Paul Bocuse’ Chicken Salad

Serves: 3

This Paul Bocuse salad is just excellent.

(Not that one would be surprised coming from one of the greatest chefs of all time!)

Such a wonderful, sophisticated flavour. Everything balances, everything is just right.

Definitely a Saturday lunch winner.

(The recipe calls for white baby onions. These ARE NOT those appalling things you can find pickling in jars. You’ll have to shop around – Harris Farm or a nice IGA – though they are out there. If you use those onions in a jar, a curse will come over your kitchen!)

Ingredients

2 chicken breasts, skinless and boneless
Cos lettuce, sliced
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced
2 white baby onions, sliced finely
100 gm Gruyère cheese, diced
100 gm black olives, pitted and torn
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
100gm walnut pieces
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
6 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Method

  1. Poach the chicken in water together with some celery leaves and peppercorns and then cool and slice into strips.
  2. Place the chicken, celery onion, cheese, olives, tomatoes and walnuts in a large bowl and chill.
  3. Whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad just before serving and toss well.

Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu

Serves: 4

We were in Queenstown, NZ this year for my birthday.

(If you haven’t visited Queenstown, it really does need to be on your bucketlist: some of the best restaurants we have eaten at, great bars, amazing vineyards, incredible drives and apparently skiing if you are so inclined.)

One of the most memorable meals was at a restaurant called Rata by Josh Emmet. A beautiful, contemporary restaurant, engaged service, incredibly good food and $45 (!!) for three courses. We simply couldn’t believe it.

Not complete with running an amazing restaurant or having three Michelin Stars to his name, Josh Emmet is also an accomplished cookbook writer and his book ‘The Recipe.’ would have to be one of the best cookbooks I have ever purchased.

The book is a collection of the world’s classic recipes as cooked by the “world’s best chefs”: Gordon Ramsay, Neil Perry, Ken Hom, Christine Manfield, you name it.

It is one of those cookbooks with such beautiful photography where you can happily spend the afternoon with a bottle of wine with your partner, earmarking all the dishes you’re going to cook and dreaming of the wonderful meals coming up.

(If it wasn’t clear, buy this book!)

So… dish #1 – cooked by my very culinarily-capable wife – was Annie Smither’s Chicken Cordon Bleu.

And it was spectacular. Old school, new school spectacular.

Old school in that ham and cheese in a crumbed chicken breast is a bit our parent’s generation of Saturday night cooking. But wow, it was so good.

New school in that our parent’s didn’t cook it: they cooked it from frozen. Or if they did cook it (which they didn’t), they didn’t cook it like this.

This is honest, wonderful, cooking. On all levels.

Cheese oozing. Ham and mustard. A contemporary breadcrumb.

Make it one of those Sunday nights where you make an outrageous potato gratin. Open a Pinot. Put the kids to bed.

And don’t think of Monday.

Ingredients

A little butter, for greasing
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tsp chopped fresh chives
4 very thin slices lean cooked leg ham
4 very thin slices Swiss cheese (or grated Gruyère)
1/2 cup plus 1 tsp all-purpose plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg
1 tbsp milk
1/4 cup fine, fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 tsp paprika

Method

Preheat the oven to 190c. Grease a baking dish with butter.

Split the chicken breasts horizontally to give two flatter pieces. Place each between 2 sheets of plastic wrap and use a meat mallet or rolling pin to flatten each chicken breast to a thickness of 5mm.

Spread each chicken breast with 1/2 tsp mustard and sprinkle each with 1 tsp chives. Cut ham and cheese slices to fit the chicken and top each chicken breast with ham and a cheese slice. Roll up, tucking the ends inside.

Place the flour in a shallow dish and season with salt and pepper. In a shallow bowl, combine the egg and milk, beating slightly.

Place breadcrumbs in another shallow dish. Coat chicken rolls in turn with flour, then egg mixture, then roll in crumbs. Place in the baking dish and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the middle.

Nat and Rob’s Long Lunch

Serves: 30

Last Saturday, Nat and I finally did it.

We got married! In Palm Beach. In front of our family and very closest friends.

It was a close to eloping as Nat’s mother would allow.

Here we are:

And our three monkeys, Oliver, TT. And Max:

Rather than a traditional wedding – which neither of us wanted – we based the whole thing around a long lunch (with a very short wedding to begin). Because long lunches we do, weddings much less so.

