Smoked Banana Ice Cream

The things on the left are the smoked bananas

I came back from the gym and a long bike ride today and immediately made ice cream. I think there is something fundamentally wrong with my approach to exercise… Still, the results were delicious. This is actually one of the best ice cream’s I’ve ever made.

Smoked bananas are a snack food around Asia, and can be found in some Asian grocers. Small bananas are sliced, strongly smoked and partially dehydrated. The flavour may not be to everyone’s taste. A friend recently described the taste as ‘chewing on a wet cigar’, but don’t let that ringing endorsement put you off. The flavours and aromas are strong and complex with rich tobacco, vanilla and molasses notes, the sweetness of brown sugar and a mellow banana flavour. Those elements tempered and adjusted in ice cream form create a beautiful combination. I’ve used a heavy custard base here to stand up to the very strong flavours in the smoked banana.

This ice cream has a thick, creamy texture (it actually holds without melting for 5-10 minutes at room temperature) which matches extremely well with the smoky sweetness of the banana. The strength of it is that you probably couldn’t sit and eat a whole tub in a sitting – it’s more of a ‘one-scooper’ – but it would work well as an accompaniment in a multi-element dessert. In the future I might be tempted to serve this with a slice of toasted coconut cake, or even some croutons of banana bread for texture. Either way, I think I’m going to need to go to the gym again…

  • 70g smoked banana
  • 350ml full cream milk
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 400ml cream
  • ½ tsp vanilla paste

Roughly chop the smoked bananas and place in a small saucepan with cold milk. Bring to the boil and then remove from the heat and leave to cool and infuse for 30 minutes. Puree the banana and milk in a blender until very smooth.

Beat the egg yolks and caster sugar together until foamy, pale and tripled in size. In a saucepan, bring the cream to the boil and then quickly whisk half of the hot cream into the egg mixture. Transfer the whisked egg mixture back into the remaining cream in the saucepan and whisk over low heat until it forms a loose custard that will coat the back of a spoon. Strain the custard into the banana mixture and fold together. Transfer to a metal bowl sitting inside another larger bowl of ice and water and cool the mixture quickly by continuing to stir it for 5-10 minutes. Freeze in an ice cream churn until set.

MasterChef Top 24 Welcome Letter

Those of you that watched MasterChef last night would have seen a letter I wrote to the new contestants welcoming them to the MasterChef house. I had a few people ask me what the letter said in full, so I thought I’d reproduce it in full here.

“Dear Contestants:

Welcome to MasterChef!

This is the part where I’m supposed to tell you to get ready for the ride of your life, but there is really nothing that you can do to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. You are about to embark on what will be one of the most wonderful experiences you will ever have. Over the next few months you will do things you never thought you could, see things you never thought you would and learn more about yourself than you ever thought possible, but best of all you will share those experiences with the people around you who will become close friends for life.

There will inevitably be difficult times, when you doubt yourself and your decisions, but be strong and stay faithful to the parts of yourself that have brought you to where you are standing right now. Be yourself, do your best and cook what you love. Rush headlong into the challenges you will face with joy, poise and passion, and I’ll see you on the other side of the whirlwind.

Best of luck,

Adam”

The Ramen Po’boy

Ramen is a family of Japanese noodle dishes that takes its name from the Chinese noodle soups featuring the pulled ‘la mian’ noodles. Basic ramen usually features a shio (seasoned chicken stock), shoyu (stock with soy sauce) or miso soup base, with alkaline noodles, tender pork chashu (from the Chinese ‘char siew’), menma (simmered bamboo shoots), nori and seasoned eggs. It’s usually eaten in the late evenings either as an after-work dinner for neighbourhood salarymen or at the end of a night of drinking. Yes, ramen is the Japanese answer to a regrettable kebab on the way home from the pub.

More than just a dish, ramen is an icon of Japanese culture and lines for the more famous ramen stores can stretch for literally hours. Each store will add their tiny signature to a bowl of ramen – an infusion of yuzu, a specific seasoning on the chashu, or even preparing their broth with mountain water from a specific spring.

In this dish, the elements of ramen meet the traditional New Orleans po’boy. Sorry there are no step shots to accompany the recipe, but I wasn’t intending this as a blog post really. It was just Sunday lunch.

