Seasonal selections

The book: Images and text from Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry, photography by Petrina...
The book: Images and text from Everything I Love to Cook by Neil Perry, photography by Petrina Tinslay. Murdoch Books, RRP $69.99.
Influential Australian chef Neil Perry says his modus operandi has not changed in his decades in the industry.

‘‘It has, since the time I started cooking, always been about one thing; that is the quality of the produce, always driven by seasonality.’’

Perry, who is behind the Rockpool Group, which has restaurants across Melbourne and Sydney including a burger chain, is an advocate of a balanced diet, eating fresh, seasonal ingredients, exercise and drinking responsibly.

His advice, ‘‘just eat the naughty things in moderation’’.

Perry, who has also starred on various cooking shows in Australia, considers himself to be a ‘‘truly multi-cultural’’ cook so in his latest book, Everything I Love To Cook, are recipes with influences from around the globe including Asia, Europe and modern Australian food.

‘‘Once you have stocked the pantry with the common ingredients that are used most in these cuisines, you’ll be able to cook anything - have some fun with it.’’

He urges people to use his recipes as a guide and to not be enslaved by them.

‘‘Make sure you take note of the outcome and try to cook a little better each time. Cooking is a craft that you can improve if you wish.’’

Perry has broken the book into chapters based on food groups but starting with a section on indulgent breakfasts - dishes he likes on weekends when he is feeling like something a bit more substantial and decadent.

There is another chapter on small plates that can form part of a group of dishes to feed a crowd or just a dinner for one - ‘‘a perfectly formed meal’’.

The rest of the book covers the likes of ‘‘comforting’’ pasta dishes and ideas on how to cook poultry, beef and lamb, pork and veal and of course desserts - ‘‘start with some in-season fruit or some chocolate and you can’t go wrong’’.

Photos: supplied
Photos: supplied
Raspberry and vanilla bavarois

This bavarois was on my first dessert menu at Barrenjoey House in Palm Beach, way back in 1982, but this cracker of a summertime dessert is just as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

Serves 8-10

4 gelatine leaves

5 egg yolks

200g caster (superfine) sugar

2 cups (500ml) milk

3 vanilla beans, split lengthways and seeds scraped

600ml pure (whipping) cream

375g raspberries

For the genoise sponge

8 large eggs

250g caster (superfine) sugar

250g plain (all-purpose) flour

30g unsalted butter, melted

You’ll also need two round springform tins: one 23cm, the other 20cm in diameter

Method

For the genoise sponge

Preheat the oven to 180degC and lightly grease the 23cm tin. In a large stainless-steel bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until pale and creamy.

Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl sits above the level of the water, and whisk constantly for 8–10 minutes, or until the mixture thickens and the whisk leaves a trail.

Carefully lift the bowl off the pan and keep whisking for another 5 minutes. Sift over the flour and fold in gently, then pour in the melted butter and fold through.

Transfer to the tin and bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out dry.

Carefully run a knife around the edge of the sponge, remove the springform and base of the tin, then transfer the cake to a wire rack and leave to cool.

To make the bavarois

Put the gelatine into a small bowl of cold water and leave to soften. In a heatproof bowl, whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy.

Heat the milk with the vanilla seeds in a saucepan. As soon as the first bubbles start to appear, remove from the heat and slowly pour over the egg yolk mixture, whisking all the time.

Place the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl sits above the level of the water, and whisk vigorously for 8–12 minutes, until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon.

Carefully lift the bowl off the pan and set it over a large bowl of ice. Squeeze out the gelatine and whisk into the warm mixture until completely dissolved, then leave to cool.

In another bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. When the bavarois mixture is completely cold and starting to firm up, gently fold in the cream until fully incorporated.

To assemble

Slice the sponge horizontally into four 1cm layers. Trim one layer to fit the 20cm tin and press into the base.

Spread a third of the raspberries over the sponge, then pour in the bavarois mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining raspberries on top (they will sink down into the bavarois but not right to the bottom), then refrigerate again for at least 3 hours.