Six courses. And plenty of champagne and wine.

My mother Ellen was a genius planning the menu, a process that took weeks and weeks to refine, test, refine and debate. We really would not have gotten there without her, especially the part where she cooked 20 duck confit two nights beforehand.

Hats off to Nat too: she sliced 16 kilos of onion, made 4 litres of corn stock, cubed 5 kilos of snapper, cured a salmon and reduced 10 litres of cream and fish stock two, one and zero days to the d-day. (These are qualities anyone should look for in a wife!)

And so it’s on the record, firstly, thanks to everyone that helped on the day…

Ellen: the menu, cooking half the food, looking a million bucks on the day:

Court: planning, support and advice for the day as well as cooking a cookie for the cookie course… and setting up and cleaning up after:

Bec, Woodles and Lob: for their amazing contribution to the cookie course.

(And Woodles again for her beautiful, off-the-cuff speech that could have dissected me, though instead just reinforced what a beautiful person Nat is…)

Sare Bear: for her incredibly generous contribution of the flowers and photography. We owe you big time.

Rob A, Greg and Sean: for being the logistics backbone of the day: hauling up wine and champagne, setting up in the rain, cleaning up in the pouring rain the next day.

Rob A (again) and Deb: for running around for weeks beforehand helping organise things and always asking what more they could do… the best parents-in-law anyone could ask for:

(And thanks for the cracker speech Rob. Unusually light on me! And Deb’s toast: Mazzeltov!)

Bill: for his really moving speech… it is clear how much he loves Nat and there wasn’t anyone that wasn’t really touched by the end of it:

Giles: my best mate and someone who can be relied upon to have a brilliantly funny speech up his sleeve for any occasion, even if I still can’t understand a word!

Oliver and Tom: these young men delivered two wonderful speeches that were as touching as they were funny. The entire house was in tears:

Brooke: for the beautiful bouquet:

Christian (The Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay), Laura (Palisade) and Vincenzo (Appetito, Rockpool in Perth): the best trio of cooking and waiting we could have ever asked for. Serious professionals:

Daniella: our always dependable friend who can help out with our kids on a Saturday night, plate 31 snapper pies, speak Italian and flip our AirBNB whilst we are in the Maldives.

Secondly, for everyone that asked, here are the dishes we served on the day:

#1 Soup and Sandwich

#2 Cheese and Salad

#3 Duck and Cherries

#4 Snapper Pie

#5 Mexican Wall

#6 Cookies and Cream (a shot of Baileys):

– Cookie 1 – Lobba’s Choc Chip
– Cookie 2 – Court’s Peanut Butter-Stuffed Cookies
– Cookie 3 – Woodle’s Butter Cookies
– Cookie 4 – Bec’s Hazelnut Cookies

Thirdly, here is the shortlist of photos from the day.

And the photos from our guests.

And finally… thank you to my gorgeous wife and best friend. Thank you for agreeing to marry this old dog.

I promise I’ll make it worth your while NB:

Vodka-cured Gravlax Canapés

Yields: 10

Nat and I recently married.

That old thing…

We had a long lunch with our best friends and family. Six courses.

Six courses of incredible food in the tradition of both of us loving long lunches, great food and amazing wine.

The first course was named ‘Soup and Sandwich’.

The soup was the famous Banc Sweet Corn and Basil amuse bouche, served cold in a shot glass. We chose this soup because we have been making it as a starter for years and warm or cold, it is just wonderful.

Sandwiches mean even more to us and at one stage, we really were flirting with opening a gourmet sandwich shop.

We did this vodka-cured gravlax, served on a toasted baguette and it was awesome.

Here is the ‘Soup and Sandwich’ course as a test we did a few weeks before our long lunch; the baguette was a bit big and so we made it smaller for the main event:

As a starter to any dinner party, you could do a lot worse…

Everything can be prepped the night before and the salmon only takes a night to cure.

Slice the salmon, toast the baguette and serve:

People will think you’re a genius. (Especially if it the first of many courses!)