The Ramen Po’boy

(makes 1)

  • 1 x 12-inch half baguette
  • 4-5 slices chashu (recipe follows)
  • 1 nitamago (recipe follows)
  • 2 small sheets Korean toasted nori
  • Kewpie mayonnaise
  • 1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
  • 2 tbsp chopped chives
  • unsalted butter
  • dijon mustard (you can use seeded mustard or American mustard if preferred)
  • 1/4 cup menma (to serve, commercially available from Japanese grocers)
  1. Cut the baguette in half almost all the way through, butterfly and grill on both sides until toasted. Spread the base side with butter and the top side with dijon, seeded or American mustard (seeded and American are more traditional for a po’boy but I prefer dijon).
  2. Scatter the base half with shredded lettuce, liberally top with the Kewpie mayonnaise and then crumble over the Korean nori.
  3. Fry or grill the chashu slices until warmed and browned and layer onto the sandwich.
  4. Slice the egg into half and then each half into thirds. Cover the chashu slices with egg and scatter with chives.
  5. Serve the po’boy with the menma on the side.

Chashu

  • 1.5kg pork belly

Stock A

  • 1.5L strong chicken stock
  • 1 sheet kombu
  • 5 shiitake mushrooms

Stock B

  • 500ml water
  • 250ml light soy sauce
  • 100ml sake
  • 3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  1. Remove the skin from the chashu and roll it lengthways. Tie the roll with string at 1cm intervals and cover with cold water in a large stockpot. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Discard the water and with your hands wash the pork in warm water to remove any blood or scum. Chill the pork in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Bring Stock A ingredients to a simmer and immediately remove the kombu. Add the pork and simmer for 1.5 hours. Remove the pork.
  3. Bring Stock B ingredients to a simmer, add the pork and simmer for a further 30 minutes until the pork is quite tender and a skewer can be inserted through the centre easily. Remove the pork and chill in the fridge until ready.

Nitamago

  • 5-10 free-range eggs (as many as you like)
  • 500ml water
  • 250ml light soy sauce
  • 1 sheet kombu
  • 5 dried anchovies
  • 3 shiitake mushrooms
  • 40g katsuboshi
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp five spice powder
  • 1 extra star anise
  • 1/2 small onion
  1. Bring all ingredients except the eggs and katsuoboshi to a simmer and remove the kombu. Add in the katsuoboshi and allow to stand for 30 minutes. Strain the mixture and reserve the liquid.
  2. Boil water and plunge in the eggs for 7-8 minutes. Remove and immediately shock in iced water. Peel the eggs and steep in the liquid for 1.5 hours. Remove from the liquid, cover and chill in the fridge.

Blackstrap Banana Cake

This year has been a crazy one for me for a number of reasons – in the past few months I’ve been trying to adjust to (1) a new career, (2) some pretty serious public recognition, (3) moving countries, (4) a truly ridiculous travel schedule (averaging 1 flight every 2.5 days for the past 4 months) and on top of all that I’ve been trying to fit in writing a book  as well.

My friend Danny and his wife Mel have been lifesavers throughout all of this; helping me out and supporting me with every aspect of these numerous transitions. They even understood when I had to leave straight from giving a speech at their wedding (where I was Danny’s best man) to fly to Shanghai to cook some banquets there for the World Expo a couple of months ago. I wanted to give them each a bit of a special Christmas present this year so I decided to write a recipe specifically for Mel, cook it and give it to her together with a copy of the recipe.

I love banana cake but I sometimes find it too sweet and a bit boring. This is a super-moist ‘adult’ version of a banana cake made with less sugar and the addition of organic blackstrap molasses. The molasses gives the cake a real complexity and a slight sourness that I think is wonderful. This is Mel’s recipe now, but I thought I’d share it here with you all too (I’m sure she won’t mind).

Blackstrap Banana Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g softened unsalted butter
  • 90g caster sugar
  • 100g beaten egg
  • 8g bicarbonate of soda
  • 280g plain flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 75ml full cream milk
  • 75ml pouring cream
  • 55g organic blackstrap molasses
  • 3g vanilla paste
  • 280g banana puree (about 2 large overripe bananas)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C (fan forced). Cream the butter and sugar together, then add the beaten egg a little at a time until all the egg is incorporated.
  2. Sieve together the salt, bicarbonate of soda and flour. Separately, mix together the milk, cream, molasses and vanilla paste. Add half of the dry mixture and half of the wet mixture to the egg mixture and fold until incorporated. Repeat with the remainder of the mixtures and then fold in the banana puree. Do not overbeat.
  3. Pour the batter into a greased loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool in the tin, then turn out and wrap in plastic. Leave overnight before eating.

I also gave her a card I made with the recipe printed on it.

Adding a copy of one of her favourite books in the iconic Penguin Classic style makes it a more complete gift.

