An Asian Twist

Matt Fowles in­tro­duces us to Jose Pren­der­gast, a chef who man­ages the kitchens at The Euro­pean in Mel­bourne. Her chal­lenge: duck with flair but achiev­able, even over a camp­fire and a les­son in calm down cook­ing.

Field and Game - - BUSH TO BANQUET - With Matt Fowles |

As a chef, Jose Pren­der­gast is the go-to per­son for fam­ily and friends stuck for a recipe.

She gets some rip­pers, like the rel­a­tive who once bought 10 kg of zuc­chini be­cause it was cheap at the lo­cal mar­ket.

Her ad­vice on that oc­ca­sion and most oth­ers be­gan with two words: “calm down”.

Now she is man­ag­ing the kitchens at The Euro­pean on Spring St in Mel­bourne rather than be­ing hands on, Jose has found time to turn her ‘calm down' phi­los­o­phy into a Face­book page to help home cooks mas­ter some chef tech­niques but apply them to a sim­ple recipe with a few in­gre­di­ents to achieve a flavour-rich re­sult. “I want to bring some of those tech­niques chefs use but not nec­es­sar­ily with the amount of time and prepa­ra­tion they put into it,” she said.

Jose sug­gested a zuc­chini carpac­cio with le­mon rind but there was a snag, the rel­a­tive had no le­mon on hand. “I tell them, calm down, it doesn't mat­ter, and we can sub­sti­tute one in­gre­di­ent for an­other,” she said. “If you don't have the right equip­ment it doesn't mat­ter, and that is what the calm down cook­ing page is: that sort of di­a­logue I have with my fam­ily and friends telling them it's just a process and it doesn't have to be the same as I would make it, to go with what you've got and your in­stinct.”

Her recipe for Bush to Ban­quet is sim­ple, flavour­some and able to be cooked out­doors with what­ever in­gre­di­ents are in the car fridge. All it takes is trust. “We need to get peo­ple to trust their palate again and have a go rather than think­ing they have to fol­low a recipe,” Jose said.

Con­fit de ca­nard is usu­ally pre­pared from the legs of the bird; the meat is salted and sea­soned with herbs and slowly cooked sub­merged in its own ren­dered fat. For this recipe, Jose ques­tioned the tra­di­tion of salt­ing. “I wanted to make it quicker by tak­ing out the salt­ing process and mak­ing it lighter and fresher by do­ing it un­der co­conut milk and lime in­stead of un­der duck fat,” she said. “You gen­er­ally salt duck legs for up to a week, I was read­ing about it, and I think it de­vel­oped from try­ing to pre­serve it for a long time, so if you are go­ing to eat it straight away, there is just no need. “Salt­ing would break the pro­tein down a bit but cook­ing it low and slow, you are go­ing to do that any­way.”

The Asian-in­spired dish is some­what of an odd­ity given her Euro­pean train­ing.

“If you have duck, you think sticky, red wine sauces, slow-braised lentils and parsnip puree, and it is all re­ally heavy,” Jose said.

“I don't know that it is nec­es­sar­ily the way peo­ple want to eat. I wanted some­thing fresher but still with the game flavours com­ing through.”

Calm Down Cook­ing isn't anti­estab­lish­ment, it is recog­nis­ing that home cooks, es­pe­cially those like Jose with young chil­dren, sim­ply do not have the time or equip­ment to be a mas­ter chef. “I ap­pre­ci­ate go­ing out and hav­ing a chef cook for me, and I know what is in­volved in a com­mer­cial kitchen and the amount of time and ef­fort that goes into that, but if I'm at home and I've got lit­tle kids, I don't want it to be that time con­sum­ing,” she said.

“I still want it to be flavour­ful and re­spect­ing the in­gre­di­ents but you might only need three good in­gre­di­ents that marry well, it doesn't have to be any­thing trick­ier than that.”

There is an­other, very good rea­son for de­vel­op­ing calmer cook­ery — dishes. “I love Jamie Oliver and his 30-minute meals but I wouldn't want to be clean­ing up af­ter him,” Jose said. “I'm all about quick and nu­tri­tious but also you're not go­ing to be clean­ing up in the kitchen for two hours af­ter­wards. “You can have good tech­nique, three in­gre­di­ents and it tastes amaz­ing.”

