Each year, chefs gather in Venice to vie for the title of San Pellegrino’s Young Chef of the Year. All under 30 years old, the cooks must prepare one of their dishes in the galley of a racing yacht. This June, Canada had a seat at the table for the first time, and I was on board one of the yachts with our representative, Danny Smiles from Le Bremner in Montreal. I can now say from experience that it is very difficult to cook on the water and keep your equilibrium. Smiles, however, remained steady as he prepared this memorable seafood soup. He didn’t win, but he made Canada proud.
Smiles used dashi as the basis of this chowder because it has umami flavour, making the soup richer than it would be if he had used water or fish stock. You can buy dashi in bottles or dried at Japanese stores if you do not want to make your own. The maple syrup gives the dish a familiar Canadian taste.
Michelin-starred chef Maria Jose San Roman of Monastrell in Alicante, Spain was in Toronto recently for the Campo Viejo Streets of Spain dinner. It was designed to raise awareness of the great food and remarkable wine of Spain. Spanish products are woefully under-represented in Canada, which is sad because they are some of the best in the world. Their olive oil (a particular favourite of mine) is aromatic and rich, their white anchovies are silkily spectacular and their bellota ham has a wonderful nutty taste. Added to my list of Spanish must-haves are smoked paprika and great cheeses such as the ever-popular manchego.
Working with chef Stu Cameron from Toronto’s Patria restaurant, Maria produced an authentic and flavourful dinner for Streets of Spain. Her fiery personality comes through in her food and each dish had an interesting storyline. To start, she made this seasonal twist on gazpacho with local strawberries and white asparagus (if the latter is unavailable, use thick stalks of the green variety). Although she cooked her egg yolks sous-vide, I found I could create exactly the same effect by lightly poaching my yolks in water.
I adapted this recipe from the fine cookbook Moro, from the restaurant of the same name in London's East End, where the food reverberates with the passionate flavours of Spain and the Eastern Mediterranean. The quality of the olive oil, vinegar and bread will make a big difference to the flavour of this classic Spanish soup. If you can find marcona almonds, they will give added substance. For the more sophisticated version you should peel the grapes.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Ready In: 1 hour, 10 minutes, including chilling
3 ounces (90 grams) stale white bread
3 cups ice water
1½ cups Spanish or regular whole blanched almonds
2 teaspoons garlic, grated (use a microplane)
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ cups seedless green grapes, halved or quartered
Extra virgin olive oil
Place bread in a bowl and cover with just enough ice water to soak it through. Set aside.
Place almonds in a food processor and process until finely ground. Add ½ cup of ice water and continue to grind together until it forms a paste. Add garlic and soaked bread with 1 cup ice water and process until fully combined. Add olive oil and sherry vinegar and process again. Add remaining ice water through feeder tube and season well with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 1 hour.
Divide soup among 4-6 bowls and garnish with grapes and a small drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serves 4 to 6
Top this soup with a few shrimp and, optionally, a crispy parsnip chip (see recipe for chip below). The potatoes give the soup a thicker texture, but you could replace them altogether with parsnips.
2 tablespoons of butter
2 cups parsnips, peeled and diced
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup peeled and diced Yukon Gold potatoes
4 cups stock
1 tablespoon wasabi paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 large shrimp, cut into 3 pieces each
Heat butter in soup pot over medium heat. Add parsnips, onions and potatoes and sauté for approximately 4 minutes (until they are shiny).
Add stock, wasabi paste and soy sauce and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 12 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Pour soup into a blender or use a hand blender and purée until smooth. Return to pot and add cream. Bring to a simmer and add shrimp. Poach shrimp until pink (approximately 2 to 3 minutes) and remove.
When ready to serve, add shrimp to each serving and top, if you wish, with a parsnip chip. Serves 6.
These crispy vegetable chips add crunch to soups and purées.
1 large parsnip, peeled
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Preheat oven to 400 F.
Use a mandoline or a vegetable peeler to make long strips of parsnip about 1-millimetre thick. Brush the strips lightly with vegetable oil and place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Top with another piece of parchment paper and another baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes or until chips are lightly brown and cooked through. Cool on baking sheet and season with salt to taste. Use as a garnish for soup.