ArchiveMay 2002

Australian Chefs

Last October I went to Adelaide for Tasting Australia - which is an international Festival of Food and Wine, an initiative of the South
Australian Government.  'Hot and Happening Down Under' was the theme of The Festival which was held in Adelaide from 5-14 October featured the skills of more than 150 celebrated chefs, authors, food and wine
journalists and critics, television cooks as well as the nation's top food and beverage producers and up and coming chefs and apprentices.  It
One of the most important events in Tasting Australia is the Lifestyle Channel Australian Regional Culinary Competition allowing chefs and apprentices from various regions all over Australia to demonstrate their culinary skills in a cook-off (three courses for four people). The Gold Award for the Best Region was a visit to Ballymaloe Cookery School with the travel sponsored by Quantas the main sponsor of the festival. I was invited to attend the Festival and be a judge in the competition and take part in some of the other activities.
Last week the winning team arrived in Cork Airport and made their way to Ballymaloe Cookery School – the team were Darren Ho,(Team Leader) Brian Means and Julie van den Bergh, a fourth member of the team Steve Brampton was unable to travel. The winning Team hail from Hunter Valley a noted wine region, and part of the competition was pairing their wine and food They had a busy few days with us –they visited the Farmers Market in Midleton, the Jameson Heritage Centre, walked the cliffs in Ballycotton with me and went foraging on Ballyandreen strand.  They visited the English Market in Cork and cooked themselves a Cork supper with the goodies they brought home.  They joined in on our Pub Grub Course and enjoyed mingling with all our other students.  On a day trip to West Cork they visited the Fergusons at Gubbeen to see the famous Gubbeen farmhouse cheese made by Giana and taste Fingal Ferguson’s smoked bacon.
Dinner at Ballymaloe House and Grapefruit Moon in Ballycotton were among the highlights of the visit and we tasted some of the delicious Hunter Valley wine and honey. London and France were the next stops on their itinerary.
Julie van den Bergh has her own Café Crocodile in Hunter Valley and she has shared one of her signature dishes with us.

Pan Fried Atlantic Salmon fillet on sweet corn cakes with an avocado and Spanish onion salsa


Julie says she is not allowed remove this dish from the menu.

From Julie van den Bergh of Café Crocodile in Hunter Valley, Australia
Serves 4

2 cobs of corn, stripped
1 Spanish onion, finely diced
2 tablesp. coriander leaves, chopped
2 tablesp. parsley, chopped
1 teasp. minced garlic
2 tablesp. sweet chilli sauce
2 eggs, whisked
200 ml cream
100 g plain flour

Combine ingredients and cook off in small cakes on frying pan. Use
oiled rings for consistent size and leave on. Cakes freeze well.



1 small Spanish onion, diced finely
6 large ripe Roma tomatoes, diced finely (seeds removed)
1 dessertsp. Sicilian salted capers, rinsed well.
1 dessertsp. large capers, rinsed well
1 dessertsp. chopped cranberries
juice of half lemon
1 tablesp. olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 avocado, peeled and diced in half cm cubes

Ideally combine all the ingredients except the avocado at least 2 days
prior to use to allow flavours to blend. Add chopped avocado just
prior to service.

Wasabi Mayo

1 teasp. minced garlic
1 teasp. Dijon mustard
2½ teasp. Wasabi powder
2 egg yolks
1 teasp. lemon juice
½ teasp. caster sugar
olive oil – approx. 300 ml
salt and pepper to taste

Combine first 6 ingredients in a food processor, pulsing to combine.
With motor running, slowly add olive oil to desired consistency. (Thin
with warm water if required.) Taste and season.

Lemon Dressing

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup mirin
2 teasp. honey
salt and pepper to taste

Whisk and adjust to taste.

To assemble the dish you also require 1 bunch of watercress, washed and
picked, as well as four pieces of salmon fillet, lightly dusted with
seasoned flour.
Heat a large frying pan (with a metal handle) and oil lightly. Place
the fish, flesh side down, sear and turn and put into a preheated
moderate oven.
Place corncakes on a greased tray (2 per person) and place in oven to
Dress watercress in a little of the lemon dressing and place a mound in
the centre of each plate. Top with 2 corncakes and smear a teaspoon or
so of wasabi mayo over the warm cakes. Place cooked salmon on top, then
garnish with spoonfuls of salsa.

Perfect with a glass of Aussie Semillon!

Some more Australian ideas –


Banana, Pineapple & Walnut Cake


(makes four loaves)

6 cups Plain Flour
4 Teaspoons Ground Cinnamon
2 Teaspoons Bi-carbonate of Soda (Breadsoda)
4 Teaspoons Baking Powder
2 cups castor sugar
3 cups chopped walnuts
4 cups mashed banana
4 cups crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups oil
8 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl
Combine sugar, oil, eggs & mix
Add banana, pineapple & dry ingredients to mixture
Bake in moderate oven until crisp on top.

