Secrets of a Happy Chef

5 Reasons you hate cooking…and how to fix that.

I hear it so often.  ‘I hate cooking’…this is probably why.

1.  Your knives are blunt

If your knives are blunt you will not enjoy cooking. It is literally impossible.  It is pointless having an uber sexy and expensive knife if the poor thing is so blunt you can barely get it through an Iceberg lettuce.  Get them sharpened.  Get a professional edge back on that knife by either chatting up your local butcher, buying a decent knife sharpener at your local kitchen shop or getting your knives to a professional sharpener.  It really isn’t expensive and is well worth it.

Once your knife is sharp you WILL live happily ever after in the kitchen. You will dazzle and amaze even yourself with your new culinary prowess…it will practically feel like you have been on a magnificent holiday you will feel so refreshed!

Don’t believe me?  You know I’m right!

I have a professional knife sharpening service visit the cooking school as necessary, and I also get my knives done at home. In between that I have a nifty reliable tool that does it at home for me.  It really will change your life and make you excited about chopping down your next ingredient.

  1. Menu Fatigue

If you buy the same dreary ingredients week in and week out OF COURSE you will lose your mojo in the kitchen!  I usually have a list for the household basics but shop for FRESH produce.  And I’m always on the lookout for something I haven’t ever tried before. I buy with my eyes and it all depends on what LOOKS fresh and delicious and what is on sale!  I would much rather buy seasonal fresh produce than something that is old, overpriced and on my list.

So buy with your eyes.  See what’s on special. Try something new.  If you have never tried fennel or beef cheeks or fresh turmeric BUY IT and TRY IT.  There will be heaps of recipes for anything you may find so be adventurous.

The minute you add a new ingredient to a dish it becomes a new dish so remember that.  You don’t have to learn a repertoire of new recipes; you can simply start adding a bit of bling to your old ones.

Add finely shaved fennel to your next coleslaw…BANG.  Sexy coleslaw. Amazing.

Add veal or pork mince instead of beef to any of your old favourites…BANG. Glamourous mince. Amazing.

Add my favourite spice Ras el Hanout as a CULINARY SPRAY TAN to your next leg of lamb, roast chicken, mince or even vegetables…BANG. Expensive sounding roast. Amazing.

The minute you try a new combination of the same recipe it’s a new recipe.  I do it all the time.

  1. Your chopping board moves around when you chop

I’ve watched many battle it out on a chopping board with the silly thing moving and flapping about OF COURSE you’re going to hate chopping.  TAKE CONTROL. Put a wet cloth or a plastic mat under the board and your will be in chopping heaven.  It’s also MUCH safer so please try this and you’ll be surprised how such a simple idea can transform your chopping woes. Once your board doesn’t move around the counter you will actually enjoy chopping more.

  1. You don’t know the basics

Now this is quite a wide and loose statement.  What I mean is if you don’t know the basics of cooking you are not going to have the confidence to try anything new. You need to master basic skills so that you can then feel confident in the kitchen.

Use the right knife for the job, you can’t use a paring knife to finely chop a bunch of parsley you will need to use a chefs knife or a vegetable cleaver so don’t battle it out with the wrong equipment.

If your mince or your bacon is leaking grey liquid all over the pan when you’re cooking, or if your stir-fries are limp and watery and grey then you need to adjust your cooking method.  You are just stirring too much.  Generally if meat is added to a cold pan and then stirred it will stew, seep and cook grey every single time.  The more you stir the more it will stew!  You know I’m right!  Get the pan swearword hot.  Do not use extra virgin olive oil for high temperature frying, it just can’t handle the heat and will smoke and burn before the pan is even hot.  Use a rice bran, coconut and vegetable oil, these cheap and cheerful oils can handle the heat in the kitchen.  Extra virgin olive oil is like a princess: it doesn’t like to get hot or sweaty or do any work BUT it’s really glamorous and is the perfect candidate to bling up and adorn a salad, or be drizzled over cooked meat or vegetables…but it’s useless at frying at high temperatures.

Remember to manage the heat in your pan. If you add 650g cold meat drenched in a liquid marinade and then add it to a small cold pan and then stir you ARE DEFINITELY going to get a grey soggy stew and not a stir-fry!  Here’s the solution, I don’t mind saying it again:

  • Get the pan swear-word hot.
  • Add a little cheap and cheerful oil (rice bran, canola etc) Extra virgin olive oil will set off the fire alarm repeatedly. 
  • Only add the meat to the pan if it SIZZLES!
  • Don’t stir until the first layer that has hit the pan is browned and sealed, if you are cooking mince you can attack the lumps with two forks or a whisk. I always add my onion second, that way I don’t have to add extra oil to cook the onions. Makes sense doesn’t it!
  • Only stir when the pan has regained its heat, you can lower the temperature in the pan once you are happy it’s all sealed and now just needs to cook through.
  • You will seriously live happily ever after once you know these tricks! See my amazing video here.
  1. You don’t feel appreciated

If you’ve spent an hour or two or more in the kitchen and you don’t get a round of applause of course you will feel hard done by.  I always make sure I bling up my meal so when they finally see it, it looks so amazing that they at least murmur wow or oooh or similar.  It’s amazing what a new dish will do for your reputation.  Learn some quick and easy presentation skills and styles and you can literally make mac cheese the star of the show.

