Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from abroad.

Next time you head over­seas, don’t for­get to pilfer a few things – ideas you can use to en­liven your own cook­ing

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - MATT PRE­STON

MY PHONE isn’t just the most mar­vel­lous vis­ual record to ev­ery­where I have been and ev­ery­thing that I have eaten. It’s also my note­book, crammed with in­spi­ra­tion that’s hit me, and ideas that I’ve seen over­seas and want to steal. These come from homes, street stalls, restau­rants and even lo­cal junk foods.

Here are four ideas that made it off the phone and into a home-cook friendly form when I got back to Oz.

A WELSH CHEESE TOASTIE

Here’s an idea from Lon­don, where I grew up with an ob­ses­sion with cheese and onion chips. Later, this be­came a love for a toasted cheese and onion sand­wich for break­fast. De­li­cious, if a lit­tle harsh.

That all changed when a cafe owner showed me how to cook whole cleaned leeks in the mi­crowave for three min­utes, then cut off the root end, split and then lift out all the soft cen­tres to spread on one side of your cheese toastie. The re­sult is far sweeter both in flavour and for your breath.

SCAN­DI­NA­VIAN PAIR­INGS

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Scan­di­navia over the last few years and it’s given me lots of in­spi­ra­tion.

In Stock­holm, I learnt to poach yab­bies with loads of dill, and make a salad of toma­toes and plum with ri­cotta.

In Copen­hagen, chef Chris­tian Puglisi taught me that risotto can be made with sun­flower seeds rather than rice, and Noma’s way of pair­ing some­thing bril­liantly green and herby with some­thing creamy gave me the idea for a dish of le­mon-dressed zuc­chini rib­bons served with a creamy bur­rata and ver­dant slurry of basil oil.

That use of dill, burn­ing stuff (in­ten­tion­ally) and their love of pick­les was the in­spi­ra­tion for a recipe from my last cook­book that tried to cre­ate the flavour and tex­ture of dill pick­les in a fresher way. So I grilled baby cu­cum­bers on the bar­be­cue un­til their tex­ture broke down to re­sem­ble pick­les and served them loaded with dill and old-school lumpy cot­tage cheese, which gives the milk­i­ness that slight sour­ness you find with lac­tic fer­men­ta­tion. Yes, you can call me pre­ten­tious – I’ll own it!

VIET­NAMESE PORK

Roast ap­ples? Old hat! Kim chi? Too hip­ster. Red cab­bage with but­ter, car­away and vine­gar? Who are you, my grand­mother? To give your roast pork new zip, whether it’s slow roasted shoul­der or crunchy, wob­bly pork belly, try this idea I dis­cov­ered in a tiny gar­den res­tau­rant in Hue, Viet­nam. The per­fect part­ner to pig is a fish sauce caramel.

Heat 250g grated palm sugar with 180ml water to make a golden caramel. When it’s got a lovely tanned colour, care­fully stir in 40ml water to stop cook­ing. Then add about 40ml of the best fish sauce you can find. Do this grad­u­ally and stop when the funk­i­ness of the fish sauce is just peek­ing through.

Serve with a crunchy cab­bage slaw dressed with lit­tle more than lime juice and rice noo­dles or a nice crusty baguette and salted but­ter to carry on the French In­do­chine theme, de­pend­ing on your po­lit­i­cal at­ti­tude.

Make this with the juice and flesh of cooked rhubarb rather than the water for some­thing even funkier, where the rhubarb’s sour­ness helps cut against the sweet­ness of the caramel.

QUINCES & CLOT­TED CREAM

There are lots of rea­sons to go to Is­tan­bul. To see the Blue Mosque, to drift on the Bospho­rus pre­tend­ing to be James Bond, to watch Be­sik­tas play. Per­son­ally, I go for the quinces in Beyo­glu and the kay­mak.

The quinces are slow-cooked to a deep, ruddy soft­ness and set with their own jel­lied juices and the kay­mak is a thick clot­ted cream that’s per­fect for break­fast when driz­zled with honey.

Back home, when the crav­ing got too much, I com­bined them into one dish al­though I used creme fraiche as it soft­ens the sweet­ness of the quinces a lit­tle. I also added halva for tex­ture and sweet­ness to bal­ance the creme fraiche, and mint for fresh­ness.

It is one of my favourite desserts – for the recipe go to de­li­cious.com.au.

If you want the jel­lied tex­ture, make sure that you cook the quinces along with the skins, cores and seeds. Strain them out af­ter cook­ing and be­fore you re­duce the syrup.

FLAVOURS OF IS­TAN­BUL Matt Pre­ston’s Turkish roast quinces with creme fraiche and halva.

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