Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cook simply, cook from scratch, cook local.

I had a meal this week from one of Australia’s most talked about young regional chefs. It was really pretty, it was clever, it involved a brigade of about 20 chefs, approximately the same number of movements to plate – and I was really pleased to have had the experience.

In the same week we have had the editor of the Good Food Guide in the restaurant and while she wasn’t reviewing it naturally gets you thinking about what these people are looking for when they eat out. It’s also days before the release of the 2015 Good Food Guide and this will have the usual flurry of who’s in and who’s out, what’s cool and what’s not.

As a cook it’s a time to steel myself to what I want to achieve at The Zin House.  My goal is to cook simply, cook from scratch and cook local; to avoid the temptation of getting caught up in what is expected and instead deliver what is true for me.

books

We’re in a food age when it seems that everything on a menu must be both simultaneously constructed and deconstructed, when the importance of the chef takes precedence over the importance of the produce and when restaurants sprook provenance while boasting lists full of imported wines. I need to have a compass back to home base.

I don’t want you to come to The Zin House for boasting rights. I want you to come here to enjoy a few hours somewhere lovely with something comforting to eat and drink and go back into the world a bit more relaxed, cosseted with some nice new memories.

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It’s that simple.

Honey ice-cream and rose roast rhubarb

600 ml cream

1 vanilla bean

8 egg yolks

4 tablespoons honey

1/4 cup of sugar

Bring the cream to the boil with the vanilla bean. Beat the yolks, honey and sugar together until thickened then whisk into the just boiled cream. Stir it over a low heat for a couple of minutes or until it has just thickened a little without boiling again (which would cause it to split). If in doubt taste it and if it still tastes of raw egg you haven’t taken this basic anglaise far enough. You can now use this as a simple custard or churn for ice-cream.

For the rhubarb slice the stalks, place in a roasting dish with a good splash of rose, sprinkle with sugar (about a cup for a small bunch) add a cinnamon stick and a chopped orange. Cover and cook gently until just tender. Add more sugar if it is still too tart. If you want at this stage you can also drain all the juices into a pan and reduce until syrupy to form a sauce. We serve this with homemade puff pastry and double cream. Use the bought stuff and it will still be yummy or just have the fruit and ice-cream.

pepe dessert

Butter me up

You can only eat two food items for the rest of your life? For me easy – bread + butter.

Last week we flavoured Pepe Saya butter with truffles and this week I’m adding some herbs along with the truffle.

Pierre Issa is the man behind the Pepe Saya cultured butter and is sooo good at what he does, if you haven’t tried his butter you’re holding him up on his mission to ensure everyone in Australia has. They do a truffle butter using Duncan Garvey’s truffles and our own version uses those from Borrodell on the Mount in Orange.

This spot overlooks the Towac Valley and I think the best views in all of Orange. Great wine, lovely restaurant, and right now fresh truffles and all sorts of truffle value added products. If you have a chance visit Gaye, Borrie and Louisa and see what a vision and a green thumb can achieve.

Truffles are expensive but a little does go a long way. You don’t need fancy equipment, I just used the kitchen grater.

truffle

But truffles are just one, luxurious, end of the flavoured butter spectrum. Butter is the best flavour carrier for everything from the intensity of chilli to the subtlety of a herb like chervil or the lemony taste of sorrel (pictured). It was such a 70’s thing to use flavoured butters that they may have dropped from favour as a flavour for being passe rather than passed on.

sorrell

We will serve our flavoured butter this weekend with bread (of course), soft boiled quail eggs and olives marinated and then warmed through with some  mandarin and red onion slices.  Herb butter on a simple dry roasted potato or tossed through steamed veges is just as good.

quail eggs

We’re so used to being able to buy butter cheaply that it takes a little re-focus to realise that even luxury butter is good value for the pleasure and simplicity it provides.

Herb butter

500 grams good quality butter

2 tablespoon mixed fresh herbs, finely chopped (use whatever is best at the moment, I’m using sorrel, parsley and chervil)

a little cracked pepper

sea salt if your butter is unsalted

a little grated lemon if you wish

 

Combine everything. Roll into a log shape if you wish to be able to slice easily. Store in baking paper and then foil. If you cant use it in a period of a couple of weeks place it in the freezer and use from there whenever you want to add a flavoured butter to your cooking.

To make garlic butter add a few chopped cloves or roast a whole head of garlic then squeeze the soft centres of the cloves into the butter. Dont be restrictive –  what’s in season, what do you like, what are you cooking?