Ingredients

1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp finely ground pepper
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vodka
300gm salmon fillet, skin on
1/3 cup sour cream
2 tsp baby capers, rinsed
2 tsp lemon juice
1 qtr preserved lemon, finely diced
Chopped chives
1 shallot, minced
Baguette
Olive oil spray

Method

  1. Remove the pin bones from the salmon and place it skin down on plastic wrap.
  2. Combine the salt, pepper, sugar and vodka, spread over the fish, wrap tightly and refrigerate overnight, turning from time-to-time.
  3. Remove the skin from the salmon and slice very thinly.
  4. Combine sour cream, capers, lemon juice, preserved lemon, chives and shallots. Set aside.
  5. Heat oven to 180c. Thinly slice the baguette, spray with olive oil spray and toast until lightly golden. Allow to cool.
  6. Spread a small amount of the sour cream mixture on the baguette slices. Arrange salmon on the toasts, top with more. Of the sour cream mixture and a sliver of chives.

Delia Smith’s Asparagus with Quick Hollandaise

Serves: 4

Nat’s parents come over every few weeks for a meal (and several bottles of wine) and it is something I always look forward to.

I am always told by Nat’s mother – Deb – to keep it simple.

Which this easy little starter I served at our most recent meal, certainly is.

It is really elegant, super classic and foolproof if you pressed for time.

Which means more time for drinking champagne and catching up.

Ingredients

2 bunches asparagus, woody ends trimmed
1 bunch rocket

Hollandaise Sauce

1/4 cup creme fraiche
1 tsp cornflour
2 egg yolks
1 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp lemon juice
40gm unsalted butter, softened

Method

  1. For the Hollandaise Sauce, place the creme fraiche, cornflour, egg yolks, white wine vinegar and lemon juice in a saucepan over a low heat. Cook, whisking gently for 1 – 2 minutes until thickened and combined.
  2. Remove from the heat and set aside. Whisk in the butter until combined, then season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Steam the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until tender.
  4. Divide the asparagus and rocket among serving plates, then drizzle with Hollandaise Sauce and serve.

Chicken Bouillabaise

Serves: 4

This is a classic, classic French dish and this version is superb.

It is from my mother and it is one I had as a child and have then cooked as an adult.

It is pretty impossible not to love and served with the aioli-buttered toasts and the boiled baby potatoes, this is a warm, rich dinner in.

I sometimes substitute chicken thigh for a jointed chicken, though this isn’t a substitute you should make in this instance. Cutting the chicken off the bone is half the romance of the dish, if that can in anyway be a romantic thing.

If you’re after a French theme, you can do a whole lot worse than a Bouillabaise.

Get jointing.

Ingredients

1 cup chopped leeks
1 cup chopped fennel
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups peeled and finely chopped tomatoes
1/3 cup white wine
1/4 cup Pernod (we used Ouzo)
6 sprigs thyme
Sea salt
Good pinch of cayenne
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 tsp saffron threads
Chicken pieces from jointed chicken (including skin)
Olive oil
Baby potatoes, boiled
Toasted baguette slices
Aioli

Method

  1. Bring the stock to a simmer, remove from the heat, add the saffron and set aside.
  2. In a large heavy saucepan, auté the chicken in a little olive oil over a medium heat until golden all over; remove and set aside.
  3. Pour off the fat, lower the heat and sauté the leeks, fennel and garlic until soft. Add the stock and saffron and deglaze the pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes, wine, Pernod and thyme, bring to a fast simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan together with any juices and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked through.
  6. Lower the heat, season with salt and cayenne; add a little olive oil.
  7. Serve with the potatoes, baguette slices and aioli.

Thomas Keller’s “Yabba Dabba Do”

Serves: 2 – 3

Yabba Dabba Do: Roasted Rib Steak with Golden Chanterelles, Pommes Anna and Bordelaise Sauce

For me at least, nothing beats a beautiful piece of standing rib steak and some amazing potatoes.

It’s almost a primal thing.

This Thomas Keller dish – one I have cooked a few times – is just wonderful and turns any Saturday or Sunday lunch into a long afternoon of wine, laughter and smiles. You just know something magic is going to happen when someone serves you an enormous standing rib!

A few points before you start:

  • The recipe asks for veal stock. I know I should invest the time and make a veal stock, though I so rarely use it. You will struggle to find veal stock so try and find veal glaze or veal jus and add a little bit and then water until you get the flavour of stock.
  • The recipe asks for Yukon Gold potatoes. A fruit-and-veg friend of Nat’s (I am serious) told her that this variety of potato is uncommon in Australia and to substitute… white potatoes.
  • The recipe asks for Chanterelle Mushrooms. Not only are these apparently the most expensive mushroom you can buy (not withstanding truffles), you can’t buy them. Well, you can’t buy them easily in Australia. We used portobellos and they were fine. It is after all the beef, potatoes and the sauce you came for.

