Fancy a grilled chicken with creamy corn risotto after rock climbing? How about some spice-crusted rib-eye steak and seared scallops and prawns after bungee jumping?
Most people wouldn’t associate gourmet food with extreme adventures, but Canada-based celebrity chef Bal Arneson shows that “a dash of spice can add flavor to your food and your life.” Her show “Spice of Life with Bal Arneson” which airs on Asian Food Channel takes her family on one-of-a-kind adventures in the kitchen and outdoors. From fishing, to camping, to demolition derby, this feisty chef whips up exciting dishes to complement their action-packed lifestyle.
Recently, Bal was in the Philippines to promote her cooking shows. Aside from “Spice of Life,” her other cooking series, “Spice Goddess” showcases Indian recipes and how herbs and spices can bring new life into healthy meals. Last August 15, Bal hosted a private sit-down dinner event at Chef Jessie Rockwell Club in Makati, hosted by the Asian Food Channel, Cignal and William Grant & Sons. Joining her on the tour were her 20-year old daughter, Anoop, and 10-year old son, Aaron, both of whom are featured in the cooking show.
I was one of the fortunate guests who got a taste of what the show has to offer, with a five-course meal paired with Glenfiddich Whisky 12, Solera 15 and 18. As luck would have it, I ended up sitting at the same table as the chef and her two kids. While waiting for dinner to start and during the meal, we ended up having a nice chat about their adventures while doing the show and their short time in the country. Bal spoke highly of the country’s food, raving about Philippine mangoes, kare-kare, visiting a fresh market, and eating at a dampa seafood place where live fish and crabs were caught and cooked right in front of them. One adventure the kids are interested to try in a future episode: skydiving!
The dinner began with a subtle appetizer of Honey Glazed Grilled Carrots. I normally take carrots for granted, but there was something about the spices rubbed all over the carrots that made them really tender and delectable. This was followed by Sweet Potato and Yam Samosas with Fresh Mango Chutney, which Bal and her kids demonstrated how to prepare The addition of basil and mint to the mango made the chutney refreshing, while hints of paprika and cardamom gave it a bit of a kick.
The last appetizer was Grilled Veggie Chili with Fire Roasted Corn, a delicious blend of tender and slightly charred vegetables in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. The sauce and the smoky flavor transformed ordinary garden vegetables like carrots, onions, bell pepper and corn into something really special. Topped with a dollop of sour cream, this was just pure comfort food.
The main course was a choice between Garam Masala Crusted Lapu-Lapu with Crispy Poached Eggs and Sautéed Mushrooms, Corn, and Edamame or Spice-Crusted Rib Eye Steaks with Coriander Blue Cheese Grilled Yams and Sautéed Green Beans. Of course, I picked the steak.
The rare-cooked piece of meat rubbed with a delightful blend of peppercorn, cumin, coriander and mustard, was so soft and tender. The rich flavor of the blue cheese added a decadent flavor to the steak. The soft and subtle texture of the grilled yams paired with the rich flavor of the cheese and crispy crunch of the Green Beans added different dimensions to the main course. It was the perfect meal.
For dessert was Gulab Jaman, a type of deep-fried doughnut that’s popular in India. This was served in a wine glass with Spiced Yoghurt made with our very own carabao’s milk, which is said to have more protein than cow’s milk. It was a sweet ending to a delightful meal.
My cooking skills are really limited, but I can’t help but want to try out some of the dishes that were served to us. Luckily, some of the recipes are available on the Asian Food Channel’s website. You can also catch “Spice of Life with Bal Arneson” on Sundays from August 3 to 31, 10am and 6pm and “Spice Goddess” at 11am and 7pm on Sky Cable Channel 22, Dream Satellite TV Channel 27, Cignal Digital TV Channel 30 and Destinay Cable TV Channel 71 Analog and Channel 22 Digital.