Too Many Cooks Didn’t Spoil The Degustation At Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio

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In conjunction with Melvita’s 30th Anniversary Celebration, they invited a group of 20 media people to acclaimed Chef Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio for a hands-on organic cooking experience. This is my first time in a cooking school although I have taken some baking classes before but that was nothing compared to being in a proper cooking school such as Chef Nathalie’s.

Chef Nathalie has been in Kuala Lumpur for the past 7 years and has organized and prepared fine dining events and cocktail parties for renowned guests and diplomats in Bangkok and in Kuala Lumpur.  She has also become one of the most popular caterers for gourmet dinners in Kuala Lumpur and her signature macarons are the talk of the town. She has been voted Outstanding Chef of the Year at the Time Out KL Food Awards 2011 and Cuisine Gourmet by Nathalie has been shortlisted for the Best New Restaurant Award. She also won the Most Creative Cuisine and Best Starter awards during the Malaysian International Gourmet Festival (MIGF) and has been nominated in 4 other categories during the MIGF.

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What better way to celebrate Melvita’s 30th Anniversary than with a smashing organic cook-up at Nathalie’s? This was much better and innovative because we could learn how to prepare the main course and dessert from the recipes distributed to us. Not quite Master Chef since there was no pressure on each individual. Those of us who arrived on time had to wait almost an hour before we were ushered into the kitchen. That’s Malaysian time for you – some participants strolled in 45 minutes late. I wonder if unpunctuality is imprinted in most Malaysians’ DNA? Of course in KL, it’s so easy to blame it on the traffic but if the unpunctual participants were on Master Chef Anywhere, I’ll bet they’d have been disqualified even before they could touch a single ingredient. When it comes to organising any meal, whether the guests are VIPs or not, time is of the essence, something that will never get through to some people. What irks me is that by the time I’ve been sitting waiting around for an hour for people to arrive, I’d already have incurred an hour’s parking fee which may not seem like a lot but add that to many other occasions when I’ve had to wait around for an hour and you’ll see that all adds up to a considerable amount.

That aside, I would go anywhere for Melvita as I have been with this brand ever since they launched in Malaysia and so I feel a certain affinity for it. If ever there came a time when I will use one skincare brand only, Melvita would be on my shortlist. Let’s take a look at Melvita’s Top 10 bestsellers before I bring you into the kitchen.

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So for the hands-on organic cooking experience, we were asked which course we’d like to cook, either the chicken main course or the pavlova dessert. It was a no-brainer for me since I have baking experience and main courses aren’t my forte as much as desserts are. Those of us who chickened out gathered around one table where the ingredients had already been laid out to save time. I had a quick glance at the main course recipe and was glad I chose the dessert as the chicken recipe looked a lot more complicated.

Nathalie’s Gourmet Kitchen has everything. So many mixers, ovens, ingredients – I could have wept with joy as I love baking and I could spend many happy hours there. I think the kitchen had more than my regular baking ingredients shop!

Making a pavlova is not that difficult but neither is it super-easy either. You really have to have patience and bit of endurance in order to make a successful pavlova. I have made meringues before and the basic tenet is the same – egg whites and egg whites only are used which means there cannot even a be teeny-weeny particle of egg yolk in the mixture.

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Team Pavlova was very fortunate to have Chef Nathalie guide us while her assistant guided the other team. Chef Nathalie demonstrated how to crack open an egg using another egg and sliding the egg yolk on to one palm while opening up the fingers slightly to allow the egg white to slip through into the bowl, then quickly drop the egg yolk on to another bowl. It’s tricky but most of us got it right. You just have to be fast and not hold the egg yolk in your palm for too long otherwise the yolk will definitely break. It’s a little time-consuming and frustrating but with practice, I am sure everyone will be an egg white sifting expert. Each egg white weighed around 35g so we needed quite a number of eggs for 20 mini pavlovas.

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Into a large bowl went the egg whites, sugar, white vinegar, boiling water, maizena (corn flour) and rose water (this smells wonderful) and it was whisked for 10 minutes.

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It takes quite a bit of muscle power to mix the pavlova ingredients as the mixer is heavy and you have to move it round and round quickly for 1o minutes. Nevertheless, I have to say the end results are well worth the effort.

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Meanwhile, the other team were hard at work preparing the ingredients for the Slowly Cooked Honey Glazed Chestnut Chicken with Carrot Potato Puree, Spring Vegetables and Short Jus. A lot of ingredients are required for this main course.

P1220057(1)Back at Team Pavlova, the pavlova ingredients were ready. The mixture is so firm that even when the bowl is upturned, nothing flows out. It looks mouth-watering even before it has been formed into mini pavlovas.

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P1220069(1)Chef Nathalie showed us how to use a piping bag to pipe the mixture into egg rings placed on top of baking paper. Pipe almost to the top of the ring, use a spoon to flatten the top and smooth to the edges of the ring, then use a knife to separate the mixture from the ring making sure not to sway the ring. The ring has to be removed in one swift, smooth, straight motion. Easier said than done but again with practice, everyone can be an expert.

P1220070(1)Into the oven they go and they have to be baked for 55 minutes. Patience is so necessary with this dessert but on to other things while these little beauties are being cooked.

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Look what’s cooking over at the other team. It’s the Chicken Short Jus which has chicken bones, onion, leek, celery, Bouquet Garni (Bay Leafs, Thyme, Italian Parsley), carrots, chicken stock. Doesn’t it just look simply yummy? Like a hearty home-made soup.

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Over at Team Pavlova, we were preparing the raspberry coulis which has just 3 ingredients – raspberries, water and sugar. This is very simple as the water and sugar go into a saucepan for heating on the stove until the mixture is reduced to ¼. Then pour the hot syrup over the frozen raspberry purée and blend it all together. Keep it aside till ready to serve.

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Next we prepared the Chantilly cream which has to be with very chilled cream (French creams are the recommended brands, according to Chef Nathalie). The cream is whisked with icing sugar and rose water until firm and thick. Once done, keep the cream in the fridge until serving time.

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We used canned lychees which were quartered for garnishing.

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Edible rose petals for garnishing as they go very well with lychees.

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Chicken rolls with roasted chestnuts.

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Chef Nathalie brushes the chicken rolls with honey before they are seared.

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Smells great! If only you could smell them being seared.

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Before lunch was served, we sang “Happy Birthday” to Melvita and blew out the candles. It’s a BIG carrot cake.

P1220097(1)Our pavlovas are out of the oven and cooling down.

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Such pretty edible flowers to garnish the chicken

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Chef Nathalie explains how the chicken is to be plated. There’s an art to this!

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Et voilà! The main course which was quite yummy thanks to the carrot and potato puree but whoever prepared mine didn’t remove the skin from the chicken.

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The pavlova was beautifully decorated by Chef Nathalie’s team and not Team Pavlova due to time constraints.

P1220120(1)To add the cream to the pavlova, Chef Nathalie presented yours truly with a box of her famous nacarons for being the most enthusiastic participant. Quelle surprise!

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Merci beaucoup, Chef et Melvita!

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual culinary journey as much as I enjoyed spending time at Nathalie’s Gourmet Studio.

Joyeux anniversaire, Melvita!

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