When Oliver Ellerton of Ritz Carlton asked me if I would like to come watch this AFC Celebrity Chef chappie, I thought why not, afterall, it is my dream to be a celebrity chef, so I might as well watch and learn. Unfortunately, I have been watching more CSIs and Miniseries, rather than AFC, so like a wayward student, I am digressing from my mission, and therefore in the process, I have to sheepishly admit that I'd never really heard of Mark McEwan.
He appears on the program called HEAT IT UP.
A room full of press people, watched intently as he explained the dishes. He hails from Toronto, and has a number of restaurants there.
Risotto with Sweet Corn and Shrimp
3 tbsp olive oil
1 cup minced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1 ¼ cup carnaroli rice
½ cup white wine
1litre chicken stock at a simmer
½ cup freshly grated parmesan
2 tbsp butter
1 cup blanched sweet peas
3 tbsp sweet pea purée
Salt and pepper to taste
15 pieces of shrimp sliced in half lengthwise
10 ears of corn, cleaned and steamed until tender
1 cup milk
1 cup cream (25%)
1. To make the risotto, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a heavy bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onions,
salt lightly and sweat, stirring frequently so that the onions do not brown.
2. After 5 or 6 minutes when the onions begin to wilt, add the garlic and cook a minute longer. Then add
the rice and stir well to coat with the oil, add more oil if necessary.
3. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until the grains of rice becomes translucent then deglaze with
4. When the wine has been reduced to syrup, add ½ cup of the hot stock and stir it. Once thickened,
add another ¼ cup stock, stir, and then season lightly. Continue until the rice is nearly cooked and the
stock is nearly finished.
5. To make the cream corn, after steaming the corn until tender, cool and remove kernels from cobs. Set
aside 1¼ cups of kernels. Cook the rest of the corn and the cobs in milk and cream for an hour on low
6. Remove the cobs from the corn cream mixture and purée, adding cream as needed. Then season to
taste with salt and pepper.
7. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients and bring to a boil, simmer
for 15 minutes. Stir in the cream and simmer for an additional 15 minutes, then whisk in butter, piece
8. Purée the mixture with a hand blender and then pass through a strainer into a double boiler or a clean
pot, then add salt to taste and froth with frothing wand if desired.
9. To serve the dish: Add the shrimp to the risotto three minutes before plating. When the shrimp is
cooked, add the reserved kernels and corn puree as needed. Then fold in your cheese and butter.
Note: Due to religious sensitivities, no grapes were hurt during the preparation of this dish, nor was any wine used.
The risotto was actually rather delicious, and it really did not seem very difficult to make. The important thing to do is not to stir the mixture too much, and continuously add the stock to the rice.
Orata alla Griglia con Capperie Menta
Grilled Sea Bream with Capers and Mint
4 whole sea bream (each about 1lb/500g), cleaned, scaled and heads removed
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp combined minced oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage and parsley
2/3 olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
¼ loaf focaccia
3 tbsp salt-packed capers, soaked, rinsed and drained
½ cup torn mint leaves
1/3 cup roughly chopped parsley
1 tbsp chopped chives
1 lemon, cut into eighths
1. Fillet the sea bream with the tail still attached, as if it were on a hinge. Then make 3 parallel
slashes about ¼-inch deep in the skin of both sides of the fillet.
2. Rub a generous pinch of salt into each incision, then open the fish and season the inside
with salt and pepper.
3. Mix the minced herbs with 4 tsp of the olive oil and massage the inside of each fish with it.
Reassemble the fish and set aside in the refrigerator.
4. In a skillet over low heat, gently sweat the garlic in ½ cup of the olive oil until it wilts.
Meanwhile, with your fingers, pull crouton-sized morsels of focaccia from between the
crusts until you have about ½ cup.
5. Remove the garlic from the oil with a slotted spoon and discard it. Raise heat to mediumlow,
add the focaccia, and cook for five minutes or until the croutons are crisp on all sides.
With a slotted spoon, remove the croutons to a plate, salt lightly and set aside. Allow oil to
cool to room temperature.
