MFWF 2013 – Langham Melbourne Masterclass – Andrew McConnell
Andrew McConnell – there no need to introduce this guy. He’s so well known – currently presiding over 6 venues: Cutler & Co, Cumulus Inc, Cumulus Up, Builders Arms, Moon Under Water and Golden Fields – he is the man with the Midas touch. People just can’t get enough!
My personal favourite of all these venues is Golden Fields. I reviewed it recently when I attended an Epicure Readers Dinner and it was one of my favourite nights out of 2012. So, I was very excited when Andrew told us that he would be featuring dishes from Golden Fields.
Andrew explained that the food of Golden Fields was the food from his younger days as a chef in Bangkok and Shanghai. After spending 10 years overseas, he finally came home – but he found he really missed the food. Even now, he says if he hears of anyone getting sick, he will go home and fix them up some congee – so much has the cuisine become a fabric of his life. Today he was going to demonstrate three dishes, ably assisted by the Head Chef from Golden Fields – Todd Moses.
Charring the tomatoes and plunging the paper thin squid into iced water after cooking
Shaved cuttlefish, mussels, black pepper
The first dish demonstrated was shaved cuttlefish, mussels and black pepper. Alas we didn’t get to taste this one but it looked mighty fine as he was plating it up. Basically the distinguishing features of the dish were blow torched baby heirloom tomatoes (rather than blanching which can add water content), and thinly slicing the cuttlefish by running the blade horizontally through the cuttlefish – which mean that it easily cooked when some boiled water was poured over them. It was dressed with a black pepper dressing which included shallots, garlic and ginger – Is your mouth watering yet?
Todd Moses, Head Chef, Golden Fields (L)
Andrew holding up the homemade rice noodle sheet (R)
The next dish he demonstrated was the famous rice noodle and shredded chicken salad with sesame paste. Famous, because he dared to take it off the menu once and due to popular demand it had to come back. Andrew and Todd demonstrated how to make your own rice noodles – which is pretty hard core. The resultant noodle is quite thick – probably too thick for my taste – as a home cook, I reckon I would just stick with fresh rice noodles.
Rice noodles, shredded chicken and sesame paste
The amazing component on this dish was the sesame paste – tahini, soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, garlic, and lemon juice – thinned down with a little water. This dressing rocks! Absolutely delicious, it really binds the dish together. Also the gorgeous poached chicken was a winner as well. A great dish where the sum is really greater than its parts! Hint: Once you’ve presented this, make sure you mix through all the dressing – it looks far less attractive afterwards, but tastes much better!
And finally, we were shown an amazing dessert of soft meringue, lychee sorbet and rose. Andrew tells us this dessert was actually inspired by a macaron he discovered at the famous Pierre Herme patisserie in Paris flavoured with raspberry, lychee and rose.
I’m not usually a fan of soft meringue – and have been known to run away from pavlova – but by steaming the meringue, the dessert set beautifully. I was won over! The lychee sorbet was stunning – as was the jasmine tea infused crème patisserie – but what topped it off (literally and figuratively) was the dehydrated and fresh raspberries, which really made this dessert pop! The diced aloe vera in the dish was an homage to the streets of Asia, where people apparently walk around eating it straight out of the jar – however, for my sensitivity to things that wobble – it was probably a little overkill. You could easily leave this out – and the dish would still be amazing.
Andrew McConnell is a genuine, quiet and unassuming chef. I think he’s quite happy that he’s got to a place in his career where he can cook the food that inspires him and reflects his experiences. How lucky are we in Melbourne that his palate is so wide, diverse and far ranging? He has cooked for the famous (including Prince), but doesn’t seek fame. He’s turned down the Master Chef gigs because he’s not interested – he’d just rather be cooking good food, and growing the chefs around him to become great chefs in their own right. I’m a fan – and I’ll definitely be recreating a couple of these dishes.