Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Electrolux winter produce masterclass at Quay with Peter Gilmore

As the nights get decidedly cooler and dark so early with daylight savings gone, the realisation that winter is on its way doesn't warm me like it does those who get excited about boots, coats and mittens.

Hopefully, though, it means more time in the kitchen: taking out warm baked goodies from the oven or hovering above simmering pots on the stove.

And rather than pulling out the same old winter puddings and stews, Electrolux Cooking Ambassador and executive chef at Quay Restaurant, Peter Gilmore is encouraging home cooks to experiment with new winter ingredients and bring some his renowned innovation into the home kitchen.

Chef Peter Gilmore with a truffle at the Electrolux winter produce masterclass,
Quay Restaurant, Circular Quay
I was feeling a bit special having been invited to an Electrolux winter produce masterclass at Quay; one of the country's best restaurants (and currently ranked 29th on the S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list just recently, down from 26th last year), where we started on Bollinger champagne overlooking the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Electrolux has an impressive lineup of spokepeople; essentially the crème de la crème of their respective industries. Alongside chef Tetsuya Wakuda, Gilmore is an ambassador for the Electrolux cooking range whereas designer Alex Perry is an ambassador for their laundry range.

In this intimate masterclass, a captive audience watched on as Gilmore prepped various winter ingredients for two dishes in the demonstration kitchen kitted out with Electrolux appliances, upstairs from the restaurant.

Gilmore removing skins from steamed Jerusalem artichokes
Some of Gilmore's personal favourite winter ingredients include mushrooms, artichokes, hazelnuts and cauliflower, and we were going to be tasting all these in two recipes.

The first featured shitake and chestnut mushrooms sauteed in cumin-infused butter. The large shitake mushrooms were sliced horizontally and thinly, which Gilmore believes changes the fungus' texture to something almost like abalone. Only the caps of the chestnut mushrooms are used as Gilmore says the the stalks can be inedible.

The incredible use of Jerusalem artichoke skins and not the flesh utilised the Electrolux Compact Combination Steam Oven to soften the tuber, before scooping out the flesh and then drying and deep frying the skins to a crisp.

Savoury Gouda custard with autumn mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes and hazelnuts
Other than a hiccup involving over-toasted hazelnuts on the Electrolux Induction Cooktop, a picturesque vegetarian entree was served with a subtle aged Gouda custard that Gilmore described as "a posh quiche without pastry" topped with a forest floor of gorgeous winter produce.

Every mouthful was a taste of the cooler seasons, even the thin shavings of summer truffle. The artichoke skins had the most sensational nuttiness that I'll remember for ages, playing along with the varied textures of the buttery mushrooms and the perfectly toasted whole hazelnuts.

The balance of flavours and textures was really unlike anything I've tried before - I could start to see why Quay receives the accolades that it does.

Gilmore demonstrates a cartouche
The next demonstration featured Sydney's favourite dish of pork belly, which had been poached in stock for eight hours and then pressed in the fridge to form the most uniformly perfect blocks of pork you're ever likely to see.

To serve with the pork, which was about to become crisp skinned, was a combination of cauliflower puree and prunes cooked in Pedro Ximénez sherry. Cauliflowers are best in autumn and winter and Gilmore showed us a way to prepare a puree, which could also be applied to other vegetables.

Eschallots and garlic join a good whack of butter in a pan, to which chopped up cauliflower is added. It's then simmered till the vegies are soft and blitzed with cream and another whack of butter. "You only have a little bit of the puree, so you may as well go for it," says Gilmore of the butter content.

Pork belly
As for the pork belly, the poached and now dry portions go skin down in a non-stick pan without oil, as there's plenty enough natural fat in the belly. Gilmore puts a small flat metal tray on top of the portions and weights them down with another fry pan on top.

This actually went into the oven, and not on the induction top as the recipe instructs, so I guess either form of heat works. The end result was the impressive gold topped bricks of belly seen above - showing that even in small sizes, pork crackling isn't that hard to achieve.

Slow braised crisp skinned pork belly with prunes, sherry and cauliflower cream
The end dish, served on some divinely beautiful crockery, featured a small dollop of the cauliflower puree, a prune and the pork belly brick. The puree tasted like butter with a bit of cauliflower, though it was well offset by the sweet pitted prune.

A bit of everything with the pork was definitely the way to go, with the succulent flesh almost outshining the pork crackling which is texturally a little different to straight roasted crackling.

Table setting
After our two winter produce dishes, we were treated to a special five-course degustation dinner at a sumptious table setting, overlooking the Opera House on one side and the Harbour Bridge on the other. It's about the most Sydney of all Sydney function spaces up here.

The knowledgable, swift and friendly service was impeccable throughout the night, announcing wines and dishes for the benefit of the entire table. We started with crunchy-crusted organic white Sonoma sourdough and attacked those stunning quenelles of butter set on the table.

Salad of rhubarb, endive, beetroot, purple carrot, rosa radish, kohlrabi,
goat's curd, pomegranate molasses, violet
I was in awe all over again with the first dish of our degustation - the presentation of the salad simply breathtaking in its nature-based perfectionism, even though I'm not a fan of eating flowers.

This salad of vegetable shavings was served on a deep red bed of pomegranate molasses crumbs, with varying textures of the vegetables being a highlight.

With some of the vegetables pickled and dabs of goat's curd hidden beneath, the organic and biodynamic 2010 Pennyweight Gamay was an appropriate pairing with some difficult flavours.

