“16 years ago I started cooking after studying wine science then realising it wasn’t for me. I got a job in a kitchen and have never looked back – I love it.
I love every aspect of food from the seed going in the ground, the transformation process, right to the plate.
I love the idea of transforming food, whether through heat or fermentation, for want of a better word, creating magic.
My cooking has taken me all over New Zealand from Milford Sound to the Coromandel but for now I’m happy right where I am, in Nelson.”
Alex has worked with Garry & Kerry since October 2013 and was an integral part of the team that set up Panama Kitchen Bar. In 2015 he took on FORD’S Head Chef role when it became available and has recently produced what Garry considers FORD’S best summer menu yet.
Making Fresh Bread
02 February 2017
It has been said that the simple things in life bring us the most joy. One of the simpler things in life must be bread. Containing in its most basic form only four ingredients, flour, water, yeast, salt. Ok so you can realistically make it without salt, and some would argue without yeast, but we are talking bread as we know it. One of the top three food smells would have to be freshly baked bread. Bread plays an extremely important role in many cultures, even being called the staff of life. Having been made in some form for over a thousand years, it has become part of our everyday lives.
With all the new gluten free diets being shouted from the roof tops, bread has come under fire. It is not breads fault gluten intolerance has become so common, the fault is the process by which bread is being made. In 1961 the Chorleywood process was invented, whereby bread can be made very quickly. I won’t go into any great detail but basically sugar is added to dough for a fast rise, meaning yeast doesn’t metabolise the flour, meaning we have trouble digesting it. I have several friends who have mild gluten intolerance, but have taken up making bread at home and have no problems digesting it.
Bread making isn’t a chore, it should be fun! I’ll give you a basic recipe, it is the same one I give to all my chefs. Next time it’s raining outside, grab a glass of wine and have a go, get your kids involved in baking bread or use it as an excuse to spend time with your partner.
500gm plain flour
5gm dried yeast
You don’t need the best flour, or expensive olive oil, just the desire to make fresh bread. This should give you one medium sized loaf, and it is a small easy amount to kneed. I won’t give you a method, if you are on the internet reading this then you can easily google how to make bread and follow the steps using these quantities. I hope some of you give it a go and get bitten by the bread bug.
Culturing and fermenting
19 January 2017
One of my favourite parts of being a chef is the transformation of food. Starting with raw produce, applying technique, and letting the magic take place. The most commonly used technique is obviously heat. Used all around the world every day, for over a thousand years. Some foods are enhanced by using heat, steaks are a good example. Generally, people won’t eat 200gms of raw beef but apply heat and cook it medium rare and it’s a different story. Chicken is the opposite, heat is needed for it to become edible, causing serious illness if not cooked properly. Heat can be applied in many ways, boiling, roasting, frying, grilling to name a few.
In the last few years I have become really interested in a completely different way of transforming food, fermenting and culturing. Not fermenting in the usual sense with yeast as you would with beer or wine, but with bacteria in a lacto ferment. An easily recognisable example of lacto fermentation is sauerkraut, and it’s much more exciting Korean cousin kim chi. I must confess an almost mad scientist approach to culturing food. Much to my girlfriend’s dismay, often my kitchen at home looks like science lab, things bubbling in every corner! Last week’s coconut yoghurt is a perfect example of how you can culture normal food and turn it into something much more interesting.
Culturing and fermenting food has more benefits than just making things taste good. Fermented foods are easier to digest, provide the stomach with healthy bacteria and as no heat is used, most nutrients aren’t destroyed. There is plenty of information out there on how to ferment foods, and fermenting crocks or jars with weights are available on Trademe. So if your new years resolution had any healthy eating aspect to it, give your own sauerkraut a go.
11 January 2017
Happy new year everybody. I hope you all survived the silly season in reasonable style. At Ford’s we have had one of the busiest two weeks since opening, with record numbers for breakfast and lunch. I must say a big Thank You to all the staff who worked so hard to help things run smoothly.
This week I’m talking about coconut yoghurt. Many of you already eat coconut yoghurt, I know this because it is so often sold out when I try to buy it! Full of probiotics, it is an excellent way to improve gut health for dairy free people. Those of us who aren’t dairy free eat it because it tastes amazing. Full of calcium, magnesium, B12 and vitamin D what’s not to like?
