I love good food and am always on the prowl for good restaurants. And when I have time, I love to put up a creative meal for my family, but sadly this does not happen as often as I would want. One time during a visit to Washington DC, my sons and I booked to have dinner at The Source, owned by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. You can imagine our excitement when we found Wolfgang at the restaurant and he personally prepared our dinner.
Wolfgang is a celebrated chef with a genius for creativity and his restaurants are popular with the discerning and stylish. He owns many exclusive restaurants in the US, with his signature being Spago in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles. It is considered a privilege and honor to dine in any of his restaurants when he is cooking, more so because he always mingles with diners.
When he came round to our table, he was not only happy that we had chosen to dine at his restaurant, but that we were from Africa, a continent he has great love for, as his wife is Ethiopian. He was keen to know the foods we eat in Kenya and how we prepared them, just as I was keen to get tips from him on good cooking. His advice was straightforward – delicious food comes from simplicity, quality ingredients and good cooking equipment. Born in Southern Austria, Wolfgang told me his palate was shaped by his mother’s cooking using fresh ingredients straight from the farm, and ensuring meals were prepared with great simplicity to preserve their natural goodness. On the promise that I would use his recipes to prepare meals for my two sons, whom he greatly adored, Wolfgang gave me a book with a collection of his recipes and autographed it with the words: “Happy Cooking, Eunice.”
Though I have many recipe books in my kitchen, there is none like this one. I have found new joy in being in the kitchen and creating delicious food, guided by Wolfgang’s detailed, but easy to follow steps. He not only gives you the ingredients to use and how to prepare them, he also tells you what pans to use. My husband was awed by my new cooking skills and I have assured him I will continue with the same.
Just so you know what I mean about being inspired by Wolfgang, let me give you a taste of a Stir-fried chicken breast with red bell peppers and snow peas I prepared from his recipe. It was so delicious I would want to eat it every day of week.
Ingredients: (Makes 4 servings)
* ½ pound snow peas, trimmed
* 2 tablespoons peanut oil
* 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breasts cut crosswise into ½ inch thick strips
* Salt and freshly ground black pepper
* 1 teaspoon sugar
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 2 strips orange zest, each about 3 inches long
* 1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
* 1 large red bell pepper, quartered, stemmed, seeded, and cut crosswise into thin strips
* 1 (5-ounce) can sliced water chestnuts, drained
* 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
* 2 tablespoons teriyaki, or hoisin sauce
* ¼ teaspoon hot red peer (optional)
* 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dhania
* 4 cups steamed white rice
1. Bring a medium-size saucepan full of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with ice cubes and water. When the pot of water reaches a boil, add a teaspoon of salt. Add the snow peas and cook for 15 seconds, then remove from the boiling water using a skimmer or slotted spoon and transfer to the ice water. Allow the peas to stand in the ice for a few minutes, then drain.
2. Heat a wok or a large skillet over high heat. Add the peanut oil. A soon as it is hot enough to swirl easily around the wok, season the chicken strips with salt and pepper to taste, add them to the wok and cook, stirring continuously, for about two minutes.
3. Add the sugar, garlic, orange zest, onion, bell pepper, water chestnuts, and ginger. Continue to stir-fry for three more minutes.
4. Add the snow peas, teriyaki or hoisin sauce, optional hot red pepper, and sesame oil. Continue to stir and toss the ingredients for two to three minutes until they are evenly coated with the sauce and the snow peas are hot and tender-crisp. Sprinkle on the dhania and serve hot over steamed rice.
A taste of this delicious food and you will come running to me this year to give you more of Wolfgang’s recipes. I promise I will.