Fusion cooking means different things to different people and does not always elicit the most positive of responses. As the term has become ever more present in culinary circles over the past couple of decades, many diners have been confronted with a plate of food that causes them to wonder how, or indeed why, the chef came to the conclusion that the ingredients and flavours complemented each other.
If it is done well, however, this mixing of cuisines, substituting of ingredients from one food culture to another, or imbuing of a classic dish with foreign flavours, can produce stellar results. Peter Gordon, a New Zealand-born, east London residing chef, food writer, cookbook author and restaurateur, is well known for his ability to meld flavours and textures from all over the globe, a talent that has earned him the nickname "Europe's father of fusion cuisine".
Gordon's restaurants - dine by Peter Gordon and Bellota, both in Auckland, as well as Kopapa, The Providores and Tapa Room in London - have won a host of awards and he is the author of a number of cookbooks ("I write every word of my books and cook every dish"), the most recent being Fusion: A Culinary Journey.
On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Gordon will be appearing at Jones the Grocer stores in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai to conduct masterclasses where he will teach participants to cook two dishes from Fusion and provide them with a complementary copy. He will also be signing books and give a separate cooking demonstration for those who would prefer simply to observe and take notes rather than participate.
Gordon admits to having sampled his fair share of confused, fusion-style food. "I still recall a terrible meal of poached beef fillet with kiwifruit salsa – no matter how good the chef, that combination is likely to be terrible," but he maintains that people shouldn't be put off by the odd bad experience.
"If we're honest, all the world's great cuisines are in some way a fusion of historical ingredients which would have grown locally and then infused with imported or transplanted ingredients. For example, Thai food relies heavily on chillies and peanuts but both came from the New World, the Americas. Can you imagine a Thai dish without these? That's fusion."
Although he started dabbling in the kitchen at a young age – baking biscuits and creating cookbooks from recipes and images cut out from his mother's magazines at age four – he says that it wasn't until he moved to Melbourne in the early 1980s as an apprentice chef that he started to develop the style of cooking that was to later become his signature.
"I was suddenly able to eat and buy many foods we didn't at that stage have in New Zealand. My pantry became filled with Thai fish sauce, sumac from the Middle East, Malaysian dried fish (ikan bilis) and Greek feta," he explains. "When I came to cook at home, I'd just throw it all together and see what happened. Slowly, I realised which characteristics worked with what, and found that if I wanted to give something a lemon accent, I could use lemon, or lemon verbena (Europe), lemon myrtle (Australia), or lemon grass (south-east Asia)."
If the fusion of ingredients, textures and techniques demonstrated in the following recipe (see the Bites blog for more examples) piques your interest, then Gordon will be holding a masterclass priced at Dh995 per person on Tuesday, April 3 at 3pm at Jones the Grocer Dubai and on Wednesday, April 4 at 4pm at the Khalidiyah store in Abu Dhabi. Cooking demonstrations will be held at 7pm on Monday, April 2 in Dubai and at 7pm on Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, at a cost of Dh395 per person. Booking for both events is essential, as places are limited. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Peter Gordon's deep-fried egg with lime chilli dressing, garam masala and crispy shallots
2 juicy limes
1 tbsp grated pale palm sugar
bird's eye chilli, thinly sliced (more or less to taste) or any other red chilli
1 tsp fish sauce
a small thumb of ginger, peeled then finely julienned or chopped
vegetable oil for deep-frying the eggs
1 tbsp garam masala
a small handful of fresh coriander leaves
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 tbsp crispy shallots (buy these from Asian food stores or make them yourself )
Boil the eggs for four and a half minutes. Refresh and peel then place in a bowl of cold water - this stops them collapsing on themselves.
Finely grate the zest from half a lime. Add the palm sugar and chilli and mash it together. Squeeze the juice from the limes over this mixture - you need 40 to 50ml - and mix until the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the fish sauce and ginger and leave for a few minutes.
Heat 6cm of vegetable oil to 180¿C. Take the eggs from the water and pat dry. Carefully lower them into the oil and move them around a little to colour them evenly. Remove them from the oil, place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil, then roll on a plate scattered with the garam masala.
To serve, place the eggs on four individual plates and scatter with the coriander and spring onion. Drizzle on the lime chilli dressing and finish with the crispy shallots.