Inspirations and anniversaries

Then, a little inspiration stikes, and…

Blue-Eye Trevalla, porcini broth, kohlrabi and amaranth salad with mustard lemon dressing, dill, tarragon

The porcini works well with the Trevalla, and the tarragon works particularly well with everything.

Braised pork ribs, cauliflower cream, Port-poached prunes, orange zest

A slight modification of this dish, where the pork is the rib meat, the cream uses sour cream, and the prunes are poached in Port-style wine. I do like the rib meat with it.

Oak-smoked lamb, pickled cucumber, roast potato discs, griddled spring onion, oregano purée, red wine jus

Smoky, meaty, browned/Maillard, green, herbal never fails.

Posted in Cauliflower, Cucumber, Fish, Greens, Lamb, Mushroom, Onion, Pork, Potato, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hiatus back to simplicity

And sometimes you need a hiatus, to enjoy simplicity, executed well…

Like infusing lamb burgers (ground Australian lamb shoulder has enough fat and flavour – no need for anything else!) over aromatic flames of Bay Laurel…

Lamb burgers infused with flamed Bay Laurel branches

Especially if they’re served with slow fried onion or home-made mayonnaise…

Very slow fried onion

Or making bacon from scratch…

Frying home made bacon

Or simply roasting a chicken (stuffed with lemon, butter and herbs; best roasted at 180°C for 1 hour covered, then another 30 mins to crisp the skin)…

Roast chicken, roast potato, steamed brocolli

Or a simple delicious summer salad of odds and ends…

Salad of grilled capsicum (bell pepper), cucumber, goat cheese, hard boiled egg, herbs

Or Baba ganoush, with just the right amount of smokiness, garlic, olive oil, tahini, and toasted sesame seeds…

Baba ganoush

Or… before a need for more inspiration…

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The Brussels sprout

In 2014-2015 I conquered my last vegetable hurdle, the Brussels sprout. I can now say I enjoy eating every vegetable I know, provided it’s cooked appropriately.

In the case of the Brussels sprout, “cooked appropriately” means cooking them in such a way that the sulphides don’t take center stage (as for cauliflower, cabbage, turnip…). In other words, don’t overcook them, or they’ll stink.

My personal epiphany with the Brussels sprout occurred in late 2014 at Hungry Duck restaurant (Berry, NSW, Australia). I’m not sure exactly what the chef did – it invariably involved char frying/grilling the sprouts with bacon, but I suspect a stock was also involved at some point.

In the winter of 2015, I’ve replicated the treatment, and thus been loving the Brussels Sprout – they can be surprisingly sweet when treated well.

Trim, cut in half, blanche in boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes, then briefly pan fry in oil/bacon fat on high heat. Some char is desirable.

The version making the rounds these days invariably includes bacon, but the above approach works just as well for their incorporation in any dish.

Brussels sprouts and bacon

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“Paleo” Scotch Egg

Almond meal works surprisingly well as a flour dusting/batter substitute.

Scotch Egg: quail egg, sausage meat, almond meal. Fried in coconut oil.

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MGM Dinner, January 2015

And if your sour chef-to-be happens to be essentially unavailable for cooking (even if available for dinner), reduce the number of diners, go a little more casual, and remain focussed on execution.

Saltimbocca ingredients

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GM Menu: Autumn 2014

In the throes of the autumn of 2014 (May), I came to the primary realisation that doing seven courses for nine people felt like significantly more time in the kitchen than I would prefer.

The larger group of people also meant less opportunity to discuss the food (and wine) with guests, and I felt that presentation had been sacrificed slightly for required speed – nine plates take time to plate-up by only one person.

I suppose 9 people × 7 courses plus 1 amuse (or more accurately put, 23 or so components served to 9 people over 8 courses) is the point where assistance in the kitchen is required so that I don’t compromise on quality (as I’m dining too). For such an event, a fellow-dining ‘sous chef‘, to assist with plating, is probably the way to go.

However, I also realised that a smaller group (five or six diners rather than seven) remains my preference.

Smoked trout wearing choux

Pumpkin, blue cheese and walnut ravioli; crispy sage

Quail, smoked chestnuts, melted leeks, thyme

Chicken liver pâté, caramelised onions, toasted brioche

Pheasant roulade; onion, pistachio and pancetta stuffing; sauerkraut; game jus

Braised Chinese-style pork belly, Szechuan pepper toffee, apple and fennel salad

Cheese, poached pear, croutons, spiced almonds

Chocolate semifreddo, hazelnut fudge

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Christmas Menu 2013

Crab salad, cucumber jelly

Sour cream and cold crab.

Chicken liver paté, raspberries, caramelised onion, toast

Barramundi, asparagus, lemon butter, candied lemon and lime zest

Grilled chicken, glutinous rice, kale, Indonesian-style jus

Lamb fillet, pumpkin mash, candied eggplant/aubergine, grilled pepper/capsicum, griddled spring onion, Kalamata olives, balsamic jus

Perfect with Pierre Gaillard Saint Joseph 2011.

Crottin de Chavignol, Comté, croutons, cinnamon sugared almonds, Christmas relish

Lavender and orange blossom honey icecream, pomegranate seeds, toffee pistachios, pomegranate molasses

The concept was to have this with fresh figs (and rosemary and honey icecream), but it was the week or two between regional fig seasons.

