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 would like to preserve lemon – similar to glace orange peel. Would I also be able to use the liquid from this as a liqueur for making dessert sauces or for drinking?
Yes, once the lemon peel has softened in a simmering syrup for two hours, the syrup will have a lemon flavour and will be very sweet. Make sure you don’t leave too much white pith on the lemon skin which could make the syrup a little bitter. You can perhaps use the syrup to moisten a sponge or cake. As for drinking the syrup, use it in sparkling water or in a fruit cocktail.
I’ve got some lemongrass from a friend who grows it. What’s a good Thai-style dinner idea?
Before using the lemongrass, trim the harder ends. You can then cut each stalk into 3 or 4 pieces and use it to flavour an Asian-style soup or a curry. You can also cut it thinly and add it early in a stir-fry chicken, fish or vegetable dish. You can blend lemongrass with onion and garlic to a paste, and use the paste to marinate chicken pieces. I like lemongrass with fish; here is one of my recipes:
Baked coral trout with lemongrass
For its firm flesh, coral trout is one of my favourite fish, and it's also one of the easiest fish to recognise with its dotted orange colour. If unable to obtain lemongrass, replace it with 1/2 tsp fennel seeds. Ask your fishmonger to clean and scale the fish for you.
1 x 600g fresh coral trout
2 tsp finely grated ginger
1/2 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sesame oil
5cm piece of lemongrass, finely sliced
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tbsp hot water
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
Preheat oven to 200°C.
Make a few 1cm deep cuts about 2cm apart in the thickest part on both sides of the fish.
In a bowl, combine ginger, garlic, sesame oil, lemongrass, soy sauce, half the lime juice and a little black pepper.
Lay the fish in an oiled oven tray and rub it all over with the marinade, placing some of the lemongrass slices inside the fish. Add 3 tbsp hot water to the oven tray. Cover the tray with foil and cook the fish in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes or until cooked. Add a little extra water if necessary during the cooking, and baste the fish a couple of times as well.
Serve the fish with the remaining lime juice and garnish with coriander leaves.
In some Asian desserts, a sweet red bean paste is used. Can you tell me how this is made?
Yes, red bean paste is very popular in Chinese, Japanese and Korean cuisine. It’s made by cooking Azuki red beans (which have first been soaked) in boiling water until soft. The beans are then drained, blended to a purée, and sweetened to taste with sugar or honey. The paste is then dried a little in a pan or oven to remove excess moisture.
How do I make fresh breadcrumbs? If I try to crumble fresh bread, it just breaks up into big lumps. Do I need to make sure the bread is stale and dry?
Most white loaf breads are too moist for making fresh breadcrumbs and it’s hard to crumble the dough. I like to use well aerated, white sourdough bread that’s 1-2 days old with plenty of holes in it. I trim the crust and cut it into smaller slices, and then into 5mm or smaller dice.
I’d love to make a sweet potato salad for an upcoming luncheon. Can you suggest a delicious recipe?
Try this easy sweet potato, bean and egg salad: Line a baking tray with baking paper. Top with 4 whole, medium, yellow-flesh sweet potatoes and bake in a preheated oven at 160°C until cooked (about 30 minutes). Once cool, peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1½cm cubes. Steam 300g of green beans and hard-boil 4 eggs. Make a dressing by mixing together 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar; a little salt and pepper; ½ teaspoon of curry powder; 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil; and 3 tablespoons of finely cut chives. Gently mix the sweet potatoes, cold beans and diced hard-boiled eggs with the dressing. Serves 4-6.
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Rescuing burnt chocolate
To melt chocolate break it into small pieces and place in a large heatproof bowl suspended over a small saucepan of just simmering water. Make sure the bottom of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir constantly and remove as soon as all the chocolate is melted.
Also known as Pawpaw. The word is often used to refer to the red-coloured, sweeter pawpaw from Thailand.