Masterchef fantasy restaurant menus – here’s mine

Tuesday’s Masterchef this week featured the remaining contestants (other than Lucas and Julia) being given an opportunity to make a three course meal that they would love to serve in their own restaurant/cafe. There’s much entertaining to-ing and fro-ing about the structure of the program, etc, at Reality Raving. I for one assumed that they’d been given some notice so that the ingredients they wanted – unusual in Chris’ case, unseasonal in Sam’s – could be organised.

While I will never enter Masterchef, wanting neither a career as a chef nor a role in a reality TV show, I can indulge for a few minutes a happy fantasy about what I might cook given a similar challenge.

My fantasy joint is both local, and seasonal, so to start I would offer a little glass of creamy Jerusalem artichoke soup with truffle straws. It would look a little like the fennel/orange/truffle soup from this post at Helen’s Grab Your Fork, but homelier rather than foamlier. Jerusalem artichoke soup has great depth without weight. It also provides lots of opportunities to make comments about flatulence, which might get any first date awkwardness off to a flying start. FWIW I think the soup is so good it’s worth a fart or two.

For a starter, I would offer a tasting plate of charcuterie and preserved veggies. With the Mountain Creek Farm heritage breed meats I so love I’d make a rustic pork terrine, accompanied by a tapendade made with the oily black Homeleigh Grove semi-dried olives, and a little medallion of poached and pressed beef tongue topped with some of my home-pickled, home-grown plums from last summer. I’d serve it with a herby salad – radicchio, baby endive, parsley, hazelnuts and thin tangelo segments in a mustardy dressing made with new season olive oil.

Main course would be a perfectly baked free range chook (that means a LOT of butter, some garlic, lemon and thyme) with a cauliflower gratin. Yep, cauliflower in cheesy white sauce – it might be naff, but hands up who hates it? The chicken would be sauced with a very simple puree of eschallots and sorrel which had been sweated in butter and finished with splash of cream and OK, I never said the Heart Foundation loved me, butter. There’d be some black (aka Tuscan aka lacinato aka dinosaur aka most alternatively named vegetable available or what) kale braised with olive oil and garlic, and some sweet baby carrots. The chook might look a bit like this:

But that’s not all for you, don’t be greedy. For dessert, I’d make a more elegant (and smaller) version of this Skye Gyngell – sourced recipe I made recently for a dinner party at my dear friend Cath’s place in Elizabeth Bay. I would make her give me her dear old dead Nan’s golden edged plates to use again (that’s Cath, not Skye). Little meringues, gooey inside their crisp shells, with a quenelle of chestnut poached in milk with vanilla bean* and chestnut honey, poached prunes and runny cream. Pardon the horrible flash photograph but it was a lovely long dinner and by her own admission Cath has more wine than God:

meringue cooked

Is that something you’d like to eat? And what would I be eating at your fantasy restaurant?

* Vanilla bean in Canberra I hear you ask? I’m not a purist on the seasonal and local thing – it’s a matter of emphasis, not a religion.


#1 Dr Sister Outlaw on 01.07.09 at 2:22 pm

A world wtithout vanilla is a world not worth living in, I say. Am going to mull this challenge over and report back – nice meringues girlie.

#2 Reality Raver on 01.07.09 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for the link. Also that meringue dessert looks spectacular. Will we see you on MasterChef Australia next year?

#3 Kirsty on 01.07.09 at 3:17 pm

Your menu sounds delicious: even with all that talk of farting and tongues : -)

#4 Dr Sister Outlaw on 01.07.09 at 3:59 pm

OK, ready. My entree would honour my Tasmanian heritage. My entree would be oh so perfectly steamed medallions of Dover crayfish, piled with seared scallops (sustainably trawled from the D’Entrecasteux Channel) and served over baby salad greens with a light tarragon vinaigrette, deep fried strips of parsnip and fried shallots, alongside a sauvignon blanc. For mains, a reprise of my favourite steak from the pub around the corner from my first share house in Battery Point. It consists of a disc of heavy white bread, lightly toasted, upon which sits a juicy seared eye fillet. On top of that, a perfect duck liver poached in cognac and, over the lot, a light cream-based green peppercorn and sage sauce. Served with a Pinot Noir. For dessert, extremely slow-cooked quince with ginger, cinnamon, cardamon and star anise, the finest quality home made vanilla ice cream and a tiny maple syrup wafer …

#5 Injera on 01.07.09 at 4:11 pm

I’ve just come back from a lovely long lunch at the local, Libertine, and am not sure why I’m even reading about food. Your tweet followed close on one reading First Europeans ate own children. Wow can’t wait for the episode of Masterchef where the mystery box has a kid in it and I thought you were asking “Who would you cook…?” I had the answer to that one all worked out.

No fantasy menu of my own – yet – but I’d be at either Restaurant PDP or Chez Dr Sister Outlaw in a flash. (Of course, Dr SO, on the show George would haul you over coals for your profligate ways with expensive ingredients!)

#6 Dr Sister Outlaw on 01.07.09 at 4:31 pm

it’s going to be a flash restaurant, innit?

#7 Mindy on 01.07.09 at 4:51 pm

If I help with the washing up can I get a discount?

#8 FDB on 01.07.09 at 4:58 pm

Local schmocal in this case. Let the beans grow where they will – a single shipping container would supply Australia’s needs for a year or more.

#9 FDB on 01.07.09 at 4:58 pm

Oh, also – awesome dishes.

#10 Pavlov's Cat on 01.07.09 at 5:23 pm


#11 The Devil Drink on 01.07.09 at 5:35 pm

Cath has more wine than God

Not hard, when you remember where the cellar is.

