In culinary history, the world has always turned to the French. The first restaurant, the first restaurant guide, and even haute cuisine all have their roots in France. Many of the best chefs in the world are either French or French-educated. So when famous French chef Alain Ducasse visits Hong Kong to check on his restaurant, Spoon by Alain Ducasse, all eyes are on him.
The Intercontinental Hong Kong invited local media to join the chef on a trip to Mongkok market to source the local ingredients. With over thirty journalists and photographers following the famed chef’s every move, the market was a circus. He gamely posed for the camera and smiled at the vendors. The chef buys with his hands. Grabbing herbs, sniffing and chewing on a piece to test its freshness come naturally for this French chef. With a pocket knife, he sliced a few pieces of the preserved pork her just purchased. “A bit too sweet for me,” he says after sampling the dried pork. He admired the large lobsters and hairy crabs. He even took a bite of a still warm egg tart from a local bakery.
Using all his senses to get the best produce
Meticulously choosing his fruits and vegetables
Smelling the dried pork
Taking a bite from local baked goods
Mingling with the locals
Alain Ducasse, pleased with his market purchases at Mongkok market
While Hong Kong’s discriminating gourmands anticipate a plethora of imported ingredients, or innovative cooking techniques, his message is the exact opposite. He launched a New Signature Cookpot dish from London, Paris, Mauritius, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The signature dish is made up of at least seven locally sourced seasonal vegetables. In each city, the signature recipe is adapted to allow the chef to use the best locally available ingredients of the season. This cookpot endorses a green way of cooking. Instead of using food with high carbon footprint, this dish uses local ingredients in season for optimum flavour. He promotes vegetables for flavour, instead of animal protein.
Back at Spoon, Executive Chef Philippe demonstrated how simple it is to make his Hong Kong version of the Winter Cookpot. It is aesthetically pleasing to look at the beautiful floral pattern created by the vegetables. But what truly delights is result of slow cooking the vegetables in a cookpot. It is the most delightful blends of sweet and fresh flavours and myriad of textures in every bite. When a French videographer asked the chef how much does this dish cost, he answered: “Maybe one Euro for the ingredients…but talent has no price.”
Alain Ducasse’s Spoon Hong Kong Winter Cookpot
So take the cue from the talented chef with a record of nineteen Michelin stars in his career This winter, head out to your nearby local market, but veggies in season and make your own local Cook pot, inspired by his recipe below:
Alain Ducasse Signature Cookpot, Spoon Hong Kong’s Winter Selection of Vegetables
300 chicken leg mushrooms for dicing
4 pieces local chicken leg mushroom
100 grams cooked chestnuts (chopped)
½ Fennel bulb
½ Baby white onion
½ butternut pumpkin
4 Black radishes
2 pieces White Shimenji Mushrooms
4 yellow turnip tops
12 cl olive oil
2 liters chicken broth
20 grams butter
20 cl reduced poultry stock
Cut the mushroom into small pieces. Do the same with other ingredients.
Ground the cooked sweet chestnuts.
In the cookpot, mix olive oil with the diced onions, and then add the other ingredients. Add salt and pepper. Then cook under the cover with the broth.
Preparation of the vegetables for cookpot:
Cut all the vegetables in pieces that are 3mm thick. Then with a ring cutter, cut the vegetables into neat round pieces that are 2 cm each in diameter.
Cook the vegetables in the pan, one by one. Put the vegetables in the plate. Once the vegetables are cold, spread them and arrange in a semi circle.
Place the vegetables “La Matignon” style into the cookpot- layering the vegetables neatly. Be sure that the vegetables are placed flat in the cookpot.
Cover the cookpot with a lid and put in the oven for ten minutes. Then leave the cookpot out for 9 minutes at room temperature before serving.
Add the local Chicken leg mushrooms at the last minute, as well as the olive oil and ground pepper. Serve the Chicken juice on the side.
The Winter Cookpot will be available at Spoon on December 27.
Text and Photos by Maida Pineda. Posted on 7 December 2010