Well I suppose you knew that my golf buggy adventures didn't end at the night before. When I woke up to a most brilliant view I quickly got all ready to head to the Justin North Masterclass. I jumped into the buggy, tried to start it, realised after a while that it was plugged in and being recharged, figured out what to do, got lost, almost got in an(other) buggy accident and after a kind soul dropped me off, finally made it to the Hamilton Island Yacht Club. Frantic darlings frantic!
Sarah Wilson the intimidatingly statuesque (I should _not _have have worn Havs standing next to her) host of last season's Masterchef is hosting the cooking Masterclass and she gives us an introduction to Justin and how he grew up. You may have seen my Day In the Life of Justin North story last year in which I followed him to a trip around Flemington markets and the Sydney Fish Market. He prefers to buy produce direct from the producers as he can talk to them, get inspired by the produce in front of him and get better prices. He tells us that whilst there was always a small group of chefs that would regularly buy direct from the markets, when the GFC hit, he saw more and more of Sydney's chefs buying produce.
Today he is demonstrating three dishes for us and he starts off with a blue eyed trevalla which he sources from a supplier in Browns Mountain off Sydney heads where there is an underwater mountain rich in nutrients and a variety of flora and fauna. The fish is selectively long lined and isn't a protected species as it is not mass trawled.
To cook the fish today he uses a temperature gun which is an infra red gun that you pass over an item and it will read the temperature of the item. He cooks it at a low temperature of 50C so that it becomes slowly translucent and doesn't release the proteins and the fish doesn't become too tense. He pairs this with a cauliflower puree, some compressed cucumber (which you can do in a food saver machine) which he demonstrates and some red shiso and baby coriander.
And like magic (or actually just like what happens on Oprah!) wait staff come out carrying large trays and hand everyone samples! The fish is beautifully tender and luscious and the creamy cauliflower puree adds a nice dimension to it.
Sarah asks Justin about the way that he buys beef in and he is the only chef in Sydney to buy in a whole carcass. He buys Gundoee Wagyu which is a breed that has been crossed twice and is 75% wagyu and 25% angus. They buy 1-3 carcasses a month and they dry age them for 4-6 weeks. This is when meat is hung from a hook at 3C in 60% humidity with a lot of airflow. As a result the water precipitates, the flavour is concentrated, it becomes lighter in weight and the enzyme activity during this time means that the meat is tenderised. He says that this is where buying in the whole carcass helps as the cost of buying a single sirloin cut, ageing it for 4-6 weeks and only have it reduce by 25% means that restaurants need to put the price up higher. Some places wet age in a sous vide bag but here the meat sits in its own blood and can have a slightly livery taste and it isn't seen as desirable as dry ageing. And if you are interested in trying a complimentary Wagyu burger on Justin, read on my Dear Reader! ;)
His next dish is the "forgotten vegetables" and these include swede, turnips, taro, Hawaiian sweet potato, celeriac and congo potatoes which are a fascinating black coloured potato.We watch as he peels and slices the carrots and explains that everything is used at Becasse. When they peel carrots the peel and tops are combined with thyme to make a cooking stock where they boil the carrots instead of plain water as it prevents the carrot from losing any flavour that way.
While he explains this our next dish comes out. It's the "forgotten vegetables" that have a lovely smoked flavour and a wisp of prosciutto on top and some deep fried celery heart leaves as well as the most divine little pork scratchings.
Pork scratchings you may ask? Not just the domain of Vicki Pollard, these are bite sized bites of baked and deep fried pork fat. Some heirloom and rare breeds of pig have a particularly thick layer of fat which is perfect to make crackling and scratchings from. Pork scratchings are when the crackling has been scored, salted, dried out, salt removed and then baked and then deep fried. And I don't need to tell you how good they are do I? ;)
Justin gets started on the "pudding" which is an apple and rhubarb dessert where the rhubarb has been poached in rosemary and orange peel with some sugar on a very low heat. It is then combined with a cheesecake and a divine crumble that has been made up of brown sugar, oats and burnt butter which we will be having for our dessert. Our sample plates of this come out and as always I go crazy for an apple dessert.
