Sunday, December 21, 2008

Southern Hemisphere Christmas and the French Connection

Hello Friends;
It's hard to imagine for many of you, but in my neck of the woods, being summer, Christmas time is hot, with not a single snow flake in sight. Yet most of us still persist in having heavy roasts, turkey, ham, with all the trimmings, Christmas pudding with brandy sauce. We are changing however, breaking away from the the shackles of the British Empire and colonialism. I will always make a Lasagna, fresh pasta of course, no cauliflower, (private joke). Pavlova is quite common, a kiwi tradition of meringue, layered with fresh cream, sliced kiwi fruit, strawberries and perhaps chocolate pieces scattered throughout. I prefer a nice tiramisu or a zuchotto for dessert on Christmas day. My brother-in-law has even attempted to use the obligatory kiwi cooking device, the barbecue, to cook a whole turkey. When finally cooked, usually the next day, it is wonderful, moist and tender.

Its hard to encapsulate Christmas, there's the frantic build up prior to, shopping malls filled with harassed parents urgently looking for that last minute gift with tired and irritable children in toe. Then traveling to ones destination, only to get stuck in traffic. And the feasting, over indulgence which we all pay for after. Lazy sunny days spent at the beach, friends and family, accommodating everyone, and putting any differences to one side. A tradition for myself is walking up and down Franklin Street, Ponsonby, Auckland and checking out the Christmas decorations/ lights festooned on every house in the street, it's quite amazing, with coffee vendors temporarily set up and everyone marveling at the effort and lengths the residents go to with their displays. I guess I'm just a kid at heart, fireworks being another one of my favourites.

Being in the hospitality industry, its a busy time. I did however manage to squeeze one restaurant review in for 2008. Its called Pastis, a french cafe/ bistro in Auckland, city central.

It's a site that has changed restaurants many times. The newest incarnation seems to be working well. Busy, vibrant and run with Gaelic flair. Blue, red and white checked table clothes and French accented artwork adorning the walls. Sitting here brings back memories of close friends, fun times and life choices made, not always right, but I digress.

I ordered Cervelles Agneau, Lambs brains sauteed and finished in a mustard cream sauce. My London City and Guilds training led me to the conclusion that in the blanching process of the brains too much lemon was used and as a consequence slightly overpowered the final product, check out the sage leaf garnish, a little over the top I thought. Having said all that it was very tasty and a generous sized portion as well. Escargots, snails served in the shell with a garlic butter, very tender and Moreish. I finished with King Prawns, which were sauteed and served on a bed of fennel and tomato compote, flambeed at the table with pastis. The compote itself was the highlight of the dish, interesting and very complimentary. Pastis , from where the restaurant gets its name is an Anise flavoured liqueur usually served as an aperitif, mixed with water at 1 to 5 at which point it changes from a transparent yellow to a milky colour. It was developed when, in 1915 Absinthe was banned due to the wormwood ingredient, more star anise, sugar and lower in alcohol content, approximately 40-50% alc by volume.

Accompanied with the meal was a bottle of French Rose, Cote du provence Domaines Houchart 2007 very pleasant drinking and wonderful colour.

Overall the dining experience was well above average, but I have to take 1 point off for a menu that lacks choice, so its 7.5 out of 10 for Pastis French restaurant.
Well that's it for the year and all the best to you and your loved ones, I'm looking forward to sharing with you in 2009. Ciao for now.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The good side of Diving, Tourism and Tame Iti

Hello Friends;

I have had another dive,this time in Whakatane, a town on New Zealand's East Coast of the North Island. I was there with Paul Morris , Research Editor of  Dive Planet . We were there to check out a dive charter operator and meet with other businesses.

We headed out of port and made our way to Whale Island, a 2o minute boat ride, with a crew of 5, Paul, myself and 2 young ladies from Norway and Sweden. As you can see from the photo they're an ugly bunch so it was a real sacrifice for us. All joking aside it was a very pleasant day, beautiful scenery, unusual rock formations, one was called Elephant Rock, abundant marine and bird life, we even had seals frolicking a few metres from the boat. Its great to see visitors to our country they're usually truely amazed by what they see, the accessability and the reception they recieve, we need more of you so come on down to New Zealand and I urge residents to check out your own country. It's easy to become complacent and overlook what we have.


That night we checked out a local restaurant called " The Office " which was reasonably good, but the highlight would have to be meeting Tame Iti.