To serve

Dip a knife in hot water and gently run around the inside of the tin, then remove the springform and cut into slices.

Tip

You only need a quarter of the sponge here, so refrigerate or freeze the rest for another time. It will keep for 7 days in the fridge or 6 months in the freezer.

Crispy pork belly with red onion, coriander, peanuts and sesame seeds

Here is one of Spice Temple’s classic dishes that I think is perfect for summer, served with rice and perhaps some steamed Chinese broccoli with oyster sauce.

The pork itself is easy to cook - just remember to allow a day or two beforehand for the skin to dry out - and it has many uses.

By the same token, the red onion, coriander and peanut salad is great with, say, the meat from a store-bought roast chook, shredded off the bone and tossed through, to make a super-quick dish for a busy weekend.

Serves 4

1 kg pork belly

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

½ spring onion (scallion), thinly sliced

Large handful of roughly chopped coriander, leaves and stalks

Handful of unsalted peanuts, toasted in a dry frying pan and crushed

1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted in a dry frying pan

1½ tablespoons Chinese black vinegar

2 teaspoons peanut oil

Sea salt

Method

Place the pork belly on a wire rack set over a plate (to catch any drips) and refrigerate, uncovered, for at least a day to dry the skin out; two days would be even better.

Remove the pork from the fridge about 3 hours before cooking.

Preheat the oven to 220degC.

Put the pork belly on a chopping board. Using a sharp knife, score the skin deeply in a diamond pattern and rub generously with salt. Return the pork belly to its wire rack and place in a roasting tin.

Roast the pork for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 170degC and roast for a further 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through and the skin is blistered and crispy.

Remove the pork from the oven, cover with foil and set aside in a warm place to rest for 20 minutes.

Cut the pork belly into 2cm cubes. Place all the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss together, then add the pork and mix through. Divide between four plates and serve.

Italian-style spinach torte

This free-form pie is delicious and simple. For a great little side to go with it, cut up some cherry tomatoes and dress with good olive oil and red wine vinegar, then sprinkle with shichimi togarashi.

Serves 4

1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 teaspoon mild chilli flakes

2 red onions, thinly sliced

600g silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves, finely shredded

600g English spinach leaves, shredded

100g (3œ oz) raisins, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes, then drained

2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan until golden brown

2-3 tablespoons finely grated parmesan

Small handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 large egg, lightly beaten

Lemon wedges, to serve

For the pastry

500g plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting

200g cold unsalted butter, diced

1 teaspoon fine salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup (125ml) whole milk

Method

First make the pastry.

Put the flour, butter and salt into a food processor and pulse until you have fine crumbs. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk together, then add to the food processor and pulse until a dough starts to form.

Tip out on to a clean bench and use your hands to press the dough into a cohesive mass, without kneading.

Cut in half, then roughly shape each half into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile, put the olive oil, garlic and chilli flakes into a large heavy-based saucepan. Place over medium heat and stir occasionally until the oil is infused with the garlic and chilli and the garlic has just turned golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the onions and gently sweat for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Now add the silverbeet and spinach in batches, letting them cook until just wilted and stirring every so often to help things along.

When all the greens are in the pan and wilted, stir in the raisins and pine nuts.

Tip the contents of the pan into a sieve or colander in the sink and squeeze out as much liquid as possible, then transfer to a bowl.

Stir in the parmesan and parsley until well combined. Set the filling aside to cool for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200degC and lightly oil a 30cm round pizza tray (or a regular baking tray).

On a flour-dusted bench, roll out each pastry disc into a 30cm circle. Place the first pastry circle on the tray, then spoon the filling on top, spreading it over the pastry but leaving a 5cm border clear all around the edge.

Brush the border with beaten egg, then place the other pastry circle on top and twist the edges together all the way around to seal the torte.

Use the tip of a knife to poke half a dozen small slits in the top to allow steam to escape, then brush with beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden. Remove and leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Variations

If you can find some warrigal greens or saltbush, try using them in this torte. We make something similar at Rockpool Bar & Grill, and its pretty nice with the tomato and chilli relish.

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