The cheesecake is rich but not cloying and the crumbs are amazing and I vow to use burnt butter in cheesecake crusts for my next cheesecake. And in a brilliant twist, he uses the liquid that comes from poaching the rhubarb and puts it into an ice cream maker and makes rhubarb sorbet!
It is question time and people ask which Sydney markets he likes the best. Justin answers that they visit Frenchs Forest markets on a Sunday where they pick up chicken, beef and vegetables and they also visit Eveleigh markets. Sarah asks me a question about food trends and I just hope that I sounded comprehensible!
_A villa lounge room _
We then adjourn to the nearby restaurant at the Yacht Club which is open to anyone on the island, not just members of the Yacht Club. And if you were interested in how one becomes a member you may need to have your cheque book ready. You can buy one of the rather amazing four bedroom four bathroom villas that go from $2.3-$4.5 million but these also come with a berth just outside the yacht club as well as a membership. Or you can be invited to become a member by the Oatley family.
I'm sitting with my buddies @bridget_cooks and @iconic88. The menu for today's Moët & Chandon lunch is by Justin and after a brief explanation he heads into the kitchen. We sipped the Moët & Chandon Imperial when we were mingling outside. Sarah asks the Moët & Chandon representative a most burning question and one that I suspect everyone wants to know for sure. "How is Moët pronounced?". She answers that it is one of the most common questions they get asked. The answer lies in the two dots (umlauts) above the o. The umlauts mean that the Moët is pronounced so it sounds like "mo-ette" with a soft. Phew!
Yep pork. fat. butter. Life is good when you get a soft white flour roll and whipped pork fat butter. As expected it is divine with the warm bread and we ask for some more. I mean that much isn't going to go very far on our pork lovin' table ;)
The salad of winter heirloom vegetables are beautifully plated. It features golf ball carrot halves (yes there are actual golf ball shaped carrots!) which are sweet and delightful, a vivid beetroot, golden beetroot and parsnip. This comes with a lovely roasted marron tail, pea mousseline which resembles avocado and dried olive powder.
Bridget's amazing tattoo-drawn by Mahei's cousin who is a renowned tattooist. The pattern symbolises the Ngaro and shows a wave which represents where she comes from and where she is going.
I only meant to have a little of this dish. After all I heard the rumours about the 6-11 course dinner we were having tonight but this divine pork was too hard to resist. The pork is moist and tender and it is served with confit of potatoes which have that slighty dry roast potato texture, caramelised roasted parsnip and a divine parsnip puree. I sometimes find parsnip too strong but it is not here. And the crackling? Well I saved that for last and savoured each lovely, little bite.
And before we know it the scratching fairy waiter comes past and delivers us a bonus round of still warm pork scratchings. Mahei says to him "Give me a high five!".
_Apple Cheesecake Crumble with rhubarb sorbet and lemon balm served with Moët & Chandon Nectar Imperial
Our dessert is an encore from the previous demonstration but in a more substantial form. It's divine but I made a trade off when I finished the pork that in sacrifice to fit into my cocktail dress I would not finish this dessert. I know I'll regret it a couple of hours after lunch when I busy writing this story and going through the photos.
I return to my pavilion where I do some work before deciding that life is too short to spend the whole time working and that there is a plunge pool that has my name on it. I get myself prepared. There is some chilled Veuve in the fridge and some strawberries and I don the bikini I packed (it felt so strange to be packing one in Winter). I turn around the plasma screen to face the pool and switch on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo which has subtitles and spend a blissful afternoon watching the movie while relaxing in the pool. Until the time comes to get ready for dinner!
We're back in the Long Pavilion and here is our old friend whipped pork fat butter! I know it may not be technically the healthiest ingredient but it is indeed on of the most pleasurable and like people that say "What happens on holiday stays on holiday", I believe the case to be true about calories. Although this is a slightly flawed way of thinking and may be likely to land you with some extra kilos. The aromatic rosemary bread goes well with the salty pork fat butter.
