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Thursday, October 01, 2009

Masterchef's Matt Preston, a fleischmeister and a feast of salami

"You're a bad bad fleischmeister!"

Now that is the kind of dirty talk guaranteed to get a gourmand's pulse racing.

When those words are uttered by Matt Preston himself, well, let's just say I was glad I was sitting down at the time...

The deli envelope containing the Don media lunch

I have to confess that Matt Preston was the main drawcard to my attendance at the Don Smallgoods media lunch, although the invitation--wrapped in butchers paper and sealed with a deli sticker-- earned major points for creativity.

But Matt Preston? With giant salamis? The potential for sexual inneundo was priceless.

Don salamis

Matt Preston (it seems too flippant to call him just Matt), Masterchef judge, revered restaurant critic, food writer and thinking women's crumpet (oh yes!), will be fronting was MC'ing the lauch of the latest ad campaign for Don. Today we would be enjoying a three-course lunch at the Victoria Room in Darlinghurst, and an education in the Way Of The Salami, attended by assorted media and food bloggers Ellie, Howard, Leona and Melissa (thanks Nuffnang!).

Fleischmeister Gerhard Feiner and Matt Preston

Fleishmeister Gerhard Feiner is one of only six qualified fleischmeisters in Australia, four of whom are employed by Don. A fleischmeister translates as a meat master, and is the highest qualification obtainable for meat specialists in Europe. It takes 5-7 years to become a fleischmeister, Gerhard explains, involving full-time study with no pay.

In his strong Austian accent, Gerhard takes us through the process of salami production. "First you take raw meat, and then you add fat, and then you do something to it."

It sounds simplistic, but in essence, that's all there is. The ingredients are simple - it's the aging process that is responsible for creating the flavour. The meat is not cooked - it simply hangs and ages slowly. "You can only control and fine-tune the temperature, humidity and airflow," Gerhard says.

"It's like a wine or a cheese," Matt adds.

Don salamis

Salamis have a 4,000 - 5,000 year history, Gerhard tells us, acknowledging that the Chinese were probably the first when they started making lup cheong. The Chinese realised that drying meat made it shelf-stable, and the process soon spread to Europe. Salami preferences are cultural, with the Scandinavians preferring milder versions whilst the Spanish prefer theirs spicy (chorizo), and the Germans love it smoked.

Gerhard Feiner slices into a salami

Salami school is fascinating. We learn:

  • Salamis must lose about 30%-32% of their weight before they can be sold. This means that a 1kg salami at production ends up weighing 680g by the time it's sold.
  • It takes about 7 weeks for a salami to mature.
  • When slicing a salami, cut it on a diagonal for maximum surface area. It's also important to brush the knife back up against the cut surface - this helps add a lovely shine to the meat.
  • A good salami should have an even colour distribution. If there's a visible darker ring, it means the salami was dried too quickly and moisture was extracted too fast.
  • Don makes about 100 tonnes of salami per week. Their salamis are cold smoked at a temperature of about 20-25 degrees Celcius. This creates clean smoke flavours.
  • Don are planning on launching a new range of salamis that will contain alchohol, like port. This snippet of information was prematurely revealed by Gerhard, prompting Matt to call him a bad fleischmeister as per the opening quote!
  • Pepperoni was a product specifically developed for pizzas. When pepperoni is cooked, it doesn't form a cup like most other salamis. The non-cupping effect is achieved by using less fat and drying the salami for much longer. It has a firmer mouth-feel.
  • Good salami is made using sow meat. It's said that meat from male pigs has a pungency that affects the flavour, creating what's know as bad salami. "It smells like a teenage boy," Matt says. I take his word for it.
  • The best meat for a salami is from the neck and the shoulder area, where the interconnective tissue provides the best flavour.
  • The ideal thickness of a salami slice is 1.5mm-2mm. You should be able to bend the salami around your finger and not have it crack. It's important that you "eat" a salami as the chewing action activates the oil in the fat, creating a richer fuller flavour.

Matt Preston likes a hands-on approach with his salami

Watching Matt talk about salami is mesmerising. All the gestures and manerisms you know from Masterchef are there - the eye-closing, the slight lift of the shoulders, the wafting of his fingers, a little sigh here and there, the thoughtful muse, and the buttery tones of his baritone voice.

When we're guided through a taste-testing of various salamis, Matt urges us to use our fingers to pick up the slices and eat. "I love the smell that gets left behind on your fingers," he confides. "It's like parmesan. You can smell it for hours later." He shudders with visible pleasure at the memory.

I think my spine just tingled.

Fresh figs with gorgonzola and Don prosciutto

We're plied with a three-course lunch featuring Don products, although sadly, there is no bacon or salami in dessert. The fresh figs with gorgonzola and Don prosciutto is particularly swoon-worthy.

