While you wait for dining out to open, indulge in a three-course feast to whet your appetite.
Not long to go now, Melburnians. A return to restaurants is so close you can taste it. The last weeks of lockdown cannot stop you enjoying fine dining though. I've come up with a menu worthy of a fancy restaurant that any home cook can make. No difficult techniques or fancy equipment are required – just a handful of simple tricks that will help you create dishes that look as good as they taste. Let's go.
Roasted broccolini with pecorino. Photo: Nagi Maehashi
Roasted broccolini with pecorino
This is the sort of delicious side dish offered at high-end restaurants, only without the high-end price tag.
- 2 bunches broccolini, ends trimmed, very thick ones halved lengthwise
- 1½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- 5g (2 tbsp) panko breadcrumbs
- 10g (1½ tbsp) pecorino, finely grated
- ½ tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
- 1½ tsp extra virgin olive oil
- Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional).
- Toss broccolini with olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread on a tray and roast for 15 minutes, or until the stalks are just cooked through and the ends are a bit crunchy.
- To make the pecorino crumbs, toast the panko crumbs in a dry frypan over medium heat until golden. Pour into a small bowl then mix with the pecorino, thyme and olive oil.
- To serve, pile the broccolini onto a plate, sprinkle with pecorino crumbs and serve warm.
Spring tart with smoked salmon
Don't be fooled by its pretty-as-a-picture appearance. This tart is just store-bought puff pastry smeared with goat's cheese and topped with smoked salmon and veg. You don't need to use everything on the ingredients list either. Use what you want or can get, while keeping in mind the goal: colour and variety.
Puff pastry base
- 1 sheet frozen butter puff pastry
- 1 yolk mixed with a splash of warm water
Goat's cheese filling
- 100g spreadable goat's cheese
- 2½ tbsp thickened cream
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 4 baby Dutch carrots
- 2 thin asparagus stalks
- 5 sugar-snap peas
- 2 tbsp frozen broad beans
- 1 tbsp frozen peas
- 5 red and yellow cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 14 small enoki mushroom stalks
- 60g smoked salmon slices, cut into 8 equal pieces
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- 3 tsp extra virgin olive oil
- ⅛ tsp cooking salt
- pinch of black pepper
- 2 tsp salmon roe
- small flowers (see note)
- 12 chervil leaves, small parsley leaves or micro herbs
- Preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Line a tray with baking paper.
- To make the puff pastry shell, partially thaw the puff pastry then cut two 10cm squares and 0.5cm wide strips to make the tart walls – 4 x 10cm long and 4 x 9cm long. Place the pastry squares on the prepared tray and prick the surface of each with a fork 10 times. Brush edges of the base with water, then add the long strips on the left and the right sides, and the short strips top and bottom. Brush the base and top edges with egg yolk (taking care not to brush the cut sides), then bake for 15 minutes or until puffed and golden. Set aside to cool.
- To make the goat's cheese filling, mix goat's cheese with cream, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Cover and keep refrigerated until needed.
- To prepare the vegetables, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add 1 teaspoon salt. Cook carrots for 3 minutes until tender, then remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of ice water (to stop cooking further and preserve bright colour). Repeat with asparagus (1 minute), sugar-snap peas (2 minutes), broad beans (1 minute) and peas (30 seconds).
- Drain vegetables, then pat dry with paper towels. Cut the carrots into 6cm lengths, asparagus into 5cm lengths, sugar-snaps peas in half lengthwise, cherry tomato in quarters and peel the broad beans. Set aside in a bowl.
- Just before serving, drizzle lemon juice and olive oil over all the vegetables except enoki and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss very gently. Spread base of tart with the goat's cheese mixture (save a dab for assembling). Arrange four pieces of salmon on each tart, folding to create height, then starting with the larger vegetables, arrange creatively, some on an angle, some on their side, using the goat's cheese to stick them in place. Finish with the broad beans, tomatoes, peas and enoki. Lastly, add the salmon roe, flowers and chervil leaves.
- To plate up, place a dab of goat's cheese on each plate (to stop the tart from sliding) and place the tart on top. Drizzle the plate with extra virgin olive oil, or get a little fancy with parsley oil (see note).
Use the flowers of mature everyday vegetables such as broccolini, bok choi and Chinese broccoli to garnish.
Assemble the tart shell while the puff pastry is still partially frozen. When fully thawed it gets sticky and floppy. To ensure it puffs, cut straight down with the knife rather than dragging it through the pastry and and avoid getting egg on the cut edges.
To make parsley oil, bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add 150g parsley leaves for 15 seconds. Remove parsley and immediately place in a large bowl of ice water. Drain and squeeze out excess water. Dry the leaves and place in a jar with 300ml of grapeseed or canola oil. Using a stick blender, blitz to a puree then strain using a coffee filter or muslin cloth. Store for a week in the fridge or a month in the freezer.
Lamb cutlets with fondant potato and jus Photo: Nagi Maehashi
Lamb cutlets with fondant potato and jus
Fondant potato? Jus? Sounds so hatted-restaurant fancy! The truth? It's easier and cheaper than you think.
