Archive for October, 2010

Diary of time in Melbourne- entry no. 3

After a week at Hellenic Republic, this week I was back at The Press Club. I also got to spend two days learning how cheese was made and distributed, which really is fascinating!

I was back on the larder section of Press Club, and the honeymoon period was definitely over. I have done a few shifts now, and need to start standing on my own two feet. I also need to be  a valuable member of a team rather than asking questions every five seconds! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still here to learn, but I now need to start being responsible for the section I’m on.

I spent Wednesday at a cheese retailer and small scale producer, La Latteria. They make their own fresh cheese and yoghurt on site, and are able to do so every day to ensure the products customers are buying are fresh. I was rather excited at the prospect of making my own mozzarella, and I wasn’t disappointed. For those who are interested in how it is made, read on. If not, feel free to skip ahead!

The milk is pasteurised by heating it to 72C for 15 seconds. Then at 38C a starter culture is added (which can be as simple as citric acid) to start fermenting the milk. Traditionally, rennet (cow stomach lining) is added to coagulate the milk, but now in Australia up to 80% of cheesemakers use non-animal rennet (a misnomer really as non-animal rennet isn’t rennet) which are enzymes derrived in a lab. The coagulated milk which is set almost like a jelly, is then cut with a series of parallel wires, separating the curds (solids) and whey (liquids). The smaller the curds, the more whey is released. Therefore, for a moist cheese the curds may be cut the size of golf balls, and for hard cheese the whey is cut more to the size of a pea.

The curd is drained from the whey, and is used to make cheese. The whey is used to make ricotta by firstly adding around 1% salt and 10% milk and then bringing to a high heat. Flakes of ricotta form in the water, and are removed with a spider/slotted spoon as it rises to the surface. As the fat is mostly in the curds, ricotta is naturally low fat and protein-rich. Alternatively the whey is fed back to animals or disposed of.

To make mozzarella, the curds are mixed in a bowl with salt. At this stage the curds resemble a bowl of crumbled feta. Hot water is then poured over the curds where they melt into a smooth, slightly stretchy mass.  The curds are then stretched and worked to make the cheese more elastic.

The water is then replaced with more hot water (hand-burning hot) and the cheese is shaped into balls by hand. Once the desired shape has been achieved, the mozzarella is dropped into cold water to set the shape. I was to eager to see how my first few turned out and touched them before they set, leaving finger marks in my otherwise smooth ball!

La Latteria make small batches of mozzarella fresh every day, so it’s nice to know that what you’re buying is fresh. I had a whale of a time playing around with the stretchy cheese, forming it into somewhat egg shaped balls (it’s not as easy as it looks to get spheres) as well as making ricotta and yoghurt.

On Thursday I was at Calender Cheese, a cheese distribution company started by Will Studd. I had a really interesting day, learning all about different varieties, how they get it from a producer to a restaurant/retailer, and of course I ate a fair bit of cheese! I was given the opportunity to cut big wheels of parmesan and gruyere cheese, among others. I was a little nervous as the wheels are very expensive and after a brief demonstration I was handed the ropes (well, the wires really) and portioned the 36kg wheels into 2kg wedges.

In my first diary entry I mentioned that I was freezing at the fishmonger, I made sure not to make that mistake again so I wore an outfit suitable for a skiing holiday to battle through the constant 2 degree temperature.

Both days I managed to bring home quite a bit of cheese which I was very grateful for. I decided to make myself a really simple salad with one of the buffalo mozzarella I acquired

Pickled beetroot and mozzarella salad:                                                                    (serves 2)

2 medium beetroot

2 oranges, segmented

large handful rocket

1 buffalo mozzarella

6-10 slices black pig prosciutto

hazelnuts, roasted and skinned

pickling liquid:

150ml olive oil

1 star anise

1 T coriander seeds

1 T fennel seeds

100ml white wine vinegar

Method:

Preheat oven to 165C. Wrap beetroot in foil and put on a tray on top of a little pile of rock salt (to absorb any moisture from the beetroot during cooking). Roast for 1 hour, allow to cool slightly, then rub the beetroot to remove skin (it’s a good idea to wear gloves). Cut into wedges.

