of Matthew’s cooking. I look forward to sharing my experience with you all but thought I would get started first by posting up the interview. Enjoy!

Tell us about yourself and how you came to work with food.
Well, my love for food started when I was really young and eating at an Italian restaurant in Marrickville. I started chatting with the chef and the way he was describing the roast lamb we had just eaten was absolutely amazing. I was inspired by how much preparation and thought had gone into the flavours and how it was cooked perfectly. He really encouraged me to take more of an interest in my cooking and find a job where I could develop that kind of passion.

What is your favourite simple dish to make at home?
I like to keep it pretty simple at home so my favourite dish is Italian pork sausages with chilli, tomato, homemade rigatoni pasta and black olives. My wife is Italian (born and raised in Palermo in Sicily), so we both love to eat pasta and use lots of tomatoes, cured meats and basil at home!

Would you say your personal style of cooking is influenced by any particular culture or cuisine, and if so, which one?
Modern European and a touch of Asian from my time in Beijing.

What’s your favourite cuisine?
I would have to say Italian because of my wife’s background and how much time I have spent in Italy with the family. I also really love modern French for the techniques.

As a chef, are you more interested in making complex and intricate dishes for yourself and family/friends at home, or do you prefer to leave that for the restaurant?
I definitely prefer to keep it quite simple at home. I’m at Altitude restaurant six nights a week creating new dishes and experimenting so at home, it’s all about fresh flavours and easy cooking we can do together. I just started growing some fresh herbs at my place so lots of basil, rosemary and thyme.

What is your greatest food passion?
I love to find new ingredients and produce that not many chefs are working with yet. We recently took a trip to Berridale farm in the Blue Mountains to source ingredients and found some amazing produce i.e. Salsify a root vegetable (found mostly in Europe) and borage flowers which we use for our Quail dish.

My sous chef and I also just found some sashimi grade prawns at Di Costi, a seafood brand most people are familiar with. All they need is some olive oil, lemon, salt and a touch of chilli.

Do you have a favourite kitchen gadget?
Yes! Definitely our Sous vide water bath. We use this quite a lot and just created a new Salmon dish that we poach in the bath with bronze fennel flowers.

Do you have a favourite childhood food related memory?
We used to fish a lot as a family so catching fresh fish, just near Avoca beach on the Central Coast and cooking it on the bbq with my dad!

Did you have any personal chef heroes growing up who inspired you in your journey to becoming a chef?
Yes of course, quite a few. There are so many great chefs in Australia and I met some amazing talent when I worked in London and China.

Phillipe Leban, an Australian/French chef who now works in Tasmania. I worked with him at Quay Restaurant when I first started my career. He was very professional and creative in the kitchen which I really admired. He pushed me to go overseas and try something new; I then spent six years in London and two years in Beijing working at some amazing restaurants. My work at Shangri-La actually started at our China World Hotel, Beijing property where I led the team at Aria Restaurant for almost two years. During my time there I won the title of “Chef of the Year 2011” at the TimeOut Beijing awards and “Restaurant of the Year” by City Weekend Beijing.

These were some of the best experiences of my career!

What is your favourite decadent dessert to make?
I love sweets so I have a few but one of our latest creations at Altitude Restaurant is a white chocolate and artichoke brulee. The sweetness of the white chocolate is perfectly balanced by the earthiness of the artichoke. It may sound like an odd flavour combination but it really works! (see recipe below)

Any tips or advice for all us at-home cooks?
Just to keep it simple and use fresh ingredients. Try to support local suppliers and visit your community markets for fruit and vegetables, there are always great finds there and usually fresher than you will find at your local supermarket.

If you have the time and the space, start growing some fresh herbs at home. To have a bit of basil and mint in the backyard is great and more economical than buying them every week at the supermarket. Herbs don’t take a lot of time to grow but you do need to keep monitoring them and give them plenty of sun and water.

Do you have any food safety tips that would be good for home cooks?
1. Wash your hands (basic but a good reminder)
2. Take care of your produce, especially your fresh herbs
3. Always work on a clean bench and stay organised. For home cooks, clean as you go – then you can enjoy your food as soon as it is ready with a glass of wine!

Any more advice for aspiring chefs?
Just to work hard when you are young and your time in the kitchen will pay off. It always helps to surround yourself with other great chefs that inspire you. I hand-picked quite a few of my team at Altitude and we are creating some amazing flavours and dishes together!


Matthew sourcing some (very fresh!) handpicked ingredients for his dishes in the Blue Mountains.

Artichoke and White Chocolate Brûlée by Matthew McCool

Serves: 12 people

To make the custard;

  • 400g artichoke puree
  • 550g egg yolks
  • 700g white chocolate
  • 80g sugar
  • 1400g cream

Bring cream up to the boil; pour over chocolate and mix. Pour chocolate over egg and sugar mixture, strain and pour into moulds. Bake at 103, 1hr 20 minutes fan 2.

To make Artichoke Puree;
Peel and slice artichoke, place in a wide based pan, half cover with cream, bring to the boil, stir to avoid catching on pan. Once softened (shouldn’t take more than 6 minutes once it comes to boil), blitz and pass through a fine sieve.

To make the sable breton;

  • 320g Egg yolk
  • 640g Sugar
  • 640g Butter
  • 900g Flour

Beat butter and sugar until light, slowly add egg yolks. Fold through flour, bake at 150 degrees, until lightly coloured and cooked through.

To make tart base;

  • 900g crushed sable breton
  • 360g hazelnut powder
  • 300g melted butter

Blitz in batches in the robocoupe.

To make elderflower sorbet;

  • 460g Sugar
  • 2500g water
  • 200g lemon juice
  • 30g super neutrose
  • 200g tremolin
  • 300g Elder Flower Syrup

Mix sugar and super neutrose, keep it on the side. All the rest into a pan (apart from elderflower), bring to the boil then remove from heat. Whisk in sugar and neutrose once mix has cooled to approx 40 degrees, add elderflower syrup and freeze.

To make apricot gel;

  • 1kg apricot puree
  • 23g lemon juice
  • 14gm agar agar
  • 2 each gelatin
  • 200g water
  • 200g sugar

Bring everything to the boil except gelatin, add gelatin after boiling. Set, blitz.

To serve;

Have all your prep ready and make sure your biscuit is cold before you pour then mixture on. Ensure you use a baking frame rather than a dish so the bottom can pop off when you’re ready to serve.

 

 

A big thank you to Matthew from us at Cooking Crusade for the great interview – and for all those helpful hints for at home cooks, as well as his fantastic artichoke and white chocolate brûlée recipe!

I do hope you all have a fantastic Easter and stay safe on this lovely long weekend – enjoy it because it only comes around once a year 😉
xox

C

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Images sourced from Director of Communications, Shangri-La Hotel Sydney.

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