When fussy eater Chanel Gellin moved out of home six years ago, she quickly developed a necessary-for-survival interest in food and cooking. After silencing her choosy tastebuds long enough to sample new foods and recipes, Chanel gained confidence in the kitchen, and food soon became her passion.
Since 2010, Chanel has maintained the blog, Cats – Love – Cooking, named after her three favourite things, as an outlet for sharing her newfound passion for food and cooking.
You recently partook in a cooking class devoted to pork. Tell us three things all pork lovers should know when cooking it.
Pork is my favourite meat, but, sadly, the majority of pork sold in Australia comes from intense indoor factory-farmed pigs. So my first tip is to buy free-range pork. Along with the ethical and animal welfare reasons, free-range pork is high quality and tastes great. Check out farmers' markets for suppliers, or online, such as Urban Food Market and Feather and Bone.
The best pork crackling tip from chef Darren Templeman was to leave the pork rind unscored, to retain moisture in the meat. To roast a 1kg piece of pork belly, combine 100g sea salt, 15g crushed peppercorns, 3 star anise, and half a bunch of fresh thyme. Rub the salt mixture all over the rind of the pork belly and leave uncovered in the fridge to cure overnight. Wash the salt mixture off the pork and pat dry, then place rind-side up on a lined oven tray, and rub oil onto the skin. Roast for 15 minutes at 220°C, then a further 1 hour 45 minutes at 180°C. Allow the pork to rest for 15 minutes before slicing it rind-side down.
One of my favourite pairings with pork is fennel. For delicious and healthy meatballs, combine pork mince with fennel seeds, crushed garlic, dried chilli, sea salt, and black pepper, and form into balls. Pan-fry until almost cooked, then add tinned chopped tomatoes and simmer until meatballs are cooked through.
What's an ingredient you hadn’t tried until adulthood?
That formerly hated vegetable from childhood: Brussels sprouts! I love the texture of sprouts, and usually cook them at least once a week. Try them roasted with smoked paprika, garlic, sea salt flakes, and olive oil, or pan-fried with bacon and almonds. I also love them plain and steamed until they’re still a little crunchy.
Why is cooking for yourself so important?
At its most basic, knowing how to cook for, and feed, ourselves is an essential life skill. On a deeper level, food can play a hugely positive role in our memories, like a home-cooked meal shared with family and friends. Cooking for yourself means you have total control over what you’re eating, whether your focus is health, a financial budget, or time.
Talk us through what you refer to as “The Best Cake Ever”.
The Best Cake Ever, in my opinion, is the Hummingbird Cake. Big call, I know, but I’ve never had a person dislike this cake after tasting it! Originating in the Southern US states, in the 1970s, this cake is tropical and sweet, and is often mistaken for carrot cake at first glance.
There are a many variations on this cake, but the recipe I use features mashed bananas, crushed pineapple, coconut and cinnamon. The cake is covered with cream-cheese frosting, plus a layer of frosting through the centre, and a generous handful of toasted shredded coconut on top. Some say the cake makes one "hum" with delight and hover around the cake table, or that the tropical cake was named after the national bird of Jamaica, the hummingbird.
Which cuisine do you think deserves greater attention?
I think Indian food is underrated in Sydney. Indian cuisine varies across its regions, but is always full of complex flavour. There is so much more to Indian cuisine than takeaway bain-marie options, though we do have a few great Indian restaurants in Sydney, including the one-hatted Aki’s Indian in Woolloomooloo.