If I were to ask you what your favourite cold dish was you'd probably answer me without even a moment’s hesitation.But when the guys over at Masterchef SA asked the thousands of entrants to produce their own cold dish, it sent most of them into a flat spin.
That needn’t have happened. My secret for a show-stopping cold dish, or any dish for that matter, is making it with confidence. Why should it be any different when cooking for a bunch of judges?
When you finally place your bowl of chilled gazpacho or handmade vanilla ice cream in front of a judge it should be the same as making it for someone you love. When you know you’ve put your heart in to it, it will show! That's what will make all the difference.
Once you can put your heart on a plate, however, you do still need a couple of fail-safe tips to perfect it.
Here are mine:
A cold dish is all about showing off the flavours - think sweet with tart flavours to awaken your tastebuds - and textures (crunchy mixed with creamy) of the best and freshest produce you can get your hands on. This balance will make or break your dish so it’s important to get it just right; keep it simple and don’t try to combine too many flavours and/or textures.
For example, beef Carpaccio, might lose some of its flavour if left in the freezer for too long. Make sure it's only in for an hour or so until you’re ready to slice it wafer thin and serve it super cool. This, combined with a good-quality free-range beef fillet, is half the battle won. You need to serve this dish immediately, so don't let it hang around for too long.
Salads are of course the perfect cold dish. A tomato salad may sound dull, but not if you do it the Jamie Oliver way, which has become my favourite way. Slice a mix of different tomatoes into uneven, chunky pieces – the less uniform the better. Sprinkle them with coarse sea salt to release the excess water and drain in a colander. This intensifies the flavour. Place in a bowl and add a couple of balls of torn mozzarella. Finally, tear over a handful of basil just before serving – don’t do this too soon as it will discolour over time.
Woolworths has recently introduced a great new range of exotic tomatoes – from stripy red and green, to vibrant yellow and orange. Using different tomatoes makes a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.
You also can’t go wrong with a sweet dish, especially your favourite dessert! A baked New York style cheesecake with a chocolaty fudge base and a decadent, smooth vanilla-flecked filling, is hard to resist and easy to make.
Keep it simple and don’t overcomplicate cold dishes with too many ingredients. But, most of all, believe in your dish and it will do the rest for you.
This is my best pizza in the whole wide world. It's so simple but the fresh ingredients, like the thinly sliced, raw, crispy pink radish and the stalks of bright, light spinach tossed with freshly torn mint magically brings these flavours to life. I added gooseberries because they are sweet and sour at the same time and come to life when drizzled with red wine vinegar.
If you aren’t going to serve this straight away, keep your sliced ingredients in a bowl of cold water and drain gently over kitchen paper before serving. This way they’ll stay fresh and the pizza base won't become soggy. You can add any toppings depending on what’s in season right now.
For the pizza dough:
2x7 sachets instant yeast
11/2 cups lukewarm water
1 kg cake flour
Pinch sea salt
2 T olive oil
For the topping:
8 radishes, rinsed and sliced
200 G spinach or Swiss chard (stems only), rinsed and sliced
200 g ripe gooseberries
2 t red wine vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup fresh mint chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Add the yeast to the lukewarm water and whisk. Allow to stand for a few minutes.
Place the flour in a mixing bowl and make a well. Add the water and yeast, a little at a time and, using your fingertips, incorporate to form a soft dough.
Knead briefly until the dough becomes smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C.
Once the dough has risen, divide into 4 balls and roll each out on a floured surface. Brush with olive oil, scatter with sea salt and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden and crisp.
To make the topping:
Place the radish, spinach or chard and gooseberries into a large bowl and squash the gooseberries to release the juices. Add the remaining ingredients and mix. Sprinkle with sea salt. Divide the topping between the cooked pizza bases and serve.
Alternatively, top the pizza bases with warm falafel balls, baby marrow shavings marinated in lemon juice and olive oil, sundried tomatoes, chilli and garlic.