Damien Pignolet’s Grilled Tuna with Pistou & Tomato Aioli, with Fennel and Kipfler Potato Salad

Serves: 6

This very much 80s, very much Southern French dish is still absolutely in vogue.

Mayonnaise (aioli) and fish has never, ever dated.

Especially in the warmer months.

The whole thing is just sublime. The olives and fennel with the potato.

The wonderful tomato aioli with the tuna and pistou.

You would knock people’s socks off with this dish and it isn’t that hard to prepare.

Indeed, other than the salad and cooking the fish, the rest could be done in advance.

This is lux, 80s, 1-hat eating.

Just add sunshine and a good, cold white.

I just love it when a dish like this works just so, so well.

Ingredients

6 x 200gm portions tuna fillet
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground white pepper

Pistou

2 small cloves garlic, pelled
20 large basil leaves
3 – 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Tomato aioli*

3 ripe tomatoes, quartered
A drizzle of olive oil
2 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 egg yolks
100ml extra virgin olive oil
60 – 80ml grapeseed oil
A little lemon juice

Fennel and kipfler potato salad

8 – 10 medium kipfler potatoes
60ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium-sized fennel bulb
A touch of aged balsamic vinegar
24 Ligurian olives (we used half this amount)

Method

  1. Make the pistou: finely chop the garlic, then work to a paste with a pinch of salt, using the flat of a knife. Transfer to a mortar and then add the basil and grind to a paste, adding a few drops of oil. When smooth, work in the remaining oil and season to taste.
  2. For the tomato aioli, preheat the oven to 250c. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a shallow dish until the tomatoes are scorched and very soft, then pass through a fine sieve and set the juice aside.
  3. Cover the garlic with cold water and bring to the boil. Drain and repeat, cooking this time until the cloves are tender when pierced with a small knife, then drain the garlic, remove the skin and crush with a small spoon in a small mixing bowl. Add the egg yolks and a pinch of salt and gradually add the oils in a thin stream, just a few drops to begin with, whisking constantly. The aioli should be very thick; if not, work in a little more oil.**
  4. Work in enough of the reserved tomato puree to flavour the aioli but retain the consistency of thick cream. Adjust the seasoning, adding lemon juice to taste.
  5. Next, make the salad. Peel the potatoes, cut intp 1cm thick slices then steam until tender, about 15 minutes. *** While the potatoes are still hot, dress them with the oil and vinegar, add the olives and season to taste.
  6. Trim the the base and top of the fennel. Shave the fennel bulb into 2mm-thick slices, preferably with a mandoline, then combine with the warm potatoes and olives. Mix well and do not worry if the potatoes break up – this is meant to be rustic food.
  7. Using a thin paring knife, cut a pocket in the side of each piece of tuna and work in the pistou.
  8. Heat a cast-iron grill or a large, heavy based frying pan until very hot but not smoking then lightly brush with olive oil. Brush one side of each tuna portion with oil and season this side only. Sear for about 2 minutes or until the edges of the fish just begin to change colour. Brush the raw side with oil, season, then flip over and cook for another minute or so. Transfer the tuna to warm plates, coat with the tomato aioli and garnish with the salad.

* A dish like this calls for a homemade mayonnaise/aioli, though I also very much get the merits of cheating. Simply follow the tomato step, do this cheat aioli and voila.

** Hats off if you whisk mayonnaise and aioli by hand, though seriously, consider a food processor as has been the norm since the 70s.

*** Microwave container. Splash of water. 8 minutes. Job done.

Josh Niland’s Gurnard Soup

Serves: 4 – 6

This is a remarkably good dish, though it is from Josh Niland and so no suprises there.

Check out that skin!
Beyond elegant. Clearly restaurant.

The bisque (soup) would be the best I have had, with the addition of lemon juice at the end dialing it up a further notch. The crispy skin fish combined with the bisque is just so, so good.

Worth absolutely every bit of effort.

Big grins.

We ended up using flathead instead of gurnard for both the fish and the bisque and Josh is fine with this.

The most interesting part of the process of this recipe, was really exploring how to achieve an optimal crispy skin, something we have never particularly focused on.

We still have a ways to go though after a few attempts, we are close. (N.B. that in the photos on this recipe, you will note that we have scored the skin, something we have heard a few people recommend, though we’ve arrived at don’t score the skin.)

Anyway, our best results:

  • Heavy, cast iron skillet over a medium-high heat.
  • Lot’s of quality ghee, with the addition of more ghee halfway through. (Josh says to discard the first quantity of ghee though to date we have not done this.)
  • Utilising a fish weight. (Thanks to our mate Josh D for ours.) You could also use a small pan.
  • Not flipping the fish and cooking skin-side down only.
  • After 1 minute, moving the fish with an offset palette knife (an absolute must instrument in your kitchen).