#12 Helen on 01.07.09 at 7:39 pm

Nabs, are you reading? What’s your menu? (Pink potatoes included, natch!)

Me = still thinking

#13 Injera on 01.07.09 at 7:47 pm

Still pondering my menu, but have ruled out potato and leek soup with cheesy croutons and a prawn pasta.

#14 Zoe on 01.07.09 at 9:11 pm

DSO, it was my meringue cherry, so to speak, and I took them from Canberra to Sydney so all in all wasn’t too unhappy. They were too big, too brown and the quenelles are a much nicer shape if you’ve had less wine ;) Your menu divine and would be there in a flash.

And I buy my vanilla beans from the ANU Food Co-op so at least they’re not horribly exploitatative. While costing $2.07 for a fat, fragrant one.

Looking forward to some more menus.

#15 kel on 01.07.09 at 9:12 pm

god, i got so excited to see your post title but im so tired i cant think! umm lamb shanks with mash…im gonna come back to this, ITS VERY IMPORTANT!

#16 Zoe on 01.07.09 at 9:19 pm

We posted at the same time there, kel, but I hope you do come back with a menu. Restaurant names and themes also encouraged.

I think mine would be called “en famille”. Jeez that cracks me up. Big scrubbed wooden table, very nice white napkins, small posies, enough candles so bloggers could take pictures …

#17 Kirsten (same person, new blog) on 01.07.09 at 9:57 pm

I would definitely eat the meringue! But the truth is I really am not keen on either cauliflower or white sauce. I always thought I hated both, but then one day my sister made it and it wasn’t half bad, so since then I’m more open :)

Do you know, can you grow jeruselum artichokes in canberra?

#18 Dr Sister Outlaw on 01.07.09 at 11:04 pm

They grow EVERYWHERE. They do look good when they are off and racing – sunflowery. Just find a good corner of soft soil and put in peelings from current crops and you’ll never look back.

#19 Dr Sister Outlaw on 01.07.09 at 11:05 pm

And Zoe, your menu is tres divine – diff between you and me is that I can dream, but you would pull it off

#20 Kirsty on 02.07.09 at 6:15 pm

On the days when I’ve wandered around looking for lunch on whatever university campus I’m on, I’m always struck by the dearth of decent food for a reasonable price. It’s either high carb stodge of the over cooked pasta variety (Hello Sam!), or the dangerous saturated fats of pies and chips. When salad or anything resembling a vegetable is available it’s always so ridiculously overpriced I wander if I’m living in Central Australia rather than in Brisbane, Queensland.

Anyhoo, all of this dissatisfaction has led me to fantasise about a cafe on campus called ‘Food’. Unlike other outlets on university campuses it would actually serve food that had some taste and as an added bonus, nutritional value. I don’t quite have a menu worked out yet, but the emphasis would be on value and quality for the day time crowd.

I think Jamie Oliver has demonstrated that good, low cost catering can be done, it just needs someone in charge who actually has tastebuds. My guiding principle would be that everyone, no matter what budget, is entitled to good, well-prepared food.

#21 Dr Sister Outlaw on 02.07.09 at 10:37 pm

hear hear – personally, I think Lebanese cuisine wins hands down for bulk pleasing

#22 ampersand duck on 02.07.09 at 10:47 pm

Kirsten, when I moved into my Canberra house, the whole back corner was chockers with Jerusalem artichokes. After a few years I was so sick of the taste of them, I dug them all out. Took me two years, and now years later I’m thinking of replanting them because they’re all that would grow in the spot I want to fill. They not only grow in Canberra, they take over!

#23 Helen on 04.07.09 at 11:11 pm

I don’t think I can come at the three courses in winter fine dining style. Def not restaurant masterchef material. But based on what has gone down well with the critics around these parts, I’ll do an Eggplant Parmigiania. Just don’t ask how much olive oil is in it.

#24 Emica on 06.07.09 at 12:18 am

Oh wow. what a menu.

Mine would be a laid back lunch sort of place. with a sunny courtyard pref with view. I’ve been getting to know the fishmonger at the farmers market so i’m going to riff on a fishy theme:
either crabs with fresh bread, lemon & mayo for diners to make their own sarnies (also help with 1st date nerves) or chargrilled baby squid salad with lemony – chilli dressing. Then maybe some herby, polenta crusted Huss, a fish I only just discovered which is meaty and fishy at the same time, with a marinated salad of blanched zucchini, capsi, fennel & baby carrots with agro dolce dressing.
For dessert – I know it’s not really in keeping, but geez it’s really yummy – trifle. Without jelly (i know, controversial) but with lots of booze.

#25 Zoe on 06.07.09 at 5:50 am

I love all these ideas, and am salivating over the idea of seafood at 5:49 am*, which is unusual for me.

I think we need a progressive dinner party (boom-tish!)

* rotten are the children who wake up early in winter

#26 dylwah on 06.07.09 at 10:03 am

Nice Menu Zoe, Love the sound of that steak, DSO.

Drove past a cheap tequila barn masqurading as a Mexican restarant the other day which set me thinking about Yukatan and then saw your post and after all what could be a sweeter fantasy than a decent Mexican restaurant.

The table needs corn chips and three botomless bowls of salsa, for this i want tomato, mango and Chipotle. the table ought to be accompanied by a large galvanised tub full of ice and beer.

first up; prawn and squid, small, soft tacos. The prawns and squid have been dusted with flour, salt and pepper and deep fried.

second; a sharp and sweet cheviche/coktail. fresh fish and prawns and squid + whatever else is available marinated in lime with sugar and lashings of cilantro/corriander.

then some more soft tacos with seared chicken, beef and sesonal vegies.

Finish up with hot chocolate and more beer and maybe a pina colada.


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