Posted in Apple, Bell pepper/capsicum, Cheese, Chicken, Dessert, Eggplant, Fish, Fruit, Icecream, Lettuce, Menu, Nuts, Onion, Pumpkin, Salad, Shellfish, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ode to MX

Genuine Greek: Fasolakia, Greek feta, Greek-style toast, Greek basil

There is nothing like learning from those who have been steeped in a regional tradition.

The real food of the people is indeed rustic (what ‘everyday’ food isn’t?). It’s open to invariable interpretation (the people in that village make it differently to the people in that village, and even the people in that family make it differently to the people in that family…). It’s traditional, delicious; and perhaps, ultimately, the most rewarding food of all – and that’s saying something!

: Onions fried in plenty of Greek extra virgin olive oil. Deseeded and deskinned fresh tomato and passata are then added, along with garlic and (taditionally) dill (although I use fennel fronds in the absence of the former). Boiled until the beans become tender.

: The ideal for me is a blend ewes and goats milk, with moderate saltiness, good acid-bite, a little creaminess, and a little flavour reminiscent of the belly fur of the goat!

Greek-style toast
: Toasted white bread (baguette/pain de campagne), spinkled with dried oregano and salt, and drizzled with Greek extra virgin olive oil (definitely use a Greek EVOO – it’s fruitier and richer tasting).

Greek basil
: Not traditional, but works surprisingly well with fasolakia.

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Spring GM Menu

Amuse for Sparkler

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Plain and Vegemite gougère

Vegemite and cheese just works as a combo, although I think most diners believed the plain gougère were superior.

Surf, Turf ‘n’ Garden

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Barramundi, bacon, peas, asparagus, lemon butter

Barramundi and bacon sandwiched together with transglutaminase (“meat glue”) and baked (slightly over-baked in this case). The lemon butter includes ultra-fine shavings of lemon zest to give freshness and lift.


(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Watermelon steak, feta, mint

Slow baked watermelon in Sherry and butter, akin to this rendition. The mint can be overpowering, but otherwise an interesting interlude. There was much discussion on a potential wine matching here, and we concluded that a rosé or a rosé Champagne might be a suitable match.

Braised pork belly, galangal-scented salad, Szechuan pepper toffee

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Braised pork belly, galangal-scented salad, Szechuan pepper toffee

Voted the favourite dish of the menu by the diners. The pork belly is braised slowly with Chinese flavours (soy sauce, rice wine, garlic, ginger, spring onion, brown sugar). The concept behind the salad was that the diner would experience the ethereal aromatic lift of galangal. Unfortunately, IMO, galangal is too hot-spicy to achieve this aromatically without burning and overpowering the diner’s palate. In the end, the galangal was simmered with mirin, and sugar added, to take the edge off the heat. Flavour-wise, this worked successfully, although the resulting salad dressing was perhaps a little too sweet.
Nevertheless, this is a dish I am happy with: the Szechuan pepper adds spice aromatics, the salad of shaved capsicum (bell peppers), carrot and fennel add colour and crunch, and both compliment the tender sweet-savoury pork belly and (braising liquid) reduction-sauce. This style of dish harks back to the days when I focused heavily on flavour impact.

Lamb fillet, eggplant purée, mint salad, rosemary lamb jus

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Lamb fillet, eggplant purée, mint salad, rosemary lamb jus

I prefer fillet to backstrap (eye of loin) for this dish, and it is ideally BBQed. The eggplant is baked then flame-charred for a smoky flavour before it is puréed. A little yoghurt is then added and it is reduced and seasoned. I prefer baby garden mint (Mentha sachalinensis) leaves, but when caterpillars decimate…

Manchego, Comté/St Agur, poached pear, croutons, spiced walnut

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Manchego, Comté/St Agur, poached pear, croutons, spiced walnuts

My standard kind of cheese course – you might call it a signature dish.

Lavender icecream, Manuka honey, scorched almonds

(Photo ©Cam Wheeler)

Lavender icecream, Manuka honey, scorched almonds

Salted Caramel and Peanut Truffles

A modification of David Everitt-Matthias’ Salted Caramel and Peanut Truffles (see Beyond Essence, 2013) – I simply omit the layer of chopped peanuts that surrounds the salted peanut caramel core, instead rolling the salted peanut caramel core in milk chocolate before a final cocoa powder dusting. But I still wonder, do we ever truly appreciate the truffle after so many preceding dishes?

Posted in Asparagus, Bell pepper/capsicum, Canapé/Hors d'œuvre, Cheese, Chocolate, Dessert, Eggplant, Fish, Icecream, Lamb, Menu, Molecular gastronomy, Pork, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘The Sea’

Like so many dishes, this is at the concept phase of its evolution and I’m not sure it will make it any further – at least, if it does, it will seem like a completely different creature to its ancestry.

'The Sea': prawn noodle, nori, prawn cracker sand, poached oyster, oyster foam

These are Wylie Dufresne-style shrimp (prawn) noodles: ‘noodles’ made purely with puréed prawn and transglutaminase (‘meat glue’), extruded into a waterbath at 74°C.

The oyster foam is made with puréed oysters, a little milk and lecithin; and the oysters are poached in that ‘sauce’.

The concept is, I hope, self evident; and the dish certainly is evocative of the sea. But the ‘noodle’ needs more flavour, and the presentation needs more beach, it generally needs more… impact.

Posted in Shellfish, Shrimp, Uncategorized | Leave a comment