Ingredients

Cote de Boeuf (Beef Rib)

1 double-cut rib steak (about 1kg or so)
Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper
Canola oil
4 tbsp unsalted butter

Bordelaise Sauce

1 cup red wine, such as a Cabernet Sauvignon
1/3 cup sliced shallots (French onions)
1/2 cup sliced carrots
1/4 cup sliced mushrooms
10 sprigs Italian parsley
2 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp sliced garlic
6 black peppercorns
1 cup Veal Stock

Pommes Anna

10 pitted prunes
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp minced shallots (French onions)
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 kg Yukon Gold potatoes
6 tablespoons Clarified Butter (we used ghee)

Chanterelle Mushrooms

1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 generous cup chanterelle mushrooms, washed, stems peeled and cut into 3cm pieces
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Thyme sprigs
A green vegetable: we did broccolini sautéed with garlic

Method

  1. Sprinkle all sides of the beef liberally with salt and pepper. Place on a plate and refrigerate for 1 day to allow the flavours to develop.
  2. One hour before cooking, remove the beef from the refrigerator to bring it to room temperature.

For the Bordelaise Sauce

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the wine, vegetables, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and garlic to a simmer and simmer until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Add the peppercorns and veal stock and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the stock is reduced to a sauce consistency (abut 1/2 cup).
  2. Strain the sauce through a fine-mesh strainer into a small saucepan.

For the Pommes Anna

  1. Place the prunes and chicken stock in a small saucepan; the prunes should just be covered with liquid.
  2. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the prunes are very soft. Remove the prunes to a chopping board and finely chop them. Add the shallots and salt to taste.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  4. Peel the potatoes and trim into cylinders that are 5cm in diameter. Using a mandoline, cut the potatoes into 1mm slices and place the slices in a bowl of cold water for a minute to remove some of the starch. Drain and dry on paper towel.
  5. Put 2 tbsp of the clarified butter in a 20cm ovenproof non-stick skillet. Place a slice of potato in the center of the pan; lay more potato slices around the edge of the pan, overlapping them by half, until you have completely circled the pan. Continue with another overlapping circle inside the first. When the entire pan is circled by potato, season and repeat again with another layer of circled potato.
  6. Spread half the prune mixture over the potatoes leaving a 2cm border at the edges. Make 2 more circled layers of potato, spread the remaining prune mixture and then 2 more circled layers of potato.
  7. Pour the remaining 1/4 cup clarified butter over the potatoes and place the skillet over a medium-low heat.
  8. Once the butter begins to bubble, cook for 3 – 4 minutes, shaking the pan occasionally to ensure the potatoes are not sticking.
  9. Transfer the pan to the oven and bake for around 30 minutes or until the potatoes are well browned and crisp.
  10. When ready to serve, invert the pan onto a board and cut into wedges.

For the steak

  1. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, pat the steak dry and wrap the bones in aluminium foil to prevent from burning.
  2. Heat the 3 tbsp of the canola oil in a heavy ovenproof pan over a high heat. Add the steak and sear it for 4 to 5 minutes to until it is dark brown and crusty on the bottom. Flip the steak and brown the second side for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Pour off most of the oil and add the butter to the pan. Place the pan in the oven and roast for 5 minutes. Baste the meat with the butter and pan juices, turn the steak over, sprinkle with salt and continue to cook, basting every 5 minutes for about 20 – 25 minute or until a thermometer reads 40c.
  4. Remove from the oven and let the meat rest in the pan for 10 minutes.

For the Chanterelle Mushrooms

  1. Heat the butter in a skillet over a medium heat.
  2. Add the mushrooms, season and cook for about 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender and any liquid has evaporated.

To complete

  1. Rewarm the sauce over a low heat.
  2. Remove the string from the steak and cut the meat against the grain into 1 – 2cm slices.
  3. Plate the steak on a plate, arrange the mushrooms over the steak, spoon over some of the sauce and garnish with thyme sprigs and the mushroom at the side.