Combine oil and spices in a small saucepan and infuse over a low heat. Add vinegar, then beetroot wedges. Sit beetroot in liquid until cool. Remove with a slotted spoon.

Lay prosciutto on a tray and stick it under a grill until crisp.

To serve, tear the mozzarella in half. Chuck everything else on the plate and drizzle with a good olive oil and salt. I don’t think it needs a vinaigrette as the beetroot and orange both have acidity.

Some lessons learned this week:

  • Take your time to be organised and do every job right the first time. Do the little things right: prep everything before you start cooking, keep your knives sharp so it doesn’t take twice as long to get a worse result. Sharp knives are also safer.
  • It is believed that cheese was accidentally invented by nomads transporting milk in a cows stomach (they didn’t have milk cartons hundreds of years ago apparently) and the rennet in the stomach set the cheese. Like charcuterie for meat, cheese was once used as a way of preserving milk. Not really a lesson learned, more a short anecdote.
  • The wait staff at restaurants are your friends. Help them out by making them a dish they love, and you’ll notice a difference in the amount of coffees made for you. (and the odd dessert order may come your way!)
  • There’s no better way of finding all the little cuts and nicks on your hands than juicing lemons.

More from me next week guys! If there are any suggestions about how I could improve what I am blogging about at the moment I would love to hear them!

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Diary of my time in Melbourne- entry no. 2

I had a bit of an unusual start to this week, with Sunday being the staff party for the Press Club group. It was a great chance to meet the people I would be working with in the future from Hellenic and Maha. As well as the party at night, there was also a soccer tournament to raise money for the Starlight Foundation between a whole bunch of restaurants including: The Press Club group, Vue de Monde, Fenix, European, Atlantic Group, Cecconi’s, Coda, La Chien, Le Petit Gateu, Sarti, Sette Bello, Maze, and The Point.

The Press Club managed to not only make it to the grand final but win 1-0 which was great to watch! The day also had a “Chef vs Celebrity” match, where George played for the chef team and I played for the celebrity team. I think it should have been the other way around, George is the celebrity! The score was locked at 1-1 after the final whistle and we ended up in a penalty shoot-out. The chefs team ended up winning, but for the record I will mention that George hit the cross bar with his penalty, and I managed to sneak mine in the back of the net.

Over all it was a great day for a great charity, so it was a win-win.

I arrived at Hellenic Republic Monday morning, where I met Shaun, the chef who I would be working on the larder with.

Callum: “Hey Shaun, I hear this place gets pretty busy?”

Shaun: “How many covers [customers] did you do at the Press Club Saturday night?”

Callum: “I think about 140.”

Shaun: “We did 260.”

Callum: (Stomach sinks a little) “I see…”

The Press Club and Hellenic Republic are very different restaurants. The Press Club is modern Greek really pushing the boundaries, where foodies venture for a culinary adventure, while Hellenic is more the sort of place  you would take your family for more traditional Greek cuisine. I would best describe Hellenic as like going to your mum’s place. It’s as though the staff look at the customers and think “You’re nothing but skin and bone! Eat! Eat!”

My first job was to confit potatoes for the octopus salad. As I was carrying the tray brimming with potatoes, oil, garlic, some hard herbs and seasoning, I managed to spill some oil on the floor.

Shaun: “Throw some salt onto it until you get a chance to get the mop.”

Callum: “What?”

Shaun: “It will stop people slipping when they walk over it.”

So there I was, seasoning the floor with a salt-raining action that George would have been proud of. Sure, I felt like a goose, but safe to say no-one slipped over (having said that, I don’t think anyone actually walked over it either).

