Cheerily chopping and stirring, and springing between simmering saucepans, it’s obvious why Brendon D’Souza is called The Smiling Chef.
The food blogger and chef from The Good Shepherd Parish in Plumpton is busily making a Mussel and Sweet Corn Chowder, detailing ingredients and cooking tips to the camera.
Brendon has been an avid lover of all things food since he was just six years old, when he turned on the television to see the fresh-faced Jamie Oliver, affectionately dubbed ‘The Naked Chef’, mixing a salad.
“With messy brown locks and a heavy cockney accent, he was the first person I ever saw toss a salad with his bare fingers, adding a swirl of olive oil that zigzagged in the air as he poured it, and always a bit extra right at the end,” Brendon said.
‘The Naked Chef’ refers to Jamie Oliver’s cooking style, working with simple, fresh ingredients, ‘naked’ of rich and hearty spices and stripped back to the bare essentials to bring out their natural qualities.
Young Brendon was hooked and keen to cultivate his skills in the kitchen.
“Dad walked in and asked me what I was watching, to which I replied, The Naked Chef. Dad told me to turn the TV off immediately, refusing to listen when I continued to ask why,” Brendon recalled with a laugh.
“A few nights later I found Mum and Dad watching the same show. When I explained that it was the program I had been watching, everything clicked and we all started watching The Naked Chef together.”
Being from Goa in India, Brendon’s family cooked traditional dishes, mostly seafood-based and influenced by the state’s Portuguese colonisation. The rich spices were a staple, but Brendon was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s simplistic approach to cooking, finding himself drawn to Italian food.
“I’ve grown up being obsessed with Italian food. It was the Italian culture that I found enticing. I liked the fresh take that Italian food had compared to Indian food. Italian food was like a step back. It was really fresh with tomatoes, basil, herbs and really fresh ingredients.
Moving to Australia and being a part of Plumpton Parish has given Brendon many opportunities to try other cultural cuisines.
“On feast days in Plumpton we hold multicultural days. We celebrate twice a year on Good Shepherd Sunday and in October for the anniversary of the parish.
“When you finish getting your food, you have to sit next to someone you don’t know.”
Food for Brendon is central to building relationships within the community.
“When we first came to Australia, we were invited to someone’s house and were asked to bring a plate. We didn’t understand the concept, thinking we would have to actually bring just a plate. Needless to say, the misunderstanding gave everyone a good laugh and broke down barriers.
“There is a joke among my friends that if you’re visiting the D’Souza’s house you don’t have to eat anything beforehand because if you come to the door, the first thing that you’re going to be greeted with is food,” he said.
Brendon believes food is at the heart of his culture and faith.
“Within Catholicism, food is central to so many aspects of our faith. We have the feasts, the Passover and the Last Supper. Jesus even feeds the 5000 with loaves and fish, bringing people from all walks of life together. I think Jesus had the right idea.”
Brendon has been blogging for three and a half years. You can access his recipes, cooking tips and reviews at: http://brendonthesmilingchef.com
Mussel and Sweetcorn Chowder
•1kg farmed, fresh Australian Blue Mussels
•1 tbsp olive oil
•1 med onion, peeled, diced
•4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
•200g potatoes, diced
•100g bacon, diced
•500g whole sweet corn, husks removed (or 250g frozen corn)
•1L chicken stock
•600ml thickened cream
•Chopped chives and crusty bread
Clean the mussels. Scrape off any barnacles using a sharp paring knife. De-beard each mussel. Rinse, drain and set aside while you prepare the base. Skip this if you are using frozen mussels.
Make the chowder. Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, potatoes and bacon. Cook, stirring until the bacon is crisp. You can add 1-2 tsp smoked paprika to taste and season with a little salt, but not too much as the mussels will add a salty flavour. Take each corn cob and holding it horizontally carefully slice off the kernels. Add the corn to the saucepan along with the stock and simmer over a medium heat until the potatoes are tender. Stir through the cream, cover and reduce heat to low.
Cook the mussels. Cook the mussels in a large lidded saucepan or dutch oven with 250mL water for 10-15 minutes or until they start to open wide. Throw away any that haven’t opened. Allow to cool then remove the flesh and place into the chowder. Strain the mussel juice and add to the chowder for more delicious flavour.
To serve. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve warm with crusty bread. Leftover soup can be used as a delicious sauce for pasta. For a vegan twist replace the mussels with 500g diced pumpkin or sweet potato, the chicken stock with vegetable stock, leave out the bacon and swap the cream for almond milk.
Easy Banana “Nice Cream”
Prep Time 5 mins plus freezing | Cooking Time 0 mins | Serves 2-4
Just like an ice cream sundae, only healthy and made with the goodness of wholesome bananas. This ice cream is so easy to make because everything goes into the one blender and you’ll have creamy soft-serve style ice cream in seconds. Feel free to throw in a range of soft fruits such as berries, diced mango, peaches, passionfruit, lychees or whatever tickles your fancy.
FOR THE NICE CREAM
- 2 ripe bananas
- ¼ full cream milk or almond milk
- Handful of diced fruit, such as berries, mangoes, stone fruit etc. (optional)
- Waffle cones, to serve (optional)
Freeze the bananas. Peel the bananas and dice into small pieces. Place into a freezer safe container and freeze for three hours or until solid.
Make the “Nice Cream”. Place the bananas and fruit, if using, into a heavy duty blender or food processor. Add half the milk and pulse for a few seconds to break up the fruit. Continue to blend until the bananas form a smooth, creamy soft serve consistency. You may need to add more milk. At this stage the “Nice Cream’ may be a little runny depending on how long you have pulsed it and the amount of milk used. If this is the case, simply transfer the mixture to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm but still creamy.
Serve in waffle cones or in bowls with fresh fruit to garnish.
Brendon The Smiling Chef