Now many of you may have never heard of him, but those living in New Zealand would have. After recognising his fully tattooed face we introduced ourselfs and had a chat. Tame Iti is a very entertaining man, never one to shy away from baring his buttocks to visiting dignatories or any official representing the crown. An agent provocateur, activist and general pain in the arse for any incumbent government . He is always willing to perform for the camera to highlight the plight of his indigineous people. A case in point was when he blew a hole in our national flag with a shotgun. Yes he has done many disruptive things, but tonight he was sitting quietly eating fish and chips with his sausage-like fingers.

On one occasion, when Paul returned to the table from a cigarette break he was just in time to hear Tame Iti say to me "We can never sleep together, but we can share a meal together". Well , Paul has recounted that line many times since, which i have to say in that context, with food and wine around was rather disturbing. It was of course quite an innocent annalogy, he was speaking on behalf of his people and the government of the day , working through issues and coming to certain arrangements, but not so close as to lose their identity.
I am impressed by his political experiences and his ability to broker deals and negotiation skills, he does indeed have a good side, as the photo below shows. More about food next time, so ciao for now.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It's a chef's life















Hello Friends,
I went for my first scuba dive after 23 years in a little place called Daniel's Reef, Mathesons Bay, which is approximately an hour north of Auckland, on the east coast. This scene above is what you encounter in many places on New Zealand's east coast. We were hanging around a depth of 15 meters and took a couple of 800gm crayfish, which is on the smaller side but very nice for eating. We had a nice bbq on the beach after the dive and all in all it was a great day. I always find myself gravitate towards the bbq to make sure people don't overcook or burn the food and try and work out why someone would bring a 40 centimetre thick, crumbed lamb pattie and try to cook it on a bbq. I know it sounds a bit anal but it's the curse of being Chef Jules.
I tried an Indian Restaurant on Auckland's North Shore, it's called Aroma which is quite a cool name for an Indian Restaurant I think. It is a very small, quaint cosy space. I ordered two meals, one was lamb saag gosht which is Punjabi lamb curry in a pureed spinach sauce spiced with fenugreek. The other was chicken korma which was a mild curry finished in a creamy ground cashew nut gravy. The lamb was quite tough and chewy, the sauce was okay. The chicken was the highlight, they used chicken thigh which was really moist and tender the service was pleasant and attentive and not overly intrusive.
With the meal I had a bottle of Jacobs Creek, "Three Vines" Rose, which is a combination of Shiraz, Grenache and Sangiovese. Australian wine, very new to the market and is being heavily advertised currently.Very pleasant and easy drinking.
Overall I give the restaurant a score of 6/10. Listening to the news on the way home, strangely enough Indian food was mentioned as being the most unhealthy due to the high use of saturated fat, not a comforting thought after consuming a lot of it. Oh well an extra 30 minutes at the gym should fix it.
Ciao for now.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Chef Jules' most unusual Barbecue


Hello Friends,

Had my first barbecue of the season yesterday, not quite summer yet, and was forecast to rain. But, as I already had it in my mind, I went ahead anyway. I cleaned up my barbecue and fired it up, and got the embers glowing nicely. I have to say, it always envokes a reaction, usually laughter, especially when I ring the bell on the top, but it works really well as you can raise and lower the cooking surface, thereby controlling the temperature.

Friends and family enjoyed kebabs of red and orange capsicum, cubed lamb shoulder, and fresh bay leaves drizzled with garlic, olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. A really meaty pork spare rib which I had marinated in soy sauce, garlic, honey and worcester sauce, both nicely chargrilled, just before it poured down. Accompanied by fresh artichokes which I combined with some cos lettuce, watercress, and tomatoes, and of course drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

By the way I have renewed my padi open water certifcate after 23 years of dormancy. Being involved in Dive Planet  has encouraged me to pursue diving again.
So looking forward to fresh crayfish (lobster), scallops, mussels, and hopefully some abalone as well.
Ciao for now.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Gnocchi di Patata

Hello Friends,
I have a nice little recipe for you here, a real classic. Gnocchi di Patata is basically potato dumplings, quite easy to make.
So here goes:
Ingredients ( Makes 4 large portions)
1.2kgs agria potatoes, (suitable for mashing, i.e. not a waxy potato)
50gms butter
salt, pepper (level teaspoon of each)
50gms grated parmesan cheese
2 egg yolks
500mls  Napoletana sauce
250gms flour
plus flour for dusting bench
Method
You might want to make the napoletana sauce first and keep to one side.
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
Place the whole washed potatoes on a baking tray and cook for 35 minutes turn over and cook for another 35 minutes
Take out and cut in half, scoop out the potato pass through a sieve or mash in a bowl, add the butter, parmesan, seasoning, egg yolks and the sieved flour. Mix with a wooden spoon, divide in two, roll out on to the floured benchtop. Form a cylindrical shape about 25mm wide and 800mm long. Cut into 20mm pieces and roll off the back of a fork with your finger, as in photo below, pressing into the potato. Repeat process with the other half of the mixture. Bring to the boil a large pot of water, add salt to taste, add the gnocchi and take out when they have all floated to the top, strain and add to the heated napoletana.
To serve place on the serving plate and top with freshly grated parmesan. In the backround of the top photo I have grilled some pork cutlets and topped with aged balsalmic vinegar and whole sage leaves which I shallow fried in butter, it's a nice combination, hope you enjoy it.
Chef Jules Tips
If you have children this is a great way of introducing them to cooking, they can help with the labour intensive job of rolling out the potato gnocchi into the right shape.

