The only missed step in preparation for #bikeshopeat with Chef Mark Jensen of Red Lantern on Riley was sharpening my knives. Whenever we have friends come over, it calls for Putting Things Away (PTA). A few weeks before, success. Then the kids messed it up. The night before, I was PTA. The morning of, I swept and PTA. My husband and kids left for Saturday morning sport. I had a few minutes for a little more PTA and then Mark, his kids and George from Sydney Food Crew arrived. No time to do anything with the knives.
As it turned out, Mark came prepared with his own. They travelled in their own black box and emerged when it was time to start preparing lunch with our fresh produce purchased at Carriageworks Farmers Markets. How did we get to the market and home again? We bicycled.
His kids came along for the ride in the Nihola and we bought what looked fresh. Most everything we purchased was grown locally in New South Wales. Mushrooms from the Blue Mountains. The chicken was from Thirlmere, NSW. One of the highlights of shopping with Mark, his kids and George was meeting Pepe Saya.
After an introductions from George and a brief chat, Pepe handed Mark a round of butter. I was unsure of how the butter would end up in our soup. Fortunately, I had enjoyed it with a little bread which was delicious. Cultured butter has a delicious tang and reminds me of cheese. I keep seeing Pepe Saya butter at restaurants and select groceries and it was great to meet the man himself.
After locking up the bicycles in the garage, we unloaded our purchases in the kitchen. I gave Mark’s kids the job of podding the broad beans. I showed them how to slit open the pod with a fingernail along the seam. I asked them to keep track of the greatest numbers of beans they found in a pod. Kids occupied, I returned to the kitchen to find Mark chopping away. I used to cook Korean/Japanese more before we had children. The reason why? Preparation necessary for Asian cuisine takes so much time. I call it the “chop chop.” I cook more Western food now, post the arrival of children, as it requires less time. This experience with a professional chef would be a treat for me!
The beautifully sharp knife had emerged from its black box and was making short work of the onions, ginger, turmeric. Mark was also grilling some of the herbs to intensify the flavours for the stock. I mentioned that I had some frozen chicken stock which we could use. Mark agreed heartily. As we cooked, the kids told us about the record number of beans that they had found. Five, no six! In total there were 80 beans!
George, Mark and I chatted while prepping. I noted Mark’s confidence in the kitchen. Still, he experienced what we all feel in a foreign kitchen. Where is your cutlery? Do you have another chopping board for meat? Do you have a mortar and pestle? The best was “Do you have any stinky stuff? Anything fermented to add to the soup stock?” I was pleased to provide a choice of three: fermented Korean bean paste (doenjang), spicy Korean fermented bean paste (gochujang) and Chinese bean paste (doubanjiang).
As the soup came together, I had a feeling of displacement. I helped to julienne the snow peas and a few other tasks. Mark’s daughter helped make the marinade for the chicken using the mortar and pestle. Our giant bottle of fish sauce emerged and did its part. Suddenly, it struck me. Because I am the primary cook in the family, it was unusual to see someone else cooking. My husband Justin used to cook more pre-kids. Now, I usually prepare dinner in the morning by way of the slow cooker. As a result, I’ve become more efficient and he’s out of practice. In addition, growing up in Minnesota and at dinner with friends, I often see more women cooking than men. I noted how Mark tasted the soup often, as my mother did when she came to help after the birth of my kids.
I used Mark’s beautiful knife and mentioned a desire that I had to attend a knife skills course one day. Both George and Mark had both been to one and found it valuable. Maybe one day?
While Mark grilled the chicken, we set the smoke alarm off as per usual. I opened the front door and the balcony doors to air. I put a pot of rice on the stove. We sat at the table for a few minutes and chatted while the soup came together on the stove.
Then my kids came home exclaiming about the scent of food in the courtyard of our building. When we sat down at table, the silence was very telling. Why? Because quiet children during meals means the food is delicious. And the Pepe Saya butter? Mark added it at the end for additional “mouthfeel. ” A small drizzle of truffle oil made the soup heavenly.
One of the most important cooking lesson I learned from Mark today? Efficiency.
Mark has provided the recipe for your own #bikeshopeat!
Happy Bicycling, Shopping and Eating!