19 Jun CHEF CRAIG CORMACK – would lay his head on a block…. OF SALT!
Have you ever wondered what salt blocks are used for in cooking? Well, a couple of years ago we met Chef Craig Cormack who happened to be an expert in this area. He asked to use one of our pizza ovens to heat up his salt blocks. I must admit I was a bit confused, what on earth do you use a salt block for? I was quickly introduced to this wonderful way of cooking. It’s as easy as heating up the pizza oven, putting a salt block on the stainless steel grid, laying a beautifully marinated piece of fish or beef on the hot salt block and letting the flavours infuse into the food. The salt block cooks the fish or meat to perfection in minutes. However, let me not digress from the purpose of this post which is to introduce you to Craig Cormack, an ambitious, creative, hardworking, and very generous person, who has been an absolute pleasure to know. Here is Craig and his SALT STORY.
Who is Craig the professional?
I have been in the industry for the past 28 years! For the last 11 years I have run my own bespoke private chef business which has 6 tiers to it. These include; Home dining; Food truck (Die Wors Rol); Salt label with Fleur du Cap; Up-market catering business; Up-market Canteen in a business park, and Consultancy to various companies in the Hospitality sector.
How did your interest in SALT blocks come about?
I managed to get my hands on rock salt blocks from a company bringing these blocks into South Africa. I began to play around, firstly with the process of curing fish on salt blocks and then to cooking breakfast on them in the oven at 260c. I then discovered using the salt blocks on a fire, cooking with fish, meat and vegetables at 500c. This incredible product, which consists of 8 minerals, has afforded me great opportunity to showcase salt as a whole and has turned out to be the greater part of my business.
Where has SALT taken you?
Wow, it’s been a 7 year journey! What started as a hobby and a demonstration led to a 6 course tasting concept paired with wine from the amazing Fleur du Cap’s Unfiltered range, and to a tasting experience at the Bergkelder cellar in Stellenbosch. The great relationship with Fleur du Cap has allowed me to tell the story of salt and wine pairing with some really amazing wines all over South Africa. I’ve been able to tell the salt story through hands on classes, demonstrations, pairings at wine shows and trips abroad. Last year I visited The UK, Amsterdam and Sweden, hosting press tables and dinners in top restaurants to show case the pairing capabilities of this amazing mineral and wine. 2016 holds another trip abroad with the Brand.
How does SALT make you unique in your industry?
What makes this unique is that no one has focused on salt and all it has to offer as a day to day product. It has never been taken seriously and I now find myself in a situation where I am the first chef in the world to pair food, wine and salt. We will be the first wine label to do this globally. I am the leading authority in South Africa utilizing the techniques and terroir styles in interactive dinners, taking guests on an incredible journey of flavour and knowledge. I am in the process of shooting a pilot cooking show, a 13 part series using SALT, in the coming months.
Who is Craig when he is not the chef?
I am a family man, I have a wife – Heather, and a daughter Jenna – and live in Somerset West. I love the winelands, I’m a big wine enthusiast and connoisseur. I am an avid cyclist but due to work constraints, cycling can be on the back burner from time to time. I have 130 salts in my collection. My passion for salt has got me interested in wanting to take things to a whole new level. From this a telly series is being born. Watch this space.
I do hope your appetite has been whet for this exciting way of bringing flavour and goodness into your food. If you would like to know more about salt, the benefits, and how to pair it with food and wine, pop on over to Craig’s website and begin your own SALT JOURNEY. Of course I wouldn’t just leave you hanging without sharing one of Craig’s amazing SALT BLOCK RECIPES…. Enjoy!
RECIPE – Breakfast on a Himalayan Salt block
3 rashers bacon
½ a Tomato
1 meduim mushroom
60 gr Steak
4 thick rings of onions
30 ml olive oil
salt and pepper
20* 20* 3 Himalayan salt block, this also serves as your plate to eat on
micro greens for garnish
Prepare the Earthfire Pizza Oven, I like to use wood, but coals are preferable, I allow some flames and place the block to heat up on those for about 20 -30minutes, don’t be scared to have some flames.
You can either leave the salt block in the oven or take it off to cook your ingredients.
If you are going to take it off, it is important to have all your preparations ready with equipment and cutlery etc, as the block has a 5-8 minutes optimum cooking once you remove it from the oven. Once the block is nice and hot, and you are ready, remove it and place on a linen napkin on a plate or wooden board.
Place the egg rings on the block, drizzle olive oil all over the block so that the food doesn’t stick, add the 60 gr steak, tomato, brown mushroom, and cook for a minute.
Add the eggs, bacon and onions, allow to cook, this should take 6minutes and you will have breakfast ready – no seasoning needed. Drizzle with olive oil, and garnish with micro greens.