The ready made proprietry, usually vacuum packed gnocchi is crap because it's too rubbery. The key to making great gnocchi is cooking the potato dry thereby allowing you to add as little flour as possible which makes it less stoggy.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Changing Tide

Hello Friends,

I have been a bit distracted of late as little old New Zealand has had quite a change in direction, politically. On Saturday the 8th of November there was a resounding shift to the right, in other words conservative (National Party), after 3 terms of a left wing, socialist, liberal (labour), lead government.

As we have an MMP form of representation, the minor parties have more of a say and are currently negotiating their position in a government lead by the National Party. As the victory was so resounding they have the mandate to govern alone but are showing good will, foresight and looking at more than one term by entertaining the minor parties. Actually looking forward to the new government so we will see what happens. So that is Chef Jules short synopsis of the political situation in New Zealand.

However, back to my first love, cooking, I have some really good recipes coming up, meanwhile check out  Dive Planet Recipes

So ciao for now.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Chef Jules Quickie


Hello Friends,

I hope I find you all well. Every now and again I will share with you some recipes which are quick, easy to prepare and cook. I work strange hours and last night I found myself at home and quite hungry, with no fresh fish available at the time, this is what I came up with. The recipe is as follows;

Ingredients: (Serves 1 main size or 2 entrees).

1 x 400g tin fagioli (butter beans) refer to pantry list

100gm veal, flattened and cut into strips

3 x cloves garlic, chopped

60 ml olive oil

salt and pepper

6 x cherry tomatoes, halved

6 x florets of broccoli

Method

Place a small pot of water on the stove and heat. Meanwhile, heat half the oil in a fry pan and add the veal, cook quickly on a high heat, add the garlic and take off the heat. In the small pot of boiling water add salt to taste, add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes, then add the drained fagioli, bring to the boil again, then drain, add to the veal, season and add the tomatoes and the rest of the olive oil, and serve.

Chef Jules Tips

Instead of veal you could use a stir fry beef i.e. eye fillet, scotch fillet, pork fillet, or even chicken breast or thigh meat.


Instead of the fagioli or butter beans you could use frozen broad beans, another good thing to have in the freezer, once cooked in salted water and shelled they are amazing and very useful in different recipes left whole or pureed. Incidently this dish is gluten free which is an added bonus for a late night meal.


Hope you enjoy it, Ciao for now!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Distractions

Hello Friends,

It's been a hard week, full of distractions which has meant my blog has suffered as a consequence, so sorry for that, I'll make up for it. There's been lots of Dive Planet meetings, lots of recipe testing and restaurant reviewing.

Many of you will be familiar with the "yum char" concept of dining, but for those of you who aren't it is a Chinese style of food and presentation which involves the wait staff coming around with trays of food, usually in small round baskets, constantly, which you either accept or decline. It's loud, intrusive and stimulating. I don't have a favourite yum char restaurant as it is fairly generic in food and service, the latter being usually poor, especially if you are looking for extras like drinks and condiments.

The reason I am bringing this up is I do enjoy going, it is a lunchtime concept, and I went yesterday. I wouldn't recommend going to discuss business as you are constantly interrupted. Having said all this I really do enjoy the variety and selection and you do get the best if you are in a group of three or more people, in fact the more the better, in that situation I get to sample my favourite chicken feet dish, prawn and coriander dumplings, rice flour roll with dried shrimp, spring onions and topped with soy and peanut sauce to mention just a few.

There are many yum char restaurants in Auckland and I have been to 8 of them, if any of you have a favourite one in Auckland or indeed anywhere in the world I would be pleased to hear about your experience.

