Rory our third year apprentice keeps us on our toes. He has found his feet at school, getting down and dirty in the garden, spending time doing work experience at PM 24 and also keeping us fossils streetsmart with local jargon.
I try to keep him tuned on current trends but when he asked why I don’t have a nanganator both Richard and I were stumped.
I have been trying to hone his skills using traditional methods to create natural textures and flavours, taking the old fogey view that all the so called new molecular methods can be created with real food and traditional techniques if the cook has the required skills.
The nanganator he informed us is urban slang for the gas bottle used for nefarious means that has crossed over into the kitchen lexicon for making foams. I tried to explain to him that there were a multitude of methods using various natural gums, resins and of course eggs that if he was able to master, would put him in a very good position with respect to essential skills that would serve him well into the future. Then of course he pointed out that in all the school competitions he was doing the winners were invariably nanganating their way to victory.
I needed a trump card.
It’s taken 6 months but I have finally tracked down Soapwort Roots, an ingredient that Anissa Helou alerted me to last summer.
I met Anissa with her friend Mary Taylor Simeti when they visited Melbourne after the Sydney International Food Festival Chefs Showcase. It’s always a joy to show Melbourne to visitors. Many of you would have read Mary’s wonderful books on her life in Sicily On Persephone's Island: Pomp And Sustenance: Twenty-five Centuries of Sicilian Food, Bitter Almonds to name a few and we spent a lazy wet Melbourne day cruising the galleries and eateries getting to know each other.
Anissa is an expert on Middle Eastern Food and had just presented a session in Sydney where she used soapwort roots to make an intriguing desert called Natef.
Last week while on the hunt for liquorice roots I noticed a little bag of dried roots labelled Halwa Roots in a shop on Sydney road. I remembered that Anissa had also blogged about Halva and how soapwort was also used in its manufacture.