Category Archives: Tips

Have you got 12 minutes and a tea bag?

Have you got 12 minutes and a tea bag?

Fabulous! Then you can home-smoke salmon (or chicken). Yes, delicious, moist, tender and juicy smoked salmon made fresh at home in your kitchen in only 12 minutes.

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It’s easier and quicker than you think and you don’t have to rush out and buy a new piece of equipment.  And best of all, we are going to serve the skin nice and crispy which is very trendy at the moment.

WANT TO KNOW HOW?

It’s easier if you just watch this quick video, here I show you with chicken but it’s the same process with salmon.  At the 8/9 minute mark, I remove the skin off the salmon with a pair of tongs, place on a baking sheet and then bake in an oven of 200c for about 8-12 minutes until crunchy and crispy.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.  You can either serve the salmon with a gorgeous salad, steamed vegetables or even make into a paté by combing the mashed flakes with cream cheese and dill.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

5 Reasons you hate cooking…

I hear it so often.  ‘I hate cooking’…

And i really just don’t understand!  To me cooking is a therapy, a tonic, my passion. I really do enjoy cooking, I think it feeds my soul and I can definitely enhance my mood by cooking something fabulous and then gobble it all up! Perhaps it’s because I know ALL of the shortcuts?

I always say in my classes if you hate cooking i can absolutely tell you why.

  1. Your knives are blunt

If your knives are blunt you will not enjoy cooking. It is literally impossible.  It is pointless having a uber sexy and expensive knife if the poor thing is so blunt you can barely get it through an Iceberg lettuce:)  Get them sharpened.  Get a professional edge back on that knife by either chatting up your local butcher or getting your knives to a professional sharpener.  It really isn’t expensive and is well worth it.  Then you can use your kitchen steel to keep it sharp as you go.

Once your knife is sharp you will live happily ever after in the kitchen. You will dazzle and amaze even yourself with your new culinary prowess…it will practically feel like you have been on a magnificent holiday you will feel so refreshed!

Don’t believe me?  You know i’m right!

I have a professional knife sharpening service visit the cooking school as necessary, if you’re in Brisbane I would highly recommend Troy at Wicked Edge.

2. Your shopping list is holding you back

If you buy the same dreary ingredients week in and week out OF COURSE you will lose your mojo in the kitchen!  I usually have a list for the household basics but shop for FRESH produce.  And I’m always on the lookout for something I haven’t ever  tried before. I buy with my eyes and it all depends on what LOOKS fresh and delicious and what is on sale!  I would much rather buy seasonal fresh produce than something that is old, overpriced and on my list.

So buy with your eyes.  See what’s on special. Try something new!  If you have never tried fennel or beef cheeks or fresh turmeric BUY IT and TRY IT.  There will be heaps of recipes for anything you may find so be adventurous.

The minute you add a new ingredient to a dish it becomes a new dish so remember that.  You don’t have to learn a repertoire of new recipes, you can simply start adding a bit of bling to your old ones!

Add finely shaved fennel to your next coleslaw…BANG!  Amazing!

Add veal or pork mince instead of beef to any of your old favourites…BANG! Amazing!

Add my favourite spice Ras el Hanout to your next leg of lamb, roast chicken, mince or even vegetables…BANG! Amazing!

The minute you try a new combination of the same recipe it’s a new recipe!  I do it all the time!

3. Your chopping board moves around when you chop

You have no idea how much this upsets me!  I’ve watched many battle it out on a chopping board with the silly thing moving and flapping about OF COURSE you’re going to hate chopping.  TAKE CONTROL! Put a wet cloth or a plastic mat under the board and your will be in chopping heaven.  It’s also MUCH safer so please try this and you’ll be surprised how such a simple idea can transform your chopping woes.

4. You don’t know the basics

Now this is quite a wide and loose statement.  What I mean is if you don’t know the basics of cooking you are not going to have the confidence to try anything new.

Use the right knife for the job,  you can’t use a paring knife to finely chop a bunch of parsley you will need to use a chefs knife or a vegetable cleaver so don’t battle it out with the wrong equipment.

If your mince or your bacon is leaking grey liquid all over the pan when you’re cooking, or if your stir fries are limp and watery and grey then you need to adjust your cooking method.  Generally if meat is added to a cold pan and then stirred it will stew, seep and cook grey every single time.  The more you stir the more it will stew!  You know I’m right!  Get the pan nice and hot.  Do not use extra virgin olive oil for high temperature frying, it just can’t handle the heat and will smoke and burn before the pan is even hot.  Use a rice bran, coconut and vegetable oil, these cheap and cheerful oils can handle the heat in the kitchen.  Extra virgin olive oil is like a princess: it doesn’t like to get hot or sweaty or do any work but it’s really glamorous and is the perfect candidate to bling up and adorn a salad, or be drizzled over cooked meat or vegetables…but it’s useless at frying at high tempreatures!

Remember to manage the heat in your pan. If you add 650g cold meat drenched in a liquid marinade and then add it to a small cold pan and then stir you ARE DEFINITELY going to get a stew and not a stir fry!  Here’s the solution, I don’t mind saying it again:

  • Get the pan swear-word hot
  • Add a little cheap and cheerful oil (rice bran, canola etc!)
  • Only add the meat to the pan if it SIZZLES!
  • Don’t stir until the first layer that has hit the pan is browned and sealed, if you are cooking mince you can attack the lumps with two forks or a whisk. I always add my onion second, that way I don’t have to add extra oil to cook the onions. Makes sense doesn’t it!
  • Only stir when the pan has regained it’s heat, you can lower the temperature in the pan once you are happy it’s all sealed and now just needs to cook through.
  • You will seriously live happily ever after once you know these tricks!

