Creative Kitchen Challenge, July 29
With nervous anticipation, my team pulled back a cloth to reveal the three ingredients we had been allocated for July's creative cooking competition; black beans, onion and zucchini.
Now the challenge for our team, self-titled “Team Survivor”, was to use these base ingredients along with other pantry items to whip up a tasty dinner dish. All within 30 minutes! A daunting task for those of us like myself, who follow recipe books to the letter, or who have just started to cook or confess to not cook at all.
Yet under the direction of our Head Chef Bridget, slowly but surely we started to brainstorm our ideas around the table including soup, salad and fried vegetables until we eventually settled on a mixed pasta salad. Then followed a litany of questions, what to add to the mix, how much of it and when, who was going to prepare what, would we have enough time to cook the pasta and would the flavours work together. Many, many questions, and so little time, the pressure was on!
Meanwhile, our opposing team called "Culinary Calamity" were brainstorming within earshot and frantically looking through additional ingredients we could use at the pantry table, before getting to work, peeling, chopping and cooking onions in a pan. Suddenly the kitchen was a hive of activity with utensils pulled from drawers and pots being whipped onto the stove as we jumped into action and the competition really got underway.
Meghan, the workshop host, was on hand to assist with our multiple questions and help us allocate tasks. Chef Bridget made some executive decisions; we would add salt to the zucchini to soften it and sauté our onion with garlic. Other delicious additions from the pantry included boiled eggs, pesto, tuna, green beans and feta cheese.
With time ticking on, the pace became more frantic as we all worked hard to complete our tasks and pull the dish together. With the pasta drained we stirred in the pesto, onions and garlic and moved to the table to add the mix to the other ingredients. It was all hands on deck to toss the pasta into the bowl and give everything a final stir as the timer sounded and the challenge was declared over. We all cheered with relief and then moved to the other table to admire the competition's handiwork of beautiful, colourful salad combinations.
Afterwards, we helped ourselves to a delicious potluck spread including the dishes we had just created and sat down to discuss our thoughts on our recipe. The consensus was our hearty pasta salad was surprisingly tasty, with the chosen flavours working well together, perhaps even better than we had anticipated. One of our team even declared it to be the best pasta salad he had ever tasted!
To share my two takeaways from this challenge: the first is to be more confident in our ability to experiment and let loose in the kitchen. The second is by limiting our choices to three or four ingredients, we can get creative and make more out of less. We have more ingredients in our cupboards than we think and with this approach we can cut down on waste and cook more frequently and easily.
Thanks to Meghan, Team Survivor and all the participants for another great evening of cooking, connection and inspiration! Check out pictures from the evening and recipes from our teams' Kitchen Challenge creations.