Next blog I will discuss one of my favourite recipes, so ciao for now.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chef Jules, Fishing and Friends


Hello Friends,
Reporting back on the fishing trip with my great friend Carlo, from Sapori d'italia. With only 4 hours sleep it was a very difficult start to the day. With all the goodies packed, I even managed to cook some breadcrumbed veal and make a thermos of freshly ground coffee, I made my way to Carlo's house. We then picked up our friend Luca from the hotel and made our way to the marina.
It turned out to be a beautiful day, and I got a nice singlet tan. I want to pre-empt the success of the fishing trip by saying that if you were to calculate the costs involved it wouldn't be a viable business proposition. I bet right about now your thinking we caught nothing, but no, your wrong, we caught one. Actually Luca caught a small shark that he got close to the boat, only to snap the line at the last minute. Carlo caught a Trevally, which he mercifully spiked in its brain then gutted, only to lose over the side when it " jumped "out of his hands, too much vino I suspect.
Yes Friends, it was Chef Jules that came up with the goods, a 50cm Snapper.
In Auckland you are never sure of the weather, but, we were very lucky as it improved throughout the day and the only event to mention, was at the end of the day, when berthing the boat. Luca fell off the pier, blaming Carlo, and witnessed by many amused onlookers, one even saying that Carlo saved Luca's life. That's probably overstating the case but it was hilarious them yelling at each other in Italian, creating even more attention. Great times, great friends. We had to supplement the lack of seafood by popping in to my favourite seafood market and buying some tiger prawns and some broadbill, well there is no broadbill in the Hauraki Gulf, or tiger prawns for that matter!
I cooked the snapper whole , on the chargrilled barbeque, stuffing the cavity with lemon, Italian parsley, salt and pepper and plenty of olive oil, for approximately 40 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking process. I was lucky enough to have removed and kept the large egg sack which I cooked for 5 minutes on the hot plate with a knob of butter and seasoning. This turned out to be the most delicious part of the meal, in my opinion. Well I'm going to catch up on some sleep now. Check out my snapper, ciao for now.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Fresh Fish

Hello friends,

A quick catchup as I will be up in 6 hours to go on a fishing trip, depending on the weather of course. I'm going with my good friend Carlo, from Sapori d'italia, and an associate over from Italy, hoping to catch lots of fish in Auckland's beautiful Hauraki Gulf.

As usual we will go well prepared, Salami, Proscuitto, Cheeses, Baguettes, Olives and a glass or two of wine. Crap, I suppose I should take some bait as well, yeah I'll grab some tomorrow.

So next time, I will be reporting back on all the fish we have caught and how we will cook it. If I don't mention anything about it next posting you'll know we didn't do too well.

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Chef Jules Catchup

Hello friends,

I've been a bit slack lately just trying to get on top of a few things, talking to the Dive Planet website builders, really nice people but reminiscent of dealing with politicians which is quite topical at the moment with an election coming up in New Zealand in November.

Been doing the usual chef things. Bought some really nice lobsters yesterday, live naturally, we call them crayfish here, averaging 800gms each. I cooked them for 20 minutes, cut them in half lengthways, put some dill butter on each half and in the oven to reheat for 10 minutes. I then spooned some tomato flavoured hollandaise on top and garnished with fresh watercress. They turned out really nicely and everyone loved them.

Will be going fishing on Sunday, weather permitting with my good friend Carlo and an associate visiting from Italy so hopefully we will have plenty of fresh fish to cook, I'll keep you posted on that one, so ciao for now.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Satisfaction



Hello Friends,
Another morning in the garden, filling the big hole left by the stump and digging another two holes and filling them with Strelitzia nicolai's, a nice palm type tree that will grow to hopefully 4 metres. Hard work but satisfying. Shower and on to seafood market, I like to go every day to check out any new fish that has come in.

Finally a chance to go out to dinner and relax this time trying a Thai Restaurant in Rothesay Bay, North Shore, Auckland, 5 minutes drive from where I live.

I find Thai food quite generic and unless you know what to order you are very often disappointed, but I think I nailed it this time, and ordered the above meal which consisted of boned roast duck, green beans, red capsicum in a fragant lemongrass red curry, you could really taste the coconut in this delicately flavoured sauce. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

No points lost for being overcharged $50 as I picked it up straight away and the maitre'd was so apologetic and nice, a keypad problem compounded by her not wanting to wear glasses.

