Canapé – Sorbello Heirloom tomato tarts
Justin North has a particular affection for game. His restaurant, Bécasse, is French for woodcock, a small gamebird mostly found in the Northern Hemisphere.
It goes some way to explaining Justin's noticeable excitement at today's Producers' Lunch Forum - one that will feature spanner crab, mushrooms and game. As we learn more about the people behind each product, Justin spontaneously tells his own story about his affection for the woodcock.
The woodcook, Justin tells us, forms part of his fondest memories during his time at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons. One late night after their shift had finished, Justin and his fellow chefs obtained some rare and prized woodcocks - in England these can be bought from gamehunters but in the USA and France they may only be hunted for personal consumption.
They decide to roast these small gamebirds whole, trussing the bird by twisting its neck and tucking the bird's own long thin beak back into itself. When the bird is cooked, they savour its flesh, then they pull out the insides and sautee the organs with some foie gras, making a rustic sort of pate.
Next they cut some slices of brioche, frying them in the pan juices so all the flavours are absorbed. Justin pauses briefly at the memory, as though to allow us to all imagine the incredible flavour.
Then there is the head. The beak is long and tapered, Justin explains, and it's a simple matter of using a knife to prise the beak apart in two. The top part is flipped upside down so the brains now sit in what looks like a spoon. It's delicious, he says, tasting much like lambs brain but perhaps a touch gamier.
The next morning they wake with sore heads and to a kitchen filled with feathers. Several years later, Justin named his first restaurant after this little creature.
Bécasse bread – Kurobuta prosciutto baguettes
At first this ancedote seems rather brutal but it's a perfect example of the nose-to-tail eating philosophy - of eating and appreciating every part of an animal that has died to be eaten. The preciousness of each mouthful was not forgotten nor taken for granted. If only every animal we have ever eaten was remembered with such clarity and emotion.
The Producers Lunch Forum at Bécasse provides an opportunity for the public and invited media to think a little more carefully about where their food has come from.
We start with the signature Bécasse canapes: chunky slices of sweet Sorbello Heirloom tomato on flaky pastry topped with a quenelle of silky mascarpone and a deep-fried basil leaf. Our bread rolls are served warm from the oven, made from 75% white flour and 25% rye, delightfully soft and fluffy on the inside, dotted throughout with diced Kurobuta prosciutto.
Amuse bouche – Smoked Hiramasa kingfish
with avocado Chantilly and pink grapefruit
Wine match - 2009 Keith Tulloch Per Diem Pinot Gris, Hunter Valley
Delicate slivers of smoked Hiramasa kingfish are livened by segments of ruby grapefruit, drizzles of extra virgin olive oil and a velvety puree of avocado Chantilly. Wines for today are by Keith Tulloch, the Per Diem Pinot Gris is lovely and light with notes of apple and pear. Wine should not dominate a meal, we're told, but be like jewellery to the food - an elegant enhancement.
Johnny Rockcliff of Seaspac Queensland Spanner Crabs
Johnny Rockcliff sounds like he should have his own band, but instead he's here to tell us about his family business, started by his grandparents 50 years ago. Whilst the bulk of their business is in ocean trout, they've recently moved into spanner crabs, a sustainable line that has no bio-catch. The crabs are caught using a dilly net that only traps spanner crabs - their triangular-shaped claws get caught in the net whereas other crabs can continue to walk freely. Spanner crabs move about on sandy floors so the nets themselves don't harm coral or seaweeds either.
Canellone of spanner crab with fennel and ginger puree,
Champagne veloute and compressed cucumber
Wine match - 2008 Keith Tulloch Chardonnay, Hunter Valley
The canellone is a sophisticated-looking tunnel of spanner crab mousse in a gossamer-thin pasta wrapping. On its own the crab is sweet and mild tasting, but amplified considerably when combined with the Champagne veloute. Whilst I enjoy this dish, secretly I wish the crab had been simply picked and served so as to enjoy its original texture as well.
Noel Arrold of Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms
The story of Li-Sun Exotic Mushrooms always fascinates me. The mushrooms are cultivated in the unused railway tunnels between Bowral and Mittagong, 650-metre long and 150 feet underground. They flourish in the 16C-18C temperatures and 80% humidity.