The single Coffin Bay Pacific oyster was topped with some spanner crab meat, sea water jelly which was rather delightful and a ginger and champagne granita which was light in ginger. We were given a fork for this but I think a spoon would have been better to enjoy this as it involved fishing out the oyster and then chasing around the various pieces that accompanied it which were delicious but would probably be best enjoyed together with it.
The pretty pale dish was the cooked blue eyed cod with that same miso emulsion that he showed us how to make. It comes with raw scallops which provide a slippery textural contrast, cauliflower cream and crunchy buckwheat.
_Forgotten Vegetables baked with Smoked Cedar served with 2009 Robert Oatley Margaret River Chardonnay (premier tasting)
All of us that tried this dish at the Masterclass were excited to see its reappearance on the menu. For a dish that perhaps doesn't have the latest, most expensive ingredients and instead features mainly some of the humblest vegetables, it was my favourite along with my dining companion Rochelle's. It is root vegetables simply smoked en papillote (in paper) in smoked cedar served with prosciutto, pork scratching and roasting juices which further intensify and uplift the smoke flavour. And we're lucky enough to get to taste the first sips of the 2009 Robert Oatley Margaret River Chardonnay.
The braised daube of slow cooked wagyu beef skin is soft and lovely and gelatinous in texture. Interestingly it is paired with a whole kipfler potato that has been cooked in ash, some fried Jerusalem artichoke pieces and a bordelaise sauce. The ash cooked potato is interesting, very earthy and is perhaps too ashy for my taste but I can imagine those that love teas like Lapsang Souchong and a more ashy, earthy flavour would like it.
At this point, we're all feeling very full. One of my favourite cheeses is the Holy Goat La Luna Goat's cheese and here it is paired with compressed pear which is a vacuum packed pear which looks poached in appearance but is firm and slightly crisp and raw in texture. It comes with an olive and nut crumble which is interestingly salty but I like just the pear and the cheese so that I can really appreciate the cheese's unique creaminess and slight tang at the end.
Rochelle and I were discussing the merits of an 80's or retro themed dinner and as if reading our minds, Justin has come up with a dessert based on the Splice ice cream which was one of my favourite ice blocks from childhood. It had a lime pineapple ice outer and creamy vanilla ice cream centre. I adore this and I could easily have happily ended on this dessert as I am so full and love fruity, light desserts. The coriander jelly has a judicious amount of coriander which gives it a vivid green colour but not an out of place flavour. The vanilla and buttermilk creme is like a panna cottta and it goes well with the sweet, tangy true pineapple flavour in the icey, sweet pineapple granita.
_Zokoko "The Goddess of Chocolate" cadeau served with NV Seppelsfield Grand Rutherglen Tokay
Cadeau simply means gift in French so this is a glossy chocolate gift with a mousse filling and a surprise fudge centre with small nutty pieces. It's made using 70% Bolivian single origin chocolate by Zokoko and it is paired with an amazingly good reduced milk and vanilla ice cream which has the flavour of Streets Blue Ribbon ice cream (how retro good!) and the texture of a rich,velvety ice cream.
To finish us off there are mandarin macarons which I can barely fit in but I do. It's the perfect sweet tangy ending to a most wonderful weekend.
P.S. Also I don't usually do this but the gorgeous Bridget has a great competition where you and a friend can dine at Becasse. The prize includes accommodation and flights for those outside of Sydney!
P.P.S. Interested in a free Plan B burger from Justin North's Plan B? Becasse are opening up a new burger joint and want to enlist input from you! All you have to do is email Justin on email@example.com and tell him your favourite burger combination. For simply doing that theyll send you a voucher for a free Plan B burger! Even better still, if it makes the final menu, you will win a full degustation for 2 at Becasse including matching wine! The competition ends September 30, 2010.
So tell me Dear Reader, what was your favourite food from your childhood that you'd like to see interpreted?
NQN travelled to and explored Hamilton Island as a guest of Qualia Resort.
Qualia Luxury Resort
Hamilton Island, Great Barrier Reef, QLD
Telephone: 1300 780 959