Thursday, May 14, 2009

Masterchef Australia, Audition Dish - Chinese Style Octopus Carpaccio with Chilli and Snowpea Tendrils (served with Green Nam Jim)

This is a little dish is my investion. I came up with for the auditions for Australia's Masterchef. The judges loved the dish... however, it seems that the executive producers didn't love me, which is why I'm not on TV as we speak. Oh well, there is always next year.

This dish in influenced by two of my favourite chefs. Teague Ezard, who often cooks with a masterstock and loves his asian flavours. It's also influenced by an Italian octopus dish, which I had at Fifteen, Melbourne, which was handmade by the one and only Jamie Oliver. This dish is basically a fusion of both.

When you purchase your octopus, see if you can get octopus which has been in the tenderiser for a few hours. It's basically rolled around in a dryer like drum with some weights and beaten until it's tenderised.

1 Large Octopus, tentacles only.

3 litres (6 pints) water
250 ml (9 fl oz) light soy sauce
500 ml (16 fl oz) Shao Xing wine (Chinese cooking wine)
200 g (7 oz) yellow rock sugar
40 g (11⁄2 oz) fresh ginger
5 cloves garlic
3 cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
10 g (2 teaspoons) dried mandarin peel

Spices for bag

4 whole cloves
4 star anise
1 teaspoon sichuan pepper
1 teaspoon licorice root
1 teaspoon dried chilli
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Finely chopped chillies
Snow pea tendrils
Finely sliced kaffir lime leaves

Place all of the spices into a piece of muslin cloth and tie into a bag. Put the spice bag along with all of the other ingredients in a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 10 –15 minutes to allow the spices to infuse.

Once your masterstock is ready, bring it to a simmer and place your whole octopus in the pot. Cook the octopus for 3 hours on a gentle simmer. Cooking for this time will help make the octopus as tender as possible and also help the octopus to release it's gelatine like properties. This is important later.
Allow the octopus to cool in the stock, until it's cool enough to handle. Gently take the octopus out of the stock and lay the tentacles along side each other on top of a long strip of glad wrap.
VERY tightly roll up the tentacles in the glad wrap to make a big long sausage. Once tightly wrapped up, help the octopus sausage stay tight by wrapping some elastic bands around the sausage. This will help the octopus keep it's shape when sliced. Place the sausage in the fridge to allow the octopus to set overnight.
The next day you can remove the octopus from the fridge, also removing the elastic bands and glad wrap. The Octopus should hold it's sausage shape while it's cold, so you need to work very quickly and carefully.
With a extremely sharp knife, thinly slice the octopus and place each slice on a plate. This is where you will see the beautiful pattern that tentacles make.

Serve the Octopus with a Thai Green Nam Jim dipping sauce.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Red Spice Road

27 McKillop Street, Melbourne Ph: 9603 1601

Does anyone really know where in Melbourne, McKillop Street is? I didn't, until I discovered Red Spice Road. Now I believe they should rename the entire street - Red Spice Road. Seriously! The food here is THAT good. I visited here on a recommendation from a friend and have been back many times since. The food here is brilliantly fresh, tasty, vibrant and of course- spicy!

Red Spice Road is like a cross between, Longrain and Gingerboy, but you can leave there with money in your pocket and your tummy is much more satisfied.

You can order, of course, from the a la carte menu, which is good value, but you cannot go past the lunch or dinner banquets, which are UNBELIEVABLE value! At lunchtime you can have an appetiser plus 5 mains for $25 or at dinner you can have 7 courses, plus dessert for $50! My tip is though... don't plan on completely finishing every course, because it's most likely that you're going to end up, very, very full!

The dinner banquet consists of:
  • betel leaf with spanner crab, chicken, chilli and kaffir lime
  • oyster with cucumber, green chilli, shallot and salmon roe
  • crispy five spice quail with jicama, shiso, watercress,
    cucumber salad
  • shredded chicken, pomelo, coconut, mint salad
  • pork belly with chilli caramel, apple slaw and black vinegar
  • beef cheeks with spiced star anise sauce, mushrooms &
    viet mint, bean sprout salad
  • wild barramundi with mushrooms, coriander, sugar
    peas and spicy coconut broth
  • steamed jasmine rice

  • mango brulee with coconut ice cream

The food here I believe is similar to that of Longrain, but I believe is a hell of a lot more tasty. I think that Longrain bases their dishes on heat, lime and more heat. At Red Spice Road, the spices, the fresh herbs, the sweet palm sugar and wonderful textures are in each and every dish.
The stand out dish, is by far the pork belly, which is crispy on the outside and wonderfully soft on the inside, with just the right amount of fat in there. The dressing can be a little too sweet, but the acidity of the shredded green apple helps to cut through the sweetness and the richness of the pork.

My other fave was the beef cheeks, which are so tender, they literally melt in your mouth.

On the day of your visit, just make sure you skip at least 1 or 2 meals, so you can enjoy the huge banquet that is Red Spice Road.