Probably one of the highlights of my year thus far (though I don’t imagine it can get much better), was cooking (yes actually cooking) with the Executive Chef of Sydney’s finest restaurant, Peter Gilmore (Quay). We brought in the start of the season with a lunch that we cooked ourselves, under his direction, at the Electrolux showrooms. Not only did we get to cook with him but we were also treated to using some very fine produce, including heirloom vegetables from the Quay farm. Steamed spring vegetables: that was my favourite dish of the day. And I took the time to make sure that each component of the dish was cooked to its own perfection. Blush! Chef complimented me on my dish, which I enjoyed even more than the cooking or the eating.
“For me, the three most important things to keep in mind when cooking with seasonal ingredients are colour, texture and flavour.” said Peter.
“Many people may not realise when certain fruits and vegetables are at their finest. The most important thing to look for in terms of ripeness and quality is the texture of your fruit and vegetables – I believe text is as important in the kitchen as flavour.”
Steamed Spring Vegetable Salad with Fresh Goat’s Curd, Lemon Jam and Fennel Pollen Dressing
8 green asparagus peeled
8 white asparagus peeled
16 baby snow peas
300gm young garden peas (shelled)
8 female zucchini flowers (with fruit) split in half
8 small spring onions (peel one layer away)
8 baby leeks trimmed and washed
8 baby pink or white turnips peeled and cut in half
16 baby French breakfast radishes
4 baby fennel cut in half
300gm fresh goat’s curd (cheese)
1 tablespoon lemon marmalade
1/2 golden shallot very finely diced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel pollen (or 1 teaspoon finely chopped roasted fennel seeds)
1 tablespoon finely sliced fennel tops
Baby basil sprouts
Baby parsley leaf
Set 8 plates out.
Take the goat’s curd and place it in a bowl. Using a spoon break up the goat’s curd so it becomes spreadable. If you are using fresh goat’s cheese instead of curd you may need to add a little pouring cream. Spread a tablespoon of goat’s curd out onto the centre of each plate using a small palette knife.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and whisk well.
Set your Electrolux steam oven to full steam.
In a perforated tray place the peeled asparagus, baby fennel, baby leeks, turnips and spring onions. Cover the tray with cling film and pierce a few holes with the point of a knife. Place the tray into the steam oven for 3 minutes.
In the meantime, in another perforated tray add the remaining vegetables, cover with cling film and pierce with a knife. Steam these more delicate vegetables for 1 minute only.
Once all the vegetables are steamed and while they are still hot, place them into a large bowl with the dressing. Mix well to coat the vegetables.
Place an even amount of each type of vegetable on the goat’s curd.
Garnish with herbs and flowers and serve immediately.
Peter shared some helpful advice on how to select some of his favourite spring produce:
Asparagus – No other vegetable signifies the arrival of spring like asparagus. When buying asparagus, look for firm, bright and smooth spears, with closed, compact tips. As with all vegetables, try and cook this as soon as possible after you buy it.
Baby snow peas – Always look for snow peas that are bright green in colour, with no yellow or black tinges. It is important to feel them as they should be crisp and firm.
Turnips – Spring is the perfect time to cook with these delicious root vegetables, when they are small and sweet. Look for brightly colour turnips with creamy looking bulbs and a violet-hued ring around the tops.