“As with all good spinach, it’s still got dirt on it”
~ David Schofield
[How time flies! I penned this post a whole MONTH ago. Anyway, better late than never, right?]
You get people who cook, people who teach others how to cook, and people who are champions of food. David Schofield is all three.
For some, David needs no introduction, having won several awards including NZ Culinary Fare’s New Zealand Chef of the Year 2011. I had not previously heard of David – but following Sunday’s demonstration, will be keen to read/see more of him again.
On Sunday [23 Oct], I yanked myself out of bed a little later than I meant to, arriving at the bustling Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market just minutes before David’s demo was due to begin. When I got there and saw all the great looking stalls, I immediately regretted my laziness, for there was now no time to shop before the demo…
Out in the courtyard, grey clouds gathered and a few tears spilled from the sky, but a small crowd appeared nonetheless. A kind lady wiped the chairs with a tea towel and we all sat down in front of David’s stand/kitchen/screen, eager to see what David would present.
In just two hours (with an intermission in between), David produced five dishes – with yummy samples for lucky us – and I don’t know about everyone else, but I came away with way more than just recipes and good food in my tummy – I also gained tips, knowledge and laughter.
I think the skies liked David’s demo too. It held in the rain. :-)
First dish on the tasty menu: cheese dreams (see above). The name itself was enough to make me swoon; but add in Over the Moon cheese curd, some quality bread, free range NZ bacon and a nicely poached egg – and there you have it; a breakfast to keep you dreaming happily all day. David also got Roland from Over the Moon to chat briefly about their cheese and share ideas on what to do with the cheese curd (pair it with salmon, spinach, roasted veges – mmm!)
Dish #2 involved ginger syrup, honey, some luscious wet and natural jam, strawberries… a sweet dance on the tongue and very pretty to look at.
Next, David whipped up what he calls “a play on French Toast”. He blithely cooked while telling us the truth about bright orange salmon (source of colour: carrot pellets). A not-so-pretty tale behind a lovely colour; a good lesson in deciphering “real and fresh” from “lies consumers believe”, I think! David’s emphasis on fresh and local food came through from start to finish of his demo by way of little facts like the colour we may expect fresh salmon to be – salmon feeding on kura may be reddish in colour, while salmon feeding on seaweed may tend towards white tones, etc.
He reminded us that when we reject fresh and local produce in favour of perfectly shaped, unblemished, brightly coloured produce, growers have little choice but to (1) import from overseas, (2) discard perfectly good produce that doesn’t meet these “ideals”, (3) add additives/modify our vegetables to meet our demands. Sure makes me think twice about how I pick my veges!
He also mentioned another point which I like very much: “Every time you buy an NZ product, it tastes just as good as its overseas equivalent, and it keeps someone here employed”.
The salmon “French Toast” (see above), complete with a lovely tomato paste, was put in the oven just long enough to warm (but not cook) the salmon… it emerged beautifully flavoured, and David paired it with a fennel and mesclun salad. I’m pretty sure this dish could steal a smile from the grumpiest human you know.
When we reconvened, David showed us two lavish and simple (the combination sounds contradictory, but it’s true!) dishes: oyster and spinach with lemon pappardelle, and fresh flounder with broad beans and fresh greens. I didn’t get to try the flounder, but the oyster pasta was precious to sample – just imagine soft, quivering, oyster mingled with gently wilted spinach and fresh, generous wide pappardelle ribbons… it was honest, calming and delicious.
It was a pleasure to watch David cook, and inhale the good smells. Vanilla-toned pappardelle bearing the hallmark of freshness: uneven edges. Broad beans tinkering from David’s fingers into a bowl. The warming, nutty aroma of beurre noisette. The sound of fish sizzling in the skillet. So much colour and freshness.
David’s demo was a display of abundance, a reflection of the truth David mentioned at one point: we live in a country where you can visit your Neighbour with the Lemon Trees or go out with a line and catch an honest-to-goodness fish (so why don’t we realise how lucky we are more often?).
Along with the laughs (on David’s generous “pinches” of salt and “pats” of butter, etc), we also gleaned a gallon of great kitchen/food tips from David. I’ll share a few here:
- On de-veining spinach: fold the spinach leaf like you’d fold a heart (vertically), then gently tear away the stalk.
- On shucking oysters: grip the oyster with a dish towel, and hold a shucking knife in your other hand. Run the knife along the opening, and pry the shell apart. Open the oyster over a bowl so you don’t lose the juices. (Use the juices in the dish too).
- On fresh vegetables: better with dirt and insects than bleach (another “lie consumers believe” = clean, sparkling leaves with a sanitised smell are fresh and good… not true).
- On pepper: it is not a season, but a spice – it alters flavour.
- On fish fins: snip off with scissors prior to cooking, as they burn quickly in the pan.
- On removing fish skin: make a cut under the fish skin, dab on some salt to give some grip, then use your thumb and pull the fish skin off.
Here is a picture of David showing us how to take the bone off… admittedly I didn’t see how he did it: one blink, one lift and the bone was out!
David was as generous with food samples as he was with taking questions, and people gathered to ask more questions at the end:
I regrettably had to dash off while David was still taking questions. Late in the afternoon, I came home to my market/NZ produce-lunch – not quite David’s fare (yet), but delicious in my hungriness nevertheless: fresh sourdough topped with Over the Moon black truffle brie (triple cream brie with truffle in the middle… it is every bit as good as it sounds), J. Friend and Co Northern Rata honey (sweet, gently earthy and delicate), and a spicy hot toddy made with Hakanoa Ginger Syrup (the BEST). I look forward to cooking a few things based on David’s recipes soon!
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving!