Ask the Chef
Gabriel Gaté has learnt his craft from some of the great master chefs of France, knows the reality of being a family cook with little time, and communicates with dazzling success both the joy of cooking and how to make tasty food that is simple, easy and achievable.
Unfortunately, we're no longer accepting new questions, though feel free to browse our database of past cooking queries and Gabriel's responses.
I have a first year passionfruit growing, but now winter has started. There are about 36 very large green fruit on the vine, which I think will not now ripen. Is there any recipe you would know for using these delicious fruit, or must I throw them out?
I suggest you taste one of the green passionfruits to see if it’s palatable. If it’s not, wait a bit longer to see if they ripen more. Usually, passionfruit in season fall off the vine when they are ripe (if you shake the vine). If your passionfruits are very acidic, you can use them with other fruits in a fruit salad or with ice-cream or custard.
While in Spain, I came across a very spicy herb or spice, which they put in the mince for tacos. Do you have any idea what this might be?
Many different spices are used with minced meat in tacos. It’s a question of taste. The most often used spices are chilli, paprika, cumin, red pepper flakes, but also garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and more. Here is a recipe that I have prepared for my family.
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1/2 brown onion, finely chopped
1 small stick of celery, finely chopped
2 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
About 400g lean minced beef
1 tbsp tomato paste
3/4 cup water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 taco shells
1 large tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chopped peeled cucumber
4 large lettuce leaves, shredded
1 avocado, cut into 12 wedges
A few coriander leaves
1/2 cup grated Swiss-style cheese
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook carrots, onion and celery for 5 minutes. Stir in paprika, cumin and coriander.
Add minced beef and cook on high heat for 3 minutes, while stirring. Stir in tomato paste and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Heat the taco shells.
Garnish taco shells with a little cooked meat, some chopped tomato, cucumber, lettuce, avocado and coriander leaves. Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.
How do you get battered fish to fry without them breaking or peeling?
First, it’s good to start with very fresh, firm fish fillets, as the cooked fish will hold better. The fish batter is best prepared at least 1 hour before using it to make sure the ingredients are well combined. You can make a simple batter by mixing a can of light beer with about 1 ½ cups plain flour, a little salt, pepper and paprika. The texture of the batter must be creamy. When using the batter, it must be cold i.e. fridge temperature. Lightly coat the fish fillet with plain flour before dipping them in the batter. Deep fry fish at the last moment in hot oil. Avoid overcooking.
I love Moroccan mint tea at restaurants. Is it merely a bunch of fresh mint leaves and sugar? With the addition of boiling water?
No, it’s not quite as simple as your suggestion. Making a great tea requires a little experience, but it is not too complicated. Try this for 2-4 people. Bring about 1 litre water to the boil. Rinse a small teapot with about ¼ cup of the boiling water. Add 1 tbsp of green tea leaves to the teapot with ¼ cup of boiling water. Swirl the pot for 10 seconds then pour out the water. Add 1 handful of washed fresh spearmint leaves and ¼ cup sugar to the pot with ½ litre of boiling water. Leave tea to steep for at least 5 minutes. Stir the tea and pour into small tea glasses.
You can read more about the art of making mint tea here.
I’d love to make carrot soup this winter. Can you suggest a recipe?
Carrot soup is delicious and it’s easy to make. It’s good to use other vegetables with the carrots – celery and leeks are good. Here is a recipe we cook a lot during the winter months.
Carrot and leek soup
This lovely winter soup can be served as a light evening meal with bread if you’ve had a big lunch. To transform it into a meal, you can add leftover cooked meat, cut very thinly, or drained chickpeas.
1 small leek, white part only
1/2 tbsp olive oil
About 1kg carrots, peeled, finely sliced
6 cups chicken stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
Cut the leek in four lengthwise, leaving the root end intact to keep it in one piece while washing. Wash the leek thoroughly in lukewarm water to remove any grit. Slice finely.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and on low heat gently fry the leeks for about
4 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in the carrots, add the stock or water, and stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
Bring to the boil and cook for about 15 minutes. Blend or mash the soup to a purée or pass it through a food mill. Stir in the parsley and garlic just before serving.
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