Gently poached Southern rock lobster, hand caught Tasmanian squid,
golden tapioca, lobster velvet
The next dish was about the most glorious thing I've eaten - definitely this year, and possibly ever. As the dish landed on the table, we were advised that it was ready for eating immediately and without delay, as the lobster velvet was at the perfect temperature.

The golden tapioca, so much resembling salmon roe, added plenty to the look of luxe, but also in terms of taste having taken on a bisque-y shellfish flavour in addition to its luminosity. The organic 2010 Krinklewood Chardonnay was matched to bring out more of the crustacean flavours.

Opaque, paper-thin slices of both the Southern rock lobster and giant squid alternated to cover a pale, airy, steamed ball that was the lobster velvet. It was delicate against the more flavoursome squid and lobster sheets, which were differentiated by texture, shape and flavour and both simply divine.

Roasted partridge breast, steamed truffle brioche, confit egg yolk,
new season white walnuts, fumet of vin jaune
There were no pear trees with this partridge - my first time eating this game bird. The roasted breast was probably on the rarer side of cooked; the texture nothing like any cooked bird I've previously tried and a little gamey in taste.

The new season white walnuts - apparently only available two weeks a year - were the perfect accompaniment with their crunch and rather delicate nuttiness. A few more truffle shavings completed this very autumnal picture.

The steamed truffle brioche looked the part on the plate but was not one of my favourite components; its texture a bit too wet and eggy for my liking. The partridge dish was paired with 2010 Thick As Thieves Nebbiolo, which was one of my favourite drops of the night.

Poached wagyu beef, oxtail, morel, black pudding, farro, buckwheat, hazelnut,
Ezekiel crumbs
There was a bit of a pause between the partridge and the next dish, and given we'd had a few extra dishes to start, I could have been fooled that we were up to dessert - though the 2009 Caillard Mataro pairing should have given it away.

While there was chocolate involved, this was our final savoury dish of poached wagyu beef with a 9+ marble score. It was coated with crumbs of Ezekiel bread - bread of a number of sprouted grains which comes from a mention in the bible (Ezekiel 4:9) - and topped with toasted farro, buckwheat and hazelnuts.

The sauce of black pudding and chocolate was a surprise, as too the beef which wasn't nearly as buttery with fat as I would have expected, but it was a harmonious combination of beef, grains and black pudding.

Nitrogen frozen vanilla mousse, fresh mangosteen, custard apple,
feijoa ice cream, cocnut cream
For dessert proper, we were in for a treat which I think was yet to make the Quay menu. It was a dessert with plenty going on, but all of it good. Featuring both mangosteen and custard apple - gorgeous tropical fruits - the crumbled, nitrogen frozen, vanilla bean-speckled mousse was a new and slightly bizarre texture.

Frozen shards of pomelo were added for tartness while I was apprehensive about the feijoa ice cream. My prior experiences with feijoa have been of the alcoholic variety and I just haven't enjoyed what I think is an artificial almond flavour of the fruit popular New Zealand.

This ice cream, however, had a faint feijoa flavour masked by sweetness and was surprisingly enjoyable with the creamy vanilla flavours. Served with the floral perfumed 2011 Brangayne Late Harvest Reisling, this dessert was the ultimate ending to a wonderful evening of exquisite food and wine.

Petit fours from Quay
And as if the evening of Bollinger, Peter Gilmore masterclasses, and five courses at Quay with matching wine wasn't enough, we got a ride home while clutching Gilmore's stunning book Quay: Food Inspired by Nature and chocolate petit fours. Without doubt a night of indulgence and luxury that I'll remember for many winters to come.

See the winter produce demonstration recipes by Peter Gilmore at the Electrolux website.

Food, booze and shoes attended the Electrolux winter produce masterclass at Quay with Peter Gilmore as a guest, with thanks to Open Haus.

Quay on Urbanspoon


Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

The pork belly looks great!

xoCATox said...

Holy moly, this looks divine!

SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said...

Aren't you a lucky girl!?? Looks like a brilliant class. I adore cauliflower, but I've never tried to make a puree. Might have to give it a go.

Flick Your Food said...

I love how the pork belly was cut to perfection!
It sounded like an amazing class

JasmyneTea said...

Oh God, that first dish looks amazing! I've been trying to book this place for our anniversary in October, but they're booked out :(

Vivian - vxdollface said...

What an absolutely wonderful event! I wonder how that whole fridge pressing works, doubt I can replicate that at home though

Jasmin @Opining, Whining & Dining said...

I tried the Pork Belly recipe from this class at home and it just didn't turn out for me. I wanted those glistening strips of crackling but alas, it was not to be.
Such lovely looking food.

Alana said...

Ummm WOW! You are so lucky to be a part of this, Peter Gilmore is an absolute artist. All these dishes look incredible.

Tina said...

Hi Lorraine - It was pretty special!

Hi xoCATox - Yup, I had to keep pinching myself between courses!

Hi SarahKate - I felt so lucky to be there! The puree seemed relatively easy to make though I'd probably cut back on the amount of butter used ;)

Hi Flick Your Food - It certainly was, and an even more amazing meal that followed the class!

Hi JasmyneTea - Wow, October?? What about lunch? With that view, I think daytime would be just as special :)

Hi Vivian - I think you just need a heavy plate or pan to squash it down in the fridge.

Hi Jasmin - Oh, what a shame. I'm historically hopeless with pork crackling though :/

Tina said...

Hi Alana - I know! Definitely an experience I'll remember for a long time to come! And looking forward to my next Quay visit too!


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