Easy Does It

Barbecued spatchcock with winter herbs and radicchio.
Photo: Domino Postiglione

EASY DOES IT

The most pleasurable dishes are often the simplest.

Asked about refinement in relation to the food at Berowra Waters Inn, legendary restaurateur Gay Bilson once said, ”I just want to serve people a good meal. I am against hosts of flavours together on the plate. If a dish is something, it should only be that and not lots of extraneous flavours.”

If a dish is something, it should only be that. Have a look at the food photos from some of our top restaurants. Pretty? Of course. Photogenic? Exceedingly. But, rather than dishes in the strict sense, these are mostly constructions of elements that are clever, surprising and more art than food.

They are by necessity small and intricate and live in a lilliputian world populated by tiny vegetables, micro herbs and really-difficult-to-procure or finicky ingredients, such as fennel pollen and rosemary flowers.

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There’s no doubt many people enjoy eating multiple courses of tiny-portioned plates but there are also those who go expecting ”a good meal” and instead experience a series of intellectual exercises.

I find myself agreeing with Gay Bilson. I just want to serve people a good meal.

 

BARBECUED SPATCHCOCK WITH WINTER HERBS AND RADICCHIO

If spatchcock is not available, a small chicken cut in half lengthways can be prepared using the same method.

  • 4 spatchcocks, 400g-500g each
  • 6 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup mixed winter herbs (sage, rosemary, parsley, chives), leaves picked from stems
  • 1 head treviso lettuce or radicchio
  • 4 lemons

Take spatchcocks, one at a time, and place on surface with cavity of bird facing you so legs are facing away. Backbone is underneath, running from the ”parson’s nose” to the neck. Using a sharp pair of kitchen scissors, start at the cavity end, cut 1cm to the right of the backbone along the length of the bird. Then cut 1cm to the left, all the way along, removing backbone and neck. Wash birds, removing any small pieces of bone, and pat dry. Flatten spatchcock. Rub birds with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place on hot barbecue or grill and cook 8-10 minutes each side. Chop all herbs together and mix with remaining 4 tbsp oil. Clean and trim treviso. Slice top to bottom in thin strips. Cut each lemon into two cheeks. Once cooked, place each bird on serving plates. Serve with treviso and lemon cheeks. Spoon a little herb dressing on top.

Serves 4 as main course

Wine Vin jaune from the French Jura or a medium-bodied chardonnay.

 

BRUTTI MA BUONI

Literally translated, these biscuits are ”ugly but delicious”.

  • 5 egg whites from large eggs
  • 330g castor sugar
  • 400g blanched almonds, lightly roasted and chopped
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • Unsalted butter and plain flour for dusting baking dish

Preheat oven to 160C. Beat egg whites in mixer with a whisk attachment until foamy. Keep whisking and slowly add sugar until all incorporated to form stiff, shiny peaks. Gently fold in chopped almonds and cinnamon. Butter and flour a baking sheet. Spoon mixture on in 1 tbsp dollops, continuing at 2cm spacing until all used. Bake for 30 minutes, remove, turn oven to 130C. Wait until temperature drops then bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove and cool before serving. Keeps for weeks in an airtight container.

Makes 35-40

Drink with espresso, macchiato or latte.

 

smanfredi@smh.com.au

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