I haven’t been writing in the past few weeks but I have been very busy and baked A LOT. It truly feels like baking is my Yoga but sometimes I can even go with cooking… I have been blogging for quite some time, not caring too much about readers, more writing all this for myself, flipping out about the first Facebook-Likes of people I did not invite myself and celebrating the every thumbs-up for one of my postings or pictures. Don’t get me wrong, I am still celebrating all this, still hoping for more comments and interaction, because after all this is my hobby and I feel honoured when others appreciate what I am doing.
Maybe now you can imagine how flattered I was, when the invitation to a Flavour Pairing Workshop with Heiko Antoniewicz by the California Walnut Commission in Frankfurt was in my inbox. Me being in one room with a bunch of bloggers and Heiko Antoniewicz, learning how to pair food…? Hell yeah! Too bad I already made a promise to help with our annual Handball club cake sale exact that day, so I declined the invitation. 2 hours later I was told my bake sale appearance was postponed 1 day. Destiny. I gave it a shot, tried to back out of backing out and ta-daaaah: Alongside with the bloggers Dorothée, Isabel, Jens, Natalie, Silvia and Tobias I was warmly welcomed by Zorra (who was co-host of the workshop and part of the Jury) and the lovely bunch of girls representing the California Walnut Commission. While I was still trying to memorize the names, all of a sudden Heiko Antoniewicz appeared behind me, tapping me on the shoulder and introducing himself. I was overwhelmed by his presence and his down-to-earth attitude, you know it is this first impression that determines your opinion. And he is a very funny, cool guy, that has excellent cooking and counseling skills. With this perfect first impression, this night could only be legen- wait for it -dary 🙂
After a nice glass of Crémant we started to talk about flavours. Fun fact #1: Did you know there are 240 flavours that match a walnut due to a scientific analysis? Bam, there are! And I must confess most of them I would never have considered myself. While pairing walnut with coffee (hmmm Battenberg), Vanilla or pear (see Pear-Walnut-Brownies) seems obvious, I wouldn’t have guessed that avocado, mint, absinth or oysters pair well with walnuts. I also picked up that coffee oil is a very good natural flavour enhancer. And it is so delicious! After the introduction to the perfect matches to walnuts, we shuffled over to the cooking area to watch Heiko and his right hand man Adrien doing their magic.
While preparing our first snack, Heiko explained fun fact #2 how we all roast our nuts wrong: In a pan without any oil. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Better use a large sauce pan, fill with enough oil so that the walnuts are covered and then roast them. It will start to bubble at some point, which is totally normal as the walnuts contain water. Don’t stop there, keep going. Don’t wait for the nuts to get too brown, once you remove them from their warm oil bath they will darken a little more. When you drain the nuts, catch that oil because the nuts will give their flavour to the oil and it results in a very nice walnut oil that you can use for cooking or salads. We ate ourselves through the plates from not roasted to roasted aka from left to right. By that time I was already starving as I only had breakfast that day and that was a good decision…
Our first Snack was a piece of fresh-from-the-oven walnut bread with a pepper-pomegranate-walnut. When the bread was removed from the oven, we all looked at each other and stated that it is “slightly” burned but Heiko assured us that it was just alright cause this way all the bitter flavours that go well together with walnut come out. The taste was divine, even though I would never serve bread with such a dark colour to my guests.
With the bread he served a paste made of red peppers, walnuts, lime juice and chili oil, topped with pomegranate and parsley. Anyone else afraid of using pomegranate for a recipe because it is such a messy fruit to get to? BUT I am not afraid any more. Adrien showed how easy it is with just a knife and a tablespoon: Gamechanger! At least one lifehack that actually works.
The question of the day was: “Has everyone taken their pictures so we can actually start eating?” Despite the fact everyone was constantly running around and taking pictures, we had a lot of fun and good conversations together. And I could see how others are taking their pictures from different angles and pick up some new inspiration. I took all pictures with a Smartphone in order to put them on instagram directly and I am very happy with the outcome.