You can find Jose's tips and recipes on Face­book, just search for Calm Down Cook­ing.

• 4 duck legs • 1–2 cans co­conut milk (de­pends on your dish you are cook­ing in and its depth) • 3 lime leaves • 6 cloves gar­lic • 2 long red chilli • 2 medium sweet potato or 1 large • 1 red onion • 6 spring onion • hand­ful wa­ter­cress leaves • hand­ful co­rian­der leaves • About a ta­ble­spoon of co­conut oil • Juice of a lime (if you have it) • Salt and pep­per

Place the duck legs, skin side up, in a sin­gle layer in a deep tray, pan or dish Cover with co­conut milk so they are fully sub­merged. Bruise the lime and gar­lic cloves and add to the pan Cover with bak­ing pa­per and then, tightly, with foil Cook for ap­prox­i­mately 3 hours at 120°C or un­til meat is eas­ily pulling from bone. Al­low to cool slightly, then re­move legs from liq­uid Dice sweet potato and fry in co­conut oil with salt and pep­per un­til coloured and cooked through, set aside Slice onion, spring onion and chill­ies (re­move the seeds for less heat) Mix meat through sweet potato and when still just warm, add onions and chilli and lastly herbs and lime juice if you have it Eat straight away!

You could also gar­nish with some roasted peanuts or crispy shal­lots if you had them around.

An­other al­ter­na­tive to a salad (and de­li­cious and easy when camp­ing!) would be to cook the duck the same, af­ter shred­ding the meat off, adding back to some of the liq­uid with chopped sweet potato and calm down(!) what­ever your other favourite veg­etable is that you could have car­ried with­out get­ting squashed (potato, egg­plant; I love the small Thai egg­plant, they are de­li­cious and so firm so great to carry around with­out get­ting dam­aged, zuc­chini) any­thing re­ally, just your faves!

This will cre­ate a duck/veg like curry that would be warm and sat­is­fy­ing when camp­ing with very min­i­mal ef­fort! Bring a packet of rice along and heat the bag in water and you're set! You could also take it a step fur­ther and bring along a small amount of curry paste for a more in­tense flavour but hon­estly I think the gamey meat with lime and co­conut works a treat and a bit of sweet­ness from the veg, very sat­is­fy­ing!

The idea was to make it achiev­able, some­thing peo­ple could cook but also to put a dif­fer­ent spin on game and it was a sim­ple dish that was de­li­cious to eat.

I think it is a re­ally clever recipe and a bal­anced light dish.

It's a re­ally ex­cit­ing way to eat game; there wouldn't be one per­son in this coun­try who wouldn't en­joy that dish or think of it as not be­ing gamey.

I like to push the bound­aries on food and wine match­ing a bit and Jose in­cor­po­rated chili in that dish, which is al­ways an in­ter­est­ing in­gre­di­ent for wine match­ing.

You have to be care­ful be­cause it can throw out red wine, which most peo­ple would choose for duck, so I've gone with some­thing that is a blush of red, a rosé that you can chill to cut the heat in the salad.

In ad­di­tion, I am a fan of match­ing lighter styles of wine with game meat in par­tic­u­lar be­cause I think they work bet­ter to­gether.

Rosé is pos­si­bly the fastest-grow­ing va­ri­ety or style in Aus­tralia right now and Do­minique Portet and his son Ben, who is a 10th-gen­er­a­tion wine­maker go­ing back to the great chateaus of France, have re­ally put their stamp on rosé in this coun­try.

I think they are the bench­mark. This is­sue we have a dozen bot­tles of Fowles Are You Game? to give away to a lucky reader.

Fol­low­ing on from Jose's sim­ple recipe with a hand­ful of in­gre­di­ents, all you have to do de­scribe in no more than 50 words the tasti­est game food you have ever tasted — the one with the fewest in­gre­di­ents, but the great­est sat­is­fac­tion.

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