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.
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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