I had the pleasure of cooking at the Karratha Business and Careers Expo last week. It’s a fantastic showcase of what the North West has to offer. I spent most of my time with highschool students, talking to them about a career as a chef. I am not a qualified chef, but as I told the kids that day, if I had my time over again it was something I wished I had done at their age. I personally find cooking a very rewarding career, and I encouraged those students who had an interest in food to go for it! One young girl asked me what you need to do to get into cooking, and I just told her to cook. Cook everyday, buy cookbooks and cook different recipes. The more you cook, the more you learn, the more confident you get and it seriously becomes very addictive.
The first day we held a student ‘cook off’. We had two teams of girls from St Luke’s College who did three rounds of Mystery Box style 30 minute challenges. Each girl had to make a pasta dish using a chosen protein and a mixed range of ingredients. The first round was prawns, then chicken and finally minced beef. I have to say, all the dishes were very tasty and it just goes to show that kids really can cook under pressure. They didn’t have recipes, they just had to rely on their instincts of what flavours go together, and it was very impressive. Well done to you all!
Putting a little lemon zest into the prawns.
I’m impressed – looks great!
The girls worked really well together.
The final round was a battle of skill – the egg whisking competition! A copy of a challenge I experienced myself while on Masterchef, the girls had to crack and separate three eggs and hand whisk the whites until they could hold the bowl over their heads without it falling. It was neck and neck, but we finally had a winner (and two very sore arms!).
The following day was my turn to cook, and I made 7 dishes in 30 minute back to back sessions, getting students watching on to help. I wanted to make dishes that were simple enough for the kids (ranging from 13 to 16) to be able to make themselves, and tasty enough for adults as well. First up we made Parmesan Crumbed Chicken with Italian Tomato Salad. The recipe for the Tomato Salad is here, and the chicken was simply crumbed in breadcumbs flavoured with grated parmesan and parsley, then shallow fried. The kids loved the chicken (as do my kids, a real favourite in our house) and I was delighted to see so many kids eating tomato! The young girl who helped me in this session aspires to becoming a chef!
Parmesan Crumbed Chicken with Italian Tomato Salad
Next up was Prawn and Chorizo Bruschetta. I LOVE prawn and chorizo together, and using some sourdough bread as a base was a perfect way to show the kids how to make a quick and easy meal – Italian style! I love bruschetta! My helper needed a little encouragement to join me, but she was great. Her friends urged her on!
Sauteing the prawns and chorizo.
Taste testers – yes they approved!
The students who were around for me making the Pancakes with Caramel, Bananas and Cream were very lucky – they were a real hit and making enough for all the tasters in 30 minutes certainly was challenging! The two young girls who helped me from Roebourne were awesome (unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of them because we were cooking madly to keep up!). My recipe is here.
We then made Chocolate Cherry Eton Mess, which is always a favourite interactive recipe. I had lots of kids helping with this one as there are so many easy components (and crushing and smashing) to do. I had to stop the boys from crushing the meringue into complete dust (there should be some texture!), and it was difficult to stop all the hovering kids from licking the chocolate ganache out of the bowl, but it was a lot of fun! Everyone loved this. If you want to try it out here’s the recipe.
Next I wanted to show them how to make a quick pasta dish. I figure all kids like Spaghetti Carbonara so why not show them how to make it for themselves? This is a great and easy recipe that anyone can make. My recipe is here. It was a great opportunity to talk about how to cook pasta – and I am always surprised that so many people put oil in their pasta water (there is no need – water and oil separate, so this does absolutely nothing), and rinse the pasta once it’s cooked (arrgh! please don’t do this, you’re rinsing off all the starch that makes the sauce cling to the pasta). I asked them: “How do you know the pasta is ready?” – and someone ALWAYS says “throw it at the wall, if it sticks it’s ready”. What the? I had never heard of this before I started teaching and doing food demos! It always makes me laugh. Who does this!!!???
There were so many people around I chose not to have a lunch break and keep cooking. But I was running out of ingredients so this time it was my turn for a Mystery Box Challenge! I had two young boys that were keen to help, and I just asked them to saute and chop away. We added a little of this and that and we ended up with these Mediterranean Bruschette. Really tasty. I had a few people who, after tasting, came up and asked me for the recipe! Then I had to stop and think about what we actually put in it. It was a mixture of eggplant, mushrooms, capers, olives, sun dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, oregano sauted in olive oil and then piled onto toasted sourdough bread. It just goes to show how you can just go with what you have and still come up with something delicious (my favourite kind of cooking!).
Last of all we make Chicken Tostadas. I like to make these when I cater for functions, so it was nice to show the students how to spend that little bit of time plating something up in bitesize. The girls did a great job and we ran out very quickly! These are crisp tortilla topped with salsa, guacamole, chicken and sour cream. A little bitesize Mexican morsel!
All in all it was a fantastic day – the place was packed and I’m pretty sure I fed everyone that was there! Thanks so much to the ladies at Pilbara Joblink: Rebecca, Leigh and Steph (plus the others who did all my dishes etc – thankyou!!). Steph, you are great on the microphone! I think everyone who came along had a great day, and I know that the students went back to school with full tummies!
Looking forward to doing it bigger and better next year!