Truffle Shot - Charity Dinner Amuse Bouch

I've mentioned this recently but as part of a charity auction for Assistance Dogs Australia, for $2,400, I was bought to cook a degustation meal for twelve of my work colleagues. To put it mildly, the pressure is on! I only have two weeks until the dinner so this weekend was all about practice. First up, a truffle shot amuse bouche.

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To be honest, this was pretty simple to make. Only a couple ingredients but the flavour was amazing and the look was eye-catching. You'll need (makes 4): 

  • 100g Shiitake mushrooms
  • 50g Enoki mushrooms
  • 2 tbsp duck fat
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 100ml thick cream
  • 2 tbsp creme fraiche (preferably Pepe Saya
  • 6 pinches truffle salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp truffle oil

Heat the duck fat in a non-stick pan until melted. Add the mushrooms and garlic and cook until the garlic and Enoki mushrooms are browned and the Shiitake mushrooms are soft. Turn the heat off and add the cream, two pinches of the truffle salt, and pepper.  

Once the ingredients are mixed, add the creme fraiche and pour everything into a food processor or use a hand blender and blend until smooth.  Test the temperature to make sure the mixture is hot. If not, 15 seconds in the microwave will do the trick.

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Add to individual shot glasses and top with a pinch of truffle salt, two drops of truffle oil, and the tops of a couple Enoki mushrooms. Serve!

If you make this let me know what you think. I'm keen to discover new variations as this really is one of the better dishes I've invented. The more the merrier... 

Pepe Saya - Artisanal Aussie Butter

Butter. We've all eaten with it, cooked with it, baked with it. Or have we? Have you ever used and tasted real butter? One that comes from cream produced by grass fed, free range cows, and then hand crafted into a gorgeous and luxurious pat of butter. Or do you drop by the dairy section in Woolies and pick up the $.99 stick on special? Trust me, that isn't butter my friend. This is butter!

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Lately I've been really interested in the origins of our produce and food products and the characters and talents behind them. So one night recently I had a little wine-fuelled courage and pinged the Pepe team on Twitter about coming by for a visit sometime soon. And I was pleasantly surprised when they quickly came back and offered for me to drop in some afternoon to see what their butter was all about. 

When I originally told the Gourmet Female that I was going to see butter made she scoffed. "Can butter be that interesting?", she asked. But she came around at a BBQ when I told my mates I was going and their reaction was, "Wow, that sounds cool! Wish I could go." But I think that there are a number of great food producers out there who are proud of what they make and want people to know that there is definitely a difference between the mass-produced stuff and the products that are made with love and care. 

So after navigating my way from the station to their warehouse, I walked in and was followed closely by a couple - who I would happily find out were part of the team over at Brasserie Bread.  That's now definitely on my list for a visit! In any case, we walked into the office and I met Pepe himself. I have to admit, I wasn't sure if it was just a brand but no, Pepe is a real live, friendly, energetic, and passionate butter maker who is proud of what he and his team make every day. 

Once we donned the obligatory protective gear we spent a bit of time in the cold room, sampling the cream in its various stages, starting with cream, then culminating in creme fraiche. I've always known that as a country we require cream to be pasteurised but it's hard to appreciate the effect of that until you understand that the pasteurisation process kills all the active bacteria in the cream. So Pepe has to use his own to get the process going.

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The creme fraiche is then churned until it splits and you end up with "popcorn butter". The team use various types of churning machines, trying to get the best consistency and process control. 

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What's interesting is that as we watched the team wash the butter balls Pepe mentioned that this is a step that many restaurants miss and this is why their butter goes off after a couple days.

What you end up with is some amazingly tasty butter. Seriously, when you taste this stuff on the tip of a knife you think, "What the HELL have I been eating all these years? That wasn't butter, this is!".  

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Where it gets really interesting is when you begin watching the team mould the butter into the various packages - BY HAND.  It was amazing to watch everyone plow through the butter, shaping them for their restaurant clientele. So precise but so unique - each little packet is different. Pepe mentioned that they tried some industrial packaging techniques but it just didn't have the same result and charm. I almost wanted to give everyone a little hug and say, "Thank you! This is awesome. You're doing God's work."

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We then watched the team put together some big sized slabs of butter for the Brasserie Bread team. I can only imagine what tasty baked treats it'll end up in. Croissants? Sourdough? Damn, I'm hungry...

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In the end, it was only an hour or so but it was one of the more enjoyable food experiences I've had in a while. Pepe had so much passion in his product and it was touching to hear how he tried to explain to his dad that making premium butter was a business risk worth taking. "Artisanal to me means it's something that I can share, something I care about, and something special", he said.

To top things off he shared some of his amazing butter and creme fraiche with me. And then we got on the subject of wings, buttermilk, and buffalo sauce. I think someday I need to make some proper Frank's Buffalo Sauce and drop it by. Made with Pepe Saya butter, of course!

"There are many amazing butters in the world and here's to hoping Pepe Saya will be one of those." It will be mate, it will be. Keep doing what you're doing and they will come to enjoy an amazing handmade product. And thank you for sharing your passion and process with me. Awesomeness.

SMH Growers Markets - Pyrmont

No matter how hard I try most Friday evenings always involve a few beers and wines and I'm usually a little bit dusty on Saturday morning. Recently, I learned of the SMH Growers Market in Pyrmont and we dropped in at 11am. Bad move. Everything was shutting up and we were left with the dregs.

This past Saturday we were very keen to drop by my brother and sister-in-law's place and hang out with our niece and nephew. The pool was warm and I was happy to get the BBQ up and going. What better way to get some great produce and meat than to return to the SMH Growers Market and do it just a little bit earlier? And yes, there was massive backburning in Sydney and you could barely see in front of you, it was so smokey! 

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There is such a great variety of ingredients.  One of may favourites recently is Mandagery Creek venison. We picked up some venison chorizo in the hope that it would be amazing. It was - and my picky niece and nephew loved it as well... until I told them that it was venison!

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The produce may be expensive but it is simply fantastic. And I'm a big fan of local growers and their wares. Nothing is fresher than veggies picked that morning from the ground. When I was chatting with my sister-in-law about the veggies available at most markets she commented on how Woolies always has everything in stock - no better example of true seasonality and the chemical-produced crap that our supermarkets deliver.

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One of my recent favourites is organic lemon or lime cordial. It's not cheap but the stuff from Carlon's is simply fantastic. The kids love it and it's pretty much free of any inorganic ingredients and low in sugar. 

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Up until recently I thought I had an allergic reaction to mushrooms. I'm not sure if it was something I had as a kid or something my parents made me believe but I have certainly turned things around - I BBQ'd some beautiful shiitake mushrooms with olive oil and a splash of soy sauce. Awesome!

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And my favourite butter, Pepe Saya, always makes an appearance. I'm dropping in soon to take a tour and see how they make their magnificent butter. Can't wait!

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I was lucky enough to meet the Porteno boys and got a signed copy of their new book, "Recipes For A Good Time". They were friendly and down to earth and they said they'd have a peek at GourmetMale sometime soon.

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In any case, find your local market and drop by! You'll be amazed at what you can find - cheese, pastries, beef, pork, produce, nuts, etc. You'll walk away with amazing products and you'll help support our local growers and producers. A win, win for everyone!