I confess. I have a soft spot for chefs. The more stars, the better. So what better way to spend the morning than in the kitchen with a Michelin-starred chef?
Mum got to meet Tom Aikens on his last Dubai visit. How jealous was I? But last week, I was one of a few lucky bloggers who was invited to spend an hour with him – up close and personal – at his Dubai outpost, Pots, Pans & Boards. #starstruck
This is the stuff foodies dream of. (The ones who like to cook, anyway…) One full hour chatting away with a Michelin-starred chef whilst blanching tomatoes, making meatballs, chiffonading basil and whipping up a chocolate fondant. Swoon. He may look bored, but he’s excited to see us, I promise.
Tom’s totally down-to-earth. A bit shy at the outset (perhaps because his otherwise testosterone-filled kitchen was now full of women), but he regaled us with stories about his one and only visit to India during the 2005 floods in Mumbai, the time his daughter called his cooking disgusting, and what he thinks of food bloggers who spend too long taking photos so their food goes cold (I have no idea what he’s talking about). All in between demonstrating his expert knife skills and meatball-mixing abilities.
On this day, we were his students. Here’s Tom explaining how to blanch tomatoes which we will then proceed to chop with near Michelin-star accuracy. I was too camera-happy and starstruck that I wasn’t quite paying attention and it seems I cut my tomatoes incorrectly. But it was so worth it for the special attention I got from Tom later.
Tom then talked us through what he’s mixing into his special lamb meatballs – brioche breadcrumbs, ras el hanout, chili, salt, plus a few other special ingredients. He mixes the mince and we roll the balls, which will go into the tomato sauce we’re so diligently helping to prepare.
The next demonstration of the day is how to chiffonade basil. Tom says not to roll the basil to avoid bruising it. He slices the ribbons so finely and effortlessly (he’s a Michelin-starred chef after all). We, on the other hand, need a bit more practice.
The final lesson is how to make a chocolate fondant cake. This well-known cake is deceptively simple. We melt the Valrhona chocolate and butter in a bain marie, whisk together the eggs and sugar, add the flour and cocoa, then whisk in the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Tom bakes it for us and voila! Melty-centred chocolate goodness.
Here’s my chocolate fondant cake before baking. Tom, I’m ready to be hired!
But I guess we’re not ready to be full-fledged chefs yet because here’s Tom and Ibby putting the finishing touches on our food.
And here’s the result. Ah, these meatballs! Not only are they extra delicious because they were mixed by Tom and enhanced with my own hand dirt, but they are sitting on the creamiest polenta I’ve ever eaten, cooked in a Thermomix (whatever that is). Don’t think it was intentional (but maybe it was ’cause he’s a Michelin-starred chef after all!) but I love the splatter effect in the bowl and the heavy sprinkling of parmesan. Look Mum, we helped make that!
My chocolate fondant cake doesn’t look too shabby either. Ok, so the labels burned off in the oven so this may not actually be my cake, but it looks good anyway. How proud are we?!
After the afters.
Verdict: Would the food have tasted so good without our expert blanching, mixing, chiffonading? Most certainly so! (And probably better!) Time to have a full feast at Pots, Pans and Boards.
Note to self: Don’t be that foodie that takes 45 min to take their photos and lets the food go cold. Chef does not approve.
Pots, Pans & Boards
Opposite JBR The Walk
Tel: 04 456 1959
Chow for now!