So that’s Mel’s present taken care of, but you’re probably wondering what Danny is getting. It’s this…

My 10 Favourite Kitchen Tools

Hi all: It’s been an age since my last blog post, but I have been absolutely flat out on my book, work experience and about a billion other things. I do have some more substantial posts in the works, but I thought I’d just put this up quickly so that you all don’t think I’m dead. – Adam

My 10 Favourite Kitchen Tools: listed below clockwise from top right.

These days most of us just point our furniture at the TV and eat our meals off coffee tables, but it wasn’t so long ago that the kitchen was the heart of every household. I’ve always been a big believer in that, and having a personal connection with your kitchen is all important. Here at 10 things that make me love working in my kitchen. What are your favourite kitchen tools?

1. Kitchenaid Artisan Mixer

This is the most usable mixer I’ve ever owned. It’s tactile, simple and intuitive – the way all appliances should be. Fun fact: Marion uses hers to whip mashed potato, which is something I am definitely going to try.

2. 18cm Japanese Copper Pots

I don’t know the brand of these but the size, weight and feel of them is just about perfect. I bought a whole bunch of these when I moved back to Australia from Japan. Aside from being great to cook with, they also look ‘the business’.

3. Timers and Scales

I don’t tend to use many measurements when I cook (except desserts) but regardless, timers and scales are among the most used tools I have. Scales are great for portioning and timers take my sieve-like memory out of the equation.

4. Sugimoto Vegetable Cleaver

My grandma took a chunk out of this trying to chop up a frozen chicken once but my knifesmith managed to cut it down save the blade. After that it was about 2 cm thinner, and that actually made it even more usable.

5. Short-handled Wooden Spoon

This spoon used to belong to my ex-flatmate’s Italian grandmother who used to make the most amazing tomato sauces. The short handle is great for control, but I like to romanticise the fact that it’s probably been used to stir 1000 pasta sauces.

6. Stanley Fatmax Cutter

I use this more than any knife in my kitchen. Rather than opening a bag of spices with a $400 wa-bocho, having a purpose-made opening cutter in the kitchen is a much safer and easier option. I use it for opening boxes and bags, cutting the tops off bottles and basically for cutting anything that isn’t food. The extra fat handle fits really well in the hand.

7. ‘Pig Sticker’

I don’t know exactly what this is called but basically it’s for poking hundreds of holes in pork belly and suckling pig to give a perfect crackling. It’s great for shoulder roasts as well.

8. Le Creuset 20cm French Oven

This is a small casserole that is the perfect size for 2-4 people. I use this so often in winter that I just keep it on the stovetop and don’t even bother putting it away. There is something magical about a casserole simmering away in a cast iron pot on a cold and blustery winter day.

9. Chinese Ceramic Utensil Jug

I bought this pretty jug in Shanghai a few years ago and was intending to use it for summer cocktails, but then I thought it would be such a shame to hide it away in a cupboard for 364 days of the year. Now this sits next to my cooktop and holds all the utensils that I use regularly.

10. Basic 5L Stockpot

This is a very small stockpot that is perfect for weekly batches of stock for a small family. I usually buy and joint about a chicken a week and this fits the bones and carcasses perfectly. I make about 3L of light chicken stock every week in this, which is a perfect small volume of stock for regular home use.

Note: I paid for (almost) all of these products and I am not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned.

Shoot the Chef – Behind The Scenes

Here are some behind the scenes shots from my photo shoot with the brilliant Steve Greenaway from CI Studios for the Sydney Morning Herald/Sydney International Food Festival competition. It was honestly the most fun photo shoot I’ve done, and not just because I got to wear armour and play with swords.

Congratulations to all the entrants, finalists (including us – Yay!) and winners!

I’m really more of a ‘jeans and t-shirt’ kind of guy.

Since winning Masterchef, I have people that dress me. I’m not ashamed to admit it.

I feel ridiculous.

This was seriously razor sharp. Wreaths and condolences can be sent directly to the wake.

The ‘dirt’ was actually a mixture of glycerin and cinnamon. I smelled like a doughnut.

But of course, at the end of all of that, the results speak for themselves. Many thanks and congratulations to Steve and the team for a great shoot with great results!

Twitter Weekends (August 2010)

*I used to post up a summary of my weekends each month (as recounted on Twitter). I just noticed that the last time I did this was in August last year, just before the MC-imposed internet blackout that followed my first audition. Looking back then only one year ago to now, how times have changed!*

Weekend: Cooking in Newcastle, His Excellency the Governor of SA at the Crows champions’ farewell lunch, Andre’s and another missed flight.
11:28 AM Aug 30th via web

Weekend: 2DayFM pyjama party, Dad’s 60th birthday, lost wallet, missed flight, Novita fundraiser, recipe writing and still not over my flu!
August 23, 2010 7:40:38 AM via web

Click to enlarge

August 2010: Very different to August 2009.

