Yes it’s MasterChef Australia to the rescue on yet another lunch al fresco. A flavorful mix of asian tastes and textures, this dish by Mindy Woods (season 4) had me wishing that I could hop on the next plane to visit my step-mom in Thailand. My knowledge of curries is limited to cookbooks so this version with litchi was a novel surprise. Even if I had to settle for canned litchi, the sweet fruit contrasted deliciously with the spicy curry. The use of duck was also new as I’ve feasted on red thai curry only with large shrimp or salmon.
The curry is accompanied with coconut rice topped with fish floss – something unheard of in all my years dabbling in the kitchen – and a list of garnishes that had to be substituted with their italian counterparts. If anyone knows where to buy vietnamese mint, kaffir lime leaves, and Thai or Holy basil in this country (seeds or plants), please point me in the right direction!
The recipe does involve a long list of ingredients to make the red curry paste so maybe it was a blessing that I couldn’t source the majority of them. Ready-made pastes are easier to find and instead of using the amount listed, I adjusted the quantity to suit our level of heat tolerance. Also, fish sauce is extremely salty, so whenever I make thai curries, I always add the dark pungent liquid and the palm sugar TO TASTE. Mindy’s recipe can be found here: Crispy Skin Duck with Fragrant Red Curry and Lychees, Thai Coconut and Fish Floss Rice
Fish floss. It’ll take some time before I lose the image of dental string, but this dried, then fried topping was delicious on the coconut rice.
In the show she had zero fashion sense, wore 80’s style glasses, and was the craziest of the lucky Top 10 to make it to Italy. She also made reference to Nietzsche upon meeting italian chef Massimo Bottura, and was the only contestant carrying an italian phrase book in Rome.
She threw Jamie Oliver* in a judge’s face (see his reaction above) when he challenged that her antipasti was not enough to satisfy the italians for the village feast. D’oh! DID HE NOT READ her t-shirt? Veni, Vidi, Vici – I came, I saw, I conquered. Her antipasti was voted best dish by the italians. *Referring to Jamie’s simple yet flavor-packed style of great antipasti.
But regardless of how crazy and quirky Alice Zavlasky was in season 4 of Masterchef Australia, I was really impressed by her Squid Ink Gnocchi with Artichokes in the Rome-on-a-plate cooking challenge. I’ve never seen gnocchi al nero di seppia on any restaurant menu here, and google revealed only 1 italian blogger who had made black gnocchi BEFORE the episode aired. I’ve read all sorts of nasty on what cuisine-challenged viewers thought of the ‘little black rocks’, but I swear there’s nothing awful about squid ink in this dish. The soft gnocchi have a subtle hint of the sea that pairs well with the fried ‘chokes. A drizzle of lemon emulsion and the nutty, sweet-salty flavor of shaved parmigiano ties it all together unbelievably well. Squid ink is the new black!
…on a scale from 1 to 10. But the best compliment he has ever given me was a few years back when he said to me – “When I come to your house to eat, I know that I’ll eat very well.”
Description: Parmesan risotto with poached egg wrapped in culatello; garnished with chive flowers and leaves (very finely julienned and ‘shocked’ in iced water to make them curl). The plate is painted with espresso syrup.
This was the primo for our Ferragosto lunch. In truth, the photo is of the first test run when I tried this a week earlier, and clicking on the image will take you to my notes and the recipe link. It’s a luxuriously delicious creation by George Calombaris of Masterchef Australia.