On 20th April this year (the significance of the date won’t have been lost on viewers), a new cookery show launched on Netflix.
Starring the Grammy-nominated musician Kelis Rogers – she of Milkshake fame – the show has a novel twist. As guest chefs compete to win a weekly $10,000 prize, they’re not being judged on their kitchen skills alone, but on how they make the most of one particular ingredient: cannabis.
Ahead of her appearance at cannabis conference, Prohibition Partners Live, next week, Rogers – now 40 and with six albums under her belt – is explaining how she came to serve as the lead judge on the show (Cooked with Cannabis).
‘Food has always been my passion,’ she begins – which might sound like the sort of throwaway line you’d expect to hear in a celebrity interview. On this occasion, though, your cynicism is about to be rebutted.
‘I actually trained as a Cordon Bleu chef a few years ago,’ she continues. And it’s true: back in the mid-noughties – when Milkshake was still on perma-rotation on MTV – Kelis was juggling her demanding performing schedule with studying at France’s most elite cookery school. Not bad.
After graduating – as a saucier – she formed her own sauce brand (Bounty & Full), launched a recipe channel on YouTube, and appeared in a guest role on the US version of Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen. She wasn’t lying: that’s quite the passion.
And what about cannabis? Perhaps understandably, Rogers doesn’t offer a comprehensive history of her own usage. Though ever since weed went mainstream in North America, she’s been incorporating it into her kitchen repertoire.
‘When we talk about cooking with cannabis, it can conjure up images of strong edible brownies with mind-altering properties,’ she says. ‘My ethos is more on the benefits of using small amounts of the plant to achieve a more mellow and relaxing effect.’
That’s just as well, then. My own experience with edibles – the famous ‘space cookies’ of Colorado – has taught me that these things aren’t to be underestimated. In fact, the process of cooking cannabis has long been known to exacerbate its most mind-bending effects.
This, she says, is why cannabis chefs are increasingly leaning towards ‘microdosing’ – using tiny measurements to produce a much more subtle high. ‘The aim is to come up with a recipe that delivers the relaxation benefits without the overwhelming stuff,’ she says.
Of course that’s not a concern for anyone using CBD – the non-intoxicating (and perfectly legal) cannabis compound that’s become a wellness trend over on this side of the Atlantic. Scientists insist it’s actually impossible to ‘overdose’ on CBD – at least in any way that might cause distress or harm. Relief, then, for those of us prone to getting our measurements wrong.
Despite some misconceptions, she says, it’s actually pretty simple to start cooking with cannabis – whether that be CBD-only strains or the full-blooded THC variety. ‘For beginners, the best place to start is by learning to create an amazing infused olive oil,’ she says.
Alternatively, she adds, novice cooks can add off-the-shelf CBD oils (the pre-prepared concentrates freely available in Holland and Barrett) to their oil or butter and – hey presto – you’ve got yourself a CBD-infused treat.
If that all sounds too easy, it’s worth noting that – if you want to be in the running for that $10,000 prize – you’ll need an awful lot more than olive oil. In the first season of Cooked with Cannabis, contestants have magicked up everything from weed-infused sweet corn gazpacho to cannabis-laden white truffle oil.
Rolling out gourmet chefs is certainly one way to galvanise the cannabis trend that’s already running wild in America (where recreational pot is now legal in 11 states plus Washington DC). But Rogers – the daughter of a church minister – is cautious about getting too carried away.
She points out that – for all the progress – the cannabis revolution still reveals painful truths about inequality in America.
‘Views might have changed dramatically, but not so long ago cannabis was demonised,’ she says. ‘We still have essentially innocent people in jail because of it. And what’s more, the laws against it have been a catalyst for racism and prejudice for decades.’
Indeed on the same day that Cooked with Cannabis launched, the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that black Americans were still ten times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana offences.
As is often the case with cannabis liberalisation, every milestone as to how far the movement has come seems to serve as an equally powerful reminder as to how far it still has it go. Now one of the industry’s most visible advocates, Rogers is determined not to forget that.
Will she make a difference with the more difficult stuff? Who knows. But here’s one thing to remember: Cordon Bleu graduates aren’t exactly known for throwing in the towel.
Prohibition Partners Live will be broadcast online on 22-23 June. Tickets are available here.