Weekend: Impromptu drinks with the MC kids, Coles Tooronga opening, family reunions, gorgeous dinner @fenixrestaurant and a terrible flu.
August 16, 2010 10:36:22 AM via web

Weekend: Location scouting, papparazzi, Spice Temple, the stunning Jen Hawkins, Myer opening, Aki’s with the MC gang and working on my book!
7:04 AM Aug 9th via web

Weekend: Cooking on @7pmproject, visiting family, car hunting, a nice steak dinner, trying to organise my life and about 3 hours sleep.
9:50 AM Aug 3rd via web

South Australian Cheese Boards

One of the best things about winning Masterchef is that I get invited to a lot of stuff now. Everything from primary school show and tell (seriously) and dinner parties held by complete strangers (seriously) to World Expos in China (seriously) and secret billionaire islands in the Caribbean (not seriously).

But by far the best thing I’ve been invited to so far was the Adelaide Crows Chairman’s Luncheon last Saturday before the Crows vs St Kilda game. This is a team I’ve supported since I was a kid, and last weekend I got to raise the 19th man flag on the ground, stand in the Guard of Honour and sit at the luncheon with His Excellency Rear Admiral Kevin Scarce, Governor of South Australia, Crows Chairman Rob Chapman, Crows CEO Steven Trigg and other dignitaries (oh, and Callum too).

To say thank you for the invitation, I had a woodworker in the Adelaide Hills make me these awesome cheese boards in the shape of South Australia. They were made from River Red Gum and turned out brilliantly, so I was very proud to present them to the Chairman and His Excellency the Governor at the luncheon.

Actual size.

Together with the boards were some of my favourite South Australian cheeses from cheesemakers such as:

All brilliant artisan cheesemakers that make some of the best cheeses in Australia. Many thanks to Kris Lloyd and Sue Rogers from Cheesefest for pulling these cheeses together at such short notice!

I’m getting a few more boards made so hopefully I will be eating some great SA cheeses off one of these very soon!

What I’ve Learned from the Chefs I’ve Met

Donna Hay: Beautiful food tastes better.

Matt Moran: If he walks into a kitchen I am cooking in, I am probably going to win something.

Matt Moran: Luckier than a hatful of pixies.

Neil Perry: The business of food can be challenging and confusing, but at the end of the day it’s still all about food.

Luke Nguyen: Generosity is a wonderful trait with respect to both food and knowledge.

Luke Mangan: No-one is going to just give you an international restaurant empire, but you can probably build one yourself.

Peter Gilmore: The techniques of cooking are in themselves relatively simple, but applying them in combination to create a dish of brilliance is nearly impossible.

Philippa Sibley: Desserts aren’t as terrifying as I thought they were.

Nathan Darling: ‘Nice guy’ and ‘Chef’ are not mutually exclusive terms.

Shaun Presland: Your food is defined by your passion, not your ethnicity.

Justin North: If you french and crown a rack of rabbit, it looks absolutely sensational.

Michel Roux: Even after 60 years of cooking, a multiple Michelin-starred chef can still get excited by a really beautiful capsicum. A passion for food never leaves you.

“These two Michelin stars say that I could call a Meatball Sub ‘classic French’ if I wanted to.”

Guillaume Brahimi: Smoked duck and stir-fried bok choi is, surprisingly, not a classic French dish.

Tetsuya Wakuda: A person’s food is the story of their life.

Kumar Mahadevan: If you temporarily abandon your wife on vacation in England to fly to Australia for 1 day to appear on Masterchef, you’d better have been a pretty good husband up to that point.

The Restaurant Arras Crew (Adam Humphrey, Lovaine Allen and Aaron Eady): Running a good restaurant is all about attention to detail. And sometimes that means getting up at 5am every day to bake your own bread.

Curtis Stone: I am much shorter than many people in this world, and have less impressive hair.

Jamie Oliver: Jamie Oliver is like a shark: if he stops moving, he dies.

Callum, back away and make no sudden movements.

Ty Bellingham: Well-balanced Thai food is a joy to behold. Witty puns about a guy named Ty that makes Thai food don’t get old for at least 40 to 50 seconds.

Peter Kuruvita: Getting up at 5am every morning of your life to go to the Sydney Fish Markets is not a chore if you love what you do.

Frank Camorra: Winning and losing are the smallest parts of any competition.

Glenn Thompson: Walking through a vineyard is pretty at the worst of times, but when you are walking through with an expert in oenology and viticulture it can be astounding.

