The other day during a conversation with a friend, a subject of YouTube came up. My friend was listing his favourite YouTube musicians and all I could think of were food channels. I must have a problem. Let me tell you my favourite: Foodwishes (Chef John is such a likeable person), Sorted Food (bunch of cute British boys cooking delicious food, what’s not to love?), and of course Jamie Oliver’s Foodtube. It was actually through Jamie Oliver’s channel I discovered this particular Rude Boy who cooks: Aaron Craze.
In his videos, his infectious personality and crazy antics really shine through and it was clear he’s passionate about good food that is stress free to cook. Thanks to Asian Food Channel, some of us were lucky enough to meet him in person for close-up demostration (extremely close up for me as I got the front seat), and he is indeed every bit like his videos. Loud, fun, and completely bonkers.
A little more about Aaron Craze if you don’t know who he is. Born into a family of West London criminals, Aaron seemed destined to walk down the path of personal destruction, dropping out of school at the young age of 15, only to take on a succession of low-paid jobs, including working in a factory and as a gardener in Mortlake cemetery. Aaron received his first big break when his wife, Nicci, signed him up to participate in reality programme “Jamie’s Chef”, filmed at a east London restaurant opened by world renowned Celebrity Chef, Jamie Oliver. The restaurant was set up under his foundation named “Fifteen”, and used as grounds for his social experiment. Jamie Oliver and his brigade of mentor chefs help to train disadvantaged kids and young adults to develop their culinary skills.
Aaron graduated from “Fifteen” with flying colours, and as a reward, was named as Oliver’s natural successor. Currently he also stars in his own programme ‘Rude Boy Food” which airs exlusively on Asian Food Channel (Astro, Channel 703) every Thursday at 11.00pm.
The media session was held at the BERJAYA University College of Hospitality’s restaurant: Samplings on the fourteen. I arrived a little late, but Evelyn had managed to reserve a seat on the first table for me. Lucky me! The first dish he demostration was a pork free version of this.
A wicked humour is always appreciated and he sure had all of us in stitches without even trying. I didn’t get to snap a pic of the dish he created but the video should give you a very good idea. Each of us received a tasting portion of the same dish.
With just simple flavouring from coriander, good olive oil, and just salt and pepper, the tortilla delivered a burst of fresh flavours with wonderfully tender beef (from the bashing).
The second dish was the clear favourite. The pasta machine was setup and Aaron went on to whip up a beautiful pasta sheet for the ravioli. By the way, did you know that Raviolo is the singular term? If the Beef Tortilla showcased his machoness, the ravioli of sunshine showed his delicate chef skills. Just look at this beauty here.
Unfortunately, the dish we got was not even close to his standard, with the butter sauce clearly missing and some of the yolks overcooked. But guess what? Our table managed to score Aaron’s dish and it was truly delightful. The butter sauce (emulsion) worked so well with the egg yolk, spinach and ricotta. The remaining mixture almost tastes like a better version of Hollandaise, which is a perfect marriage with asparagus. I loved this so much I went on and recreate this at home.
I’ll share the recipe at the end of this post. But now let’s take a look at the third course, which was a dessert.
This was quite easy to prepare, but the flavours are great. I’ve never tasted Lemongrass in a dessert before and I think it’s a creative use of local ingredients and it was refreshing with a touch of citrus note from the lime. The almond taste came through quite strongly from the Amoretti Biscuit Base though, he did suggest using some Ginger cookies or shortbread to form the base too.
He answered some questions from the audience too. The most notable quote was “Durian smells like a sweet fart from carebears”. Ah, told you he is nuts!
So here’s the recipe for the Ravioli of Sunshine with Asparagus:
Of course, my version still pales in comparison to his, but I loved the flavours. Pasta making can be quite laborious even with a pasta machine, but this was worth every minute. Maybe you’d like to try it at home too.
Ravioli of Sunshine with Asparagus in Butter Sauce
100g of pasta flour
1 egg, whole
Splash of olive oil
200g of spinach
50g of ricotta cheese
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1 egg yolk
20 stalks of asparagus
1tbsp of basil
½ lemon, juice
200g of butter
100g of grated parmesan
Mix the flour together with one egg and a drizzle of olive oil until you get a smooth dough consistency.
The mixture should not stick to your hands. If it does, add more flour.
Knead the dough for a minute and then wrap in cling film and set aside whilst you make the filling.
Blanch the spinach in boiling salted water, then refresh in cold water. Drain and transfer to a food processor and roughly blend.
Scrape the spinach purée into a bowl and fold in the ricotta and the basil.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and nutmeg and add a splash of olive oil. Then, add a squeeze of lemon juice.
Roll the pasta dough through a pasta machine (or with a rolling pin) into a square until it is 3mm thick.
Spoon a heap of ricotta mix onto the one half of the square, making sure that you leave an edge of at least 2 cm on every side.
Make a little well in the ricotta mixture and place the egg yolk in the well. Fold over the other half of the dough and seal the edges tightly.
Cut around the stuffed part of the pasta with a cookie cutter, making sure you leave an edge of about
2cm. Make sure that the edges are well sealed.
Place the ravioli in boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Blanch the asparagus for 1-2 minutes in boiling salted water, then grill on a griddle pan so that they colour on each side.
Once coloured, remove and drizzle over a little olive oil, then season with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little lemon juice.
In a frying pan, melt a knob of butter. Once it starts to bubble and takes on a bit of colour, pour a splash of water and shake vigorously to create a butter emulsion, add some parmesan cheese too and then carefully add the ravioli to the pan. Coat the ravioli with butter sauce.
Transfer the asparagus to a serving plate and place the ravioli on top. Spoon melted butter over and drizzle with olive oil (I skipped the extra olive oil, there was enough fat for me already).
Thank you Asian Food Channel for the invite!