Globetrotting recipes from The Atlas Cookbook

Burnt cauliflower with ocopa sauce and crumbled white cheese.
Burnt cauliflower with ocopa sauce and crumbled white cheese. Photo: Bec Hudson

Fancy a little trip around the world with favourites from a hatted Melbourne eatery?

Charlie Carrington quit school at 15 to become a chef, working in some of Australia's best restaurants, including Firedoor, Vue de Monde and Stokehouse. But it was the eight months he spent travelling and cooking around the world that have shaped his career. His Melbourne restaurant, Atlas Dining, switches cuisines every four months. A month before the changeover, he packs his bags and notebook and flies out to explore the next cuisine. These recipes, from The Atlas Cookbook, are the results of his travels.

Burnt cauliflower with ocopa sauce and crumbled white cheese

This cauliflower makes an impressive vegetarian showstopper. Aji amarillo paste, often mixed with cheese, is a staple of Peruvian cooking, and adds richness and depth to a range of sauces, including ocopa. Aji amarillo paste and mirasol chilli powder can be sourced at farmers' markets or from online sellers of chilli peppers.

The Atlas Cookbook by Charlie Carrington.
The Atlas Cookbook by Charlie Carrington. Photo: Hardie Grant Books

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cauliflower
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 120g queso fresco or feta (Danish, regular or even almond feta)

Ocopa sauce

  • 1 heaped tbsp mirasol chilli powder (or normal chilli powder)
  • 1 heaped tbsp aji amarillo paste
  • ½ white onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 75g toasted peanuts
  • 70ml evaporated milk
  • 75ml milk
  • 60g queso fresco (or feta)
  • 30g tostadas or crackers

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced) and cover a baking tray with baking paper. Find a saucepan large enough to fit the entire cauliflower, fill it with salted water and bring it to a boil. Submerge the whole cauliflower in the boiling water for 4 minutes. Using tongs, carefully remove it and place it on the prepared baking tray. Wait for the cauliflower to cool a bit, then rub the olive oil into the cauliflower until it is coated nicely. Bake it in the oven for 25 minutes or until slightly burnt on the outside.
  2. To make the ocopa sauce, blitz all the ingredients except the crackers in a blender until smooth. Throw in the crackers at the end to thicken it; it needs to be thick enough that it will hold a shape.
  3. When the cauliflower is done, go crazy splashing lines of ocopa sauce on the serving dish. Crumble the cheese over the sauce, then top with the whole cauliflower and enjoy.
  4. If you're really game, dig in with your hands!
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Serves 4

Roasted chicken thighs with spicy herb salad

Eat this as a standalone dish when you want something filling and flavourful without the carbs. Otherwise the solo-serve lettuce cups also work brilliantly as part of a spread.

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin on
  • 4 spicy red chillies
  • 1 bunch coriander, half of it finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 3 spring onions, 2 of them thinly cut on the diagonal
  • 1 cos lettuce, broken into individual leaves
  • ½ bunch parsley, chopped

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Put the chicken thighs on a baking tray, skin side up, and sprinkle on a touch of salt. Roast for 10 minutes.
  2. In a blender blitz the chillies, the coriander that hasn't been chopped, garlic, lime juice and whole spring onion. Pour half of the spicy sauce on the chicken and roast for another 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chicken from the oven and let it cool slightly, then chop it with a sharp knife. Drizzle over the remaining spicy sauce and place the chicken in the lettuce cups with the remaining herbs scattered on top.

Serves 4

Avocado, bean and burnt kale salad

This hearty bean salad has a bit of heat from the chilli, a nutty earthiness from the tahini, and a citrus zing from the orange and lime. It uses kale, an ingredient I love for its versatility. When you "burn" the kale correctly it goes crispy, adding a special textural element to this dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 avocados
  • 100g cooked white beans
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 40g tahini or almond butter
  • 3 small Brazilian pimento chillies or 1 bird's eye chilli, deseeded
  • 60ml (¼ cup) grape seed oil
  • 1 bunch curly kale, shredded
  • 120g toasted cashew nuts coriander leaves to garnish

Bean salad

  • 300g cooked black-eyed peas
  • 1 orange, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • ½ bunch mint, shredded
  • 1 red capsicum, diced
  • 1 tsp mace
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 60ml (¼ cup) olive oil

METHOD

  1. In a large bowl combine all the bean salad ingredients and set aside at room temperature.
  2. In a high-speed blender, mix the avocado flesh, beans, lime juice, tahini and chillies. Keep scraping down the sides to make sure it is smooth.
  3. In a large non-stick pan over a high heat, warm the oil and toss all the kale in. The idea is to slightly burn the kale, then stir it through the salad. Roughly crush the toasted cashews in a mortar and pestle.
  4. To serve, swirl some of the avocado whip on the plate, then pile some salad over the top. Roughly scatter the cashew nuts and coriander all over the dish.

Serves 4

Grilled tomahawk with burnt onion and chimichurri

Go big or go home. Tomahawk steak, sometimes called 'cowboy steak', is rib eye with an extra-long bone left on so it resembles (you guessed it!) a tomahawk. It's a prime cut, and a chunk of grass-fed, dry-aged rib-eye isn't cheap, so I tend to make this dish for special occasions. (A minute steak would make for a cheaper – and quicker – weeknight alternative.) It's a ridiculously tasty centrepiece, especially with chimichurri and Argentinean red wine!

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 onions
  • 1.4 kg tomahawk steak at room temperature
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • best flaked salt to taste
  • 100ml sherry vinegar
  • 50g butter

Chimichurri

  • 1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ bunch thyme, leaves picked
  • ½ bunch oregano, leaves picked
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp sugar

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced). Put the onions, skin and all, in a roasting tin and bake for 25 minutes.
  2. While the onions cook, season the steak by coating your hands in the oil, then massaging it into the steak. From a height, sprinkle the salt very evenly over, then place on a massive pan, plancha or barbecue over a very high heat. Since the steak is so large and often pans don't have consistent heat throughout, it can be a challenge to cook the steak evenly. I find the best way to do this is to constantly rotate the steak by 90 degrees. After about 5 or 6 minutes, flip the steak and repeat on the other side. Remove from the heat and rest it in a nice warm place, either on top of the oven or near the stove.
  3. Once the onions are cooked, cut them in half, still keeping the skin on. Use tongs to handle them, as they will be hot. Get a large frying pan very hot and, again using tongs, sear the cut side of the onions until blackened and burnt-smelling. Return the onions to the roasting tin, cut side up, and top each onion with the vinegar and butter. Put them back in the oven at 160C (140 fan-forced) for 20 minutes.
  4. For the chimichurri, pulse all the ingredients in a blender. You want a paste-like consistency – you don't want to puree it.
  5. Return the pan or barbecue you cooked the steak on to a high heat, then reheat the steak for about 2 minutes on each side.
  6. Place the onion halves on a large serving platter and pour some of the chimichurri where the steak will sit. Slice the steak and then season with more of your best flaked salt. Place it on top of the chimichurri, then drizzle over the remaining chimichurri and serve.

Serves 4

This is an edited extract from The Atlas Cookbook by Charlie Carrington published by Hardie Grant Books $39.99. Photographer: © Bec Hudson