It's encouraging to see you guys following the postings, feel free to comment. Ciao for now.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Just Another Day

Hello Friends;
I'm giving you an idea of how Chef Jules spends his time. Well today it started when Paul Morris, the researcher and developer of the Dive Planet website came round to my house for a meeting, with his chainsaw. Yes that's right it wasn't the usual boring meeting. We attacked a 10 metre tree and an old tree stump that had to go, and make way for new plantings. Things were going well but the stump took longer than expected, so a large tow rope and my car was used to to extricate the large stump from the ground, with shrieks of delight from Paul on final success. I'm sure my gearbox will never be the same again. I do enjoy gardening, sometimes, and think I could really get into it, perhaps when I'm 70.
Anyway, on to the seafood market, where I bought some beautifully fresh Groper fillets, by the way we call it hapuka in New Zealand, and live paddle crab from the tank. On preparation of the crab I got nipped by the claws on my hand but that was alright, it was no match for my trident knife, and I survived.
Back home I couldn't help myself and doing what I love most. I cooked a nice meal consisting of a flattened chicken breast stuffed with pea puree, feta cheese, roasted capsicum, rolled, and wrapped in bacon, then grilled and served on a bed of steamed bok choy. See photo below. It was great with a glass of Simon Gilbert, Australian Cabernet Rose 2005.
Soon I'll go into how I became involved with dive planet and providing my best seafood recipes for the site, so ciao for now.


Monday, October 6, 2008

Chef Jules Essential Pantry List

Farinaceous Products
-A selection of dried pastas including; fettuccine all'uovo (egg fettuccine), lemon infused pasta, squid ink
  infused pasta, angel hair pasta.
-Orzo
-Japanese Soba noodles
-Carnaroli rice, for all your risotto dishes
-Bomba rice, for paella
Pulses
-400g tins fagioli bianchi di spagna lessati (boiled butter beans)
-400g tins lenticchie lessate (boiled lentils)
-400g tins chick peas
Condiments, Spices and Preserves
-Smoked ground paprika, "la chinata" brand 70gm tin sweet or hot is great
-Saffron threads. I buy 1g boxes from my Indian food supplier, it is reasonable quality at a good price.
-Granulated bonito stock, available from Asian supermarkets, obviously dried, in sachet form,   usually written in Chinese with no English description, which makes it a little hard to find but does have a fish on the label. Makes a reasonable fish stock substitute.
-Flaky sea salt, I'm using a flaky sea salt from Marlborough, New Zealand.
-Rock salt
-Black whole peppercorns, for your grinder.
-Kalamata, greek black olives.
-Sicilian green olives.
-Capers in brine
-Caper berries in brine.
-Sun-dried tomatoes.
-Whole-peeled roma tomatoes, usually 400gm tins.
-Dried porcini mushrooms. Go for the smallest packet possible, from your local delicatessen or Italian importer.
-Cajun spice, small packet ground.
-80gram tin or jar of flat fillets of anchovy.
-Pacific Harvest, citrus seaweed seasoning, or seaweed powder.
-Pre-mixed Pickling Spice.
-Vanilla pods
-Star Anise
-Juniper Berries
-Kikkoman soy sauce
-Worcester sauce
Oils
-Extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil
-Sunflower
-Black Truffle
-Sesame

Sunday, October 5, 2008

1.45 am New Zealand time Catch up.

Hello Friends;

I'm relaxing after a hard nights work in the kitchen, enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio. I have also been working on my recipes, and I would urge all of you to check out http://www.diveplanet.co.nz/ [cuisine section] its growing, and exciting recipes are planned, I'm working on a Snapper recipe served on a bed of of green pea risotto, topped with a dill hard butter sauce. It's gorgeous!
Also my next posting will include my pantry list, a list of ingredients you should have in your pantry to enhance your culinary experience and impress your friends.
So ciao for now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Beginnings

Hello my friends, being a master chef and new to the internet, is not a good combination, but I'm getting there and determined to share my thoughts, musings and restaurant experiences. I was born in Brisbane, Australia, and moved to New Zealand in 1970. After a short stint in Wellington, we all moved as a family to the North Shore, an east coast seaside district of Auckland.

At an early age my Mother noted that I wanted to be a "cooker". So here I am. I started in the kitchen when I was 15, washing dishes of course, and at 22 I was in partnership running my own restaurant, and at 25 , owned my own restaurant. I am still in the hospitality industry and also am a consultant for diveplanet.co.nz, handling the cuisine section, which I love.

I am a fully-trained chef to London City and Guild standards, and due to my step-father, who was Italian, I happily followed in a direction of Italian cuisne.

The hospitality industry is vibrant, full of strange people, that work hard and play hard, good food, wine and friendships.

So, there are lots of things for me to share, from my different associations, opinions of restaurants I visit, the markets, my favourite products, secrets and tips that have enabled me to have a succcessful career for over 30 years in this hard and unforgiving industry.

So keep posted.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

About Chef Jules and Dive Planet

Hello Friends;
You may all be wondering what has a Chef got to do with diving? Well good point there and when I work that one out I will let you know, until then Chef Jules will take you on a journey into the world of Cuisine and the hospitality industry.