Ingredients

100gm ghee
4 x 80gm boneless red gurnard fillets, skin on (substiture leatherjacket, red mullet or flathead)
Sea salt flakes

Soup base

4 x 300gm whole red gurnard (or substitute), gills, cuts and gall bladders removed
120gm ghee
Large pinch of sea salt flakes
2 onions, finely sliced
8 garlic cloves, crushed
3 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced
2 tbsp tomato paste
3 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1/4 bunch thyme sprigs
5 lemon thyme sprigs (optional)
2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly toasted
2 star anise
Generous pinchof saffron threads
200ml white wine
1 tbsp Pernod
freshly cracked black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste

Method

  1. To make the soup base, use a sharp cleaver to chop each gurnard into approximately eight small pieces, including the liver and roe.
  2. Heat 100gm of the ghee to a light haze in a large, wide, heavy-based saucepan over a high heat, add the chopped fish and salt flakes and cook for 10 minutes until coloured all over. Transfer to a bowl. Using a wide barbecue scraper, scrape off any caramelised fish from the base of the pan and add to the bowl.
  3. Heat the remaining ghee in the pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for 10 minutes until softened, then increase the heat to high and cook the garlic and fennel for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste and cook for 5 minutes, then return the cooked fish to the pan, align with all the remining ingredients except the salt, pepper and lemon juice.
  4. Pour in enough water to cover, then put the lid on and bring to the boil. As soon as it’s boiling, remove the lid and simmer over a medium heat for 20 minutes, or until thickened slightly and the taste is well rounded. Pass the stock through a mouli (or pulse in a food processer), then strain through a fine-mesh sieve, disgarding the pulp. Return to the pan, season well with salt, pepper and lemon juice and keep warm.
  5. To cook the gurnard fillets, heat 75gm of the ghee in a large cast-iron frying pan over a medium-high heat to a light haze. Place the fillets in the centre of the pan, skin side down and making sure they are not touching each other, and put a fish weight or small saucepan on their thickest side. Keeping the pan temperatures quite high, cook for about 1 minute, or until you start to see the colour around the edges of the fillets. Use an offset palette knife to lift the fillets, then reposition them to take on new colour. Now place the fish weights in the centre of the pan, covering the majority of the fillets. This will aid in setting the fillets gently from the rising heat. Cook for another 2 minutes and then remove the weights. Discard the ghee and replenish with 45gm more fresh ghee. (This is just to help temper the pan as at this stage it is important to keep the pan heat high but not so high that the skin burns, leaving the flesh on top raw.) If the flesh still seems cool to the touch at this point, position the weight on top for another 1 – 2 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets.
  6. If you find the fillets exceed your pan size, either use two frying pans or cook them in batches, and double the quantity of ghee.
  7. Once the fish is 75 per cent on the way set, the top of each fillet is warm and the skin is crisp from edge to edge, transfer them directly into warm soup bowls, skin side up and season the skin with salt flakes. Pour a generous amount of soup around the gurnard until the sides of the fish are completely submerged though the skin remains dry (and therefore crisp). Serve immediately.

Gretta Anna’s Pork Chops with Mustard, Apples and Garlic Cabbage

Serces: 6

This is just a wonderful bit of Provincial bistro cooking. So tasty, so simple, so warming.

Nat cooked this for lunch in the heart of winter last year and it totally nailed the brief.

French cooking luxury on a budget.

Ingredients

50gm butter for pork
6 foreloin pork chops
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cooking apples, peeled, cored and cut into lengths

Onion mustard sauce

25gm butter
3 onions, chopped
350ml dry sherry
150ml chicken stock
150ml pure cream
3 generous tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp water

Garlic cabbage

25gm butter
2 large onions, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 – 5 large garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley (stalks and all)
1/4 cabbage, finely sliced

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c.
  2. Heat 50gm butter in a fry pan over a medium heat and sauté the pork chops for 5 minutes each side, turning until golden. Transfer the chops to a casserole dish.
  3. To make the onion mustard sauce, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the onions for 5 minutes until soft though not coloured. Add the sherry, stock, cream and mustard, then stir the cornflour mixture in to thicken. Simmer for 2 minutes, then add to the casserole dish with the chops. Season with salt and pepper and cover with a lid.
  4. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes, then add the apple and cook for another 10 minutes, until the apple pieces are soft but not falling apart. Remove all the fat from the top using a spoon or a ladle.
  5. To make the garlic cabbage, heat the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat and sauté for 5 minutes until soft though not coloured. Add salt, pepper and garlic and sauté for 1 – 2 minutes and add the parsley. Add the cabbage and toss for a couple of minutes until the cabbage is heated through and coated with the buttery mixture, but still crisp.
  6. Serve the pork with the garlic cabbage.

