ASO in the Kitchen: Joshua Oates

15 Sep 2020
  • Musician Spotlight
by Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
ASO in the Kitchen: Joshua Oates

Joshua Oates grew up in a cooking family and fondly recalls baking with his grandmas. His tips for the kitchen are “experiment, taste and have fun!” He loves to make a good pavlova and his friends often request he cooks his green chicken curry. Lucky for us, he’s shared his recipe with us for his curry paste.

Who or what inspired your love of cooking and sharing your goodies with the orchestra?
It’s always been something I loved to do and share, I remember baking with both my grandmas just before Christmases (probably when mum and dad were still at work) and that really took off. Giving Christmas food gifts was always my favourite thing.

People often find solace in cooking and eating. Is that the case for you, and do you find yourself baking more whilst we were in COVID-19 isolation?
Most definitely! I’ve tried hard not to get too much into the baking because I have no self-restraint, and when I can’t share it, I eat it all! I have been learning how to tame a sourdough though!

What do you love about cooking?
It’s terrible but I’d have to say the eating part! I came across this Nigella quote the other day when looking at her pumpkin lasagne recipe and I could relate 😂

“One of the questions I am asked most often is how do I come up with recipes? The answer is simple: greed. When I’m not eating, I’m thinking about what I might want to eat, and the notion of pumpkin lasagne came into my head when speculo-salivating, and it found its way from my head to my kitchen to my stomach with gratifying ease.”

Is there cooking rivalry in the orchestra? Who would be the head chef and why?
I haven’t been around long enough! But one of my earliest memories of playing as a casual in ASO (could have even been observing a rehearsal for the traineeship!) was a whole mandarin cake that Lachy Bramble made and it was fantastic!

Describe your last supper. What would be on the menu and who would be at the dinner table?
Somehow a meal that had chocolate in every course! With..? It’s too hard to narrow down.

What music do you like to listen to when you are cooking up a storm in the kitchen?
It depends on my mood. If I’m hunkering down for the long hall sometimes I love to put on something long and epic, like a full opera, or a Mahler symphony. Or if I’m looking for some quick fun motivation, something like Prokofiev Classical Symphony always gives me some energy. Or I love cheesy musicals and show tunes.

What is your favourite cuisine?
I can’t choose! I do have a soft spot for pasta and I love how versatile it is, or Christmas cooking! I love the whole storyline/atmosphere of Christmas and the food that’s at the centre of it.

What is your favourite South Australian restaurant or café?
I’m not one to dine out often…. though I’ve had some great food at Cliché in North Adelaide.

Name your favourite takeaway?
If I had to choose one I’d say probably Thai because I haven’t managed to get the hang of cooking good Thai myself.

Sweet or savoury?
Sweet every time!

Banana Cake/Bread

I can remember someone from every part of our family making this yummy family recipe, parents, aunties, grandparents and cousins on both sides of the family! The standard recipe is a slightly tangy (thanks to the sour milk) banana cake recipe, that I usually put in a loaf tin and call it ‘bread’ to make me feel less guilty about eating cake! I sour the milk with a bit of lemon juice and use ripe/overripe bananas for sweetness. You can decrease the sugar if you have ripe enough bananas, and if your bananas are overripe and you’re not ready to use them, it works well with defrosted frozen bananas too. I decided during the COVID shutdown that I’d take the approach of my overnight oats for breakfast and try to get some sweetness from dates and extra ripe bananas we had in the freezer.

2 cups self-raising flour                 
¼ cup milk (soured with lemon juice)                     
2 eggs                                                  
3 bananas                                           
1 cup sugar                                        
½ cup (≈115g) butter                                     
1tsp vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to moderate (about 180°C) and line or grease a medium loaf tin. Mine is 23.5cm x 13.5cm
Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (I use a food processor so the bananas blend well later). Add the vanilla then eggs until combined, then add the milk and bananas (defrosted if frozen).
Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl (I never used to sift it, but when you do the cake is fluffier in the middle and has a crispier crust), then mix in the wet ingredients, and any extra things you want to put in, nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, chocolate-coated dried fruit!
Pour the cake into the tin and cook for about 40 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer comes out clean.Sugar-free alternative; I took out the sugar completely and replaced it directly in the recipe with about 6 chopped up Medjool dates, and used super ripe bananas that had been frozen. It didn’t combine particularly well with the butter, but it ended up ok!

Curry Pastes

I’ve always loved to make curries or any sort of food with fresh paste and whole spices etc. I love the smell of all those aromatics, it’s something I associate with opening the pantry at mum and dad’s house. So when I had to do a FODMAP diet and discovered that (among a few other things) onion and garlic don’t sit well with me, it wasn’t such a nightmare to not use premade spice mixes, curry pastes or condiments. With a lot of suggestions from family or friends that also love cooking I found some pretty awesome substitutes that end up giving just as good (if maybe different) results! I love to make pastes for gifts too, curry pastes or pesto! I tend to take any paste or spice mix recipe I can find and just substitute what I need, my go-to accessible ones are from Jamie Oliver, and I’ll include my slightly more involved green curry paste!

Onion substitutes: 
– Anything green in the family, so the tops of spring onions work well in pastes, or leeks etc.
Garlic substitutes:
Again anything green in the family. My aunty discovered garlic shoots from an Asian grocer and they work really well, a slightly fresher garlic flavour rather than rich but that’s great for fresh curry pastes/stir-fries etc. 
– Garlic infused oil is a lifesaver, it packs the big garlic punch you don’t necessarily get from garlic shoots

Green Curry Paste

1 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tbsp cumin seeds
½ tsp peppercorns
1 ½ galangal (or I use ginger)
3-4 tbsp sliced lemongrass
1 tsp fish sauce
½ bunch coriander roots and stems
¼ cup garlic (shoots and a splash of garlic oil)
1 Kaffir Lime (we luckily have a tree but you don’t absolutely need it!)
1 Lime (juice and zest if you want)
1 tbsp salt
½ cup shallots (spring onion tops)
10-15 Green Thai Chili Peppers (I don’t go so hard, I use about 3 green & 1 red)

Officially this should all be done in a mortar and pestle but I’m lazy and use a food processor, and it’s ok if you don’t mind a textured paste! I’ve done countless versions of this recipe, it’s pretty forgiving and I just add or take things depending on what I can get or what flavours I feel like! A bit of sesame, for example, can be a nice addition.

  1. Toast the whole spices until fragrant and browned, you’ll hear them popping when they’re ready. Then allow them to cool so they’ll grind up nicely.
  2. Roughly peel and chop the ginger and lemongrass, coriander, garlic, shallots and chillies. Zest the lime(s) and put the fish sauce by the food processor.
  3. Whiz the whole spices until they resemble a sort of powder. Next, add the rest and whiz until it’s a paste! Add more oil or water even if you feel like it’s not quite coming together.
  4. Store in sterilised jars, in the fridge with a bit of extra oil. Alternatively, I like to make a big batch in one go and store it flat in snaplock bags in the freezer so I can break off chunks as I need them.

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