5 TOP things that you absolutely MUST know.

1. Culinary spray tans

AKA spices.  Fresh spices.  Old spice belongs in a deodorant stick and NOT in your pantry.  Old spices will make your food taste old. Spices open a whole new world of flavour and should be treated like food makeup. You can mix and match your spices to add vital colour, flavour and personality to your everyday cooking.  You can absolutely change the entire personality of a dish by changing the spices.  For example you can create a Moroccan inspired spray tan by combining ras el hanout and turmeric and then sprinking or rubbing your culinary bronzer over cauliflower, vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, meat. You can transform the EXACT same dish by making a Spanish Spray Tan next – think sexy smoked paprika and turmeric and saffron with chorizo gravel and you have a Spanish inspired dish…easy.

2. Culinary bling

You must add interest to your plate and ALWAYS finish off your dish.  It’s like putting earrings, heels and handbags with a sexy outfit.  New accessories means a new dish, I can disguise the same dish at leat 5 times before anyone notices.  I’m sure you’ve done the same with your favourite little dress!

I use things like freshly chopped herbs, nuts, spices etc to add a bit of bling or culinary jewels to a dish!

Examples are:

  • Black flake salt
  • Balsamic Reductions
  • Scented oils
  • Edible petals
  • Nuts and berries
  • Herbs and spices
  • Micro herbs
  • Sprouts

 3. Culinary Lingo

Talk it up!

The art of Culinary Bling doesn’t stop with the food and the bling – you have to talk up your finished masterpieces. There’s a very simple formula to creating excitement for your menu:

 Naming

Use chatty, cheffy words – fragranced, scented, infused.

It’s not mac n cheese – it’s cheese infused pasta! It’s not crushed meringue; it’s sweet, air dried egg dust!

You’re telling everyone what’s in your dish and having some fun with it at the same time!

Have a hero ingredient?  Found something special  and need to let them know?

Find the point of difference in your meal and highlight it!

Is it a roast chicken with stuffing? No. It’s a ras el hanout scented chicken with sweet potato and speck stuffing – whose mouth doesn’t water at that?  Is it just a roast?  No it’s a sexy Mysterious Moroccan lamb with pistachio, date and mint bling.

4. It’s all about your plating

Now that you’ve created excitement in your menu, highlighted your hero – you can’t just dump it on the plate. Think about your presentation – does it need height? A dust? A cheffy schmear? Finish off with a bang.

To decorate or to garnish?

And now for that final bit of information that will set you apart from the rest…knowing the difference between garnishing and decorating.

Garnishing is for savoury and decorating is for sweet and ‘never the two shall meet’. So you can’t decorate a chicken unless you put earrings on him while he’s still alive!

Just remember, everything on the plate MUST be edible and must compliment the dish. For example, only the petals of an edible flower can go on the plate, not the entire flower and the flavours must match.

5, Culinary Weapons – Equipment

It doesn’t cost thousands!

You don’t need much equipment to make all your presentation dreams come true, here are the basics for your bag of tricks:

  • “Y” shaped peeler
  • Julienne peeler
  • Sharp knives
  • Squeezy bottles for drizzling
  • Sexy plates, bowls and Chinese spoons for presenting
  • Strainers
  • Stacking rings
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Blow Torch
  • Stick blender or food processor
  • Kitchen Aid or similar, with balloon whisk, dough hook and batter paddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Mel’s Book Culinary Quickies

CULINARY QUICKIES  is a recipe book with a difference written by African Australian chef and entrepreneur, Mel Alafaci is known as the Queen of Culinary Bling, this sassy, smiley, happy Chef will have you creating culinary masterpieces out of everyday ingredients in no time. Chef Mel shares ALL of her culinary secrets and shortcuts offering practical advice to get you feeling confident and find your mojo in the kitchen again.  Best of all she will make you extremely efficient and save you time and stress and heartache in the kitchen.

This book is perfect for beginners, intermediate and advanced foodies. The advice, hints and tips given are simple, hilarious and effective.  Chef Mel asks all the questions that will challenge you to reconsider the way you cook to simplify and streamline the cooking process. You’ll become the foodie you’ve always wanted to be and start your culinary journey of living happily ever after.