The restaurant only does a dinner service Monday to Thursday so we prepped all day for the nightly onslaught. Service wasn’t as crazy as I had imagined, but then again it was a Monday night. I must admit though not being able to speak Greek makes it somewhat difficult to understand what the heck is going on during service. “Marooli Salata, 7 covers!” What?

My favourite dish on my section would have to be the pickled octopus, fennel and confit potato salad. Delicious. Speaking of which, at the end of every night whatever greek donuts (Loukamathes) are left over are offered to the staff as they have to be eaten on the night. I am so addicted to these little donuts served with crushed walnuts and honey. After this week I must never be allowed back to Hellenic. Not while those donuts are on the menu!

The rest of the week did get continually busier, but I became more comfortable with my role and the dishes I was cooking so I managed to keep up. I spent the first four days on the larder, and spent my fifth day on the pastry section. This was great fun, making a panna cotta special among the other regular desserts. Having a massive sweet tooth, I was like a kid in a candy shop. But after spending a day trying everything I was making I was feeling a little worse for wear! I might have to refrain myself a little bit in future pastry shifts!

Loukamathes (Greek Donuts):

300g plain flour

20g dried yeast

1/2 tsp salt

375g warm water (42 degrees)

Method:

Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well. Gradually add the water to the middle of the well, incorporating with a whisk to avoid a lumpy batter. Cover with cling film and set aside to prove in a warm place.

Preheat a deep fryer to 170C. Once the dough has doubled, grab a handful of the mixture and using your hand like a piping bag, drop a small handful of batter into the hot oil. Repeat until fryer is fairly full. Cook for 3-4 minutes, turning. Drain on paper towel and serve immediately drizzled with honey, crushed walnuts and a little ground cinnamon. Alternatively, you can get squares of chocolate and have them in your hand when you are squeezing out the batter to make chocolate-filled donuts.

Some of the lessons learned this week:

  • Large amounts of people is all about logistics. You have to work smart, and something that might not make much of a difference at home can make a big difference in a restaraunt. For example dicing a couple kilos of shallots. The worst way you can do it is to peel a shallot, then dice it. You should peel all the shallots, then do all the preliminary cuts to the shallots, then finally do the last cut to end up with the dice. It might sound obvious, but it makes a big difference!
  • Working clean and tidy is the key to being organised and staying on top of things. Keeping a damp cloth on your bench and wiping it over frequently makes cleaning up at the end ten times easier.
  • The home made baked beans at Hellenic are one of the best breakfasts I have had in a long time. Get there. Eat them.

Next week I’m back at The Press Club, and I’m spending two days at La Latteria Cheese learning how to make fresh cheeses. I’m a bit nuts when it comes to cheese, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ll let you all know how it goes!

My time in Melbourne- entry no. 1

Day 1-2 Press Club

My first day was to be at the pinnacle of George’s empire, The Press Club. I arrived in the morning and was greeted by head chef Joe Grybac. He presented me my new Press Club apron, along with the warning “these are as rare as hens teeth”. Don’t let apron out of sight. Check. I introduced myself to everyone and promptly forgot everyone’s names. New jobs:so much to learn, so many new faces.

I was to start in the larder part of the kitchen, which is responsible for the first couple of degustation courses/entrees and side dishes. This was a welcome place to start. The larder lads and myself got stuck into our Mise en place, and soon enough it was service time. Service was fun, I saw how all the different dishes are assembled and then it was my turn to plate some up. I was happy with how the dishes looked, but I think I cook at a fairly casual pace at home, so I will need to work on my speed.  The dish that caught my eye the most was a beetroot terrine with pickled golden beetroots, and carrot candy among other tidbits.

I accidentally started a small fire when I put a container of (still slightly wet) Jerusalem artichokes into a pan of smoking oil. Other than that, the day was fairly snag-free. It was a bit of a culture shock, going from barely any physical exercise in the last year to standing on my feet for a 16 hour day, but I can’t wait to do it all again.

