On day 4 of my internship at NOPI, I had a hard time waking up because I went to bed later than my first 3 days. The reason was I had dinner at NOPI with friends yesterday. Two friends from the Netherlands, two from Belgium and 2 from London came to NOPI to have dinner with me. It was great, but because of that, I got home later than the first two days. I did not get to bed until 23:30. Tonight a few of us are going to ROVI for dinner, so tomorrow morning will probably be even harder. So far as getting myself into a schedule.
When I arrive at NOPI I immediately start prepping for the staff lunch. The idea is to make a tortilla today, not a classic Spanish tortilla but one with a Moroccan twist (all Spanish people please look away). When I tell the head chef I’m making tortilla Zahra style and he starts smiling. I peel some potatoes, garlic and red onion and cook them on the stove until the potatoes are almost done. Then I add smoked paprika, ground cumin and ground coriander. The idea was to use raz el hanout, but unfortunately they did not have that so I had to improvise. I mix this with the eggs and a lot of parsley and bake it last minute in the oven.
Then I start prepping the vegetables again while I wait for my chef to arrive for today. I start helping chef Anderson from Brazil cutting the onion squash for the salads and learn how to cut the squash so it will stand right up when you serve it. Why didn’t I think of this, it looks way prettier on the serving dishes this way. I also learn that I have always been using the best squash to make this salad: onion squash. The NOPI cookbook says to use butternut, but I never do that because I find butternut a bit bland. I have a great time with chef Anderson, he has a great sense of humour and tells me he loves my Dutch accent. Little does he know that his own accent is way funnier than mine. He tells me to bring him an Ajax t-shirt next time I come over. He is a big soccer fan.
Then my chef for today comes in; chef Antonio from Italy. He’s one of the sous chefs and takes his work very seriously. But he’s also in for a laugh. Chef Antonio and I will be on the meat section today and that means Antonio will be behind the grill, so again no plating for me today: there is no room at the pass. Antonio starts cutting the bavette and shows me how while I pick the leaves of the mint and coriander to make a remoulade sauce. After I finish doing that we start skewering the pork neck. That’s a dish that has only been on the menu for a few days and is becoming very popular. The only problem is that the skewering is taking the staff too much time. Luckily they have an intern that can help.
Then chef Calvin comes in – the one who made up the recipe for the pork neck – and starts helping me with the skewering. He tells me about the marinade and how the sticky rice with fermented shrimp that goes with this dish is made. I can’t believe how complex the process is. He then asks me how my internship is going. I tell him that it’s hard work but I’m absolutely loving it. He asks me what I thought of the food yesterday in the restaurant and says he wants my honest opinion. I tell him we basically loved everything, but there was only one dish that needed more seasoning in my opinion: the beetroot salad.
He asks me what my favourite dish was and I tell him that I loved the mackerel with pistachio sambal and the miso glazed hake. He then asks me about my favourite Ottolenghi restaurant and of course I say NOPI, but tell him that can change tonight because we are going to ROVI. He’s a big fan of ROVI and tells me if I want, I can do an internship at ROVI next year. He talks about ROVIs food style with Asian influences and I can’t wait to taste it all. While we chat we manage to skewer enough pork neck for service tonight. I go on with the prep for the other meat dishes and start shredding the mutton for the Herdwick mutton shawarma.
When I’m done with the mutton Antonio asks me if there is a recipe I would like to make. Any recipe from the menu. I tell him I’m really curious about the chickpea pancake and would really want to know how to make that. He gives me the recipe from the recipe bible and says to go and make it. If I have questions I can ask him, but he tells me it’s very straightforward. It will only be the prep though because it needs to ferment overnight, but I at least will know how to make it.
I get chickpea flour, sparkling water, good olive oil and salt and mix it all together. Then I strain it into containers and let it ferment for tomorrow’s service. It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy……. The rest of the recipe is to fry some red onion, add garam masala, put this mixture in with the batter and cook the pancakes.
While I make the pancake batter I start to chat with chef Andrea, the pastry chef I worked with on Tuesday. He is leaving and it’s his last working day today. He is off to Asia for a month and after that, he has a visa for Australia for a year. He’s planning to travel and hopefully start a food stand in Australia. The food stand he wants to start will be close to the beach so he can take a swim in the sea during his break. He will be selling up class street food where the meat will be prepared sous vide and everything. I’m sure he will succeed in this as he is only in his twenties and already so knowledgeable. He is a great teacher with a lot of patience and very professional. I ask him if we can take a picture together before he leaves. I tell him I want to be able to say I knew him before he got famous. We ask Chef Stamos to take the picture.
I look at the clock and see it’s after 15:00 already. I need to go to my hotel and rest before I leave for ROVI with my friends. They are probably out shopping now for all kinds of foodie stuff like rose harissa and good quality tahini.