China-Pak Co.

>> Thursday, 26 July 2012

china-pak co. as photographed by chris osburn
I was quite nervous about Nom Nom Nom 2012 mostly because it felt like being on a blind date. Not only had I never met my cooking partner Xin, I had never cooked any of the recipes that we had agreed on. To top it all I had been out of the country until the week before the competition so Xin and I did all our planning virtually. But that’s the thing about cooking together; it brings about a sense of camaraderie. Clearly we were not the only team in this situation as a lunchtime chat revealed that Fiona Maclean from the Gaelic Girls was cooking an unfamiliar menu sans her original teammate.

the wonderful and warm rosalind rathouse
by come con ella
Our day at Cookery School began with breakfast. I have very fond memories of Rosalind’s Kitchen breakfast and happily tucked into a bowl of warm creamy porridge sweetened with rhubarb compote. After this early morning fortification all of the teams dispatched themselves to Marylebone Village to pick up the ingredients for their culinary creations. Xin and I had small concise list, which was quite helpful primarily because of the uncooperative British summer. It has been all temper and tantrums with a scarce sunny disposition, a state of mind not quite convenient for shopping at a farmer’s market. I provided much needed umbrella services whilst Xin negotiated her way around the fresh produce to pick up a medley of vegetables. We then walked over to Ginger Pig to pick up some minced pork for our wontons. A quick trip to Waitrose gave us our seasonings – Sichuan peppercorns with a subdued pungency and rice wine vinegar. Xin had already brought along five spice smoked tofu and the wonton wrappers.

some of our ingredients
photocredit come con ella
magimix at work - sesame and peanut paste
photocredit come con ella
With our shopping tucked into our sustainable and reusable Cookery School bags Xin and I headed back to get cooking. Our preparations included much julienning and chopping so we set to work on our cucumbers, carrots and smoked tofu. Our starter was a simple smoked tofu salad with a play on textures – firm carrots, soft and summery cucumbers and the soft bite of spring onions. Otherwise bland tofu was dressed up with Chinese five-spice. The dressing was nutty with the addition of sesame oil and toasted sesame seeds. Once this was prepared Qin set about to make the wontons. I was not much help on this front having never made them before but I had my hands full with toasting sesame seeds in batches, as these were to add a finishing touch to our salad and form the base of our dessert. The Magimix gave us the stuffing for the wontons and the glutinous rice balls happily whizzing away the pork, lettuce, ginger and spring onions for the former and the peanut butter and toasted sesame seeds for the latter to a smooth consistency.    

preparing the smoked tofu salad
photocredit to chris osburn
The quiet steadiness that had lasted us through most of the preparation dissipated at the end. I think this was mostly because Xin and I were first time participants in a competition but also because we have very different planning and management styles. We made it to the finishing line by a very thin line!

peanut sesame glutinous rice balls
photocredit to chris osburn
The Cookery School staff that had spent the day whizzing around the kitchen disappearing dirty dishes and catering to the many needs of the participants now suddenly shifted gear. Tables were whisked out, table linen was draped, folding chairs appeared from thin air and flawless crockery and cutlery was set down. We all pitched in to get lunch on the table as quickly as possible. Liquid fortification in the form of cider and wine began the lunch. When it came to lunch the array of dishes was a true representation of the diversity of London with food from Singapore, India, Pakistan, America and so forth.

time for lunch
photocredit come con ella
The tail end of lunch was met with the food quiz that won me two books – a much-loved Fast Puddings by Nigel Slater and one on Dim Sum. Then the judges came along and delivered their verdict. You can read about the winning teams here. The afternoon had quickened pace once again as all of us were whisked onto the street where a brief respite from the rain allowed Chris to take a group photograph of all of us. And then we were on our way laden with treats from the day… I spent my tube journey back rifling through the contents and instantly fell in love with the bright pink electronic scales. They have been put to good use since they came home. The same can be said about the Masterclass Wok. Allison’s flour became the base of a lovely English Apple Cake by Britain’s beloved Nigel Slater.

the foodie goodie bags
photocredit chris osburn
Salutations and thanks to the Cookery School and the Judges who donated their day of rest to Nom Nom Nom 2012, to Chris Osburn, Annie Mole and Monica Shaw for a wealth of pictures and to the sponsors for our goodies. But more importantly in true Cookery School ethos is the support for Action Against Hunger. Hunger is a concern at home and abroad. The Guardian’s series on Breadline Britain is an eye opener on the impact that the recession has had on families and individuals in the United Kingdom. Action Against Hunger works globally to alleviate child hunger. So go on and show your support by donating to Action for Hunger’s Foodie Fundraising Raffle.   


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Now in its fifth year, Nom Nom Nom is a MasterChef style competition giving the internet's finest bloggers, food photographers and food writers the chance to compete against each other in a professional kitchen. To find out more click here

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