We proceeded with another snack: Poulard with walnut-cottage-cheese and crispy chicken skin. The crispy chicken skin would make a perfect couch snack, forget potato crisps, I want chicken! And after taking a closer look at all potential ingredients for the main attraction – the cooking challenge – we were treated with another fine snack, pork belly with potato and walnut. I must say I am not a fan of pork in general and especially pork belly, but this sous-vide cooked pork belly was super soft, melting in the mouth and not chewy at all.
Then Heiko and Zorra explained the challenge to us and revealed the secret ingredient we had to use: Haddock. I really like Haddock, my favourite fish’n’chips option in my favourite fish’n’chips place in Dublin.
The teams were assigned by lot and poor Jens had to deal with me, the cooking fail. Luckily Jens was really straight forward and came up with an idea very early. I guess I wasn’t really helpful with the brainstorming, but Heiko took over the part of the cooking equivalent of a sparring partner for Jens and in the end we figured something even I could help with. I assisted with roasting nuts, chasing kitchen appliances, operating the induction cooker (touchscreens and me, we are just friends…) and making a avocado-tangerine-coffeoil-mayonnaise as a dip sauce for the fried haddock in porkfloss-walnut crust, accompanied by fried cauliflower-carpaccio and fruity’n’spicy couscous with veggies and pomegranate. I was really overwhelmed by the outcome of this session, a million thank you’s to Jens who was really patient with me while I was going nuts all the time.
|Fried Haddock with Porkfloss-Walnut crust, fruity’n’hot Couscous and avocado-tangerine-mayonnaise||Haddock on celery-vanilla-puree with parsley-walnut-pesto||Crispy Haddock nuggets with airbag pork skin crust, fried chicken noodles and orange-chili-jam|
The other entries where as awesome as ours but there was one particular puree that totally stood out. And this group won the big price, a copy of Heiko’s book and a bottle of coffee oil (to die for…!). But we others didn’t go home solo, we were given a packet of Heikos candied olives, walnuts, recipes, a lot of new impressions and wonderful memories. And of cause a full tummy after a 3 course menu that Heiko and Adrien prepared for us. As I was too lazy to carry my plate back inside to take a picture with proper lighting the last two shots are a little dark.
1st course: Irish salmon with walnut stuffing, celery puree and green tea. 2nd course: duckling breast with walnut milk and cauliflower. 3rd course: beetroot ice cream with crispy caramel walnuts and raspberries.
If you fancy a read and view on the other participants impressions, check them out here (all in German):
But wait, what about the novelties? Even though writing about cooking (or cooking itself) is kind of a novelty for me, I have other exciting news to share. I have been thinking about this for quite some time and after sharing my idea with Tobi that night out on the balcony, he encouraged and motivated to make a change: In the near future, I will start to write my blog in my mothers tongue: German. With all the feedback that I got from friends, colleagues and complete strangers I think adding my language to my blog is the right thing. I might not be able to post as many recipes as before as the work is going to double, but I want to do it for all those people that keep following my blog without understanding most of it. I can’t promise when all this is going to happen as I have to get some (technical) things sorted first, but if you stay tuned and keep reading you will know. But here’s a little Thank you in German to start with:
D-A-N-K-E Tobias! Das war bereits unser 2. Aufeinandertreffen und wieder hat sich mein erster Eindruck bestätigt. Du bist wirklich so ein herzensguter, freundlicher und inspirierender Kerl, bei jedem Aufeinandertreffen mit Dir gehe ich mit vielen tollen neuen Ideen und Einfällen nach Hause. Für mich bist Du ein Vorbild! Du hast so viel Energie, so viel zu geben & zu teilen und bist dabei so geerdet und realistisch, einfach jemand, zu dem man nur aufsehen kann. Bleib auf jeden Fall wie Du bist!