Filed under: Cooking | Tags: agar agar, hazelnut, Pietro Leemann, root celery, squash, watermelon
Recently I had the honour to attend a cooking class by Mr. Pietro Leemann, who was a quest speaker at the Megapolis – seminar last weekend. Pietro Leemann runs the only vegetarian restaurant that has acquired a Michelin star, in Milan in Italy. The restaurant is called La Joia. Mr. Leemann has an apparent passion for vegetarianism, besides amazing cooking skills and lots of creativity. He and his wife Rosanna were both charming and lovely people, which unfortunately cannot be said about all chefs…
On the course we (meaning a few people from Dodo, some journalists from different Finnish food magazines, some people from the leading food industry companies and an advertisement agency) cooked a 4 course vegetarian meal guided by Pietro Leemann, and then ate it in candle light with some wine and discussion. The food was awesome, much better than my previous fine dining restaurant experiences. I think that since the western cuisine is so based on animal products, many chefs lack the skills of making interesting flavour combinations with vegetarian ingredients only, but I think Pietro Leemann definitely shows that it is very possible!
On the menu there was Watermelon Carpaccio, False Eggs, ” A Rich, Delicious – looking and Sufficient Meal for Ten People”, which was actually a risotto, and as dessert Knedlitky, which was kind of sweet dumplings with basil cream and a cinnamon sauce. Especially the textures and flavours of the dessert lingered in my taste buds a long time, though I’ll have to put some effort into veganising them. The best result of this cooking class was the fact that most of the journalists promised to write an article on the subject of vegetarian cooking, which would of course be great, since people should in general realise that vegetarian or vegan doesn’t automatically mean boring or tasteless food.
All pictures in this post are a courtesy of Marina Ekroos. Thanks!
Concerning this dish Pietro told that it is one of the few dishes that he makes that plays with the idea of meat. The watermelon with its red and white flesh reminds of meat somehow, and fried and cut thinly it actually looks like a carpaccio. There was some parmesan in this dish, but I think it won’t suffer much if you just leave it out.
300 g watermelon
2 g salt
20 g balsamic vinegar
grape seed oil for frying
different kinds of salad
extra virgin olive oil
Peel the watermelon and cut into 7cm thick slices. Leave some of the white peel on. Drizzle with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Cut into really thin slices, and lift them on tissue paper to dry. Fry the pieces in on a frying pan in grape seed oil, until they look roasted on both sides (black!). Lift them aside, on top of some tissue paper and let them drain for a while. Then remove the seeds and cut it into really thin slices.
Mix the oil, a pinch of salt and balsamic vinegar together. Assemble the plates with salad leaves, watermelon slices, cut up chives, dressing and pinch of black pepper.
This dish is also otherwise vegan, except for the fact that since the idea with this dish was to create an “egg” that is really not an egg, it was made into an eggshell. Pietro explained that the surprise between the form and taste was essential with this dish, but if you don’t want to use animal ingredients, you could quite easily make this dish using something else as the form, e.g. a silicon mould etc.
200 g root celery and carrot
50 g squash
50 g hazelnuts
1/4 of an agar – agar bar
20 g summer truffles
First, if you want to use eggs as the moulds, make a hole into the side of eight eggs. It should be so big that your finger fits inside. Then take out all the egg-white and the membranes inside the eggshell, and wash it with warm water that has a some vinegar in it. Allow the eggshells to dry two days in warm place or 10 minutes in a 200°C oven.
Steam the squash, and toast the hazelnuts on a dry pan. Grind the hazelnuts into a fine powder and mash the pumpkin. Blend, and make balls that are about the size of an egg yolk. Freeze them in a freezer.
Boil the root celery in water until it’s soft, and then make a paste out of it using a blender. Add some of the cooking water if needed, the paste should resemble a pureed soup. Dilute the agar – agar into 2 dl of water, and boil it until the water has evaporated so that there is just 1 dl left. Heat up the root celery paste and pour the agar agar into it, using a sieve. Chop the truffles and add them and salt to the mixture. Pour the mixture into the eggshells and add one squash – egg – yolk into each. Let them harden in the fridge a couple of hours.
For serving, peel the eggs, set them on a plate and drizzle with salt and olive oil, and add also some raspberry coulis (a sweet raspberry sauce).
After this cooking class my weekend was full of talk about food at the Megapolis – festival, and meeting interesting people. After that I haven’t been able to even think about food for a while…And the Carrot Mob vegetarian gourmet – brunch was of course a nice ending to the whole process on Sunday. A cucumber shot, jerusalem artichoke puree, pistachio crusted beetroot, and a banana flambe with candied orange and raspberry sauce, free for everyone who managed to be there in time!
This is an extremely simple drink I made on hot day. Again I found some use for the mints that try to overtake my yard..
1/4 of big watermelon
1 handful of spearmint leaves
1 tbsp freshly squeesed lemon juice
1 tsp muscovado sugar
I blended it with a handheld mixer and served it with ice cubes. This yielded about 7 dl, just enough for me and my guest.