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.

And then we ate the hare

Today my sister, her partner Anne and their kids Ciara and Reece joined us for The Eating of The Hare. They took our bigger boy out to lunch and Owy went to cricket, so I had a couple of hours of uninterrupted kitchen time to potter while our smaller boy slept. There is nothing nicer than feeding people that you care about, and to be feeding them food which they’d been responsible for increased the pleasure. Anne is a bit of a spoiler, so things kicked off with spiders made with sexy ice cream and Cascade soft drinks:

spider

I’m not sure if that’s sharing or territorial pissing that you’re seeing in that picture, but that’s five year old boys for you.

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Dr Sister Outlaw’s justly famous Christmas pudding

I’m not joking. My Christmas pudding is about the best thing there is in the entire world. If you are in any doubt, ask Ampersand Duck, who paid tribute to it in 2007 after devouring one with Zoe and their other halves. For some years I’ve made special ones that I’ve set aside to give to Ducky and her Best Beloved, as they love them almost as much as I do and so, after much begging from Duck and some not so subtle hints from Zoe, I’m finally going to share the recipe. The world needs more pudding love.

I’d just like to say at this point that I hope nobody confuses my love of Christmas pudding with love for the festive season or even Christmas dinner. For me, the only good thing about Christmas is the pudding and it has to be perfect. This one is. It’s based on Stephanie Alexander’s mum’s recipe, AKA Emily Bell’s Christmas Pudding. However, over time I’ve worked in some important enhancements. Mine is more alcoholic and has nuts and treats in it. Best of all, I’ve learned how to do it vegetarian, which is helpful if you want to show Christmas love to people who object to consuming beef fat with their fruit.

Make it now so the flavour develops over the coming weeks. It takes some planning, so I’ve laid it out in stages – both vego and suet versions are included. The given quantities make two puddings, each of which furnishes about eight slices. You can do the math, because there are families in which eight slices will go a long way, but mine is not one of them. Just halve or double, depending on your pudding needs.

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