Be Our Guest
Chefs’ tips, inviting spaces, Italian fare
Dapper dresser Matt is known for his array of cravats as well as his warm, avuncular on-screen role as a judge on MasterChef Australia. He’s also an acclaimed food journalist and author with five cookbooks under his belt and a sixth out in November. I’m always exploring new flavours. My next book is all about easy, quick recipes from around the globe, so I’ve been spending a lot of time playing with signature flavours from the world’s great cuisines. Korean and Indian are a current obsession – and so simple, when you master them, to get monster tasty flavours. Italian and Muslim Mediterranean are long-term obsessions. Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese are other go-tos for inspiration.
The most influential cookbook I’ve ever read is Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking. It’s a brilliant and very accessible work on the science of cooking. The River Café books are great for tasty, no-fail recipes. And Margaret Fulton’s Encyclopedia of Food and Cookery is another regular read. For an easy, mid-week family dinner
I cook teriyaki ocean trout or salmon with crispy skin on brown rice. Or my mother-inlaw’s lamb, walnut and pineapple braise – a country classic. Or anything from my last book! [ Yummy Easy Quick, Pan Macmillan]
For Sunday lunch I love a slow-roasted lamb shoulder with a roast beetroot and feta salad. Or slow-roasted, crispy five-spice pork shoulder with killer Asian slaw and roasted Brussels sprouts. Must-have kitchen utensils include
a heat-resistant silicone spatula: it’s cleaner than a wooden spoon and encourages
gentle folding – cheap and valuable. Also, a good, fine-toothed microplane for fine grating: expect to pay about $40 for a decent one. And two good vegetable peelers: a straight-edged one and the other a multi-toothed julienne peeler for shredding veg for slaws and pickles (the best $12 you’ll spend in the kitchen). I always play music when I cook,
everything from trash disco to old soul. Favourite artists are The Sonics, The Black Keys, Sunnyboys and whatever is on my children’s playlists – Little Uzi Vert, Childish Gambino, Sticky Fingers, DMA’s, Tay Tay.
In the kitchen I wear my beautiful brown leather apron made for me by CollectingPrettyBoys – it’s ageing to a burnished suppleness and is easy to keep clean. Oh, and tough Aussie-made work boots. The cravat is my Sunday best and has no place in the kitchen!
My pet hate is all that tedious chopping required to make stir-fries. I love to cook for people. It helps that I always have new recipes to try out on unsuspecting friends who will give me honest feedback – though not as brutally honest as my children! I’d rather have ‘people over for dinner’ than a dinner party. It’s about the people rather than the food, always. For background music
when entertaining, I play something laidback like Angus & Julia Stone, cruisy dub or something from the
Blue Note jazz collection for the
first part of the night, then pass round the controls and let my guests DJ. If you’re preparing a dinner party,
do as much as you can in advance. Go for share platters to make life easier – one meat or seafood side and two interesting sides that are good enough to eat on their own.
My favourite tipple is Tanqueray and tonic. I like it with unusual garnishes, such as rosemary and pear, or grapefruit and thyme. I love making cocktails, too. I think a signature cocktail for the night makes guests feel more valued when they arrive. MasterChef Australia airs Sunday to Thursday at 7.30pm on Network Ten.