Day 3-4: Ocean fresh seafood

I arrived bright eyed and bushy tailed (well, as bright eyed and bushy tailed as anyone can be at 4am) at Ocean Made Seafood.  After the obligatory hello’s and tour the first job I was given was to help clean 14kg of calamari. I must admit I was a little disappointed no-one came up with a clever Callum-ari nickname for me. Perhaps the others are not as lame as I am! I observed as the gentlemen around me sliced fish with the precision of a well planned military assault. I also listened in horror to the seemingly endless list of stories about getting fish spikes through hands or the various ways one can give themselves stitches with a filleting knife.

I haven’t monged many fish in my time (where does fishmonger come from anyway?), so it was good to get a bit of hands on experience. Scaling, gutting and filleting were all on the agenda.  Scaling proved to be a messy job; my body was covered in so many scales I resembled some sort of mer-man creature.

I loved watching as six 45kg+ Tuna were delivered. A wedge is cut out of the tail section, and I’m told that the quality of the entire fish can be determined by observing the flesh here.  I am also interested to note the spike mark through the head, as I had only read about it before seeing this (those who have the Pier cookbook will know what I’m rabbiting on about). The Tuna is spiked in the head as soon as it comes onto the boat, not only to humanely kill it, but to stop endorphins being released into the flesh by a stressed fish.

After this experience, I think my next venture would have to be in making fish stock. The amount of fish bones thrown out is a little sad but even if given away to restaurants there its still wastage.

It was also interesting to note how similar the business ran compared to a restaurant kitchen. Orders would come in from restaurants, be called out to the fishmongers who would quickly prepare and package the fish, and bring it up onto the pass.  The fish would then be loaded into a van and transported to the appropriate destination.I must say I was impressed with the overall level of professionalism of the place, and I don’t think its any coincidence they are supplying some of the best restaurants in Melbourne and Sydney.

I was given some scallops to take home with me, and I had quite a delicious little dinner of scallops with chorizo and white bean puree. So simple  I don’t really think I need to put up a proper recipe. For the puree just drain a can of white bean, bring up to a simmer with a little milk and butter, then puree. If it is too thick add a little more milk. Just pan fry the chorizo until golden and the scallops for about 1 minute on the first side and 20 seconds on the next. Serve with some apple julienne, good olive oil and a wedge of lemon.

Some of the lessons I learned this week:

  • Tea towels aren’t tea towels. They are torchons.
  • Make sure anything about to enter a smoking pan of oil is not water-ridden.
  • It’s not a good idea to bring only a chef jacket and pants to wear when you are going to be working in a fridge with your hands on ice cold fish all day (assuming that you like being warm).
  • Chefs are an amazing breed- working 70 hours a week, on their feet all day, and still managing to satisfy every customer. One week in and I’m exhausted. Or perhaps just soft.

Stay tuned because next week I’m at Hellenic Republic, so there will be more stories to tell I’m sure!

Market sign-off

It was fantastic to spend a month in and around the Adelaide Central Market. I really enjoyed having a chat to a lot of the vendors, and learning a lot about seasonal produce. It was great to see the vendors had a genuine passion for what they were selling. Their knowledge about their product, along with the quality, makes me wonder why more people don’t use the market to do their regular shopping. There is no where in Australia quite like the market, and being right in the CBD there’s no excuse for people not to go check it out!

I’ve just started my scholarship with George at The Press Club and his other restaurants, so keep an eye out for my diary on this blog coming very soon. I can’t wait to go back to Adelaide after this Melbourne opportunity is over and have a wander around the market again.

 

Wham bam, thank you lamb

Before I launch into this post, check out my recipes in the latest Adelaide Magazine, where I had a great time celebrating the mag’s 5th birthday.

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Spring is the time to eat lamb, with the animals being about 6 months old and with plenty of rain and fresh grass from autumn and winter, the quality is high.