Martin Teplitzky’s Egg Yolk Ravioli with Prosciutto, Asparagus and Lemon Butter

Serves: 6 as a starter

This is a bit of an adventurous dish, though ironically it’s the simplicity of the whole thing that is the point.

This dish from Martin Teplitzky – son of the great Gretta Anna – is all class.

Nat did this as a first course for a long-lunch we had over the past Christmas and my goodness, what a treat:

Doh. I forgot the Parmesan and chives before I took this photo.

The double whammy here is that you both need to make pasta dough and then expertly transfer egg yolks into each ravioli. I think we lost only two yolks.

Though its a fun dish to make – I helped with the pasta part – and it looks wonderful. (Yolks at room temperature are much easier to handle: pro tip.)

And as I said, it’s just the wonderful simplicity of it all.

Thankfully I nailed the other part of my limited brief which was to have a solid white wine chilled and ready.

Enjoy. (I did. Very much.)

Ingredients

18 egg yolks
1 tbsp olive oil
3 thin slices prosciutto, finely chopped
50gm Parmesan, finely grated
Finely chopped chives, to garnish

Asparagus and Lemon Butter

150gm butter
Grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 bunch asparagus, spears trimmed and cut into thirds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Egg Yolk Ravioli (Makes about 18)

300gm type ‘00’ flour
Pinch of salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
Semolina flour, for dusting

Method

  1. To make the ravioli, sift the flour into a bowl and add the salt. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it. Using a fork, gently beat the eggs and gradually allow the flour to mix with them. Continue until the sauce is too think to work with the fork. Tip out onto a smooth surface and work the dough until all the flour is absorbed, then continue to knead the dough for 5 – 10 minutes until it becomes smooth. (You may need to dust the work surface with a little semolina flour if you find the dough sticking a bit.) Wrap the dough in plastic film and place in the refrigerator to rest for 10 minutes.
  2. Dust the work surface with semolina flour, then cut off about a quarter of the pasta dough, being sure to wrap the remaining dough in a tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Flatten the first piece of dough and pass it through the widest setting on a pasta machine. Drop the setting down a notch and roll out, and again drop the setting a notch and repeat. At this point, take your dough and fold it over twice. Pass it through the pasta machine. Repeat this process 5 times on this setting, folding air into the pasta. Once you have done this, drop the setting down another notch and roll through once, then drop the setting down once more and roll your pasta dough through. You should now have a lovely thin sheet of pasta ready for cutting or filling Repeat with remaining dough it give 4 sheets of pasta.
  3. Using a cutter, cut the pasta dough into 18 discs about 8cm in diameter for the base of the ravioli, and 18 discs about 9cm in diameter for the top. Carefully place an egg yolk in the middle of an 8cm disc and wet the edges with a little water on the end of your fingertips. Place a 9cm disc on top and press the edges together, being careful not to puncture the pasta with your fingernails, and making sure you remove any air pockets from inside the ravioli. Repeat with the remaining pasta discs and egg yolks.
  4. The ravioli can then be dusted with semolina flour and placed in the fridge or thrown straight into a saucepan of salted, boiling water. Remove the ravioli when they float to the surface, after about 2 – 3 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium-heat and sauté the prosciutto until crisp and golden, then drain on paper towel.
  6. To make the asparagus and lemon butter, simply melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat, add the lemon zest and juice and gently sauté the asparagus for 2 – 3 minutes until they turn bright green and have softened a little. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Drain the ravioli, divide evenly between the plates. Drizzle the asparagus and lemon butter over top and serve with prosciutto and Parmesan, then scatter over finely chopped chives.

Charred Cabbage with Chestnuts and Prawns

Serves: 4

This recipe is in the Gourmet Traveller 2021 Annual, an always reliable and always excellent publication.

So much so, we have had whole long-weekends revolve around their annual collections of the best and most popular receipts from their magazine across the year.

This dish is seriously delicious.

It’s also simple.

And it is unquestionably 1-hat territory, if not nudging some of the 2-hat dining rooms winning their hats around simplicity and brilliant execution.

What a way to start a meal.