I’ll tell you what’s not to like, the price. Due to the lack of supply and cost of the product we have started making our own at Ford’s. Now I won’t give you our recipe as the quantities we use, 6-8kg a week, mean we make large batches. If you type ‘little bare coconut yoghurt’ into google it will take you to a New Zealand site with an easy recipe to make your own. It may take you a couple of goes but trust me, nothing tastes as good as something you have put love into. If you have a yoghurt maker use that. So give it a go, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get it right first time, practice makes perfect.
19 December 2016
It is the season to be jolly. Now some of you have Christmas sorted, and some of you could use a bit of inspiration. This is definitely the time of year my friends want the most cooking advice. I’m going to share a couple of simple tasty tips to help you enjoy your festive feast.
One of the simplest taste boosters we use in the kitchen are flavoured oils. We often use confit garlic oil at Ford’s. You simply take the thing you want to infuse, add it to a heavy based pan, cover well with oil, season and gently simmer for a few minutes. Use a tasteless oil such as canola or rice bran. Once infused, the oil can be used as a marinade, in salad dressings, drizzled over cooked meats, or roast your veg in it for extra flavour. You can make all kinds of oils like rosemary and garlic, chilli and cracked pepper or even a simple lemon oil.
The next tip is for cooking steaks, especially on the BBQ. Make sure your grill is properly hot before putting the steaks on. My advice is a medium high heat, too high and the steak will tense up and be chewy or burnt, and too low and it will boil in its own juices. Always rub the meat with oil and season before placing it on the grill. Oil not only helps prevent food sticking, it also helps conduct heat so your food cooks evenly. ALWAYS rest your meat, this has two benefits. Firstly, high heat makes meat tense, resting it allows the steak to relax and become tender again. Secondly meat that is cut straight off the grill loses lots of moisture, I have a photo of a small steak I cut in half right off the stove, look how much liquid it has lost! You won’t need to rest it long, a couple of minutes will be plenty.
Now I would love to share more tips with you, but no doubt you all have last minute Christmas shopping to do. From the kitchen team we wish you a very merry Christmas.
13 December 2016
Hello and welcome to the second instalment of my hopefully informative food blog. This week I’ve been busy with one of my fellow chefs finally making something I have wanted to do for almost a decade! I have made fresh sausages, homemade bacon, beef jerky and all manner of other cured meats, but never Salami.
The word Salami comes from the Italian "salare" meaning to salt. The Roman Legionnaires were often paid with salt, hence the word salary which also comes from "salare". They then used the salt to make salami, which when fermented and dried, was a nutritious and easily portable food source. While just a sandwich topping to most Kiwis, Salami borders on religion for some Europeans, every village having their own speciality some dating back centuries.
While our amateur attempt can’t hold a candle to the greats such as chorizo, and pepperoni, it does thankfully taste good. We used wild venison, various herbs and spices, and a typical Kiwi backyard smoker. As you can see we almost look like we know what we are doing.
05 December 2016
Greetings all. This is the first in a series of weekly blogs, keeping you up to date with whats going on in the world of food. I'll be featuring recipes, suppliers, products and tips to help you get the most from your ingredients. There will be competitions, tasty prizes, and the chance for exclusive cooking lessons.
As a keen gardener there are some times in the year when all the hard work pays off and you get a little treat. Everybody can relate to the joy of the first berries of the summer. Also to the excitement of digging up new seasons potatoes. One of the more obscure treats for me is the Garlic Scape. The scape is the flower shoot of the garlic plant. Crafty gardeners know to remove this to ensure nice fat bulbs come harvest time. Not many people know how nice they are to eat.
With a taste somewhere between garlic and asparagus, the scape is easy to cook, and should be treated similar to green beans or asparagus. It can be blanched, grilled or sauteed. My personal favorite is stir fried with ginger and oyster sauce. Some of you will have your own patch of garlic at home, nice work! Failing that during scape season, the lovely folks from Karamaya Black Garlic generally have them at their stall in the market.