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Squid, Cucumber, Peas and Mint

Diana Chan, our Gourmet Guest for November, took home the MasterChef crown in 2017, winning an army of fans who loved her style, passion and honesty - not just in her cooking!

A trained accountant, Diana was born in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and loved cooking from a young age. At 19, she moved to Melbourne and developed her own cooking style, which was influenced by her mother’s fresh, herb-driven approach and her father’s love of seafood. Diana currently works with children through food education via the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program. Diana is also a Delicious Magazine contributor and will have her first recipe featured in the November 2017 issue.

On Thursday 23 November Diana demonstrated how to make an eye-catching meal of squid, cucumber, peas and mint, lovely and fresh for a warm spring evening. Check out our chat with Diana, download the recipe card or view the recipe below.

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It’s been a big year for you. What have you been up to since winning MasterChef?

I have been doing a lot of media and live appearances both here in Australia and overseas. I have also been doing a lot of events and have a few bigger projects in the pipeline. I'm also working towards opening a food concept at some point next year.

How has MasterChef changed your approach to food?
MasterChef has given me the opportunity to challenge myself and become more creative with the way I cook and I tend to look at ingredients differently now. I cook more using the nose to tail approach and I am way more creative with my cooking style than ever before. I also know a lot more shortcuts to doing things in the kitchen.

What was your favourite MasterChef challenge? What was your least?
My favourite MasterChef challenge was the semifinals cook. We had to design a two course menu for 25 guests and I knew exactly what I wanted to cook when I planned the dish and I loved the adrenaline of service. My least favourite challenge would have to be Round 3 of the grand finale. I prefer cooking freestyle and using my own creativity rather than following someone else's recipe but I loved the dish we cooked and it was a great challenge.

What are you making for your Gourmet Guest demo?
I'm recreating my squid, peas and mint dish from the Top 5 challenge. I'm going to show you some easy techniques that can elevate your dish from something simple to sophisticated.

What advice would you give home cooks wanting to create big, fresh flavour – without the calories – at home?
Understanding ingredients is the key here. Knowing ingredients such as herbs and spices can really boost flavours without the extra calories, and also makes sure you season your food properly.

What are your favourite ingredients to use in spring?
My favourite are peas, asparagus and beans. These green veggies are at their peak in Spring. Also lots of citrus such as oranges, mandarins, lemons and tangelos.

You loved your time in Tokyo during the MasterChef competition – what inspiration did you bring home with you? What are you recreating?
I loved Tokyo and the ingredients that were available there. I loved how the Japanese were masters of one thing. Each restaurant there specialised in one thing and there were great at it and I've been inspired by their approach to food and the clarity in each dish. I've learned to not put too much on the plate, to keep it simple and let the ingredients speak. 

What are three ingredients you can’t live without?
Salt, chillies and lemon

When you go home, what do you ask your parents to cook? 
I will get my mum to cook me some traditional Nyonya dishes like Hong Bak and Kiam Chai Ak and will get my dad to cook his grilled BBQ fish or claypot chicken rice.

What is one technique all home cooks should master, but might be afraid to try? And what tips can you give them?
I think one basic technique all home cooks should master is how to use the whole produce. For example, using the chicken wings to make a stock or sauce, then roasting the chicken on the crown and using the carcass to make a broth after. Also to cook the fish whole. I think it tastes a lot better and once you figure out the timings, it is actually a lot easier and more economical. Another tip would be to use herbs and how to store them so you don't waste them. Freeze any extra paste or pesto in the freezer so you have them for next time.



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