5. You don’t feel appreciated

If you’ve spent an hour or two or more in the kitchen and you don’t get a round of applause of course you will feel hard done by!  I always make sure I bling up my meal so when they finally see it, it looks so amazing that they at least murmur wow or oooh or similar!  It’s amazing what a new dish will do for your reputation!  Learn some quick and easy presentation skills and styles and you can literally make mac cheese the star of the show!  See my blog and book The Little Black Book of Culinary Bling for more inspiration!

Happy Cooking

Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

Bling up your steak…and shop shop shop!

Shopping and steaks…

It’s fast approaching bikini weather and I don’t know about you but I’ve left this years ‘trim down’ way too late.  That’s not to say that I don’t usually eat wonderfully healthy meals with one or two cheat/treat days in between to keep me honest, but somehow I was just not inspired.

Until this week…this week it’s all coming together for me.  Whether it’s the alignment of the stars or these amazing boxing classes that are whipping my brain back into shape, who knows but it’s working.

It’s really not that difficult to eat healthy food but it all relies on one thing and one thing only.  Your SHOPPING LIST!  If you are not buying healthy wholesome food you can’t cook happy healthy wholesome meals no matter how hard you try!

Let me know if you need me to share my fabulous shopping list as I’m happy to share my shopping techniques with you!

These recipes are fabulous, you simply must try them. Adapt them, make them yours, use my ideas and put your own twist on them.  You can use these again and again so let’s get creative.  I would love you to share your own twists to these recipes so drop me a message and a photo and we can all share the love.

Wild about cooking…

The Vanilla Zulu

 

Steak and cauliflower mash with goats cheese ball and zucchini ribbon

Herby steaks in pan with balsamic glaze and garlic

How Does Your Garden Grow

Yes, cooking is simple.  We all do it everyday.  But are you tired of the same boring dishes day in and day out?

I find it’s all about being inspired.  About seeing a photo, a recipe, visiting a restaurant and saying, wow, I can make that!  You may not always have the confidence but give it a go anyway, isn’t that what Google is for, you can simply find a similar recipe and recreate it.

Are you buying the right ingredients?  I find a lot of us are governed by that grocery list, you buy the same things week in and week out and wonder why your meals are always the same.  Try something new, try keep a few other ingredients around and you’ll be surprised how that changes the dishes you are able to create!

And that brings me to the inspiration behind this post.  A herb garden. Isn’t that the simplest way of adding flavour and excitement to a meal?  Isn’t that the easiest way of creating a globally inspired dish by adding a combination of specific herbs to create a themed dish?  And a herb garden is so easy to have, if I can do it then anyone can!  And they don’t have to be expensive either.  You could plant the basics, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme and of course please just do this for me… plant a few edible flowers!

Dianthus, violets, pansies, roses, marigolds and nasturtiums add instant glitz and glamour and a touch of wow to any salad or meal!And take it from me, there is nothing more therapeutic, stress relieving than watering those delicate blooms and herbs, creating wonderful dishes in your mind, and stopping to well…smell the roses!

Enjoy!

Chef Mel

The Vanilla Zulu

How does your garden grow…

Yes, cooking is simple.  We all do it everyday.  But are you tired of the same boring dishes day in and day out?  I find it’s all about being inspired.  About seeing a photo, a recipe, visiting a restaurant and saying, wow, I can make that!  You may not always have the confidence but give it a go anyway, isn’t that what Google is for, you can simply find a similar recipe and recreate it.

But are you buying the right ingredients?  I find a lot of us are governed by that grocery list, you buy the same things week in and week out and wonder why your meals are always the same.  Try something new, try keep a few other ingredients around and you’ll be surprised how that changes the dishes you are able to create!

And that brings me to the inspiration behind this post.  A herb garden. Isn’t that the simplest way of adding flavour and exitement to a meal.  Isn’t that the easiest way of creating a globally inspired dish by adding a combination of specific herbs to create a themed dish?  And a herb garden is so easy to have, if I can do it then anyone can!  And they don’t have to be expensive either.  You could plant the basics, parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme and of course please just do this for me… plant a few edible flowers!  Dianthus, violets, pansies, roses, marigolds and nasturtiums add instant glitz and glamour and a touch of wow to any salad or meal!

And take it from me, there is nothing more therapeutic, stress relieving than watering those delicate blooms and herbs, creating wonderful dishes in your mind, and stopping to well…smell the roses!

Enjoy!

Faux Croquembouche Vanilla Zulu Style…

The feared Croquembouche, once you know how to make them, they really aren’t that daunting.  Also, a Croquembouche cone is terribly expensive.  Did you know you can actually fashion a very useful cone out of a piece of A3 cardboard, as you would buy at the stationery store.  So it doesn’t have to be costly.  You an simply cover it in greaseproof paper and use it again and again. The actual creation won’t last too long that’s for sure. I found this on youtube for us http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vl7TrB–gCw

Here they have used little meringues, you could also use piped biscuits or the more traditional profiteroles.  But meringues are cheap, we can make them in advance, and everyone loves them. So to make it sound terribly important and difficult why don’t we call it a deconstructed vertical vanilla and berry pavlova and see if we get a round of applause at the Christmas table this year!  This photo is off the net but I’m making one of these this afternoon or tomorrow to test it and then I’ll report back… heavens, who’s going to help me eat it!