Coffin Bay oysters with crisp Don chorizo and caramelised balsamic

Antipasto with [L-R] Don Danish, Don white Hungarian,
Don pepperoni and Don hot Hungarian salamis

It's interesting being able to compare and constrast the different salamis on our antipasto plate. The salamis have all been given plenty of time to come to room temperature, allowing the fats to soften. Eating the salami with our fingers--feeling the slight springiness of the spiced meat in the mouth and relishing the luscious melting of fat on the tongue--is actually quite a sensuous experience.

Long slender bread sticks and a punctured burrata that oozes fresh mozzarella and cream only reinforce the theme of sensuality. A scroll of stuffed red capscium, artichokes and olives add sophistication, and we all wonder aloud why we don't eat more salami late at night, like a plate of good cheese with crackers.

The money shot: breaking open the burrata

Twice cooked confit of duck with orange and pistachio salad
served with Don pepperoni salami on a beetrot relish

The orange and pistachio salad really makes the duck confit dish--fresh and citrusy with the crunch of nuts--although I'm not too sure about the pepperoni twigs, which are chewy and more akin to beef jerky.

Roasted lamb rack with warm salad of rocket, goats cheese and peppers
served with Don white Hungarian salami and garlic chips

Lemon bread and butter pudding with maple infused cream

The maple-infused cream on the lemon bread and butter pudding is another highlight (I end up eating half the cream of an abandoned dessert) and the rich density of the sour cream cheesecake is far too tasty for me to resist demolishing in its entirety.

Sour cream cheesecake with coffee roasted apples

Matt obligingly poses for photos with us, and when I introduce myself as "Helen from Grab Your Fork" he nods with recognition and says "Oh yes, I know Grab Your Fork."

*cue quiet hyperventilation behind a mask of coolness*

Apparently he uses it to find suburban eats because whilst hatted restaurant reviews are easy to locate, it's the little ones in the suburbs that are hard to find but often the most rewarding.

"You'll have to leave a comment sometime," I say.

"Oh no," he frowns. "I never leave comments."

Maybe he's reading this right now.



Matt Preston shows off his giant salami
27 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/01/2009 01:40:00 am


  • At 10/01/2009 1:56 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    heh heh reading this right now eh? HI MATT!!

  • At 10/01/2009 8:49 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    At least you kept up a mask of coolness, I would have just plain hyperventilated! So very awesome. Arghh noo Matt, please leave a comment!!!

  • At 10/01/2009 9:02 am, Anonymous Howard said…

    lol I love the 'mask of coolness'. The maple infused cream was to die for!

  • At 10/01/2009 9:09 am, Blogger Kruppy said…

    What a great post Helen. Glad you enjoyed it and I'm happy you didn't hyperventilate to death on us!

    David (Nuffnang)

  • At 10/01/2009 9:19 am, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    Is it a bad thing that I consider a deck of salami slices comfort food?

    Not sure how I feel about Matt Preston's new hair do. Like a month to a flame, I keep scrolling back up to have another look. Maybe this means I like it?

  • At 10/01/2009 9:36 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's great to meet you again! It was great learn so much about Salami :D

  • At 10/01/2009 10:24 am, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    How flattering to find out that Mr Matt Preston is a frequenter of your blog! We are definitely in the company of greatness =D

  • At 10/01/2009 12:21 pm, Anonymous clekitty said…

    Oh my! I love salami.. I know it's probably not good for me.. but nothing beats good salami. So lucky of you to be invited! Even better that Matt reads your blog.. exciting!

  • At 10/01/2009 1:10 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    cool invite. Nuffnang sure have their fingers in the pie everywhere and are very generous. :-)

  • At 10/01/2009 1:35 pm, Blogger Maria@TheGourmetChallenge said…

    wow, same salami, but different food. I especially love the duck confit...although I love duck anything!

  • At 10/01/2009 3:16 pm, Anonymous The Extra said…

    I wish I could lose 30%-32% of my weight by hanging around in a smoky room.

  • At 10/01/2009 5:14 pm, Anonymous Simon said…

    Odd that someone who makes his living making comments on food doesn't leave a comment on a food blog.

    Ahh, maybe cause he's not being paid to...

    Smart man. I like his way of thinking :)

    Who would have thought supermarket variety salami would draw the likes of Matt Preston. This looks like it would have been an interesting event to be involved with.

  • At 10/01/2009 6:50 pm, Anonymous Trissa said…

    Great article! I wonder though how Matt compares supermarket bought salami to the gourmet variety (ie Molinari)??

  • At 10/01/2009 7:45 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    why not comment matt? hehe.. i just a craving for proscuitto the other day.. lol salami proscuittos.. love them all yum!

  • At 10/02/2009 12:41 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hahha sounds like an awesome meal, the food looks greaatt! But Matt Preston w0000000t! I am a bit scared how he knows what a teenage boy smells like tho haha jkjk

  • At 10/02/2009 12:46 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi chocolatesuze - lol. HI MATT!