I hassled Paul Dugan from Feast! shamelessly as he worked, to get a little of his expertise.

Paul’s lamb advice:

  • Grass fed spring lamb should be a pale, rosy red, and salt bush lamb will be slightly darker in colour. Milk fed lamb will continue in supply until october.
  • Look for a decent fat coverage on your lamb, but not excessive
  • A lot of people are scared of buying shoulder on the bone, but it is easy for a sunday roast, and cooking on the bone improves flavour and retains juiciness. Plus the meat is cooked slowly, allowing for much greater flavour penetration than the faster-cooking cuts

My advice:

  • Develop a relationship with your butcher- don’t be afraid to ask where your meat comes from, or the best ways to prepare or cook it. Ask what is good on the day.
  • If you ever get meat trimmed up for you, ask to keep any offcuts for making stock or sauces. You are paying for it anyway, you might as well get the most out of it.

This post is a bit of a double whammy, as I’d like to mention how good asparagus is at this time of the year. Gone are woody, flavourless spears and welcomed are fresh, young, tender and full of flavour asparagus. I love buying the really thin, pencil like asparagus. It cooks really quickly, and has a beatiful flavour.

My favourite ways to eat it are very simple, pan fried with a knob of butter, some garlic and sea salt. Alternatively, for the ultimate breakfast, I love blanched asparagus, buttered toasted sourdough, a poached egg and some grilled bacon.

This dish is inspired by one of my food heroes, Peter Gilmore of Quay in Sydney. Quay sources it’s lamb from Feast! in Adelaide, and so after flicking through Peter’s recently released book, I couldn’t resist giving his lamb shoulder recipe a try. I probably don’t need to tell you that cooking the lamb in this way will result in some of the most tender lamb you will ever eat. The method looks quite long but I assure you this recipe is very simple.

12-hour braised lamb shoulder with poached spring vegetables

Ingredients:

1  Suffolk lamb shoulder (approx 1.5kg)

2 L home made or good quality lamb or veal stock

100g butter

a selection of spring vegetables- I used peas, broad beans, asparagus, baby spring onions, baby carrots and radishes

carrot puree:

2 large carrots, peeled, grated

50g butter

Method:

Preheat your oven to 110C. Place the lamb in a large pot and cover with stock. You may need a little more stock if the lamb is not covered.  Cover with a cartouche and put in the oven. Forget about it for 11 hours.  I put it on at 9pm so it would be ready by 8am.

Remove lamb carefully onto a deep tray. Strain stock into another pot and reduce by half. While this is happening, gently remove all bones from the meat by twisting (the meat will be falling off the bone anyway) try to preserve the shape of the shoulder. Cut into 3-4 portions depending on how many you’re feeding.Put back into the large pot and cover pour over the reduced stock. At this stage you can refrigertate, covered, until ready to eat.

To make carrot puree:

Sweat carrots with butter and salt to taste in a saucepan with a lid on low heat, stirring from time to time to avoid burning or sticking, for 15-20 minutes or until very soft. Blend to a smooth puree.

To serve:

Preheat the oven to 150C. Remove lamb from fridge. The fat will have risen to the surface and the stock below jellied. This makes it really easy to now scoop off most of the fat and discard.  Transfer to the oven for around 45 minutes to reheat.  Strain out stock and reduce to a glaze consistency. Finish the sauce with 50g butter.

Prepare the vegetables- peel carrots, scrape radishes with a paring knife, pod peas, double pod broad beans etc. Heat a pot of water and add remaining 50g butter and a pinch salt. Add the vegetables in the order of cooking time, so carrots first for a couple minutes, then add spring onions or baby leeks, radishes, asparagus and finally peas and broad beans which only need a minute. Drain vegetables. Serve the lamb alongside the carrot puree and your vegetables, and spoon some of the glaze over the lamb.