1. What’s your worst food memory
It was the first time I was invited to dinner outside of the extended family and it was to the home of … I wish this could be put more delicately … a culturally clueless and more than slightly bogan Anglo-Saxon family. They made a special effort, they told me, to make something that I would appreciate seeing that I was from an “eye-tie” background. They had made “spag” for dinner. This, apparently, was served in the traditional way: spaghetti from a can, served over toasted white bread that had been “buttered” with margarine, coated in White Crow tomato sauce and topped with a Kraft Cheese slice.I felt like, what I can only imagine, a vegetarian Muslim being served pork would have felt. I was shocked, horrified, culturally mortified – but I was confused over which part of me was feeling these things.
3. My signature dish is.
What day is it? Oh right! This week, raw cacao has me in a tissy. The properties espoused include antioxidants, cancer fighter and delicious in a ‘not chocolate but more coffee’ kind of way. I’ve already used it to make a braised ox cheek, trying a ‘conejo en mole’ interpretation because of it and from there will see what else I can conjure up!
According to my partner, the most dangerous thing in the kitchen is me.Apparently, I would be classified as an OH&S risk to myself if I was ever to enter a commercial kitchen … I suppose she gets this idea because i am constantly cutting myself (and have lost the top of a fingertip or two). Scalds and burns are practically an everyday occurrence for someone who forgets his skin isn’t made of silicon … but I guess the worst was second and third degree burns I got back in 1999 due to picking up the cast iron casserole dish out of the oven with loose oven mitts, causing it to slip out of them and onto the inner forearms … where my brain then decided I could bear the pain and make it to the counter top rather than allow dropping it on the floor and waste a days cooking efforts …
I’m not much of a sweet tooth. I am, however, in love with the complexities of the sensory immersion that flavours, textures and scents can create … so, for my birthday, I don’t ask for a cake – I ask to be taken out for a degustation dinner instead.
Funnily enough, is not actually a chef, per se, but a physical chemist who is the man who coined the term of scientific observation of “Molecular and Physical Gastronomy” – Monsieur Hervé This.
Porterhouse with wild mushrooms, red wine jus and heritage vegetables
- Porterhouse steak
- Wild mushroom mix (from the farmers market or a gourmet mix of forest mushrooms from the local green grocer)
- Heritage carrots
- Roma tomatoes
- Tuscan onions
- Dijon mustard
- Raw sugar
- Canola oil
- Fresh ground black pepper
- Generously salt each side of the porterhouse and allow meat to warm to room temperature
- Peel the Carrots and cut into wedges
- Slice tomatoes in half, salt the cut surface and drizzle a little oil over them
- Peel and cut the Tuscan onion in half lengthwise, lightly sprinkle with raw sugar
- Peel and roughly chop the mushrooms
- Place a knob of butter in a mall pan and gently sauté the mushrooms
- Brush off excess salt from the meat and coat each side with oil
- Meanwhile, place a large fry pan on stove and heat until a drop of water dropped on the surface will do the “sizzle dance”
- Place the meat onto the pan and sear for a few minutes before turning
- In a small bowl mix two parts Shiraz to one part dijon mustard and cracked pepper to taste
- Turn the meat over and add the carrots, onion and tomatoes to the periphery of the pan
- Pour the mushrooms over the meat followed by the Shiraz
- Place the loaded pan into the oven for 15 minutes
- Remove the meat and set aside to rest
- Return the pan to the oven for an additional ten minutes to finish and glaze vegetables
- Remove the pan from the oven and return to stove
- Remove vegetables from the pan and reduce the remaining liquid until thick and syrup like.
- Place the mushroom topped meat on plate surrounded by the reds and purples of the vegetables and pour the jus around the edge of the plate.
- Try and slow down and savour each bite – it’s difficult, but it can be done.
I recently destroyed my fancy little porcelain mortar and pestle, which was by far and away my favourite thing to pound and mix herbs and spices. Before I was gifted an old stone bowl to replace it, I discovered that my little coffee bean grinder has become my favourite tool to blend ingredients, so much so that i have even begun preparing huge batches of mixes on the weekends to keep aside for easy ‘ready to use’ convenience during the week.
I was thinking about this for some time, and in the end, the thing I decided upon was not some extravagant multiday preparatory meal to extend the stay of execution … I’d honestly would like an antipasto come ploughman’s lunch mix.Just good, fresh, quality foods. Oh, and a bottle of Grappa.
Nothing beats good old fashioned elbow grease … Except elbow grease with extra swearing!
I’m no master chef …
- Good friends and company : My constant penchant for taking on far more projects than i have time to complete is often the very reason why I don’t make use of this as often as I could/should, but I would still not cope if it wasn’t there.
- A spirit of exploration and adventure: people often mistake this as a need to travel, but I believe that fundamentally its about the willingness to expand ones mind, to explore and cross the borders in all aspects of our lives and to strive to keep learning new things every day.
- Access to fresh quality produce : we have some of the best farm produce in the world here, and with even a little effort, it is not difficult to source practically all manners of wonderful ingredients which without, it is practically impossible to make great meals. Support your farmers people!
- The internets : seriously, if I could have my brain jacked in permanently I very well might!
- A working kitchen. Enough said.
- Larousse Gastronomique : The one encyclopedia every cook should have – covering everything from cooking techniques to ingredients, and recipes to equipment, food histories, and culinary biographies – worth it’s hefty weight in spices.
- The Flavour Thesaurus and/or The Flavor Bible : Both books tackle the concepts of “what goes with what?” Each explores the concepts from different directions and whilst I have a certain bias towards the first, the latter is also a worthy addition to the shelf.
- Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking & Building a Meal both by Hervé This : To get an understanding of how certain processes alter the very molecules of foods to transform them and even an insight into the very properties that tickle our senses and stimulate our appetites.
- Wild Weed Pie – A Lifetime of Recipes by Janni Kyritsis : while it is out of print now, if you see it in a second hand store or down at Books for Cooks (in Fitzroy) snatch a copy! When a Greek migrant electrician came to Australia and found it severely lacking in the flavours, customs and joy of Mediterranean cooking, he had to teach a local cook how to make something because he wanted to see it on the menu. From there, he became one of the catalysts who changed the food scene of Australia in the early eighties. His recipes are wonderful with a mix of restuarant creations and peasant food which has put on its best Sunday garnishes.
- Nose to Tail Eating : A Kind of British Cooking by Fergus Henderson : Once upon a time, the brittish chefs were actually renowned for their cooking – the now almost derogatory call of the British as “roast beef” by the French was once high praise for their skills in roasting and grilling skills that were sought and taught in courts across Europe. From his research into this once glorious gastronomic past, Fergus has created a collection of recipes, celebrating, as the title implies, the almost forgotten high sophistication with peasant roughness of this old style thrifty rural British tradition of making a delicious virtue out of using every part of the animal.