Do you ever have those moments when you look at yourself in the mirror and say, "What the hell did I sign myself up for?"
I do. All the time. My most recent mirror confrontation was, in fact, in regards to this 13-week Top Chef Canada challenge. Too often, I fall victim to my oh-that-couldn’t-be-that-hard tendencies, but I digress… I am signed up and 100% committed to recreating your favourite dishes from this series week after week and I hope you'll join in on the fun on occasion as well.
So, without further delay, here is my first adventure in Top Chef Canada land…
The foodnetwork.ca poll closed on Wednesday evening and you decided I would make Kunal's Masala Cod with Potato Pakoras, Mango Onion Slaw and Herb Raita. This was fairly fitting for the first recreation seeing as the chefs were challenged in episode one to create dishes inspired by their hometowns—and I was just about to board a plane back to mine: Saskatoon.
I woke up bright and early and headed to the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market, grocery list in hand (with each of these cooking adventures I'm hoping to source all ingredients locally, when possible). I was tipped off (via Twitter) to stop by Fono’s Fish stand in the market to pick up my fish for the challenge. In lieu of cod, the worker recommended a local variety of fish called Burbot. Best described as an eel-like freshwater cod, it certainly sounded ugly—but I bought it anyway!
I made a quick stop at a local ethnic marketplace, Swadesh Super Market, to grab some Garam Masala spice mix as well as the chickpea flour for the pakoras. While walking down an aisle, I did notice some packaging of pakora mixes, which were tempting, but that would be cheating, wouldn’t it?
The majority of my produce I obtained through a Saskatoon food initiative called Good Food Box. It’s a program where local vegetables, fruits, and grains are available for weekly order. The box contents vary based on season and availability, but I was able to use the bulk of the items in my cooking process. Perfect! Now it was time to start cooking.
My good friend Erin graciously offered up her mother’s kitchen. I spent the afternoon chopping, pureeing, frying and creating. Kind of like the crazy chef from The Muppets, but messier. The most difficult thing about this dish is that it had four separate components: Fish, pakoras, slaw and riata.
First up, I tackled the pakora, making a simple batter from the chickpea flour and spices, and then I added in some finely chopped potato and eggplant. After being fried, they were more similar to a latke in appearance, but tasty nonetheless!
Next, I made the Garam Masala-spiced crust for the burbot. After combining spices, garlic and sugar in my little food processor, I felt like it was still too crumbly. I tossed in some mango that was left over from the mango onion slaw, as well as a little bit of olive oil. Bam! A delicious spice crust was born. I am happy to report that there was exactly enough to liberally cover each piece of fish!
While the fish fillets were roasting, I quickly put together the raita, which is, essentially, a yogurt-based salad with cucumber and herbs; a cooling counterpart to balance out the strong Indian spices in the dish (or, at least, that’s my interpretation of its presence anyway...).
Before I knew it, the fish was cooked to perfection (if I do say so myself), so I nervously plated the creation for my friend Erin and her mother. I realize I was not dishing this dinner out to Mark McEwan and Lisa Ray, but I still felt an equal amount of stress watching these ladies take their first few bites. Luckily, I received thumbs up from both Saskatoon judges. Although, their cute little dog Boogie insisted on giving me the evil
eye since I refused to serve him a plate. C’est la vie, Boogie.
Alright, one week down, 12 to go. Let’s do this!
Masala Crusted Cod with Pakora Patties, Mango Salsa and Basil Cucumber Raita
Total cook time: 35 min
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1 cup eggplant (1/4” cubed)
1 cup russet potato (peeled and grated
2 tea dried cumin
2 tsp Garam Masala powder
1 tsp star anise powder
1 cup water
Salt and pepper
Masala Crusted Cod
1/3 ripe mango (chopped, approximately 1/3 cup)
zest of one lemon
2 garlic cloves
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp garam masala
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
4 cod fillets
2/3 ripe mango (1/2” cubed)
1 cup red onion (thinly sliced)
1 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
2 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp apple cider
salt and pepper
1 cup plain yogurt
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 cucumber (chopped, approximately 2 cups)
1 cup fresh basil (thinly sliced)
1 cup arugula (loosely chopped)
salt and pepper
1. Place the first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Whisk to combine. Taste, then season with salt and pepper. If the batter is too thick, add a bit more water. If it’s too thin, add some more chickpea flour. Heat some grapeseed oil in a large frying pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot (test by sprinkling some flour into the pan), fry spoonfuls of the batter until browned on both sides, about 4 minutes.
Masala Crusted Cod
1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Combine the first six ingredients in a food processor or blender. Pulse until mixture is minced, then add in the olive oil, pulsing again to form a paste. Place the cod fillets in a prepared baking dish and top evenly with masala mixture. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn to broil for another five.
1. Place all ingredients in a medium-sized mixing bowl and toss to combine. Taste, season with salt and pepper, then let chill in the fridge until needed.
1. Whisk together the first three ingredients in a small bowl. Place the cucumber, basil and arugula into a medium-sized mixing bowl and pour the yogurt ‘dressing’ on top. Toss until greens are evenly coated. Season lightly with salt and pepper and let chill in fridge until needed.
For plating, place the roasted cod on two or three small pakora patties, top with mango salsa with the raita on the side.
Dan Clapson is a food writer and culinary instructor based out of Calgary. He is constantly creating new recipes and striving to expand his culinary horizons. He thinks yam fries are overrated.
by Food Network Canada