5 Reasons you hate cooking…and how to fix that.

I hear it so often.  ‘I hate cooking’…this is probably why.

1.  Your knives are blunt

If your knives are blunt you will not enjoy cooking. It is literally impossible.  It is pointless having an uber sexy and expensive knife if the poor thing is so blunt you can barely get it through an Iceberg lettuce.  Get them sharpened.  Get a professional edge back on that knife by either chatting up your local butcher, buying a decent knife sharpener at your local kitchen shop or getting your knives to a professional sharpener.  It really isn’t expensive and is well worth it.

Once your knife is sharp you WILL live happily ever after in the kitchen. You will dazzle and amaze even yourself with your new culinary prowess…it will practically feel like you have been on a magnificent holiday you will feel so refreshed!

Don’t believe me?  You know I’m right!

I have a professional knife sharpening service visit the cooking school as necessary, and I also get my knives done at home. In between that I have a nifty reliable tool that does it at home for me.  It really will change your life and make you excited about chopping down your next ingredient.

  1. Menu Fatigue

If you buy the same dreary ingredients week in and week out OF COURSE you will lose your mojo in the kitchen!  I usually have a list for the household basics but shop for FRESH produce.  And I’m always on the lookout for something I haven’t ever tried before. I buy with my eyes and it all depends on what LOOKS fresh and delicious and what is on sale!  I would much rather buy seasonal fresh produce than something that is old, overpriced and on my list.

So buy with your eyes.  See what’s on special. Try something new.  If you have never tried fennel or beef cheeks or fresh turmeric BUY IT and TRY IT.  There will be heaps of recipes for anything you may find so be adventurous.

The minute you add a new ingredient to a dish it becomes a new dish so remember that.  You don’t have to learn a repertoire of new recipes; you can simply start adding a bit of bling to your old ones.

Add finely shaved fennel to your next coleslaw…BANG.  Sexy coleslaw. Amazing.

Add veal or pork mince instead of beef to any of your old favourites…BANG. Glamourous mince. Amazing.

Add my favourite spice Ras el Hanout as a CULINARY SPRAY TAN to your next leg of lamb, roast chicken, mince or even vegetables…BANG. Expensive sounding roast. Amazing.

The minute you try a new combination of the same recipe it’s a new recipe.  I do it all the time.

  1. Your chopping board moves around when you chop

I’ve watched many battle it out on a chopping board with the silly thing moving and flapping about OF COURSE you’re going to hate chopping.  TAKE CONTROL. Put a wet cloth or a plastic mat under the board and your will be in chopping heaven.  It’s also MUCH safer so please try this and you’ll be surprised how such a simple idea can transform your chopping woes. Once your board doesn’t move around the counter you will actually enjoy chopping more.

  1. You don’t know the basics

Now this is quite a wide and loose statement.  What I mean is if you don’t know the basics of cooking you are not going to have the confidence to try anything new. You need to master basic skills so that you can then feel confident in the kitchen.

Use the right knife for the job, you can’t use a paring knife to finely chop a bunch of parsley you will need to use a chefs knife or a vegetable cleaver so don’t battle it out with the wrong equipment.

If your mince or your bacon is leaking grey liquid all over the pan when you’re cooking, or if your stir-fries are limp and watery and grey then you need to adjust your cooking method.  You are just stirring too much.  Generally if meat is added to a cold pan and then stirred it will stew, seep and cook grey every single time.  The more you stir the more it will stew!  You know I’m right!  Get the pan swearword hot.  Do not use extra virgin olive oil for high temperature frying, it just can’t handle the heat and will smoke and burn before the pan is even hot.  Use a rice bran, coconut and vegetable oil, these cheap and cheerful oils can handle the heat in the kitchen.  Extra virgin olive oil is like a princess: it doesn’t like to get hot or sweaty or do any work BUT it’s really glamorous and is the perfect candidate to bling up and adorn a salad, or be drizzled over cooked meat or vegetables…but it’s useless at frying at high temperatures.

Remember to manage the heat in your pan. If you add 650g cold meat drenched in a liquid marinade and then add it to a small cold pan and then stir you ARE DEFINITELY going to get a grey soggy stew and not a stir-fry!  Here’s the solution, I don’t mind saying it again:

  • Get the pan swear-word hot.
  • Add a little cheap and cheerful oil (rice bran, canola etc) Extra virgin olive oil will set off the fire alarm repeatedly. 
  • Only add the meat to the pan if it SIZZLES!
  • Don’t stir until the first layer that has hit the pan is browned and sealed, if you are cooking mince you can attack the lumps with two forks or a whisk. I always add my onion second, that way I don’t have to add extra oil to cook the onions. Makes sense doesn’t it!
  • Only stir when the pan has regained its heat, you can lower the temperature in the pan once you are happy it’s all sealed and now just needs to cook through.
  • You will seriously live happily ever after once you know these tricks! See my amazing video here.
  1. You don’t feel appreciated

If you’ve spent an hour or two or more in the kitchen and you don’t get a round of applause of course you will feel hard done by.  I always make sure I bling up my meal so when they finally see it, it looks so amazing that they at least murmur wow or oooh or similar.  It’s amazing what a new dish will do for your reputation.  Learn some quick and easy presentation skills and styles and you can literally make mac cheese the star of the show.

