About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Friend or Foe?
For heaven's sake, Gordon Ramsey is at it again.

Last Friday caught up for the first time with his show, Hell's Kitchen. Gordon, what is wrong with you? The man cooks beautifully as attested by his Michelin stars, but his cooking shows have long ago ceased to be about the food and ever increasingly about new ways to humiliate and demean people. Gordon seems to operate on the boot camp principle of stripping away all pretensions, then moving forward to mould people the way he wants and in such a way that he looks like an all powerful emperor that brooks no human frailty, and the viewer is left with the impression that Gordon knows everything.

Let me say that working in a restaurant is hard work and not for the fainthearted, but it is a trade and like all trades has to be learnt over many years at the stoves, not just in a few episodes before being propelled to executive chef status. You have to earn respect the hard way, not by surviving daily tirades, but by turning out fantastic food day in day out. You need to do the hard yards, menial tasks that have no end, but without which fine dining could not exist. All this show seems to be doing is propping up one man's giant ego.

I was pondering all this when the movie Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights came on. It is set in Havana, Cuba just before the revolution and is the story of a young American girl who befriends a Cuban boy, set against the backdrop of the brutal and arrogant Batista regime, words that could easily be used to describe Gordon Ramsey. This young couple form a relationship and enter a dancing competition, but the girl has to overcome her inhibitions in order to learn Latin dancing, the 'dance of the slaves', the only way they were free to express themselves and involves much sensual touching as well as skimpy clothing.

Just near the end of the movie there is a scene where Batista has fled the country and people are racing through the streets shouting long live the revolution, and I couldn't help but wonder if those same people knew that they were about to fall headlong into the nightmare of another man's dreams, would they have been so enthusiastic? Now is a good time to think about it, as news reports seem to show that Fidel Castro's health is failing. I wonder if rapprochement with the United States would be possible if Castro was no longer in power? For the sake of all Cubans, one would hope so, though it is easy to understand some lingering resentment against a people who allowed one of the worst crises this world has witnessed, to unfold in their country. But was this crisis engineered by Cubans or Castro or someone else?

With all the troubles in the world today, if two countries could come together again, not in the way they once were, but in a new spirit of reconciliation, it could be the one bright spot on the horizon where at present there is only darkness. With this in mind, I want to take something particularly American and blend it with something Cuban, a coming together of the ways in friendship, where both sides manage to bring something to the other. I have chosen to take an American institution, apple pie, and flavour it with something so Cuban, rum.

As to Gordon, I fear there is nothing we can do, except not watch him.

Friendship Apple Pie
adapted from the Joy of Cooking

350 g plain flour
1 tablespoon icing sugar
1 teaspoon salt
180 g lard
85 ml ice water

Cut the lard into small pieces. In a large open bowl, place the flour, icing sugar, salt and lard, then either cut the lard into the flour with a knife or pastry cutter, or rub in with the tips of your fingers. Do not try to rub completely in, leave some pea sized pieces of fat and the rest should look like coarse sand. Add the ice water and cut in, then use your hands to combine, if the dough seems a little dry add some more ice water. The dough should look rough not smooth. Divide dough in half, wrap in clingfilm and refridgerate for at least 30 minutes.

1.35 kg apples, peeled and cored
45 g unsalted butter
50 ml Cuban rum
140 g sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch salt

Slice the apples about 6-8 mm thick, melt the butter in a frying pan or saucepan and sweat the apples until slightly soft about 5 minutes. Add the Cuban rum, sugar, cinnamon and salt and cook on high heat until the pan juices become thick and syrupy. Remove the mixture and spread out on a baking sheet to cool down. Roll out one half of the pastry and line a pie dish, fill it with the apple mixture and roll out the second piece of pastry and cover the mixture with this, crimp the edge to seal and cut a couple of steam vents into the pie. Place pie in an oven preheated to 220 c and cook for 40 to 50 minutes until the pie is golden.
  posted at 7:27 am

At 2:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really do wonder how the internet will change any of our world views.

Joy - apple pie with rum - sure can't go wrong there.

At 8:45 pm, Blogger pentacular said...

I think it has already. Neil, the line "cut the lard up into small pieces" could be taken the wrong way. Or not. Poor old Gordon. C is currently learning 'the dance of the slaves' as I type. I hope this means a lot of touching and some skimpy clothing, especially for me. Hehe. I like the idea of friendship pie. Apple pie and rum sounds like a mix for something else though. Cheers, Gregory

At 8:32 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi tanna, if only by bringing us all that much closer together.

Yep, apples and rum anyway you like!

Hi pentacular, there is nothing poor about Gordon! C is really looking after you, lucky guy.

At 4:37 pm, Blogger Reb said...

La Ramsay (gender allusion intentional) apparently endured the taunts and verbal assults of Marco Pierre White when he was learning the trade. You know how abuse breeds abuse. And now they don't talk (funny that) because Rammers keeps publicly insulting him in the press. Makes you reaslise how intractable conflct escalestes, don't it?

At 8:27 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi reb, Marco did a stage under Pierre Koffmann who insisted on a quite kitchen, so he didn't get it from there. I think there must be some predisposition to it.

At 6:36 am, Blogger Gigi said...

This dish sounds like a wonderful reconciliation between the two countries. So if the rum represents Cuba then the lard must represent....hey! ;D

As for Ramsey, I just can't stop watching him. I know it's all wrong but the whole thing fascinates me. The abuse! The tantrums! The delusions of grandeur! And that's just the customers! God help me, I love it.

Of the two remaining contestants, neither one seems capable of running a kitchen. I wonder what really happens...do they wind up essentially training under whoever actually gets put in charge, while collecting an executive chef's salary? It's surreal.

At 11:10 am, Blogger neil said...

Hi gigi, too funny!

Yeah it's my dirty little secret too. I wasn't going to watch it, but I flicked over when it was on and got sucked in. Glad you didn't reveal anymore, we are behind you here.


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