Ingredients

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Savoy cabbage (600gm) cut into wedges
1 c each dry white wine and vegetable stock
80gm butter, chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
4 banana prawns, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp caraway seeds
240gm canned chestnuts, sliced
1/2 c thickened cream, warmed
1 tbsp finely chopped chives, to serve

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 220c. Heat half the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over high-heat. Cook cabbage cut-side down until charred, and flip and do the same with the other cut-side. Transfer to a large roasting pan.
  2. Pour wine and stock over the cabbage and dot with half the butter. Roast until tender, turning halfway: about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining oil in a large, non-stick frying pan over a high heat. Add garlic and cook until just golden and fragrant. Add remaining butter and cook until starting to foam. Add prawn meat, caraway seeds and chestnuts, season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until prawns are just cooked through. Add the cream and cook until combined.
  4. Serve cabbage wedges with prawn and chestnut mix, topped with chives.

Neil Perry’s Barbecued Coral Trout with Sauce Vierge

Serves: 4

Neil credits this recipe to Roger Vergé, one of the greatest chefs of all time; the recipe first appeared in Roger Vergé’s first cookbook, Cuisine of the Sun (1979). (This Roger Vergé recipe is one of the greatest beef recipes I have had and after you have had this dish for lunch, line this beef up for dinner.)

Paired with coral trout – my absolute favourite fish – this is a sublime dish. The texture is just wonderful.

You could be in the South of France.

Do yourself a favour and whilst the sun is still out, do this as part of a lazy lunch.

Ingredients

4 x 180gm coral trout fillets
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper

For the sauce vierge (makes 500ml)

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, peels, deseeded and cut into a 2cm dice.
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled and halved
2 tbsp chopped chervil
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped tarragon
8 coriander seeds, crushed
250ml extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt an freshly ground pepper

Method

  1. Mix the diced tomatoes with all the other ingredients in a bowl, then set aside for 1 – 2 hours to mature.
  2. Preheat the barbecue to hot an make sure the grill bars are clean. Liberally sprinkle the fillets with sea salt an brush with the oil. Cook on one side for 4 minutes, and then flip and cook for another 3 minutes. Rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.
  3. Plate, spooning over the sauce, twist of pepper and serve.

Blender Bearnaise

Serves: 10

Last weekend, I cooked a tomahawk over charcoal and it was tremendous.

350c, 6 minutes over direct heat and then 10 minutes over indirect heat. Rested for 25 mins.

Perfect, medium rare. As one person put it online when looking up the cooking technique and target internal temperature: you could cut it with your tongue and indeed, you almost could.

The king of the cuts?
Indirect heat before the grill was on.
Started with lobsters because why not?
My goodness.
Perfect.

Nat wanted a bearnaise at the side: which I agreed with on one hand, though what a pain. Double broiling, frantically whisking eggs, fearful of the sauce splitting.

At the same time of course, when I am walking the tight rope of cooking a tomahawk.

For years my mother has said to use the blender method, though I had only ever done so for hollandaise.

The time had come. (And to cut a long story short, I’m never going back.)

FTW.

Ingredients

1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/4 c white wine
2 tbsp shallots, minced
3 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped and divided
1 1/4 tsp salt, divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 large egg yolks
1 c unsalted butter, melted

Method

  1. Combine the vinegar, wine, shallots, 1 tbsp of the tarragon, 1/4 tsp salt and the pepper in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes until the mixture is reduced to a few tbsp. Cool slightly.
  2. Transfer the cooled mixture, along with the egg yolks and 1 tsp salt into a blender. Blend for 30 seconds.
  3. With the blender running, slowly pour hot butter through opening in the lid. Add remaining 2 tbsp tarragon and blend for a second.

Croque Monsieur

Serves: 4

The Croque Monsieur is is just one of the most classic sandwiches.

Though I had never had it with a glass of wine and a green leaf salad.

Turns out I’ve been doing wrong all these years.

Sitting in the sun with a wonderful Riesling, Nat and I toasted that this is what life was all about. A brilliant sandwich with the bubbling, golden gruyere, the ham, the sourdough and the bechamel.

One of the best Australian Rieslings.

I have a feeling we will pull this combination out many more times.

Life’s good.

Ingredients

8 slices of day-old sourdough bread
3 cups loosely packed (300gm) grated gruyere
8 slices of smoked ham

For the Bechamel Sauce

3 tbsp butter
4 tbsp plain flour
3 c milk
Freshly grated nutmeg
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Serve with a simple salad of greens: cos, radicchio, watercress and rocket and just some extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar, well seasoned.

