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.


  1. Wow, wow, wow! Stephen. Love this post. From start to finish, it brings back fond memory of a wonderful, well crafted lunch by MasterChef Estcourt. Thanks again for a delightful meal.

  2. Thanks Victor. This post could never have been without your wonderful command of my camera. Oh and Reb's regatta outfit which went so well with my Spiderman T shirt:-)

  3. Looks gorgeous. Seeing your photo Stephen I realise I am fairly sure I have seen you around town. You were at the Both Sides now concert at Hadleys just after Christmas? If so, I was the one running around with the dSLR during the concert.

  4. Hi Tassie gal. Thanks. Yes that was us at Hadleys - up the back just in front of John X

  5. Nice post Stephen, the food looks delish, a credit to Mary & yourself. Particularly liked the craftmanship of the tart & the Gratin.
    Top marks though, must go to Reb for his,'Head Boy' regalia, proving every day is Regatta Day!

  6. Thanks Steve. Coming form YOU that is high praise indeed. Well done on the Country Style scene!

  7. I think I may have to boycott your blog - I always read it too late in the evening to cook anything.

    Everything looks delicious!

  8. What a generous and thoughtful feast, lovingly prepared and planned; truly inspirational. I'm totally envious of your two kitchen stoves.

    I love that your friends were discovered online. Many of my colleagues declare social media to be trivial, impersonal and banal, yet I like you have found great friendship in the flesh via blogging, Twitter and other online media. I even met Mr Sticki online, which says a lot about the difficulty of finding companions in social situations in the modern age.

    Thanks for this wonderful post.

  9. It was a wonderful day indeed!

    In addition to the wonderful food, there's a lot to be said for the Dr Loosen Reisling.

    And of course, the chocolate ganache, and the succulent and tender slow cooked pork... Oh, and well everything really...!

  10. Thought I had the face right! You also had a short chat to Christopher Waterhouse before it started if I remember correctly. (Chris is a very dear friend of mine, who since moving to Sydney I miss chronically).

  11. Yep that was me. Christopher is a very lovely man from what I can gather!

  12. What a wonderful feast to share together- I think the web has been a great way to connect with like minded people, even those that are relatively close by. All the dishes look amazing and I don't know if I could pick a favourite, although it has been a very porky week in our household and I'd love to have tried the Mt Gnomen pork. I could however have been tempted by the tarte tatin, ice cream and chocolate tart too! Oh and the potatoes! Thankyou for sharing.

  13. That. Looks. Incredible. Oh my Stephen, you and Mary really know how to do lunch. The food looks so delicious and put together with such love and finesse. And the ingredient list is so well thought out. I am super impressed.

    But please, call me when you next open a bottle of Chateau Neuf de Pape or Veuve Clicquot Demi sec - oh my...sigh....

  14. That he is - all three of them (Christopher, Sarah and Ben) are all ridiculously talented.

  15. Stephen and Mary what an amazing feast you've cooked up!

  16. This post took my breathe away!
    How very talented you are Stephen and Mary.
    Very hospitable too by the way.
    Im so envious.

  17. Thanks for sharing - I throughly enjoyed reading this.

  18. Steve

    Love your passion for food. Why and how did you start your website? Food lover (also from Hobart)

  19. Hi Food Lover. My foodie friend Steve Cumper has a blog and he inspired me. They are very easy to set up through blogger.com

  20. Stunning and your glorious words almost made me feel as though I was seated at your table too. Perhaps one day.

  21. Thanks Simonette - yes that would be very pleasant.


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