Roast ballottine of pheasant with a persillade of mushrooms,
Brussels sprout puree and confit chestnuts
Matching wine - 2006 Keith Tulloch Kester Shiraz, Hunter Valley
Our main incorporates both mushrooms and game. The pheasant has been deboned and re-rolled into a ballotine with pistachio. A medley of mushrooms is served alongside discs of roast potato, confit chestnuts and nutty young baby Brussels sprouts. A daub of pea-green puree is actually made from Brussels sprout too.
Ian Milburn of Glenloth Game
Ian Milburn from Glenloth Game tells us that although pheasants are native to China, they are not commonly eaten but primarily exported. They use ring-neck pheasants, a slow-growing bird that is reared to 1.8kg. In a very small industry, transport costs around Australia make up the bulk of the cost of the final product.
In a Q&A session at the end of the lunch, Ian was asked why goose isn't readily available in Australia. The reason why you can't buy goose is primarily due to low demand. The only guaranteed market for goose is at Christmas time - there is no demand from restaurants. Partridge is another animal with few requests.
Keith Tulloch wines
2006 Keith Tulloch Kester Shiraz and
2007 Keith Tulloch Botrytis Semillon, Hunter Valley
Justin North at the top level of Bécasse
Organic Miellerie honey crème légère
with blonde quince jelly and sorbet
Dessert is a generous two-stage affair that highlights new season quince. The blonde quince jelly is made by poaching quince with lemon juice to preserve its natural yellow colour. Half the quince consomme is set with gelatine, the other half is turned into a sorbet. Both are served with a dollop of crème légère made with organic Miellerie honey. I love the freshness of this dessert, with the sweetness underpinned by hints of tartness.
Brioche pain perdu
with quince puree and nougat glace of honeycomb and pistachio
The red-cooked quince is made by poaching for longer and slower to generate a deeper colour and a more intense, earthy flavour. A plank of brioche pain perdu is soft and eggy, the scoop of ice cream sweet with shards of honeycomb. It's quite fun to explore the different textures of the quince on the plate - served poached as well in a jelly, puree and sticky toffee-like form.
Justine Schofield from Masterchef Australia 2009
Seated next to me at lunch? Justine Schofield from MasterChef Australia season 1. To her surprise she's still extraordinarily busy with public appearances and cooking demonstrations, and is writing weekly updates for the official MasterChef blog.
The Masterchef website has been significantly expanded this year. Justin North is the online Masterchef Chef and Restauranteur expert - you can ask him anything here. [And on a side note, Chocolatesuze is running her live chat forum during MasterChef episodes too - you'll find a whole heap of Sydney and Melbourne food bloggers dissecting the action as it unfolds - it's all in good fun, and a bit like having a MasterChef party in your living room without the clean-up!]
The Producer's Lunch Forum is held every six weeks. The next Producers' Lunch Forum will be on Wednesday 16th June 2010.
The seasonal Producers' Lunch is available every day at Bécasse for $35 including a glass of wine.
Grab Your Fork attended the Producers' Forum as a guest of Becasse.
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204 Clarence Street, Sydney
(between Market and Druitt)
Tel: +61 (02) 9283 3440
Lunch: Monday to Friday lunch 12.00pm – 2.30pm
Dinner: Monday to Saturday 6.00pm – 10.30pm
Becassé has been included on Grab Your Fork's Top 10 Sydney Eats for Tourists. Read the entire list here.
Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Becassé, Sydney - Vin de Champagne Awards (Sep10)
Becassé, Sydney - Fresh Black Perigord Truffles Producers' Forum (Aug09)
Becassé, Sydney - Champagne Spring Dinner (Sep09)
Becassé, Sydney - Hats Off Dinner (Oct06)
Etch, Sydney - A la carte lunch
Etch, Sydney - Fishing for a Difference: Justin North, Matt Moran & Matt Preston
Plan B - Wagyu burger and wagyu steak sandwich
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4/22/2010 03:44:00 a.m.