Consuming Passions and Food Trends

Consuming Passions, that five minute Aussie TV Cook Show with incorrigible host Ian Parmenter, makes compulsive watching.

I met Ian and his lovely partner Ann on their home turf recently and discovered that the irreverent and irrepressible chef with the shiny pate and frizzy grey hair is not in fact an Aussie at all.
A London journalist who worked with Haymarket Publishing on business magazines for years, he headed for Oz in 1971 attracted by the drier sunnier climate and less ‘stitched-up’ lifestyle. In Perth he went into PR and then worked behind the scenes in ABC TV, mostly on sports programmes. It was 15 years before he was discovered and virtually ordered to present a trial cookery slot.
He dashed off the pilot in irreverent mode acting the larriken as they say in Oz and instead of saying – you’re off, the talent scouts said – Bad luck you’re on! Ian figured he’d give it a shot for a year, now 9 years and 4-5 programmes later, Consuming Passions has been shown in 12 countries, including Ireland. He has written ten cookbooks and in 1995 he won the prestigious Prix de la Profession at the ‘Festivale Internationale de Télé Gourmande’ in Deauville , France.
Two years later he initiated ‘Tasting Australia’ a biennial food and drink festival in Adelaide. He is also Chairman of the World Food Media awards held in Australia. The last event attracted 330 entries and they hope to take the awards to Dublin in 2002.
Ian and Ann have just moved into their newly built house just outside Margaret River in Western Australia. Heroically they welcomed us as their very first house-guests just three days after they moved in.Ian and Ann love Ireland and his new book ‘Cooking with a Passion’ published by ABC Books, includes a very complimentary chapter on Irish food. To bring back happy memories and to appease their nostalgia for Ireland and all things Irish, I made a soda bread and christened their new oven. The recipe worked brilliantly with Australian flour and buttermilk.
The following morning I woke early and sipped my tea on the balcony overlooking the vineyard and watched the 28’s and rosetta parrots and magpies playing in the Eucalyptus trees and through the vines. Ian and Ann planted 6 acres of Chardonnay about 5 years ago and now made a crisp, dry and delicious white wine called ‘Artamus’, called after the wood swallow who live in the vineyard.
Ann, whose beautifully healthy vines have confounded local growers, has plans to expand the vineyard and to plant some red varieties as soon as they get settled in.
Ian Parmenter’s new book ‘Cooking with Passion’ is available from Amazon.com.


 Food Trends

So what are the food trends as we enter the new Millennium?
Murdoch Magazines commissioned a recent study on eating habits which was in some instances predictable, but in others surprising.
The growing demands on our time have increased the importance of convenience foods – 63% of those questioned used fast food at least once a month.
Traditional cooking skills are being replaced by meal assemblage skills because availibility of semi or fully prepared meals has made meal preparation in the home easier.  Food integrity is a major concern, people are becoming more aware of chemicals and artificial ingredients, nutritional value, storage time, food safety and genetic engineering.  The demand for ‘real food’ is growing, real food is perceived to be fresh, naturally produced, local, perhaps organic.  Free range is becoming a buzz word, not only for eggs, but also for meat, particularly poultry.
The growth in the demand for organic produce in both the UK and US was over 40% last year. At present the demand outstrips the supply, even in Ireland where the population in general seems to be slower to embrace the organic way.  Our health concerns have grown beyond, weight, cholestrol and heart disease. The increase in food allergies, diabetes, gastric problems, cancer and asthma has caused universal unease.
A majority now accept that diet impacts on both physical and emotional health. The number of people with vegetarian leanings is increasing and meat intake is decreasing with each new food scare. The BSE, Salmonella and Dioxin scandals have all served to concentrate people’s minds on the type of food we eat and how it is produced. A high percentage of people are still paranoid about fat intake, although surveys indicate that they don’t necessarily practise what they preach.  Recent articles in the US have questioned the validity of the low fat nutritonal advice as the number of obese people has grown steadily and alarmingly through the years that low fat food was consumed. Changes in diet currently focus on reducing fat, sugar, caffeine, alcohol and junk food.
Food tastes are gradually changing too, and currently are in a state of flux between the ‘old’, eg. chops and mince, and the ‘new’ – pasta, pizza, stirfries……
Newer ethnic style cuisine has not yet taken over from Anglo Celt traditions but currently accounts for a growing percentage of meals. Most popular food styles are Italian, Mediterranean, Californian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Mexican, with Japanese and Vietnamese likely to grow. Interest in French as we know it is waning.
Fusion food is the newest buzz word, replacing Nouvelle Cuisine and just as misunderstood – dubbed Confusion by many food critics and restaurant writers.
Best fusion food is cooked by chefs and cooks who really understand the ingredients of both the East and West.
There is a general feeling that the best fusion food is to be found in Australia, California and London, where many Australian and New Zealand chefs are heading up the most successful restaurants.
Newer types of products such as soy sauce, marinade, curry paste, pesto and sundried tomatoes, are prevalent cooking ingredients.
Food is coming of age and is now considered to be an acceptable lifestyle interest and a way of expressing one’s creativity. A growing number of people like reading about food, see themselves as foodies, enjoy TV food shows. The sales of cook books and wine books has increased dramatically.
Multi culturalism has been a major influence. In urban areas particularly, eating out has an increasing role in socialising, no longer reserved for special occasions and in some cases replacing home entertaining. Although traditional eating habits are still followed in many homes, eating on the run is increasing and fewer families eat together on a regular basis.
Meals that are eaten at home are often eaten in front of the TV or with the TV on in the room.
Microwave cookers are a fixture in most homes. The ready-cooked meal market is one of the fastest growing sectors in the food business with more and more variety on offer. Yet, a growing number of upwardly mobile young people see cooking as a hobby and method of relaxation, particularly at weekends. A recent report in the UK indicated that more people are now growing their own vegetables, fruit and herbs than at any time since the last world war. Seed companies have reported record sales of vegetable seeds.
The trendiest young people are buying their food in markets, growing some of their own and giving dinner parties where they serve their own produce fresh from the garden. So for the new Millennium send away for some seed catalogues, polish up your cooking skills and invite a few friends around to share the bounty of your garden.

