Thursday, 29 November 2012

Cuts Like A (Really Really Good) Knife


Whenever I'm asked what are the basic essentials for any cook's kitchen, it really comes down to a handful of things: a couple of saucepans, sauté pan, chopping board. And knives.

Let's face it, you're not going very far, culinarily speaking, without one.  When you think of how often you hold your favourite knife in your hand, to slice strips off a fillet, cut calyx off strawberries, dice up a mango, it's worth making the experience a joy.

Christmas time and the push into the summer entertaining season means that many cooks will seize the opportunity to trade up in the steel department. And even the food-obssessive who has everything would never, ever say no to another knife (we always need another knife).

The knife selection wall at The Essential Ingredient

But it needs to be the right knife. What handles beautifully for one cook will not suit another and it is imperative that you get into store (we naturally suggest The Essential Ingredient) and road-test a few. Hold the knife in your hand, feel the weight, make the motions you will use over and over again.  Good knives will last you a lifetime, so for goodness' sake, find something you truly love. And that loves you back. Don't simply give in to the appeal of the trendy - when Anthony Bourdain raved about them and  Global Knives became the latest cult toy, a friend ran out and got one. But while the Global is a beautiful piece of acute-edged engineering, her grip on the handle brought her hand into constant contact with the heel of the knife. Constantly, bloodily so. That knife now sits in a dusty drawer, with single chopsticks and abandoned candy thermometers.

Many people will get by just fine with a chef's knife and a paring knife. Then they start to add a utility knife, a bread knife, an occasional dalliance with a filleting one.  Look at a knife set seriously and consider whether it meets your actual cooking needs. And that maybe you'd be better off with a small Sabatier, a Wüsthof workhorse and a shiny Shun than a set of knives stamped in the same stable.

Michel Bras knives, made in collaboration with Shun. Hand-assembled, with an individual serial number

There is little I adore more than the sight of a beautiful high-carbon soft-steel knife from Japan. Am I going to wipe it down with oil before and after every use? No, no I am not. So I gaze at them admiringly and move on.  For some chefs, a genuine single forged knife is key. Others will trade the sharpness of the edge for the hardiness of the steel.  As with food, it is down to you and your preferences.

A knife enthusiast I know says "People only cut themselves on blunt knives". And this is true, you've bought something with an exquisite edge, so hone it regularly and when needed, bring it in for a professional sharpening at The Essential Ingredient. (Or if you are confident, you can sharpen your knives at home on an oilstone or waterstone.)

There's the old saying "a poor workman blames his tools". Well with one of these lovely knives from The Essential Ingredient you've got no one left to blame but yourself. Cut wisely, cut once ...

The Essential Ingredient is conducting knife sharpening services every week during November and December. Leave your knives by 4pm on Tuesday for Wednesday noon collection. Service from $8.50

Monday, 19 November 2012

Making It Pretty - Edible Flowers

You may have noticed that pretty little flowers are making it big on restaurant plates - whether you're eating chive flowers at Attica or Nicolas Poelaert's scattering white lilac and sheep sorrel blossom across your food at Brooks.

But the lovely truth is that you can add these to your dishes at home - it takes practically no effort (apart from the shopping) and the touch is truly spectacular, offering both visual and taste appeal.

Now, the best way to use edible flowers is to grow and pick them yourselves but very few do so. Also, most flowers are not for eating and some are DEADLY. Like deadly deadly. Do not, repeat, DO NOT EAT POISONOUS FLOWERS. Put yourself in the hands of an expert and pop down to the Market.

Damian Pike has a lovely range of cornflowers and borage flowers at the moment. The cornflowers are simply stunning. Stunning. Damian recommends using them with a crème brûlée or other custard based dessert. Other flowers, such as carnations, have an almost peppery taste and are more suitable to offset a savoury course.

Another flower you'd be used to seeing is the zucchini flower. Arriving into the Market in abundance now, these little pieces of Spring are a delight to stuff with goat curd or ricotta, herbed with a little bit of chive or mixed with chicken mince. They are delicate, both in structure and flavour, so you don't want to overwhelm them.

The male flowers are significantly cheaper (they come without the baby zucchini) but if you remove the stem they can still be stuffed or wilted and mixed through risotto or pasta. Pick some of these lovelies up at F & J Fruiterers or Reliable Fruit and Vegies.  And save a couple to garnish the top of the dish. 

Some would argue that flowers on food is simply trendy. And we would say that it's simply beautiful. And delicious. So there.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Local Garlic - We Love It, We Love It!

Here in the Market, you could assume that we love most food. And we do, pretty much, all of the good stuff. But there is a very special place in our hearts for garlic, and particularly local Australian garlic. 

If there is one product we would go down on our knees and implore you to buy locally, it's garlic. No question. For some of the year, the only way to have it is preserved or imported from China, Spain or Mexico. But many of these have been bleached and have been irridated with methyl bromide before arriving in Australia.

Australian garlic is the Real Deal. And when the lovely local bulbs arrive, do your hearts not sing? At the sight of the purple heads, enclosing white cloves bursting out of their papery skins? This, fresh-from-the-harvest garlic is milder than dried and perfect for embracing the delights of spring - asparagus, new butter, spring lamb and vine ripened tomatoes.


On Saturday 17 November 2012 we are celebrating our love of Australian garlic. Come and follow the Garlic Trail, taste a range of Australian garlic varities raw and rubbed on toast and vote for your favourite. Delicatessens are offering tastings of garlic products - Naheda's famous garlic and 3 olive dip, aioli, Boursin, you name it.  Our butchers will be barbecuing some delicious garlicky Chorizo sausage and Souvlaki lamb.

And have you ever wondered what garlic icecream tastes like? Garlic chocolate? You have, haven't you? We'll be dishing out free garlic icecream at Fritz Gelato and free garlic chocolate at Cioccolato Lombardo until supplies are exhausted.

Come. Show how much you love garlic. And Australia. And US.