Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Is It Really A Restaurant?

Just back from Melbourne with a new jamon.

The menus at Sunnybrae are a slow evolving process based on the garden the market and whatever else happens to come in the back door of the kitchen.
I like to get ham, or indeed any meats at all, on the bone. When a ham is boned or vacuum packed I feel that some of the life and lots of the flavour seems to disappear into the ether.
The bread will be made with fresh local potatoes and about a third wholemeal spelt and Lauke Euro unbleached bakers flour. The potato gives a moist but light texture and the combination of flours allow for a thin but crisp crust.

The market provides a few new ingredients that may eventually make it on the menu. I found these extraordinary conch shells, they are alive, affordable and have sparked a curiosity: so a little experimentation is on the cards for staff lunch tomorrow. I have never cooked them before but the techniques for abalone may work? Any hints? I have a love of parsnips and have lately been making a veloute style soup with mussels from Portarlington. It’s a simple soup but care must be taken to get really young parsnips and to remove the hard core before cooking. The freshly cooked mussel-water gives the soup a wonderful depth of flavour.

Miner's lettuce from the garden will marry with radish as an accompaniment to the ham.
There are finally enough artichokes to think about a new dish. There is also enough asparagus to put them on as a set entrée. I will pair them with some shaved fennel and a few aromatics.
The main course will be young new season’s lamb that has been hung and dry aged for 21 days and slowly roasted in the wood oven. Leo Donati has hung it for me as I have found it hard to rely on the local suppliers to do the right thing. Ironically Leo gets his lamb from Herd’s from around here.
Roasting in front of a fire in a masonry oven is what roasting should be.
A closed oven is baking, quite different. The trick is to bake the bread then re-light the fire and get the temperature and timing right for the meats to be properly roasted and rested just when they are needed. That’s the joy of cooking in your own space. The set main course is always the one that we think fits into the whole 5 courses to best advantage. But there will also be choices for those that wish to stray… the simple dishes like plain fresh fish and grills you can always take for granted but for the non- conformists there will be rabbit, duck, Cotechino and a few special vegetarian choices

The garden is still very sparse but we have lots of sorell, some really great crossbred self seeded broccoli, lots of baby cos lettuce and radicchio, green garlic, rhubarb. The lovage has come back with a vengeance and I can see that the French tarragon has erupted in leaf again back from its winter hibernation. The spiced morello cherries will find a spot near the charcuterie.

Our soft dried tomatoes are nearly finished but the oil that they have been stored in will make a fine dressing [no I will not make a gelato from it, possibly in summer] but there is still an abundance of our sauce that seems to have been neglected in the larder. Our own dried prunes are running out as is the white peach Bellini mix for sorbet but the peach tree is again in flower.
All the scraps from the great truffle kerfuffle are stashed in our honey so the panna cotta will be dressed in mourning suits this week.

The menu is like a big sodoku or jigsaw each week to get the balance and flavours just right.
Tomorrow is for stocks, cleaning, pre-prep and more menu planning, Friday is all day picking, prep and final ring around for the fish and other seafood. The menu for the weekend is always written on Saturday morning just in case that kilo of morels just happens to materialise.
Sat and Sunday: all day with prep and service, Monday class or the garden.

But hey, don’t you just do two days a week?


Thermomixer said...

LOVE the new jamon holder - not sure of its techo name(sure there is one).

How about trying some of the conch in the dim sim type metal steamer in the wood oven when the temp has dropped and leave it there overnight Saturday for Sunday lunch? Sure it would love long slow cooking/steaming like abalone. Perhaps a light sorrel sauce to accompany it.

Oh yes, nearly forgot - GO CATTERS!!

neil said...

You got morels? Our patch gave up just one, will have one last look this weekend, will also probably drink too much watching the grand final. Funny isn't it, that you had to come to Melbourne to get your own local produce (lamb). Same thing at Avoca where we like to stay, no local lamb at all even though the region prides itself on being lamb country. You can get as much local wine as you like though!

Sunnybrae and all who sail in her said...

Mr Mix
I took the meat out of one of the shells and scrubbed it, wrapped it i a tea towel then whacked it with a rolling pin and grilled it for about a minute on each side. The result was very tender except for the very base which was tough-as.
I boiled another in the shell slowly and that was good too a great flavour.

No the morels did not materialise yet but santa came in the parcel post from Tassie will post on it very soon.
I can get local lamb but the butcher that I have been using let me down in the ageing dept I need to hang the lamb for 21 days and he thinks 7 might be OK. So I rang Leo as that's where I get my cotechino, crepinette, tongue and other unmentionables and he understands the difference 14 days make.
Trying new local butchers for dry ageing. Cindy the local Birregurra butcher retired after 42 years so now we have to court and train a new one. Early days.