MFWF 2013 – Langham Melbourne Masterclass – Martin Boetz

This was my first ever attendance at the MFWF Masterclasses… I was pretty excited. I rocked up to my first session and enthusiastically propelled myself to the front to get a great seat. Finally, I paid attention to the front and this is what I beheld.

Guess what we're cooking today-

Ooh la la! Suckling pig… didn’t I just have suckling pig last weekend at La Luna?  I guess you can’t get too much of a good thing!

Martin Boetz is probably best known for his gorgeous restaurant Longrain, which has locations in both Sydney and Melbourne. He recently announced that he was leaving the helm of these fantastic restaurants to concentrate on other endeavours, so it was a great chance to hear all about that AND learn how to cook his amazing food at the same time!

But let’s step back in time… Martin was seduced by Thai food when he first visited David Thompson’s Darley Street Thai in 1992.  He was so blown away by the food that he wrote a letter to David expressing his appreciation and offering to work in the kitchen on his days off so he could learn about these amazing ingredients, flavours and techniques. One thing led to another, and before you know it – he was appointed Head chef at Sailors Thai by 1995.

Martin continued the tradition of bringing young chefs into the fold, and before long had his own restaurant in Sydney, the now famous Longrain. We Melburnites were lucky enough to get a version of it in 2005.  Louis Tikaram – head chef from the Sydney restaurant was assisting him today – Martin expressed his absolute confidence in his head chefs to take the Longrain restaurants forward so he could step away to focus on his 11.5 hectare farm in the Hawkesbury region.  He enthusiastically told us about his vision of the Cooks Co-op – a place where chefs could come and learn about farming and seasonality and how it should impact the menu, and where teams could brainstorm new menu items and test them out.

The most memorable quote of the day came when Martin was talking about living off the land:  I’m growing my own potatoes and there’s a pig farm up the road – what more could a girl want!

Check the recipe... and go...

Just checking the recipe… and… We’re On!

This seemed a good segue to introduce Matt and Sue Simmons from Melanda Park Pork who provided the lovely suckling pigs for today’s Masterclass.  We saw a video that explained the lifestyle of the pigs and it was lovely to see how excited Martin was in the clip, even while wearing gum boots!

Rolling the deboned pig

All trussed up and nowhere to go...

All trussed up… and nowhere to go…

And now… to the dish.  Martin demonstrated how to bone out a suckling pig, roll it and truss it. He also suggested adding in some pork belly or neck in the centre to create a consistent shape to ensure even cooking.  The pig was then steeped in master stock, before being cooled and then roasted.  The actual roasting time was just over an hour – and since everything else can be done the day before – he made me believe the recipe was eminently doable (at least in terms of time).  He offered some practical suggestions about home cooking – and said a Weber would do fine.

Louis & Martin

Louis and Martin

Hint: Every time you use your master stock add some more ingredients to refresh it. This can include dried ingredients like cassia, peel, and anise, but you can also add more garlic, ginger peels and herb stalks.  This will keep it alive.  You should also always bring it back to the boil after you’ve removed the meat you’ve poached in it to destroy any bacteria that might be lurking about.  Look after it, and it will keep for years.

Martin also made a plum sauce, as well as a gorgeous tomato, ginger and watermelon salad with black vinegar dressing that was freaking amazing!!!

The sauces

Here is a shot of the products that he uses for his the dressing and the plum sauce.   Another Hint: check out the Megachef brand – a relatively new brand being led by the son of the man who runs the very reputable Squid brand.  Martin was saying that they’re using traditional methods of making their sauces which result in a superior product.

Pork

Voila! The finished dish – and I can attest to how amazing it was.  It was absolutely delicious!  The pork was unctuous, juicy and tender, while the skin was impossibly thin and crunchy. The pork was beautifully complemented by the watermelon and tomato salad, and the plum sauce cut through the richness of the meat and added an amazing piquancy.

Martin’s session was a brilliant start to my weekend of Master Classes – and ended up being one of my overall favourites.  Martin was so down-to-earth and enthusiastic about the food and his new life on the land.  And it’s good to know his Longrain restaurants will continue in great hands…  Now… I know I can make it myself – but my burning question is:  Is the suckling pig on the menu at Longrain??

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