- 1 large oval potato (about 400g)
- ¼ tsp cooking salt
- ⅛ tsp pepper
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 15g unsalted butter
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 1 cup low-sodium beef stock
- 6-bone lamb rack (about 500g)
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- pinch of salt flakes, optional
- 20g (½ cup) basil leaves
- 5g (¼ cup) mint leaves
- 10g (⅓ cup) parsley leaves
- 10g gherkins
- 1 tsp capers
- ½ tsp Dijon mustard
- 1 tsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ⅛ tsp salt
- 1 ice cube
- To make the salsa verde, place all ingredients (including the ice cube) in a container that fits the head of a stick blender. Blitz into a puree – about 10 seconds on high. Set aside.
- To prepare fondant potato, preheat oven to 180C fan-forced (200C conventional). Peel and cut potato into a cylinder 5.5cm wide and 7cm long. Do this by trimming both ends so it stands upright then trim all around. Cut in half crosswise to make 2 cylinders. Rinse with cold water and pat dry.
- In a small ovenproof frypan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add potato, flat end down, reduce heat to low and cook until golden, about 6 to 8 minutes, the turn over to brown the other end.
- Add butter and thyme. When the butter has melted, spoon it over the potato three times. Add stock, salt and pepper, bring to a boil then place on the top shelf of the oven and bake for 30 minutes, basting halfway through. (The lamb will be added on the shelf below after 15 minutes).
- When the potato has gone into the oven, season lamb with salt and pepper and wrap foil around the exposed bones. Heat oil in an ovenproof frypan over medium-high heat. Sear the lamb until nicely browned all over, about 6 minutes in total.
- Once the potato has been in the oven for 15 minutes, place lamb on the shelf below. Roast for 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 57C (for medium-rare), turning halfway through cooking time. (If the lamb is browned before the 15 minutes are up, remove lamb from pan to stop it cooking further.)
- When the potato is cooked (about 30 minutes), baste one more time then remove from the oven. Carefully lift out of frypan and set aside on a rack set over a tray. Discard the thyme but keep the liquid in the frypan for the jus. Remove lamb from the oven and place on the rack with the potato.
- To make the jus, transfer the now-empty lamb pan to the stove and add the liquid left in the potato pan. Simmer over medium heat for 1-2 minutes, or until it reduces to about 3 tablespoons, scraping the base of the pan. Strain the jus into a small jug.
- To serve, dollop 2 teaspoons of salsa verde onto the middle of each plate, then use the side of the spoon to smear it towards the edge of the plate. Place potato fondant onto the plate and three lamb cutlets beside it. Sprinkle the lamb with a pinch of salt flakes and carefully pour or spoon 1½ tablespoons of jus on each plate.
Store-bought stock lacks the collagen you need to thicken jus to a syrupy consistency. But using the starch that remains in the stock from cooking the potato means it thickens perfectly.
Gateau au chocolat Photo: Nagi Maehashi
Gateau au chocolat
Here's a neat trick that transforms an everyday brownie to a restaurant-worthy dessert. Refrigerate the brownie so it becomes firm enough to cut into neat pieces, then let it come to room temperature so you get that melt-in-your-mouth fudginess, and add some simple but effective garnishes. Result: chef's kiss.
- 200g unsalted butter
- 200g dark chocolate chips or melts
- 175g (1 cup, loosely packed) brown sugar
- 3 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75g (½ cup) plain flour
- 30g (¼ cup) cocoa powder, sifted
- pinch of salt
- 40g (¼ cup) dark chocolate chips
- 65ml (¼ cup) thickened cream
- cocoa powder, for dusting
- 2 Butternut Snap biscuits, finely crushed
- vanilla ice-cream
- 2 raspberries
- 2 small mint sprigs
- Preheat oven to 160C fan-forced (180C conventional). Lightly grease a 20cm square cake tin with butter and line with baking paper.
- To make the brownie, place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Microwave in 30-second bursts, stirring, until the chocolate has melted. Cool for 3 minutes.
- Add sugar and whisk. Add eggs and vanilla and whisk to combine. Add flour, cocoa and salt then whisk until smooth and glossy.
- Pour batter into the prepared tin, smooth the surface, and bake for 28 minutes. Remove from the oven, cool in the tin, then refrigerate for 1 hour.
- Remove brownie from the tin and cut 2 rectangles 4cm x 10cm. Set aside for 30 minutes to come to room temperature.
- To make the ganache, place chocolate and cream in a heatproof jug. Microwave for 30 seconds on high, stir, then microwave in 10-second bursts, stirring in between, until chocolate has melted. Allow to cool for a few minutes then cover and keep warm until required.
- To serve, dip a pastry brush into the ganache and make a smear on the middle of a serving plate. Repeat with second plate.
- Dust the brownies with cocoa powder, then place each on top of the chocolate smear. Sprinkle a little pile of crushed biscuits on top of each brownie at one end (this will hold the ice-cream in place) and another pile on the plate. Nestle a raspberry beside the brownie and tuck in a sprig of mint. Lastly, place a scoop of ice-cream on top of the brownie on the crushed biscuits. Serve immediately.
Once the fridge-cold brownie has been cut and comes to room temperature, use a spatula to move it to keep it looking neat.
If you don't have a pastry brush, use the back of a dessert spoon to make an artistic swirl or smear, or pour a pool of chocolate into the middle of the plate and place the brownie on top.
To make an ice-cream quenelle, drag a large dessert spoon across the surface of the ice-cream to form a football shape, then use a second dessert spoon to shape it.
This recipe makes more brownies and ganache than you'll need for two servings because it's difficult to make less. But you don't need me to tell you what to do with leftovers. (Hint: It involves a spoon and your mouth.)