It has been one week of intensive Matthew Kenney Online Fundamentals of Raw Cuisine, which started on 28 October 2014. It has certainly been very enjoyable and challenging, time and resources-wise. While I love cooking – or uncooking – all the delicious stuff (really delicious), the bare fact is that I do not have much money to acquire the raw materials – lots of nuts, vegetables, produce. But so far I am surviving and learning.
What have I learnt?
Knife skills. Batons, julienne, dice, brunoise, supreme. I love the latter for making preparation of citrus fruits a breeze.
Kitchen safety. I suffered a bloody bad cut while shaving the beets on the mandoline for Red Beet Ravioli. Painful lesson learnt.
Flavor balancing. The importance of adding sugars, salt, fats or oils and flavorings to turn a dish into a ‘WOW,’ and not being afraid to do so. The almond nut milk exercise demonstrated this well.
I have since then made multiple variations of homemade nut milk – a warming maca lucuma one, and a “white” almond milk which is my favorite. Made with soaked raw almonds and then skins manually removed, it is a little more laborious than regular almond milk but the smoothness and pureness is unrivaled. I have not ventured out to the 3:1 water almond ratio, which produces a perfect creamy rich texture. If you are disappointed with store-bought nut milk, you have all the reason to be. You will understand when you make your own nut milk.
Natural flow – or be pretentiously unpretentious. This concept especially applies to plating. Do not try to hard, or if you can’t help trying, at least make it come across as natural. Because this reflects natural, plant-based and raw cuisine, for green’s sake. Living Lasagna was a lesson in this; lasagna is meant to be a messy dish, so just casually arrange the cheese, tomato sauce and pesto in, no fancy layering should be required.
Lacto-fermentation vs quick pickling. We made kimchi, cucumber dill pickles and pickled ginger. Lactic acid bacteria present in this vegetables will convert natural sugars in the vegetables to lactic acid under a conducive environment. In quick-pickling, as in the case of most supermarket pickles, the vegetables are preserved in an acidic environment then heat-treated for preservation. No healthy probiotics in them. You can tell by the clarity of the solution – for lacto-fermented vegetables, the solution will be cloudy, but it is clear in quick-pickling.
Procurement. With the quantities of ingredients I am preparing (for one person), I have learnt to source for quality ingredients at affordable prices. Case in point: I made my maiden trip to Mustafa today and the prices were unbelievable! Uncle Cook’s India cashew nuts are at $7 per 100g, and Vietnam cashew nuts at $7.50 per 100g. I purchased the former though I am curious if Vietnam nuts are superior. Albert Complex L3 has cheaper nuts ($12 per kg) but I find the quality at Mustafa supersedes the price difference. I also came across Artisana products that were cheaper than if you were to buy on iHerb – pecan nut butter, coconut butter and coconut oil; Bob’s Red Mill, coconut flour. The fresh vegetables are on par with Fairprice though. Why have I been patronizing Brown Rice Paradise all these years?
Learning to innovate with what I have. I did not have some of the standard equipment required for the recipes, like ring molds for the Zucchini Tartare, and dehydrator. For ring molds, I actually went down to Tangs as I had seen them there before, but they were out-of-stock, which was a blessing in disguise. The circumstances led to a dig of the pantry, and I used a vacuum flask cap – which was precisely 3-inches in diameter – as a mold. Granted, it was sealed at one end, but it saved quite some money, I am also using a conventional oven for dehydration. I am using a temperature of 80-100 degrees Celcius, which violates the raw food “rules.” Certainly the idea of owning a dehydrator is appealing, but that will be another $600-$800 and I would most likely store it in the bedroom since there is no more space in the kitchen.
Tasks left for week 1:
Knife skills day 4
Taste kale chips
Homework day 4
Kale caesar salad
Spicy tuber hand roll OR sushi (I am tempted to make both but I am lagging behind. The former sounds more appealing with the mango tamarind chutney, but the latter with stuffed jicama rice looks more satiable.)
Going forward, I think I am more confident in designing a raw food menu.