Wednesday, September 23, 2009

From Garden to Plate LUNAR DINNER


I'm quite delighted by idea of the monthly Lunar Dinners at Sydney's Universal restaurant. This month the Lunar Dinner was aligned with the Spring Equinox. That's an important landmark in the gardening year for those who follow biodynamic planting by the phases of the moon. So, it was quite fitting that the September Lunar Dinner was 'From Garden to Plate' with guest chef for the evening Stefano Manfredi.

A highlight of the event was definitely the freshness of the produce, much of which was grown at the restaurant garden of Bells at Killcare. Stefano had earlier described the menu as 'vegetables as the hero without being vegetarian". It was not only low in 'food miles' but seasonal and at optimum same day just picked freshness. We'd been treated with pictures of the produce still growing in the garden, in the lead up to the event. For me, this provided a marvellous extra level of anticipation.

At my table of eight friends, the night, the food, the company were all perfect. None of us could isolate a favourite dish. We loved them all!

Stefano told me that while guesting at such an event is not always easy, this night went as planned and he found working with Christine Mansfield and the Universal team was excellent. My group were delighted because not only was the food sensational but also because Stefano was a most charming host. Stefano, grazie!

For those who didnt get to 'this' event, here's a peek at what you missed:

UNIVERSAL LUNAR DINNER
Stefano Manfredi 22nd September 2009

BaccalĂ  balls

Crostini with vitellone tonnato

Salad from Bells’ garden: broad beans, Italian white radish, baby artichokes, radicchio and mustard cress with pecorino and walnut salsa

Prawn, leek and barley stew

Wild weed raviolini: borage, nettles and cime di rapa with sugo pomodoro

Grilled lamb shoulder “roman style” with cavolo nero gratinato, salsa dragoncello

Panettone pudding with balsamic strawberries

Caffè served with crostoli



Sunday, September 13, 2009

If Pigs Could Fly


Yesterday I took a jaunt to Sydney's newest (and oldest) retail butcher. I knew something was different as soon as I saw the window in Queen Street Woollahra. Paintly boldly is the motto: "If Pigs Could Fly". In the window is a small whole pig with wings and in the base of the display a bed of white feathers. This is no ordinary butchers. Father and son, Vic and Anthony Puharich are suppliers to many of Sydney's finest restaurants. "The Churchill's Butchery site has been a butcher shop since 1876, so it seemed only appropriate that we opened our flagship shop there" say Anthony Puharich, CEO of Vic's Premium Quality Meat.

Anthony was kind enough to take time out of a busy Saturday to proudly yet humbly show me around the store. There's a fine range of goodies, including charcuterie, traiteur and rotisserie. Not sure if the secret's out yet but my favourite mustards and salts are also stocked there. There's even dessert.

While we were there chef and charcutier, Romeo Baudouin was producing (natural skin) sausages on the premises including Pork Toulouse.

Some of the in-store range that took my eye were Duck Confit, Veal Sweetbreads, Black Pudding, Celeriac Remoulade and Spring Lamb Navarin (recipe from Romeo Baudouin follows):

Lamb Navarin

Ragout of Lamb with mixed seasonal vegetables. Navarin comes from the French word "navet" meaning turnip. In France this lamb dish is mainly served with turnips.

1.2kg boneless lamb shoulder
2 tomatoes diced
2 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspon plain flour
1 Bouquet Garni
2 bunches baby carrots
200g baby turnips
1 bunch baby onions
200g French geans
300g green peas
300g baby potatoes
25g butter
1 litre chicken stock
salt
pepper
nutmeg

1. Dice the lamb
2. Finely chop the garlic
3. Heat oil in a casserole dish and brown the lamb. Remove meat and drain excess fat from the meat.
4. Put meat back in the casserole dish, add flour, salt, pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.
5. Add diced tomatoes, garlic, bouquet garni and the stock. Bring to the boil then reduce heat and cook for approximately 1.5 hours on a slow heat.
6. Prepare all the vegetables, peel and blanch them separately and refresh with cold water before adding to the casserole dish.
7. Add the baby potatoes, then 5 minutes later add the turnips, carrot, onion and cook for another 10 minutes. Add the French beans and green peas at the end.
8. Serve hot in a casserole dish with fresh sourdough bread.


Victor Churchill
132 Queen Street
Woollahra NSW 2025
61 2 9328 0402

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

KILLCARE COINCIDENCE



This might not be what you'd expect from a food post, or a restaurant review, or an interview with a chef. As it turns out, although I'd always very much enjoyed the food of Stefano Manfredi, my journey to Bells At Killcare and my stay at Pretty Beach House, was so much more than I had expected.


You see, it was a full moon last Saturday night. I had dropped off my things at the Pretty Beach House accommodation, then I trotted up the road for Stefano to show me around Bells' kitchen garden while there was still afternoon light. My dinner started at 7.30pm and for my primo (first course) I had selected the above-pictured white radish: with the fresh Bells' farm eggs, asparagus and salsa verde. Next came Sand Flathead one of the day's specials. Stefano explained that Italians make the most of flavours with simple cookery. This whole fish with lemon was the materialisation of his explanation. And, then it happened. Tears welled up in my eyes. So many emotions and yet none (I was not sad at all). I put it down to the full moon.


Brian Barry (host and proprietor) had another theory. Like flavour and Italian cookery, Brian explained that there was a simple explanation. He announced that it was Killcare Coincidence. According to Barry it's a well known phenomenom. There certainly is a spiritual air to the place. And even the restaurant has its own Killcare Coincidence story.


Originally Brian and Karina Barry had come to Killcare for a three month assignment to complete a business case. Once in Killcare, they knew they had to stay. In the meantime, they were in rented holiday accommodation for the three month period. As they worked a plan to bring a high profile chef to the properties, they considered their options. Stefano was one of a number they were considering to approach. And then the coincidence. Brian related the tale of how as he finished his coffee and considered which chef, he looked down and in the bottom of the cup the Manfredi name was displayed before him. The Barry's opened the kitchen cupboard which was stocked with Manfredi coffee.


Unknown to Brian and Stefano, I had my own coincidence, well more than one. The visit came at the pinnacle of a major change in my life. And, the tears, well, while the visit certainly invoked many wonderful memories of Manfredi restaurants in Sydney, it was also the Father's Day weekend. That perfect fish was just the same as the one I caught on my first fishing expedition at six years of age, and was cooked just the way I remembered my dad cooking that first catch. Simply! Perfect!


There were also other connections, coincidence, with the women of this weekend, but ... that's another story ...