Whole-Orange Cake

Use medium seedless navel oranges

1 orange
125 g butter
½ cup castor sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups wholemeal self-raising flour
half teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ cup buttermilk

Orange Butter Syrup
½ cup sugar
¼ cup orange juice
60g butter

Grease a 15cm x 25cm loaf tin
Squeeze the juice from the orange, reserve the juice for syrup. Process
or blend the remaining skin and pulp finely.
Cream butter and sugar in small bowl with electric mixture until light &
fluffy, beat in eggs one at a time, beat until combined. Transfer
mixture to large bowl, stir in half the sifted flour and soda with half
the buttermilk, then stir in remaining dry ingredients, buttermilk and
orange pulp.
Pour mixture into prepared pan, bake in moderate oven for about 45
Stand cake 5 minutes before turning on to wire rack,
Pour hot syrup evenly over hot cake.

Orange butter syrup Combine sugar, orange juice and butter in saucepan,
stir constantly over heat without boiling until sugar is dissolved and
butter melted, bring to boil, remove syrup from heat.
Keeping time 3 days.

Almond Bread

3 egg whites

½ cup castor sugar
1 cup plain flour
125 g un-blanched almonds

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form, gradually beat in castor sugar,
beating well after each addition until all sugar is dissolved. Fold in
sifted flour, whole un-blanched almonds. Spread into greased 25cm x 8cm
bar tin. Bake in a moderate oven 30 to 35 minutes or until just firm to
touch. Turn out of tin to cool. When cold, wrap in aluminum foil, put
aside for one or two days. Using a very sharp knife, cut bread into
wafer-thin slices. Put slices onto oven trays, bake in slow oven 45
minutes or until dry and crisp.

Trying to Find a Good Cup of Coffee in Costa Rica

One of the greatest enigmas, not to mention frustrations of Costa Rica, is that even though it is famous the world over for the quality of its coffee – its almost impossible to get a decent cup of coffee in the country itself.  Much of the best coffee seems to be exported. Travellers stock up with packs of finest quality Britt coffee as they leave the country.
Still one of Costa Rica’s most important crops, coffee is not as I had supposed, indigenous to the country, but was introduced from Ethiopia in the early 1800’s. When it was planted originally, it was greatly sought after as a fashionable ornamental plant to decorate courtyards - its glossy green leaves, white blossom and red berries are beautiful year round.
The Central Highlands of Costa Rica are ideally suited to coffee cultivation It thrives in areas where the temperatures average 15-28C with a distinct wet and dry season - Coffee grows best in well drained soil at elevations of 2,500-3,000 feet
.The Costa Rican government quickly saw the potential of the grana del ora, but had difficulty persuading the Costa Ricans to grow the crop. In the early 1800’s they brought in a law requiring everyone to plant at least a couple of coffee plants in their back yard. Coffee growing soon took off and by 1829 it was the nation’s numero uno earner. Needless to say it was a godsend for Costa Rica’s subsistence farmers, it provided them with a vital income on which no tax was levied. Coffee was widely planted .
For years, small farmers dominated production and earned their fair share of the wealth. But as ever, the real profits were concentrated in relatively few hands, the coffee processors who became known as the coffee barons, became Costa Rica’s first social and political elite.
Originally the beans were carried by ox cart or mule trains through the mountains to the Pacific port of Puntarenas to be transported by boat via Cape Horn to the coffee connoisseurs of Europe.
Coffee seeds are planted in nurseries, where they remain until they are a year old. They are then transplanted into the ground in rows that follow the contours of the mountain. Some of the fields are almost vertical, it is difficult to visualise how pickers can keep themselves from tumbling down the slopes as they pick the coffee berries. The answer lies in the ingenious way of planting trees directly behind one another so that the trunk of the downhill tree serves as a foothold for the pickers.
The bushes are planted under the shade of trees or tousled banana palms which fix nitrogen in the soil. Shaded coffee bushes are more productive. The first crop can be harvested in the fourth year and the glossy green bushes will continue to bear fruit for up to 40 years. At the beginning of the rainy season tiny white blossoms scent the air with a delicious jasmine like fragrance. The beans themselves are surrounded by lush green berries that turn blood red when ripe.
There is nowhere else in the world where coffee producers attain such high productivity per acre. Ideal conditions combined with high yielding plants and intensive production techniques. The best quality coffee grows at higher elevations where beans take longer to mature and are more robust and aromatic and contain less caffeine. Best coffee comes from the Arabica bean, the high yielding robusta bean is less highly regarded.
The coffee crop is harvested from November to January which coincides with the Christmas holidays, so it is traditional for entire families in the rural areas to take to the fields with wicker baskets to pick the coffee beans together. Some of the money earned is used for Christmas presents and new outfits.
The handpicked berries are shipped to beneficios where the fleshy outer layer is removed to expose the beans which are blow dried and spread out in the sun in the traditional manner. The leathery skins are then stripped away, the beans are roasted, sorted, vacuum packed, sealed and shipped to market and finally brewed for a delicious cup of Costa Rican coffee.

