Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Wise By Name

“I hate this,” Gordon Ramsay said. “I hate this, I hate this, I hate this, I hate this.” He was about to dip his spoon into the first soufflĂ© Alistair Wise had made for him.

Tasmanian-born Wise had just joined Ramsay’s London brigade, and this wasn’t the reaction he was hoping for. But all was not lost. “I hate this,” Ramsay said, “because it’s bloody perfect.” (Gourmet Traveller September 2008).

The same Alistair Wise, who was later showered with praise as pastry chef at Gordon Ramsay at the London in New York, generously shared the secret of his souffle with me at the Agrarian Kitchen's Pastry 101 Class taught by him last Sunday! So kind was he that he later emailed me with the complete recipe and detailed notes on the method. Wise by name and wise by nature but also a true gentleman.

Above are our dolce delice tarts with the salted caramel made from Agrarian Kitchen goat's milk and below the very difficult to bake Portuguese custard tarts perfectly cooked at 295C.

Then came Tarte fine with Rodney and Severine's apples. Note the angled cut on the apple slices which help keep the stack level on the puff pastry.

Chocolate eclairs of course - so yellow inside from the Agrarian Kitchen Barnvelders' eggs. These were filled with whipped cream and pastry creme made with my own fair hands. These were the best eclairs I have ever eaten.

Lunch on the run was a courgette tart with confit tomatoes. The tarts were blind baked in French hoops and cooked in the wood fired oven.

Speaking of which. The croissant, pain au chocolat, almond flaked and plain were all cooked in the wood oven. A beautiful sight when the oven door was removed, not to mention the smell.

Alistair, who was photographed below by Chris Chen for Gourmet Traveller in September 2008 is now back in Tasmania and with his wife Teena Kearney creates mouth watering sensations under the name of Sweet Envy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Facebook & Twitter Lunch

On Easter Monday Mary and I had lunch at home with three very good friends we had never met before and two extremely close friends we only met recently for the first time. The old notion that you must meet people first and then become friends has been turned on its head by Facebook and Twitter. On these social media platforms you can get to know some people very well and then have the joy of meeting them. It has happened to us many times in the last year and it is a wonderful window to new friendships.

We started in the garden at 12.30 on a lovely April day with a 2003 vintage Bellavista Italian sparkling rose and warm Gruyere gougeres. The gougeres had been cooked while juggling dishes between the Smeg and the IXL wood stove in my kitchen. I had lit the IXL about 7.00 am that morning when the shoulder of Wessex Saddleback pork from Guy and Eliza at Mt Gnomon Farm at Penguin had gone in, rubbed only with Murray pink salt flakes, for a 7 hour slow roast with massive red onions.

We reluctantly came inside to the table and Mary and 4 of our food pals started on a 2005 Toolangi Reserve chardonnay and a 1994 Leeuwin Estate Art Series while I plated the first course, enthusiastically photographed by Victor Khoo former chef proprietor of Melaka Restaurant at Franklin.

First up was a baccalao gratin, made with salt cod from the Italian Pantry which I had soaked for 3 days. The baccalao was served on a bed of stewed tomato and potato cooked with fresh oregano and just a touch of the tomato paste Mary and I had made at the Agrarian Kitchen Tomato Gluttony day a couple of weeks ago.

The baccalao had been baked in milk in the wood stove for 2 hours and then each piece topped with a sauce made from Ortiz anchovies and Strathbogie Ranges olive oil and then with parmigiano reggiano before being finished under the grill. The fish had an eery hot cross bun resemblance with the Ortiz sauce.

The second savoury course was the slow roasted shoulder of pork with potatoes a la boulangere. These bakers potatoes were also slow cooked for several hours in the fuel stove but the onion and potato layers were treated to a special ingredient before being topped with Ashgrove Farm butter and flowering thyme.

The secret stock was made from chicken's feet lovingly prepared and cooked with celery, thyme and bay. The jelly like stock I store in glass jars in the fridge and it lasts for weeks. It is so rich and flavoursome that the bakers potatoes would just not be the same without it. And the chicken feet cost next to nothing.

As to the pork, well what can I say. I have spoken before of Guy and Eliza's fabulous ethically raised and killed rare breed Wessex Saddlebacks. I personally have not tasted better pork. So moist and tender it brought tears to Victor's eyes. A fine cook who knows pork!

Victor's partner Steve, aka Reb of blogging fame, was so moved by the sight of the pork and the potatoes boulangere that he insisted we pose while Victor took a photo. Steve as you see was dressed for a regatta outing and looked the part when we later adjourned to the pergola for a rest between the dessert courses. Very Wind in the Willows!

I plated the pork and the potatoes with the crackling served separately with sage leaves from Mary's herb garden fried crisp in butter and accompanied by peas mashed with parmesan and olive oil. It didn't last long. We washed it down with a Chateau Neuf de Pape.

The first of the two desserts was a fig tart tatin made with late figs from Mary's garden and bay leaves from our tree. The clincher for this course however was a goat's milk ice cream we made from Meredith's Dairy goat's milk, which incidentally is available every Tuesday at the Salad Bowl store in South Hobart. The method for the ice cream was Matthew Evans' adaption of Nick Haddow's Bruny Island Cheese recipe. The goat's milk flavour, so evident in chevre shone through in this ice cream and cut the unctuous taste of the figs and caramel and bay just beautifully. This course was matched with a Dr Loosen Reisling.

It was about then that Toad and Mole and I decided it was time for a walk along the riverbank. Michelle and Melitta agreed and so we went. Well at least as far as the pergola where we perched and chatted while Mary took the cork out of a Veuve Cliquot Ponsardin Demi Sec chosen to pair the second dessert. Then back to the table with looks of greatly renewed enthusiasm.

This course was an adaption of a Michel Roux recipe. I used chocolate pastry as a concession to the Easter Bunny instead of the Waterside Inn's pate sucre. The blind baked tart shell was filled with raspberries and a little julienned mint and then covered with a ganache made from Callebaut dark coverture. I served it with nothing more than a Meander Valley clotted cream.

The end of this six course lunch was not marked by my own dish however but by the stunning handmade chocolates crafted by a man I had never met before. My good friend Marc Bester.