2013 Australian Day Council’s Australia Day Lunch at Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre for 1,400
This year was the 25th lunch celebrating Australia Day to be held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre. It is also the Centre’s 25th year of operation. In my capacity as Australian Day Ambassador I’ve attended this special lunch many times and am always impressed by the standard and quality of the food and wine served by the amazing team at the Centre. Sadly due to filming commitments and my ambassadorial posting in Nundle I was unable to attend this year. I had a chat with Executive Chef Uwe Habermehl and Chief Sommelier William Wilson about the 2013 menu.
Uwe: We wanted to embrace the food traditionally eaten on Australia Day but in a bright, modern way. Prawns, pies, lamb and pavlova feature as do some favourite Australian ingredients – mangoes, macadamia nuts and summer fruits. We’ve been hosting this lunch for many years and I love the yearly challenge of creating a different menu using seasonal, predominantly New South Wales produce, much of it award-winning.
Overall preparation takes around three days. There are, of course, challenges associated with feeding a four-course lunch to 1,500 people but my team are a well-oiled machine and everything is methodically thought-out and tested and re-tested well prior to the event. This testing includes the matched wines, what we call ‘the movements’ which is the number of elements required to plate each dish through to the actual piece of crockery we are going to use to serve the dish.
Selecting serving crockery and other components is one of my favourite things! In this menu I’ve sourced transparent cocktail sticks for the marshmallows which I think sit beautifully alongside the brandy balloons of avocado smoothie. Normally, as the idea comes together in my mind, I visualise what I need for serving and endeavour to source. Not only does the food have to look and taste amazing, but it has to be easy for the wait staff to carry and present to diners.
In terms of plating and serving, I will have 54 chefs to plate each course, which we do six times, ie 250 plates at one time. I mentioned ‘movements’ before – all four courses of this menu have up to nine movements – that is a lot of staff and a lot of elements!
Other fun facts include: the food is cooked in 46 ovens, over 130 wait staff handle almost 10,000 pieces of cutlery, 7,500 items of glassware and 5,000 pieces of crockery. It takes four days to get the room ready for the lunch – staging, rigging and the behind-the-scenes set up. We also have to build six satellite kitchens in the adjoining halls. It truly is a huge operation. Can we talk about the menu now?
On arrival: Macadamia nut and chilli marshmallow with avocado smoothie. We love avocadoes at the moment at the Centre and the smoothie version is avocado puree thinned with Country Valley Luscious Yoghurt and Pepe Saya Buttermilk, served elegantly in a well-chilled brandy balloon with the savoury marshmallow on the side. With, you guessed it, native Australian macadamia nuts enlivened with a little chilli.
William: We’ve chosen Tyrrell’s Traditional Method Pinot Noir Chardonnay 2009 from New South Wales’ Hunter Valley for this dish. The sparkling is a real palate awakener. For a warm area like the Hunter this wine is really crisp, with a high level of acidity. Avocado is traditionally hard to match with wine, but here I think we’ve chosen a wine to enhance rather than overpower.
Uwe Entrée: Sugar-cured salmon and kingfish terrine with carid prawn rémoulade and asparagus salad
For this dish, king salmon from our Australasian neighbours across the ditch is sugar-cured and used to form a casing for softly poached kingfish, lightly flavoured with parsley. We used West Australian Carid Prawns in the remoulade – 28,000 of these tiny shrimp-like prawns were meticulously peeled, cured overnight before being moistened with mayonnaise. The prawn remoulade and green and white asparagus dressed with lime oil complete this delicate entrée.
William: A full flavoured fish like salmon needs a full flavoured wine. We’ve selected Tyrrell’s Single Vineyard Stevens Semillon 2008 from the Hunter Valley. For a white wine it is quite complex, due to the aging, and the hint of nuttiness and good acid matches really well with Uwe’s entrée.
Uwe Main course: Duck confit and quail breast pie with spicy mango relish and elderberry wine-cured rack of Milly Hill lamb with horseradish galette and green pea purée
There are two major elements in this dish – pie and lamb. Game Farm duck and quail form the filling for a delicate shell of our signature sour cream pastry. Kensington Mangoes are used to create a fresh relish to serve alongside. The lamb component features 2012 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW President’s Medallist, Milly Hill Lamb from Armidale in New South Wales. Preparation for this dish started months ago when we ordered 375 9-bone racks of lamb (a total of 300kg). These were frenched (this alone took my chefs nearly two days!), seared off quickly and then cured in house-made elderberry wine for 12 hours before being cooked at 80⁰C until an internal temperature of 57⁰C is reached. A true labour of love! Traditional accompaniments – peas and potatoes – were served alongside.
William: Not your typical bold, alcoholic Australian shiraz, Tyrrell’s Lunatiq Heathcote Shiraz 2010 from Victoria is light and a little spicy, think white pepper. For me it has more interest, textures and complexity than a big fruit driven wine. For this reason it matches with food well, particularly Uwe’s main course. We haven’t included a separate wine for the dessert course as from previous experience most guests are content to carry on with the shiraz. I do know that the hint of chocolate in the wine will complement Uwe’s chocolate meringue masterpiece.
Uwe Dessert: summer berry chocolate meringue with cinnamon-spiced hunter valley mascarpone and peach buttermilk ice cream This dish draws inspiration from the Australian dessert hero, the pavlova.
In our version I added chocolate; who doesn’t love chocolate! Each plate has two discs of meringue – one topped with rich Binnorie Dairy mascarpone spiced with cinnamon and the other a refreshing roasted peach ice-cream made with Pepe Saya buttermilk. Purposefully the meringue toppings vary – roasted peach with acidic freshness and a slight savoury note is the perfect foil for the super creamy mascarpone.
Lyndey: My mouth is watering. Thank you both so much; I wish I had been able to go!
Lyndey Milan, Australian home cook hero, combines a thirst for life and a sense of fun with a love of good food and sparkling shiraz. A familiar face on television and in print, she been instrumental in changing the way Australians think and feel about food and wine for over 25 years.