Ballymaloe Coffee Ice Cream with Irish Coffee Sauce

Serves 6-8
Coffee Ice Cream
2 ozs (55g) sugar
4 fl ozs (120ml) water
2 egg yolks, preferably free range
2 teasp. vanilla essence
1 pint (600ml) whipped cream
3 teasp. instant coffee
2 teasp. boiling water
Irish Coffee Sauce
8 ozs (225g) sugar
3 fl ozs (80ml) water
8 fl ozs (250ml) coffee
1 tablesp. Irish whiskey
Put the egg yolks into a bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Put the sugar and water into a small heavy bottomed saucepan on a low heat. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved and then remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup reaches the thread stage, 106-113C/223-226F. It will look thick and syrupy; when a metal spoon is dipped in, the last drops of syrup will form thin threads. Pour this boiling syrup in a steady stream onto the egg yolks, whisking all the time. Continue to whisk until it fluffs up to a light mousse which will hold a figure of eight. Stir in the Vanilla essence, mix the instant coffee powder with just 2 teaspoon of boiling water in a little bowl. Add some mousse to the paste and then fold the two together. Carefully fold in the softly whipped cream. Pour into a stainless steel or plastic bowl, cover and freeze.
Irish Coffee Sauce
Put the sugar and water in a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir until the sugar dissolves and the water comes to the boil. Remove the spoon and do not stir again until the syrup turns a pale golden caramel. Then add the coffee and put back on the heat to dissolve. Allow to cool and add the whiskey.
To serve:
Scoop the ice cream into a serving bowl or ice bowl. Serve the sauce separately.

Coffee Marjolaine Cake

This cake consists of four thin rounds of meringue sandwiched together with coffee butter cream, the top and sides are also covered with the cream and decorated with toasted almonds.
This cake should be made several days before it is needed, it will have softened and be much easier to cut. It should be kept in the fridge, covered, at least overnight.
3 ozs (90g) almonds
4 egg whites
9 ozs (255g) icing sugar
Coffee Butter Cream
4 ozs (110g) granulated sugar
8 tablesp. water
4 egg yolks
102 ozs (300g) butter
coffee essence to flavour
6-8 ozs (170-225g) flaked almonds, toasted
Cover 4 baking sheets with bakewell or silicone paper. Draw out 4 x 8 or 9 inch (20.5 or 23cm) circles on the paper.
Blanch and skin the almonds. Chop or grind in a food processor, they should not be ground to a fine powder but be slightly coarse and gritty. In a spotlessly clean bowl of a food mixer mix all the sugar with the egg whites at once and beat until the mixture forms stiff dry peaks. Fold in the almonds. Divide the meringue between the four circles on the silicone paper, spread neatly, about 3 inch (5mm) thick. Bake immediately in a moderate oven, 150C/300F/regulo 2 for approx. 1 hour or until the discs are quite crisp and will peel off the paper easily. Allow to get quite cold.
Next make the coffee butter cream. Put the sugar and water into a small saucepan and stir over a gentle heat until dissolved. Remove the spoon and bring to the boil, boil gently until 216F is reached or until the syrup is at 'thread' stage. Whisk the egg yolks in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Gradually pour the hot syrup over the egg yolks, whisking all the time, continue until the mixture is thick and light. Cream the butter and gradually beat into the egg mixture. Flavour with coffee essence. Keep aside. Toast the flaked almonds and set aside to cool.
To assemble the marjolaine, sandwich the four circles of meringue together with coffee butter cream, (if necessary trim the sides to neaten*), then spread more butter cream around the sides of the cake and roll in the flaked almonds. Cover the top of the cake with butter cream and sprinkle generously with the remainder of the toasted almonds. Cover and refrigerate until needed.
* If the edges are jagged it will be difficult to ice later.

Chocolate-covered Coffee Beans

Irresistible nibbles or great decorations for cakes, mousses, and Chocolate or Coffee desserts.
3 ozs (85g) dark chocolate, at least 54 per cent cocoa solids
4 tablesp. medium roast coffee beans
Melt the chocolate gently in a small bowl over a saucepan of hot water. When the chocolate is softened add the roasted coffee beans. Stir to coat the beans, then lift them out with a fork and drop them on to a plate or marble slab evenly covered with non-stick silicone paper. Separate each bean, then leave to harden. Remove the beans with a palette knife and store in an air-tight jar. Alternatively, drop the wet chocolate coated beans on to a plate or marble slab covered thickly with sieved good quality cocoa powder. Separate as above and leave to harden.

Creamy Iced Coffee

Serves 2
8 fl ozs (250ml) strong , fresh coffee, chilled
1 tablesp. caster sugar
8 fl ozs (250ml) crushed ice cubes
3 tablesp. double cream
Pour the coffee, sugar and crushed ice into a blender or food processor. Mix until light brown and frothy. Stir in the double cream, pour into 2 glasses and serve immediately.


Past Letters