Rick Stein: If you consider the flavour of a pot of langoustines simply boiled in sea water, there is a strong case for awarding oceans of the world a Michelin star all to themselves.

Maggie Beer: If Mary Poppins were a cook instead of a nanny, she would be Maggie Beer.

Mark Jensen: The food of all cultures owes a great debt to the history of the world.

Fergus Henderson: Being totally bonkers is fine, as long as you’re brilliant; and Fernet Branca is possibly not an appropriate drink for 10am, unless you’re sharing it with Michelin-starred chefs and internationally acclaimed food critics.

Ian Curley: If you don’t look like you’re enjoying yourself in the kitchen, you probably aren’t doing yourself justice.

Kylie Kwong: The food you grow up with is the food you will love forever.

Tony Bilson: Food is a beautiful confluence of technique and personality. Also, a not-insignificant resemblance to Albert Einstein can go a long way to supporting an air of genius.

NOT Albert Einstein. (Possibly Dr Emmett Brown.)

Ryan Squires: When plating food, if your brain is telling you that something needs to go in a particular place, do exactly the opposite and it will look natural and organic.

David Chang: Brilliance is never effortless, and being an overnight success takes years of work (and after you’ve ‘made it’ it only gets harder). Also, it’s OK to sign autographs by copying out Pavement lyrics.

Darren Purchese: Patissiers are geniuses. If we don’t keep an eye on them, they are likely to take over the world.

Julie Goodwin: You don’t have to hate your old life to want a newer, shinier one.

Josh Emett: Restraint in cooking is a difficult thing to quantify, but when done well even the most complex dishes look effortless.

Warren Turnbull: Every ingredient in a dish should taste like what it is, and should be there for a reason.

Cherish Finden: Very small people have lasers that shoot from their eyes that can destroy buildings. And if you are strong, fair and kind, everyone will love and respect you for it.

Heston Blumenthal: Grace is just as important as genius.

“I made a ’67 Mustang convertible into a ham sandwich. Then I made it invisible.”

Franck Poupard: I don’t season my food enough. And I really should know better by now.

Mitchell Orr: I am much older than I thought I was.

Jan ter Heerdt: A third-generation Belgian chocolatier looks exactly how you think he would.

In Belgium there is a law that states that if you look like this, you must become a kindly chocolatier.

Margaret Fulton: As you age, a love of food keeps you young. And even though Masterchef is only a TV show, what we do on that stage is fundamentally important for the future of Australian food. She made me cry.

Adriano Zumbo: Evil exists in this world, and its name is Zumbo.

Adam Melonas: It’s important to dream big.

Christine Manfield: If Christine Manfield traveled through time in a fusion-powered DeLorean, she would apply for Masterchef under the name Courtney Roulston.

Alla Wolf-Tasker: The appeal of an audacious pair of spectacles should not be underestimated.

Mark Best: Synergies in food sometimes appear where you least expect them.

Jacques Reymond: Claire is a very beautiful woman.

Hiroyuki Sakai: My Japanese is not as fluent as I thought it was.

Shannon Bennett: A stoic calmness can be achieved through a thoughtful approach to food and life.

And last, but certainly not least:

Gary Mehigan: The best lessons in life and cooking are taught and learnt in equal measure.

George Calombaris: Food has a heart and a soul. That fact is unforgettable and irrepressible.

Matt Preston: Matt Preston is a giant food encyclopaedia robot… in colourful pants.

Brutal taskmasters.

Thank You!

Things are all in a bit of a spin at the moment as Callum and I are being shunted from pillar to post for a bunch of media interviews following Sunday’s result, but I wanted to get back onto this blog to say a genuine and heartfelt thanks to all of the people who have supported me, the other contestants and the show for the last few months.

In the limited time we had access to the real world outside the Masterchef kitchen, the support from everyone surrounding the show and also on facebook, forums, twitter and this blog was absolutely wonderful. Whenever the producers would tell us  how many people were watching the show, we would be so proud – not because of the fame, but because we felt that if people at home were appreciating our food every night then maybe the stress, tears and long hours were all worthwhile.

It has been an amazing experience and a pleasure cooking on everyone’s TVs night after night, and I really look forward to continuing to do so, whether it be in cookbooks, on TV screen or hopefully even in my own restaurant.

If you do want to stay in touch with me and what I’m doing (and trust me, not even I know what that’s going to be over the next few months), the easiest way is probably to subscribe to this blog (adamliaw.com) via this link.  Alternatively you can follow me on twitter (@adamliaw) or even just drop in at my fan site on facebook.

It’s going to be a crazy ride from here on, but I’m glad you’re all with me!

With absolute gratitude,
Adam