    Hi Stephcookie - Oh that would be so very cool if Matt left a comment, but I expect he's shy :) It just goes to show you never know who's reading your blog. He might be reading yours right now!

    Hi Howard - Ha, there was no mask of coolness when I had my photo with him. omg, I don't think my grin could've been any bigger. lol

    Hi Kruppy - I'm glad I didn't hyperventilate to death either! Thanks so much for the invitation and organising our attendance at the event. A nice score!

    Hi Veruca Salt - I confess I did think of you as we were eating the salami. Matt's hair was looking particularly full that day. And blow-dried too. So much, er, body.

    Hi Ellie - Lovely to hang out with you again too. Funny how we always meet over good food!

    Hi Mademoiselle Delicieuse - Oh but he might be reading yours too! I'm sure that lots of notable people read your blog but you just don't know who! :)

    Hi clekitty - I definitely have a new-found appreciation of salami. It was a great lunch and Matt is so lovely in person too!

    Hi Simon Food Favourites - We had a lot of fun - and I have so many new facts about salami!

    Hi Maria@TheGourmetChallenge - Yes, it was interesting to see the differences between the Melbourne and Sydney menus. Duck confit is one of my weaknesses too :)

    Hi The Extra - lol. Me too! Although presumably if you hung around in a smoky room for seven weeks without eating anything, you probably would lose 30% of your weight :)

    Hi Simon - Oh I think Matt is just shy, but hey, he might decide to surprise us *hint hint MATT*

    It was fun, but anything involving Matt usually is!

    Hi Trissa - We were all big fans of the Hungarian white salami. You should've seen Matt close his eyes when he inhaled it deeply and then sighed :)

    Hi Kay - Is it bad I have emergency prosciutto in my fridge? lol. You can't beat smallgoods - so tasty for midnight snacks...

  • At 10/02/2009 12:49 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi FFichiban - I presume he knows because he was one once :) But yes, I'm really glad I don't know, and I really don't want to find out!

  • At 10/06/2009 1:28 am, Anonymous matt preston said…

    Hey Helen,

    Nice post..but i think my hair looks rubbish!

    Love Matt

    PS I was only joking about never leaving posts...i just only leave them on decent sites!

    Oh and i was only MC-ing the event...i'm not the new face of any Don ad campaign...

  • At 10/07/2009 1:24 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Matt - Hurrah for your first comment! To say I'm chuffed would be an understatement.

    Thanks for the correction. I realised I must have misinterpreted some information (my bad).

    ps. I thought your hair was looking particularly lustrous. I could mention "lift in the puff" but I won't.

  • At 10/07/2009 6:10 pm, Anonymous Kay said…

    oooooooh matt replied how cool! :) hi matt! lol

  • At 10/08/2009 1:15 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kay - lol. I was most impressed. Only cool people comment on food blogs :)

  • At 10/20/2009 11:21 pm, Anonymous Adrian @ Food Rehab said…

    The duck confit looks amazing- wish we had that at the Melbourne event! Nonetheless, the food was great at The European.

    It's good to know that we all got a classic comment from either Gerhard or Matt. In Melbourne we had:

    “A good salami should feel like the leg of a 17 year old girl”

    Gerhard Feiner

  • At 10/21/2009 5:52 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Adrian - Ha, yes that quote by Gerhard was quite, er, descriptive! Was interesting to see the differences between the two events - I loved your desserts, although next time I really think they should consider a salami-themed dessert. It prompted me to make chocolate bacon cupcakes that weekend! lol

  • At 11/04/2009 2:15 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wow Helen, this all looks great. I remember the house-made grissini sticks from my last meal at The Victoria Room. The lemon bread and butter pudding had my mouth watering.

    Nice to hear Matt's as authentic in person as he comes across on television.

  • At 11/06/2009 11:06 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi MissDissent - It was a surreal experience meeting Matt, especially when you recognised so many mannerisms :) He's a great sport too!

  • At 5/28/2010 11:44 pm, Blogger Lingy said…

    Wow you're amazingly established in the culinary industry! You have a wonderful blog filled with so many experiences, whether food at restaurants or even meeting celebrities! I saw Matt Preston at Maze Melbourne in April 2010 and screamed LOL. Stephanie Alexander is a classic cook; Richmond Hill Cafe and Ladder (in Melbourne) is NO longer the same without her sad to say the least :-(

    Excellent job on the web, it's in one of my feeds now! :-)

  • At 6/01/2010 1:34 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Lingy - lol. I don't think you're alone in screaming upon spotting Matt Preston! I never got a chance to visit Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder which is a shame, but yes, I've been fortunate to have attended lots of fantastic events and launches. Half the time I think I'm dreaming :)

    Glad you're enjoying the blog. Always great to hear from a happy reader!


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