Here in Sydney, I like to go down to a friend’s place to cook for them. I try to do this periodically. It’s a chance for me to fool around and make shit. Which is me getting away from the boring ass grind of money making. When I cook, it’s typically a Western style thingamajig. Like the first meal I ever made them when I came over and stayed at their place was a Jamie Oliver recipe for a red wine beef stew.

Looking back, I really see the progression I’ve made. After I did that, I cooked stuff from my exam at Le Cordon Bleu, which was old school French stuff. It was a 3 course menu. The entree was a rolled rainbow trout served with a beurre blanc, followed by a duxelle stuffed duck breast with veg and jus for the main and a creme caramel for dessert. Classic as.

Then the next time I cooked, it was a new-ish 3 course. My own “menu”. A starter of grilled prawns with cucumber and grapefruit salad. Then a fillet of pan seared snapper over a soubise, potatoes and snap peas followed by a mango panna cotta.

Then just a couple hours ago, I did a 5 course degu-ish thing for them, taking cues from all over. The first course was a chilled tomato and watermelon soup, seeing as these two ingredients are pretty much at their prime right now and the weather was supposed to be like really hot. (It wasn’t hahaha!) So I wanted to do a nice, refreshing opener. I served that with some toasted Sonoma White Country Sourdough and a drizzle of olive oil. The green leaves are oregano from my friend’s garden.

I actually blended this with some ice. I basically wanted a tomato and watermelon slurpee. I also forgot to shave the melon garnish/textural element because the timing of the dinner got screwy and I rushed through. Which also led to my disastrous 2nd course. To be honest, I didn’t test any single recipe beforehand properly. My friends are just always guinea pigs! So I made a chawanmushi which had all of the taste and texture and everything but it flopped! Just like my creme caramel of yore. I suppose ultimately, chawanmushi does need to be served in a cup or it won’t have that beyond tofu softness. Or I could throw some gelatin in next time lol. I suck at the wobblies and it’s obvious why.

A disaster in presentation (I had to reheat in the oven again, so the sauce curdled slightly.) but a triumph in flavor. Not the most summery of dishes but I don’t really care. This was a crab chawanmushi with a cauliflower puree, oyster mushroom and hazelnuts. I wanted a tone on tone type of look sorta. So I chose not to put something bright green and fresh looking. The recipe I adapted from David Chang of Momofuku. My thought process was this: crab, cauliflower, buerre noisette, hazelnut. It worked brilliantly. Would cook again.

Good thing I don’t quite suck as much cooking pink stuff though. This was a lamb cutlet dish, simply roasted and served with a miso eggplant puree, roast tomato and potatoes. Oregano reappears to the delight of my host, who’s beaming that her own herbs are being used. I need to work at using my LX-3 and abating the hunger as well as my presentation. Still, this was superb if I say so myself. I kept on that Japanese tangent and if you look back at my previous posts, this was clearly a subconscious inspiration via my first ever fine dining experience at Assiette where I got a perfect lamb cutlet with ratatouille, braised and crumbed lamb neck, basil and eggplant puree. Flavors in mine were more playful I suppose. Eggplant and lamb is classic and lamb is a Spring Summer thing but I wanted something deeper and richer than the previous. This was my high point. So I roasted halved eggplants and basted them with a miso paste mix before broiling till caramelization and pureeing it all. I was using the sieve like a demon today. A touch of cream got me to smoothness levels on par with whatever I’ve had before. Without those experiences at Assiette and Pier, I would never have known how to do anything like this.

4th course was another failure in the flops. Or a flop of the flops. I can’t seem to get stuff to stay firm. This blood orange terrine was ripped from Becasse line for line but I definitely need to work on it. Tastewise, it’s brilliant thankfully and feels like such a grown up jelly. I stuck a quenelle of choc ice cream for that classic combo twist thing.

Last course and the 2nd dessert (I had 5 guests of the female persuasion) was my piece de resistance. I ripped the recipe from here. It’s really created by Albert Adria at El Bulli, a fast cooking aerated sponge that uses 2 pieces of tech to work. The first is a cream whipper that aerates the cake mix with nitrous oxide, reducing the dependence on flour, heightening flavor and introducing a lighter texture. I actually went out and splashed like over a $100 on this baby below just because. I don’t regret a single cent. It’s just too cool.

The second piece of tech is the microwave. Because it has such fast heating properties, it’s what enables the mix to cook fast enough that it doesn’t lose all the aeration before it’s done. If you stuck the mix in a trad oven, you’d just get a flat souffle. I tried this several times but got it spot on right during service time. The texture is light as air and I had the same thing before at Pier. Only I made mine outta chocolate because it was a requested ingredient at the dinner and because I think lightening a heavy flavored ingredient always works for a long, heavy-ish meal.

So light and simple yet so delightful. This dish has seen me cook from a simple throw shit in a pot stew to an even simpler mix a batter and let modern tech do the job for you. I know which way I’d rather do it!

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