A lot of people ask me why I do what I do. It is a question that comes up frequently, from everyday life situations to blogger conferences like the Food Bloggers of Canada conference that I attended recently in Vancouver. It might seem like a simple question. After all, I wouldn't be doing what I do, if I didn't know why I was doing it, would I? This simple question, however, is incredibly hard to answer. Why do I do what I do? Money (ha!), attention (
Sharing is a concept that has been talked about across cultures, whether it be sharing food or knowledge, it is integral to us and to our well being. I grew up in a culture where recipes were passed down from generation to generation by word of mouth. Oral traditions were very important, and the only way that would ensure that the next generation possessed the same knowledge and understanding of the older generations. My mother's generation was the transitional one in India. Oral traditions started to be overlooked, and written traditions started to take their place. My mom never relied on cookbooks to make her food, however, she started writing down her recipes, with careful notes on where each came from and the modifications she made to these recipes. My aunts are the same, and in many ways my work is cut out for me. Except - that one ingredient they always leave out - but that's another story.
I put these recipes on the internet instead. It is my way of sharing.
If you live in Alberta, chances are you'll have heard of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology's (NAIT) Culinary Arts programme. NAIT has its own restaurant, Ernest's and I was invited, along with a few other bloggers, to experience its cuisine, and the efforts of its students.
If you know me, you'll know about my sweet tooth, so it was no surprise when I went straight for the desserts. And I fell in love with the beautiful white chocolate crème brûlée with macerated berries. It was perfectly creamy, smoky, sticky, crisp, light, tangy and I may or may not have stood over it for a while and
One of the things that stuck with me, from the FBC conference was the keynote address. Robin Esrock, erstwhile writer, explorer, traveller and all around amazing person, talked about a lot of inspirational things. I was live tweeting for a while, and then I guess, I got caught up in everything that he was saying, and I just dropped my phone down and gave myself up to the experience. One of the key points he made was how little we ask for help, or just ask anything, in general. There is no shame in asking. The worst that can happen is that the person we ask says no.
And then again, they may say yes. Still in a dessert haze, I sought out the chef making the brûlée, and, in the spirit of sharing, asked her for the recipe. I'll be honest, I had little hope I would get this recipe. Chefs are not known for sharing. But I'd misjudged the chefs at NAIT. Off she went, in search of Chef Ganesh Subramanyam, whose recipe this was. Chef Ganesh didn't eve hesitate, he just walked in, found the recipe and handed it to me. The recipe was obviously well used, the top was singed off. It only added to the character. Chef Ganesh is proud of sharing his culinary expertise with his students. It's evident in the photograph below, where he gathers all his students for the picture.
I understand the power of asking now. I also salute the amazing generosity of the NAIT chefs. As Chef Ganesh put it - 'We share everyday'.
If you live in Edmonton, I urge you to try out NAIT's Ernest's Dining Room. Filled with classic dishes from NAIT's kitchens, it's perfect for an elegant meal out, or a casual evening with friends. Every single dish I tried was exceptional, and my personal favourite was the scallops (pictured earlier in the post). I also enjoyed the flambeed prawns with Pernod (Opa! I love fire!), the duck confit, and all the bread, and most of the cheese is house made.
Recipe (de-cheffed for us non-culinary students :))
Recipe courtesy Chef Ganesh Subramanyam and NAIT)
100 g white chocolate, broken into pieces
500 ml (2 cups) whipping cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
6 large egg yolks
150g sugar (3/4 cup)
Extra granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top
6 - 8 fresh raspberries or blackberries
1 teaspoon sugar
Place the chocolate pieces in a double boiler, and melt on a low heat. Keep warm.
Place the cream and vanilla in a saucepan, and heat gently, until just steaming. Slowly fold in the melted white chocolate.
Whisk the egg yolks with the sugar. Slowly pour in some of the hot cream mixture into the egg yolks, whisking all the time, to temper the yolks. Whisk well, until the yolks are incorporated into the cream mixture.
Strain into a clean saucepan.
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Place 6 - 8 ramekins in a shallow baking dish. Pour in the custard into the ramekins. Gently pour in boiling water into the baking dish, so that the water comes three quarters of the way up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully transfer to the oven.
Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until set. Take out of the oven, and chill the creams, until ready to serve.
Meanwhile, place the berries in a small bowl, and sprinkle over the sugar. Leave to macerate for a while.
To serve, sprinkle over the granulated sugar, and using a domestic blowtorch, brûlée until the sugar caramelizes. You can also use the grill, but be careful not to melt the white chocolate creams.
Serve immediately, topped with a macerated berry.