 

Noodle Soup

 


Serves 6
5½ ozs (155 g) somen or other very thin noodles, such as angel hair, cooked until just tender, rinsed under warm water and drained
1 lb (450 g) shrimps cooked and peeled
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) Chinese rice wine or sake
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon sunflower or arachide oil
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) chopped shallots (white part only)
2 teaspoons garlic, crushed
½ lb (225 g) pea shoots, sugar snaps or iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced
2½ fl ozs (63 ml/¼ cup) Chinese rice wine or sake
2¼ pints (1.3L/5½ cups) homemade chicken stock
1½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
Garnish
Coriander leaves
Divide the noodles equally among six soup bowls.
Mix the shrimps in a bowl with the rice wine and ginger, toss lightly to coat. Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Add the scallions and garlic and stir-fry for 15 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the pea shoots, sugar snaps or iceberg lettuce and rice wine. Increase the heat to the highest and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the chicken stock and salt and bring to the boil. Add the shrimps and simmer for about 1½ minutes, until they turn pink, skimming the soup to remove any foam or impurities. Divide the noodles between six bowls, ladle the soup over them, garnish with coriander leaves and serve immediately.

 

Grilled Mexican Club Wrap

 


Serves 4
2 large chicken breasts
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) Extra Virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
8 slices streaky bacon
1 ripe avocado (preferably Haas)
3 tablespoons (4 American tablespoons) Mayonnaise (preferably homemade)
¼ cup chopped coriander
1 Jalapeno chilli, finely chopped
4 x 10 inch (25 cm) flour tortillas
8 thin slices smoked cheese eg. Gubbeen
8 thin slices very ripe tomato
4 lettuce leaves
Remove fillets from the chicken. Pound chicken breasts thin and cut into strips like the fillets. Marinate in olive oil, garlic, cumin, and pepper for ½ hour. Season with salt. Pan-grill on both sides until cooked through – about 5 minutes. Reserve.  Grill bacon until crisp. Drain well.
Next make the Guacamole Mayonnaise.
Mash the avocado and add to the Mayonnaise with coriander and finely chopped chilli.
To make the wraps
Place a tortilla on the work surface. Spread with about 2 tablespoons of Guacamole Mayonnaise. Place 2 slices of cheese on the tortilla, just below the middle. Top with a few chicken strips and crispy bacon. Season the tomato slices with salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar. Place a few on top and then some lettuce. Fold in the edges and roll up tightly.  Either wrap in aluminium foil and warm up in a 180C/350F/regulo 4 oven for 10 minutes or grill just 2 minutes per side.

 

Spring Rolls with Thai Dipping Sauce

 


Makes 20-40 depending on size
Note: Thai or Chinese spring roll wrappers may be used. For tiny spring rolls, cut the large ones into 4 inch squares.
Filling
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) dried black fungus (woodears)
8 dried Chinese mushrooms, Shiitake
½ oz (15 g) cellophane noodles
1 spring onion or scallion
1½ oz (40 g) onion
4 oz (100 g) lean pork, minced
4 oz (100 g) cooked white crab meat, shredded
½-1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and grated
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 egg, preferably free-range
Garnish
1 large head soft lettuce
1 good sized bunch fresh mint sprigs
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) plain white flour
Vietnamese rice papers or Chinese spring roll wrappers
Oil for deep-frying
Thai Dipping Sauce (see recipe)
Soak the black fungus in 10 fl oz (300 ml) hot water for 30 minutes. Lift the fungus out of the water and rinse it under cold running water. Feel for the hard ‘eyes’ and cut them off. Chop the fungus very finely. You should have about 4 tablespoons. Soak the dried mushrooms in a separate 10 fl oz (300 ml) hot water for 30 minutes or until they are soft. Lift them out of the liquid and cut off the hard stems. Chop the caps finely. Soak the cellophane noodles in a large bowl of hot water for 15-30 minutes or until they are soft. Drain and cut them into ½ inch (1 cm) lengths.  Finely chop the spring onion. Peel the onion and chop it finely. Put the pork with the crab meat, ginger, black fungus, mushrooms, cellophane noodles, spring onion, onion,  salt, black pepper and egg into a bowl and mix well. Put a spring roll wrapper onto the work top.  Put a heaped tablespoon of the pork-crab mixture roughly in the centre, but closer to the edge nearest you. Spread the mixture into a sausage shape. Fold the side nearest the filling over it. Then fold the two adjacent sides over to the centre. Now roll the parcel away from you and seal.
Make all the spring rolls in the same way and set them aside on a plate.  Heat the oil in a wok or deep-fat fryer over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, fry a few spring rolls at a time until they are golden. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.   Arrange the spring rolls on a plate. Serve the lettuce leaves and mint leaves on another plate. Put a small bowl of Thai Dipping Sauce near each diner. To eat, take a lettuce leaf, or part of one, and put a spring roll and a few mint sprigs on it; roll it up and dip into the sauce.

