A Cooking Workshop at Nosh with Michael Van de Elzen
Tue, 25 Oct 2011 11:02a.m.
By Lyn Potter
I am in the Melting Pot Cooking Theatre at Nosh in Mount Eden with 45 other foodies eager to start a 2 hour workshop with Celebrity Chef Michael Van de Elzen. He is about to demonstrate some of the recipes from “The Molten Cookbook” which has just been published.
I’ve been an admirer of his since watching the Food Truck episodes where he worked hard to persuade lovers of greasy takeaway food to eat healthier options.
Michael bounces in and soon makes it clear this will not be that kind of day.
“This is not the Food Truck,” he says “At Molten (his award winning Mt Eden bistro where he is the owner and head chef) we do use sugar, fat and salt”
I heave a sigh of relief. I already have the recipes for his curly wurlies, corn dogs, tofu dumplings and pork chopsticks from the Food Truck show. I’m ready for some delicious special occasion food, where calories don’t count.
Michael introduces the first recipe: Potato Tart with pickled fennel, green apple, sheep’s feta and wild rocket. He unpacks each part of the recipe step by step but then turns it upside down. The tart now becomes a tarte tatin.
The whole idea of this is to encourage us to bring our own creativity to his recipes, and not to be afraid to change the elements around.
Michael suggests we make our own puff pastry.
“It’s fun. It only takes 3 days! He makes a 20 kg block at a time which will keep in the freezer.” I do wonder if the difference in taste between the homemade and shop bought puff pastry would be worth such a big effort.
In this recipe I especially like the pickled fennel (marinated in wine vinegar, sugar and star anise) and the almond salt for which whole almonds are pounded in a mortar and pestle with sea salt into a coarse mixture.
We get a generous taste of the completed dish. All the individual parts: the flaky pastry, the mellow potatoes, the sour sweet pickled fennel and the crunchy salty almonds come together into a scrumptious few mouthfuls.
The second recipe “Barbecued Lamb on Le Puy Lentil Puree with Garlic Aioli, Pickled Red Cabbage and Hazelnut Beignets” is more complicated but under Michael’s expert guidance it looks quite manageable. As he proceeds he keeps firing instructions and hints at us. I scribble down copious notes about the best way to marinade the lamb, how to make different kinds of emulsions the easy way in a blender, and not adding cabbage too early when you pickle it or it will turn into a mush.
We taste the finished dish which has been decoratively arranged. Everyone makes appreciative noises.
Writing a cookbook, doing the Food Truck series and running his restaurant keeps Michael incredibly busy. He credits his Dutch upbringing, which installed in him a strong work ethic, for his ability to keep doing it all.
In “The Molten Cookbook” he has included a recipe for oliebollen (Dutch doughnuts) which translates as oily balls. Dutch cooks would be astounded at how he has transformed their traditional New Year’s dish into an epicurean delight through the addition of little cubes of blackberry jellies, salted caramel and soft cream.
As he speaks I take a quick peek at the recipe book. It’s classy. There are over 70 recipes, for cocktails, nibbles, starters, mains and desserts. The coloured food photographs are very creatively styled . The black and white photographs taken inside the restaurant capture the timeless, elegant mood of a fine dining establishment.
Over the last few years, as life has got busier, recipe books have been filled with dishes that can be put together in a flash. It’s a refreshing change to see a chef who writes very creative recipes that are somewhat more complex and time consuming. Judging by the food we tasted I can say that cooking from this recipe book will be worth the extra effort for a special dinner.
This was the first cooking workshop I have attended at the Melting Pot Cooking Theatre. Michael was affable, informative and entertaining, and encouraged participation. I learnt a lot. At the end of the workshop I went home clutching an autographed copy of his book (which was included in the price of the workshop) keen to try out more of his recipes.
To find out more about the workshops on offer at the Melting Pot Cooking Theatre go to
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