On Friday I attended the 2009 Sydney Good Food & Wine Show. The main event of the day was bad boy Gordon Ramsay’s live cooking demonstration.
Ramsay bounded out on stage to greet the curious crowd with black masking tape over his mouth – was this promise not to offend after his recent comments about TV presenter Tracy Grimshaw? Or the more likely scenario -- an enforced gagging.
Whatever the case, Ramsay was funny, charming, a little crude perhaps but nonetheless, he delighted the crowd with his amusing quips and cooking tips.
I’ve only ever seen snippets of Ramsay’s infamous Hell’s Kitchen. Frankly I got anxious, and finally, bored watching him shout at and belittle quivering chefs.
After seeing him live though I can see why people are fascinated by him. He’s charismatic, he’s confident and he exuded a potent energy that spilled over into the crowd.
In the 30 minutes Ramsay was on stage he prepared three meals; a minestrone with blue eye cod, Tasmanian salmon on a bed of sautéed spinach and radishes and finally, some luscious looking poached pears served with caramelized figs.
There were no cooking measurements given. It was the case of “a touch of this and a touch of that”. So I've done my best to recreate the minestrone. It’s a delicious and nourishing dish with plump pearl barley, fresh herbs and succulent blue eye cod. Ramsay encouraged the use of celery leaves – something I do regularly in soups, salads and stir-fries. The often over-looked leaves add a fresh and subtle sweetness to whatever dish they're added to.
A note on seasoning with salt – say a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of salt – I try not to add the whole teaspoon all at once. Instead, I sprinkle ¼ of a teaspoon or so here and there throughout the cooking process. This method of staggered seasoning allows for layers of flavour to develop and gives the dish more depth.
Finally, let me introduce you to Malcolm the magpie.
Malcolm lives nearby with his posse of feathered friends and is becoming increasingly more confident and curious as the days go by. I had just ladled the minestrone into the bowls and decided that they needed some more cheese. I went inside the house to fetch it and then came around the corner to find Malcolm with his beak in the bowl! I shouted and shooed him away. He eyed me grudgingly and took several steps backward and proceeded to watch me take photos. He even made several rather lyrical comments. Compliments to the chef I hope.
1 fillet of cod, skin removed
1 brown onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
½ tsp of dried chili flakes
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 cup of pearl barley, washed under cold water & drained
1 x 400 gram can of whole tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 ½ cups of water
1 ½ tsp of sea salt
1/3 cup of finely chopped flat leaf parsley
½ cup of roughly chopped celery leaves
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for grating
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot over a medium heat. Saute the onion, carrots, celery and chili flakes until softened, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle on about 1/4 tsp of sea salt.
- Add the barley, canned tomatoes and water to the pot and stir well. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and stir. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the barley softens and expands. You may need to add a little more water as the barley soaks it up.
- Add half of the parsley to the pot and the remaining salt. Stir well. Place the cod fillet gently on top of the barley and vegetables in the soup pot. Cover and let the cod cook/steam for about 6 or 7 minutes.
- Use tongs to the remove the cod from the pot and transfer it to a plate. Use a fork to flake the cod. It may be a little opaque but this is ok as it will keep cooking once you put it back in the pot.
- Place flaked cod, remaining parsley and celery leaves in the pot. Stir well with a wooden spoon and add a little more water if necessary. Simmer for about 2-3 minutes.
- Divide soup into serving bowls and grate on some Parmesan cheese. Serve.