 

Thai Dipping Sauce


A version of this sauce is ever present on restaurant tables in Thailand and Vietnam. A great dipping sauce to use with grilled or deep fried meat or fish and of course spring rolls.
Serves 4
3 tablesp. (4 American tablesp.) Nam pla, fish sauce
3 tablesp. (4 American tablesp.) freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice
2 tablesp. (2 American tablesp. + 2 teasp.) sugar or more to taste
1 clove garlic, crushed
3-4 fresh hot red or green chillies

Combine the fish sauce, freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice, sugar and 3 tablespoons of warm water in a jar, add the crushed garlic. Mix well and pour into 4 individual bowls. Cut the chillies crossways into very thin rounds and divide them between the bowls.

Potato Tart with Smoked Salmon, Creme Fraiche and Crispy Capers


Serves 6
2 lbs (900 g) potatoes, peeled
1-2 ozs (15-30 g/¼-½ stick butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
18-24 capers
¼ pint/150 ml/generous ½ cup creme fraiche, approx.
1-2 tablespoons (1-2 American tablespoons + 1-2 teaspoons) chives
10-12 ozs/285-340 g smoked salmon
Rocket leaves

First make the Potato tart. Cut the peeled potatoes into julienne strips and dry well. Rub a thick even coating of butter over the base and sides of a heavy 10 inch (25.5 cm) pan. Press half the potatoes into a thick layer to cover the base of the pan. Season well with salt and freshly ground pepper. Add the rest of the potatoes, season again. Add a few knobs of butter. Cover with butter wrapper and a close fitting lid. Cook on a gentle heat for about 15-20 minutes.  Dry the capers. Deep fry quickly in hot oil until crisp. Drain on kitchen paper.  When the potatoes are cooked through, crisp and golden on the base, invert onto a hot serving plate. Spread generously with creme fraiche and sprinkle with chopped chives.
Top with slices of smoked salmon, make a nest of Rocket leaves in the centre. Sprinkle with crispy capers and serve immediately.


Seared Spice Crusted Salmon with Red Lentil and Chilli Risotto


Serves 6

6 pieces of unskinned fresh salmon 5-6 ozs (140-170g) in weight
2 teasp. each of freshly roasted and ground cumin, coriander and fennel seeds
1 teasp. sea salt
Extra Virgin olive oil

 

Red lentil and Chilli Risotto

 

½ – 1 tablesp. (½ American tablesp. ½ teasp.) sunflower or peanut oil
2 teasp cumin
1 clove garlic crushed
1 teasp grated ginger
½ chilli sliced
6ozs(170g) red lentils
12fl ozs (1½ cups) Home made chicken stock
1 tablesp. (1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.)freshly chopped mint
1 tablesp.(1 American tablesp. + 1 teasp.) freshly chopped coriander
salt and freshly ground pepper
Garnish
Rocket leaves
First make Red Lentil Risotto
Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the cumin, crushed garlic, grated ginger. Add the sliced chilli cook for 3 or 4 minutes , add the lentils and cook for a minute or two, add a ladle full of hot stock. When it has been almost absorbed, add some more and continue until all the stock has been absorbed – about 20 minutes, Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the freshly chopped mint and coriander. Taste and correct the seasoning, add a little lime juice if necessary.  Mix the ground spices and sea salt in a bowl.
Dip the salmon in olive oil and then into the spice mixture. Heat a frying pan, when hot, add a tiny drop of olive oil. Cook the salmon skin side down for 4 or 5 minutes on a medium heat, reduce the heat, flip over for a few minutes on the flesh side.
Serve immediately on a bed of Red Lentil and Chilli risotto.
Garnish rocket leaves and serve.

 

Breakfast Smoothie


Serves 2-4
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup milk
250 ml/8 fl oz/1 cup yoghurt
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons) crushed ice
½-1 tablespoon (½ American teaspoon/1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) honey
1 banana
2 tablespoons (2 American tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ) fresh raspberries (optional)
1 tablespoon (1 American tablespoon + 1 teaspoon) wheatgerm
Put all the ingredients into the blender and whizz. Taste and serve immediately.