Diary of time in Melbourne- entry no. 4

I was at The Press Club again this week and also spent two days shadowing Glenn Tobias, the general manager of The Press Club Group.

This week  would be my last week on larder for a little while, with stints in pastry and Maha coming soon. As a tribute to the larder lads, I thought I might show a couple of my favourite dishes to eat and plate up.

This dish has 3 slices of chicken ballotine at the bottom (which you can’t really see in the photo), which houses a sous-vide egg, cooked at 63 degrees. This may sound a bit wanky, but it is cooked at this temperature in a water bath because it is the point where the albumen cooks and turns white. So it is only just cooked, and when you put your fork into it the yolk (which cooks around 82 degrees), it oozes all over the plate, and is like a dressing for the dish. The plate is garnished with blanched asparagus, toasted brioche crumbs, and confit chicken skin. It is finished with a little cress and some black salt, which is regular salt rubbed with volcanic ash. People seem to go bonkers over it. It’s usually pretty straightforward during service, though it is worth being careful with the egg  because if you break one and yolk comes out you have to start the plate again. Which is tough when the restaurant is packed, and it nearly always is!

This tasty little number is a vanilla and tea cured Kingfish, served with a smear of watercress oil, smoked oyster mayonnaise, a little salad of calamari and confit potatoes, and some fresh watercress tips. I love the Kingfish cure, but I must admit I was thinking of icecream ideas when I first smelt it. Note to self- make vanilla and tea ice cream! The calamari is gently poached in a vegetable nage and is a great contrast in texture to the confit potatoes, which are a must try if you have never had them. This dish is brilliant during service, as it is really quick to plate. I did explode a batch of smoked oyster mayonnaise in the vacuum pack machine though which was fun to clean up.

Spending two days seeing how to run a group of restaurants gave me an enormous amount of respect for Glenn Tobias, or ‘Sherminator’ as he is often called. I’m not quite sure how this name came about, as it neither sounds like his name, nor does he resemble in any way the character from the ‘American Pie’ films. My role was largely sitting in with him at meetings. The meetings regarding the soon-to-open PM24 restaurant were fascinating. It’s amazing how many little details you don’t think about but are necessary in getting a restaurant off the ground. Useful information for when I hopefully have a place of my own one day!

I also spent a couple hours in with the reservations team. Answering the phones was quite stressful, as I was unfamiliar with the computer package used to allocate tables and so forth. The phone was pretty relentless, with people not only calling about reservations, but wanting George’s details, in search of lost property etc. I became quite familiar with the ‘hold’ button (conveniently coloured red like a ‘panic’ button) so I could just ask about anything I didn’t know the answer to. I apologise to anyone who called and I put on hold.

The icecream machine I ordered finally got here this week. I arrived home from work a little after 1am, but like a little kid on Christmas, I had to play with my new toy straight away. I made icecream until 3am, which I feel is a solid commitment. I have made quite a lot of icecream in my time, and my favourite one to eat is still this peanut butter caramel ice cream below. I would love for anyone who has made icecream before to contribute their favourite recipe!

Peanut Ice-Cream

90g caster sugar

50g water

250g milk

250g cream

6 egg yolks

80g smooth peanut butter

1/3 up salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Salt

To make the ice cream:

Have a large bowl of ice water next to your stove. Combine 50g of the caster sugar with the water in a medium saucepan. Heat, stirring until it turns a caramel colour, all the while brushing down the sides of the saucepan with a wet pastry brush. Take off the heat and put the bottom of the saucepan into the ice water to stop any further cooking. Pour milk and cream into the pan and return to the stove. In a bowl whisk egg yolks and remaining 40g of caster sugar together. Once the milk mixture is boiling, remove from heat and let the bubbles die down slightly. Whisk the milk mix into the egg yolks until well combined. Transfer the mix back into the saucepan and cook gently, stirring until it reaches 81°C or coats the back of a wooden spoon. Pour into a clean bowl over the ice water. Continue to stir while the mixture cools to avoid cooking the eggs any further. Once the mix has cooled a little, but is still warm, strain through a fine sieve then whisk in peanut butter. Cool completely and then churn in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is almost finished, add peanuts and a pinch of salt. Transfer the ice cream to a container and put in the freezer until ready to serve. Note: ice cream can be made in advance. Makes about 800ml.

I was invited to be part of Josh Thomas’ “Lets Learn Some Shit” comedy show about food. It was a heap of fun, and we had a few laughs. He was on the ‘Celebrity Masterchef’, and judging by our conversation seems to be a bit bitter about the whole experience. In fact, as I’m neither an expert nor funny, I presume the only reason I was a guest was a reason to bitch about Masterchef! As a Josh Thomas fan, I’m happy to take what I can get.

Some lessons learned this week:

  • Being the general manager of a group of restaurants is a big responsibility, and I imagine stressful. There is so much more than meets the eye when trying to open up a new restaurant. No wonder so many restaurants (many with good food) go broke within the first two years of operation.
  • Don’t wander into a kitchen full of guys wearing a purple sweater and expect to escape without a good deal of mockery.
  • Josh Thomas really hates meringue (his downfall on celebrity Masterchef).

I’m starting in the pastry section of The Press Club next week so check out my next entry next  to see how I fared!

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13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by farah tasneem mou on November 7, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    im really gonna try this at home 🙂 lets c wat happens 😛

    Reply

  2. Posted by kerry on November 7, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    hi callum what sort of icecream machine did you buy? ive just made a new major purchase for the kitchen a 4200xl magimix food processor, nice….

    Reply

  3. My favourite icecream just has to be the good old standard French vanilla icecream, but made with (homemade) vanilla brandy instead of normal vanilla extract, which just makes it taste so much more complex. This morning I tried a new recipe – vanilla cardamom with dark chocolate chips! It tastes like a creamy chai tea, but the chips add to the texture and make it just a bit more exotic.

    Reply

    • That sounds great! I will have to try it out. I reckon I would be tempted to chuck a cinnamon stick and a few cloves into the milk to infuse as well to really give it a chai taste. I did my first section on pastry at the Press Club today and we have like 12 different types of icecream in the freezer currently its heaven!

      Reply

  4. Posted by Aankhi on November 9, 2010 at 5:54 pm

    My grandmother makes the best mango ice cream ever.. Using custard and condensed milk..and stuff I don’t remember, I’m usually too busy eating it to give it a thought 😛

    Reply

  5. Posted by Aankhi on November 9, 2010 at 5:56 pm

    If I were you, Callum, I’d weigh 300 pounds!

    Reply

  6. Posted by jozef on November 11, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Just wanted to say how much I like reading your blog,
    a lot of information presented in a humble manner.
    Thanks!

    Reply

  7. Posted by Kitty :) on November 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    That sounds really nice Callum! 🙂 if i call to reserve a table at the press club n u picked up i would freak out lol 😛 keep it up!! 🙂 When are you leaving melbourne tho?

    Reply

  8. Your week sounds like fun! I borrowed my friend’s ice cream maker a few months ago and was super inspired by David lebovitz’s website. I made orange Campari sorbet with golden syrup and also mint chic chip with mint from the garden. A big hit!

    Reply

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