Method

  1. Start with the Bechamel: melt the butter in a small saucepan over a low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Slowly add the milk, whisking constantly until it starts to boil and finally thickens. Take off the heat, season and a pinch or two of nutmeg. Cool sufficiently that it is firm enough to spread.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 200c. Place the 8 sourdough slices on a chopping board. Layer the Bechamel on each slice, spreading evenly edge-to-edge. Sprinkle the cheese equally over each, edge-to-edge.
  3. On 4 of the slices, layer 2 slices of ham and then place the remaining 4 slices on top, cheese-side up. Transfer to a baking tray and cook for 12 minutes or until golden: use the grill at the end if necessary.
Ham sandwiched between the two layers.
Voila.

Elizabeth David’s Onion Tart with Green Pea Sauce

Serves: 6

To mark the first day out of Sydney’s lockdown, we did a lengthy, Provincial French lunch.

Nat’s parents came over armed with Champagne and a cracking French red: and our great mate and builder, a man who finishes off all my half-arsed projects and kindly looks after the dogs when we are away.

(Only costs a case of beer or two for that service!)

There was a lot of talk about how I had butchered our big teak outdoor table with a belt sander, or the time I blew something else up.

Acknowledgement, I am not handy.

So I needed to prove that I had at least one passing skill (with laughter in the background about the time I broke a wheelbarrow or the time I installed a swimming pool upside down).

This tart was a wonderful starter and put the needle back in my court. Subtle, simple, elegant, the onions sweated for hours and hours.

Your guests will know a special afternoon is on the menu.

Maybe the addition of gruyere or bacon lardons would have added to it, though its simplicity is all you need to make the point.

The green pea sauce is a wonderful addition.

Even our mate conceded it made up for the poor table sanding job.

Note: I used store bought shortcrust pastry which worked fine. Also, I softened the onion as slowly as possible – 4+ hours – and I know that this makes such a difference if you have the time.

Ingredients

210gm plain flour
Pinch of salt
125gm unsalted butter, cubed
1 egg, lightly beaten
60gm butter, plus extra for greasing
1kg onions, thinly sliced
Sat and freshly ground pepper
6 egg yolks
300ml cream

Green Pea Sauce

20gm butter
1 small onion, finely chopped
500gm baby (frozen) peas
1 1/2 c chicken stock

Method

  1. To make their pastry, save the flour and salt. Chop the unsalted butter through the flour. Make a well in the centre and add 20 – 30mls of cold water and the egg.
  2. Carefully bring in the flour mixture from the outside until the dough comes roughly together. Push the dough outwards with the palm of your hand too roughly blend the butter – you should be able to see large streaks of butter in the dough. Shape into two discs and wrap in plastic film. Refrigerate for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, melt the regular butter over a low heat. Add the onion to the butter. Stir until well combined.
  4. Cover and cook, stirring often, for 30 minutes or until soft and golden. (As per the absolutely genius Boathouse Snapper Pie, cooking the onions longer and slower is where the best tastes come from, though leave that to you.) Season and set aside to cool.
  5. Whist the egg yolks and cream in a bowl. Add the cooled onions and stir until combined.
  6. Heat your oven to 200c.
  7. Grease six 12cm fluted tart tins with removable bases or one 24cm flan tin.
  8. Roll the pastry out and line the prepared tins, trimming any excess. Place tins onto a baking tray, line each with baking paper, fill with baking beans all the way to the top and blind bake for 20 minutes.
  9. Remove the baking beans and paper, then return tunas to the oven for 5 to 10 minutes until the base is golden.
  10. Remove from the oven, turn the oven to 180c, fill the tart shell(s) with the onion mix and return to the oven.
  11. Cook for 25-35 minutes until golden on top and set. Remove from the oven.
  12. Meanwhile, to make the pea sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until soft.
  13. Add the peas and stock. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 – 2 minutes or until the peas are just tender. Strain the peas, reserving the liquid.
  14. Put the peas and one cup of the reserved liquid into a food process and process until smooth, adding more liquid if required.

Mignonette (French Shallot) Vinaigrette for Oysters

Serves: 24 oysters (at least!)

Nat and I love oysters and one of our favourite things is to hit a great steak restaurant for lunch and kick it off with a dozen oysters and a bottle of Champagne.

Yum.

Personally, I always prefer a raw oyster and it needs to be small: a Sydney Rock Oyster or something small from Batemans Bay.

(Those Bluff Oysters from NZ are my worst nightmare!)

Sauce wise, I’ve had some compelling granitas and watermelon snows, though geez, you just can’t go past this classic sauce.

Make the sauce a few hours prior to allow the flavours to infuse, and when served, you have gone toe-to-toe with the best steak restaurants out there.

Ingredients

1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Freshly cracked pepper
Fresh raw oysters on the half shell
Champagne

Method

  1. Combine the shallot and red wine vinegar.
  2. Open the Champagne in preparation.
  3. Lightly pepper the oysters and serve each with a good dessertspoon of the sauce.