Friday, 11 November 2011

Visit to "La Cuisine Imaginaire" (St Albans Food Festival)

As part of the St Albans Food & Drink Festival, on the 6th of October I attended a 'Watch and Taste' Vegetarian Cookery demonstration run by Roselyne Masselin. Roselyne is the author of  the BBC Vegetarian Cookery Book 'Cuisine Imaginaire' and creator of La Cuisine Imaginaire.

As someone who cooks, but doesn't get to watch other people cooking, I was really excited to have the chance to watch vegetarian food being prepared. Joined by four other ladies, we all settled into Roselyne's kitchen for a night of meat-free food. Roselyne had two dishes to showcase in the two hours that we were there and so whilst lots of chat ensued, Roselyne set about preparing our first dish "Ginger braised Tofu and Vegetable Brochettes with Lime and Sesame Sauce and fragrant Lemon Rice Timbale".

I must admit that I have never really cooked with fresh tofu before, and so I was intrigued to see how the dish would turn out. I had never really dabbled with a lot of the flavours Roselyne was using either, and so was definitely eager to find out how to add more flavour to my dishes.

Roselyne started by cutting the tofu into 36 pieces and then making the ginger marinade. Did you know that you can squeeze juice out of ginger? I didn't, but will definitely be trying this from now on! The tofu was left to marinade in the ginger whilst she then made the anise, lime and sesame sauce. 

The aroma of all of the different ingredients being used soon filled the kitchen. The liqorice flavour of the anise combined really well with the lime, ginger, chillies and tamari. Once the tofu had marinated and had been cooked, us eager onlookers got a taste of the action as we got to prepare our own brochettes by adding the lime, vegetables and the tofu to some skewers. These were then covered in more marinade and were returned to the oven to bake.


Whilst this was cooking, Roselyne prepared the rice timbale. This looked very impressive. It consisted of a pudding mould with a slice of lemon packed into the bottom and rice in the rest of the mould. This was then left to bake.

Once cooked, we had to turn out the rice timbale onto our plates. The pressure was immense to get it right. Luckily I did and my timbale remained in tact. We then added the brochettes to our plates and poured the anise, lime and sesame seed dressing over the top of them.

Here are a few tips I picked up from on the night:
  1. Tamari or soy sauce adds a lot of flavour to a dish
  2. Before juicing fruit, roll it around and the juice will come out more easily
  3. When purchasing Ginger, use the 'scratch and sniff' test to see if it is fresh
  4. Ginger is also great for medicinal purposes. 
  5. The seeds are the hottest part of a chilli, so make sure it is deseeded well before use.
  6. You can make a chilli open up like a flower by placing it in water.
The next dish Roselyne prepared was a Wild Mushroom Strudel. I love mushrooms, but the little ones in my family don't seem to be so keen and so I have to chop them up really small to sneak their flavour into the meals I cook. I was pleased to see that Roselyne was using some lovely portobello mushrooms and chopped them up into generous sizes so that they really added some texture and flavour to the strudel. I have always considered strudel quite difficult to make, but watching someone else do it seemed to make it not such a scary prospect. This dish also used leeks, which are another of my favourite foods, and walnuts for a bit of extra 'crunch' to the dish - delicious! Once the filling had been prepared, Roselyne brushed the filo pastry sheets with butter, added the filling and expertly rolled the pastry into a swiss roll or 'strudel' like shape. This was then cooked until golden and crispy. 


The strudel was amazing, so full of flavour and really filling. This was actually my favourite dish of the night and I think I would be much more likely to make it as a meal. Although the Brochettes and Timbale contained amazing flavours and was definitely a 'wow' dish which I might try for a dinner party, this Wild Mushroom Strudel is more of a family favourite. I think I am going to experiment with the flavours too, although the leeks, mushrooms and walnuts all worked really well together.

I really enjoyed my visit to La Cuisine Imaginaire. It was wonderful to watch Roselyne cooking and wonderful to meet some new people and share delicious food. There are lots of vegetarian cookery course available at La Cusisine Imaginaire. so do visit the website if you would like to find out more.

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