If you ask my partner, she’ll tell you that I like to take my sweet time when I’m in the kitchen. That’s one of the many reasons I’d never cut it as a professional chef.
It was therefore something of an unusual experience for me to have to cook with both speed and precision at the Macadamia Blogger Challenge at the Sydney Seafood School recently.
Our evening began with some cooking demonstrations from Eamon Sullivan (Swimmer, Olympic medallist and cafe owner) and Colin Fassnidge (Chef, Four in Hand, Four Fourteen & Paddo Arms; My Kitchen Rules judge) who prepared a macadamia granola and a Jerusalem artichoke & macadamia soup with Spanner Crab.
After the demonstrations, it was our turn to head into the kitchen where we were separated into teams of two to cook the two dishes we’d just seen demonstrated. Like all good challenges, there was a time limit (30 minutes) and a prize on the line (a trip for two to Byron Bay for each member of the winning team).
To ratchet up the pressure even further, Eamon Sullivan and Colin Fassnidge were on hand to observe our work as we cooked and to judge the end result.
I was paired with the very talented Shez from One Bite More who has a reputation of being something of a cooking supremo. We quickly decided that Shez would be responsible for the granola, and I’d be responsible for the soup.
We began the challenge with a flurry of chopping, peeling and stirring while I cursed the fact that my usual slow and steady approach to cooking had left me unprepared for a pressure cooker situation like this. Miraculously, we managed to cook both dishes to what we felt was a high standard, and in true cooking challenge tradition, plated up our dishes to be judged with seconds to spare.
Shez had the bright idea of plating up some orange segments with the granola which pushed us over the line as we won the challenge!
All of the contenders also went home with a large basket of macadamia nuts, oils and other products which I’ve been playing with in the weeks since.
I think we’re lucky in Australia to have a native nut that is adaptable in its use. Since the challenge I’ve used it in salads, crusted with herbs on fish, as a stuffing with apricots for rolled chicken breast, in a broccoli pesto for pasta and in chocolate brownies.
And it’d be fair to say that my cooking isn’t a slow as it once was.
Jeremy Bowell attended the Macadamia Challenge as a guest of Australian Macadamias