Make Kelis’s Shredded Beef Sliders with Root Beer Espresso BBQ Sauce
I started making these when I had a food truck at South by Southwest music and film festival in Austin, Texas, to showcase my new line of sauces. The meat is a version of ropa vieja, or old clothes,” which is braised, shredded flank steak traditional to many cuisines of the Caribbean. My mom makes ropa vieja all the time; I learned to make it from her. To utilise my barbecue sauce, I got the idea to toss ropa vieja with the sauce and then use the meat to make sliders. You can also serve the meat (with or without sauce) with rice, which is how Puerto Ricans traditionally eat ropa vieja, or use it to fill pastelitos, which is the Puerto Rican version of empanadas, or meat pies, using buttery flaky dough for the pie shells. It’s good too with rice or leftover mashed potato. You can use Bounty & Full Wild Cherry BBQ sauce for this, which is how this dish originated.
Ingredients: makes enough for 16 sliders
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 4 fresh oregano sprigs
- 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
- 2 pounds flank steak, cut into 2 segments to fit in your pan
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ¾ teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil – this is where you can use infused oil in place of standard olive oil, or if you’re using CBD oil, you can add it to your olive oil before starting to cook.
- 2 medium yellow onions, coarsely chopped
- 1 green and 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and coarsely chopped
- 15 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 120ml (½ cup) Root Beer Espresso BBQ Sauce , or use store-bought
- 16 small brioche buns, cut in half
- 120ml (½ cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- Wrap the thyme, oregano, and rosemary in a doubled piece of cheesecloth and tie it closed with kitchen string to make an herb bouquet.
- Season the meat on both sides with the salt and pepper.
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, until it’s searing hot. Add 1 piece of meat to the pot and sear it until it is deep brown on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Remove the meat from the pan and sear the second piece of meat. Leave the second one in the pot and return the first piece, too. Add the herb bouquet, onions, green and red bell peppers, garlic, paprika, cumin and enough water to just cover the meat and vegetables. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer until the meat can be gently torn apart with a fork, about 2 hours. Turn off the heat and let the meat cool to room temperature in the liquid.
- Lift the meat out of the liquid and shred it back into the pot with the cooking liquid. (I like to go at it with kitchen shears.) Remove the herb bouquet and stir in the barbecue sauce. Season with salt to taste.
- Brush the insides of the buns with the melted butter and toast the insides only under the broiler. Scoop 50-60g (¼ cup) of the barbecue beef onto each bun and serve.
Root Beer Espresso BBQ Sauce
Ingredients: makes 720ml
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus a pinch of salt (or more to taste)
- 8 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 60ml (¼ cup) distilled white vinegar
- 2 vine-ripened tomatoes, chopped
- 240ml (1 cup) canned or bottled tomato sauce
- 120ml (½ cup) yellow mustard
- 240ml (1 packed cup) light or dark brown sugar
- 180 ml (¾ cup) root beer
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon finely ground espresso
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground paprika
- 1 teaspoon chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- Combine the oil and onion in a large saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt and cook about 10 minutes, until the onion is tender and translucent, stirring often so the onion doesn’t brown.
- Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, until the garlic is fragrant, stirring constantly so it doesn’t brown.
- Add the white vinegar, increase the heat to medium-high, and cook for 1 minute, scraping up the brown bits on the bottom on the pan.
- Toss in the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they break down, about 5 minutes.
- Add the tomato sauce and mustard and bring the liquid to a simmer.
- Stir in the brown sugar and cook for about 3 minutes, until it dissolves.
- Pour in the root beer, balsamic vinegar, molasses, and vanilla. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes; you’re cooking to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes.
- Set aside to cool slightly. Transfer to the jar of a blender and puree until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan.
- Stir in the honey, along with the espresso, black pepper, paprika, chilli powder, cayenne, allspice, garlic powder, cumin, and the remaining salt. Simmer on low, covered, for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until the sauce is a deep reddish brown. Taste, and add more seasoning as needed. It will keep in the refrigerator in an airtight container for weeks.
Cooking with CBD
CBD already comes in oil and can be bought from a variety of places including most health food shops, meaning it’s much simpler to cook with. You’ll just need to add the CBD oil at the same time you add your fat (butter or oil) to a recipe.
CBD also comes in different strengths. Most CBD oils run around 250mg, while some run up to around 1000mg strength.
Check your CBD packaging and use the dosage suggested by the manufacturer, taking into account how many servings you’re making.