6. Pre-heat the grill on medium heat. Oil the grill with the remaining olive oil, place the fish on
the grill at an angle, rotating them after 2 to 3 minutes to cross-hatch them. After another 2
to 3 minutes, carefully flip them over.
7. Cook the second side, without rotating for about 4 minutes. Arrange the fish cross-hatched
side up on 4 warm plates to rest and set aside.
8. In a bowl, combine the reserved garlic-crouton oil with the capers, mint, parsley, and
chives, toss well. Spoon the mixture over the fish. Top each fish with a few croutons and 2
wedges of lemon.
If you noticed, this dish had all the ingredients from Scarborough Fair. Parsley sage, rosemary and thyme.
Cooking fish to me is an insurmountable task. In addition to the requirement that the fish needs to be utterly fresh, and free of that fishy smell, and mercury, I suppose, there's the risk of overcooking, undercooking, etc. So yeah, I dare say I am afraid to cook fish.
Mark making Gnocchi, which he makes look so effortless and easy.
Gnocchi di Ricotta con Salsa al Pomodoro
Ricotta Gnocchi with Heirloom Tomato Sauce
Serves 6 as an appetizer or 4 as a main course
2lb (1kg) ricotta (preferably buffalo)
1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk
2/3 cup (150ml) all-purpose flour, plus
additional for dusting
½ tbsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 batch heirloom tomato sauce
2 tbsp butter, preferably whipped
1 top-quality burrata (about 8 oz/250g)
2 tbsp fine olive oil
12 basil leaves, torn
1. To make the gnocchi, rinse a cheesecloth under cold running water, then squeeze it dry and line
a large strainer with it. Place the strainer over a bowl and add the ricotta. Then cover and
2. The next day, discard the drained liquid, wipe the bowl dry and tip in the thickened ricotta. Press
down on the centre of the mound to form a well.
3. Add the egg and egg yolk and gently mix it into the ricotta with your hands, lifting the mixture then
letting it tumble between your fingers.
4. Sift the flour over the mixture, then add the salt, pepper, and lemon zest; gently mix together, if it
feels wet and sticky, add more flour.
5. Flour a work surface then roll the dough into a log about 2.5cm wide, working in batches. Flour a
knife and trim the end of the log at an angle. Maintaining that angle cut the roll into equal pieces
about 2.5cm long. Then transfer the gnocchi to a lightly floured baking sheet.
6. Bring a large pot of salted water to a vigorous boil. Add the gnocchi and stir very gently to
prevent them from sticking. After about 2 minutes, when the gnocchi floats to the surface, remove
them with a slotted spoon to a lightly oiled baking sheet to cool.
7. To make the tomato sauce, blanch the tomatoes for 60 seconds then shock them in ice water
and peel. Quarter them and remove their cores and seeds. Set the tomatoes aside.
8. In a sauté pan over medium heat, sweat the onion in the olive oil until it becomes translucent.
Add the garlic, stir for one minute, then deglaze with the white wine.
9. When the wine is reduced, add the tomatoes and simmer for no more than 7 minutes, breaking
their flesh apart with a wooden spoon as they cook.
10. Add the basil and season lightly.
11. To assemble, use either a large skillet or sauté pan on medium-high heat, bring the tomato sauce
to a simmer. Add the cooled gnocchi and stir very gently to cover them with the sauce.
12. Once heated, gently stir in the butter and divide the gnocchi and sauce among warm plates or
pasta bowls. Tear the burrata into bite-sized pieces and then divide equally them among the
13. Garnish each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and scatter with basil.
Substitution: If you are unable to get burrata, then substitute it with 1 cup of freshly grated Parmigiano-
Reggiano or Pecorino Romano.
I asked if there was a substitute for ricotta, which is an expensive ingredient here. If I am not mistaken, a 250gm tub in the supermarket is around RM15, so 1kg worth would be RM60. That's mighty a lot to pay for carbs. Not to mention the OTHER cheeses that go in as well, like Buffalo, or Pecorino Romano. Not a dish for the austere, I can tell you.
Although he seemed a bit on the serious side, he is actually quite accommodating and friendly.
Oh, how was the gnocchi? Gnocchi gnocchi? Who's there?
It was good and not stodgy.
Do tune in to AFC to catch Mark McEwan.