5 TOP things that you absolutely MUST know.

1. Culinary spray tans

AKA spices.  Fresh spices.  Old spice belongs in a deodorant stick and NOT in your pantry.  Old spices will make your food taste old. Spices open a whole new world of flavour and should be treated like food makeup. You can mix and match your spices to add vital colour, flavour and personality to your everyday cooking.  You can absolutely change the entire personality of a dish by changing the spices.  For example you can create a Moroccan inspired spray tan by combining ras el hanout and turmeric and then sprinking or rubbing your culinary bronzer over cauliflower, vegetables, potatoes, sweet potatoes, meat. You can transform the EXACT same dish by making a Spanish Spray Tan next – think sexy smoked paprika and turmeric and saffron with chorizo gravel and you have a Spanish inspired dish…easy.

2. Culinary bling

You must add interest to your plate and ALWAYS finish off your dish.  It’s like putting earrings, heels and handbags with a sexy outfit.  New accessories means a new dish, I can disguise the same dish at leat 5 times before anyone notices.  I’m sure you’ve done the same with your favourite little dress!

I use things like freshly chopped herbs, nuts, spices etc to add a bit of bling or culinary jewels to a dish!

Examples are:

  • Black flake salt
  • Balsamic Reductions
  • Scented oils
  • Edible petals
  • Nuts and berries
  • Herbs and spices
  • Micro herbs
  • Sprouts

 3. Culinary Lingo

Talk it up!

The art of Culinary Bling doesn’t stop with the food and the bling – you have to talk up your finished masterpieces. There’s a very simple formula to creating excitement for your menu:

 Naming

Use chatty, cheffy words – fragranced, scented, infused.

It’s not mac n cheese – it’s cheese infused pasta! It’s not crushed meringue; it’s sweet, air dried egg dust!

You’re telling everyone what’s in your dish and having some fun with it at the same time!

Have a hero ingredient?  Found something special  and need to let them know?

Find the point of difference in your meal and highlight it!

Is it a roast chicken with stuffing? No. It’s a ras el hanout scented chicken with sweet potato and speck stuffing – whose mouth doesn’t water at that?  Is it just a roast?  No it’s a sexy Mysterious Moroccan lamb with pistachio, date and mint bling.

4. It’s all about your plating

Now that you’ve created excitement in your menu, highlighted your hero – you can’t just dump it on the plate. Think about your presentation – does it need height? A dust? A cheffy schmear? Finish off with a bang.

To decorate or to garnish?

And now for that final bit of information that will set you apart from the rest…knowing the difference between garnishing and decorating.

Garnishing is for savoury and decorating is for sweet and ‘never the two shall meet’. So you can’t decorate a chicken unless you put earrings on him while he’s still alive!

Just remember, everything on the plate MUST be edible and must compliment the dish. For example, only the petals of an edible flower can go on the plate, not the entire flower and the flavours must match.

5, Culinary Weapons – Equipment

It doesn’t cost thousands!

You don’t need much equipment to make all your presentation dreams come true, here are the basics for your bag of tricks:

  • “Y” shaped peeler
  • Julienne peeler
  • Sharp knives
  • Squeezy bottles for drizzling
  • Sexy plates, bowls and Chinese spoons for presenting
  • Strainers
  • Stacking rings
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Blow Torch
  • Stick blender or food processor
  • Kitchen Aid or similar, with balloon whisk, dough hook and batter paddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chef Mel’s Book Culinary Quickies

CULINARY QUICKIES  is a recipe book with a difference written by African Australian chef and entrepreneur, Mel Alafaci is known as the Queen of Culinary Bling, this sassy, smiley, happy Chef will have you creating culinary masterpieces out of everyday ingredients in no time. Chef Mel shares ALL of her culinary secrets and shortcuts offering practical advice to get you feeling confident and find your mojo in the kitchen again.  Best of all she will make you extremely efficient and save you time and stress and heartache in the kitchen.

This book is perfect for beginners, intermediate and advanced foodies. The advice, hints and tips given are simple, hilarious and effective.  Chef Mel asks all the questions that will challenge you to reconsider the way you cook to simplify and streamline the cooking process. You’ll become the foodie you’ve always wanted to be and start your culinary journey of living happily ever after.