If you know horse racing and even if you don't, you could have hardly missed Royal Ascot and the appearance of 'it girl' horse of the minute, Black Caviar in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes over the weekend. It was not about how much she won by, because as we all know ladies, a win is a win is a win. She was almost pipped at the post, but she did it. Her experience and bravado got her over the line by a whisker. And so it was on the Chopping Block at the Sydney Good Food and Wine Show last Friday.
I faced a worthy opponent, Rhianna who gave me a run for my money.
Preparation conditions were tight.
And when it was announced that a pallet off cooking equipment had failed to turn up. I was thankful I had brought my own serving dishes and measuring implements.
The prep area was a bit of a come down from the Beach House kitchen, but when Rhianna announced that she was a hippie from Ballana and could cope. I said "Yeah I'm a mother and that means I can do anything too." I probably draw the line at chopping fillet steak with a dinner knife (left), but when Sammy and Bella, our gorgeous judges, hot off the back of a win from My Kitchen Rules, leant me a beautifully sharpe knife (right) that sliced through the meat like butter on a hot day, I almost chopped my finger off. Suffice to say, the equipment pallet that hadn't turned up, must have also had the first aid kit on it too, because there was not a band aide to be found. Not wanting my blood to be a feature of the dish, I downed tools to charge off into the depths of the Good Food and Wine Show in search of a first aid post.
Man the glamour of celebrity chefing....who knew!!!!!
Fearing an unfair advantage, I ditched the idea of wasting time finding the ambos and grabbed a security guard by the lapels of his jacket...risky I know, but I was on a mission.....I think he saw the whites of my eyes and was scared. He put his hand in his pocket. I though he was going for his gun, but he pulled out a couple of band aides instead. I could have kissed him.
Next, it was back to the Chopping Block for a quick run down on how to use induction cooking from the lovely V Zug man. Until Friday I was an induction cooking virgin, but not any more ladies. This is the one where you hit the button and the water is boiling in a matter of seconds, you immediately remove the pan, put your hand on the hot plate and it's cold. It seemed great, but there's nothing like flying by the seat of your pants, cooking in a competition with new technology that you don't know how to rock.
By now my gorgeous posse of cheer leaders had shown up. The lovely Sonia from Life Love and Hiccups, Fiona from My Mummy Daze and Gemma from My Big Nutshell, who had made these fantastic streamers in Desire Empire colours on the way in on the bus, apparently to some very weird stares from her fellow passengers.
Gemma's kindness touched my heart and the support of these three lovely gals was priceless.
By now the crowd was starting to build, we finished our prep in front of them and I got talking to the audience and began to work it baby.
Then we were counted down by Sammy and had 30 minutes to cook and plate our dish.
Check out my body language here. I look nervous but I'm holding it together. I was just thinking, I've done this a million times, I can do this.
I cooked Chinese Pepper Steak and the funny thing is, out of the seven or so times I have cooked it in preparation for the cook off, I've only cooked it beautifully twice. The first time was the night I decided this was the dish I would go with. After that I couldn't remember what I'd done to make it so nice. The night before the cook off I nailed it again, because I put 3 instead of 2 tablespoons of Garden Gourmet Garlic and Ginger into the dish. Unfortunately the version I cooked at the chopping block was not my best ever. I'm still trying to work out why, but the sugar was raw instead of white. And I used Campbells stock without shaking the box so the best bits were at the bottom. So the sauce seemed a little sweet.
When I am tasting the dish here, I am thinking this could be better, it needs more herbs. Then I began to wonder whether, in the heat of the moment, had I failed to put in the third tablespoon of ginger? The judges were talking to me throughout and maybe I'd left it out. At this point I just had to go with it. It was nice but not my best ever. I wanted to get the meat off the heat so it remained tender. As I often do in life, I just had to throw caution to the wind, plate up and hope my presentation would get me over the line.
I moulded out the rice and garnished. So far so good.
Looking good and Bella commented that it looked like a restaurant dish. I began to feel better.
Then the girls took the dish to the dining table and deliberated the result in Polish, so no one could understand them.
Next up was Rhianna, who cooked some lovely herb encrusted lamb cutlets. They were beautifully pink and looked delicious. And as luck would have it, the judges' decision was split. Further deliberations ensued, in Polish. After judging my dish, Sammy had continued to eat it and had said. 'This is a really nice dish Carolyn.' So I was hopeful, but Rhianna's lamb sure looked fantastic.
Sammy then announced me as the winner and Bella gave me a kiss, which if not for this shot, I would not have remembered, as it was all a blur now.
I do remember Sammy saying that it came down to the sauce. As my sauce encompassed the whole dish, the herbs and spices were more evident across the dish. Phew!!!!!
It just felt so good. I think Garden Gourmet is to be congratulated for providing bloggers which such a wonderful opportunity to shine.
Mr Beach house was his usual funny self. I rang him to tell him the result. Ironically, he was munching on left over Chinese Pepper Steak from the night before. He asked me what my opponent cooked.......he loves lamb cutlets and said he would have had to vote for those. Ha Ha!!!! We went out for dinner that night to celebrate, after having a lovely chat over a bottle of bubbles and guess what her ordered. That's right....lamb cutlets. I guess it was only fair. He's had my dish for lunch, God Love him.
Oh and the lovely Jason from Bertolli, another sponsor of the chopping block was kind enough to ensure me a supply of Olive Oil. And I learned something, which I thought I'd share. Light olive oil has a very high burn point at over 200C so is great for cooking stir frys. Who knew!!!!
Today I am linked here