MFWF 2013 – Langham Melbourne Masterclass – Karen Martini

Karen Martini provided us with an absolutely entertaining and inspiring Masterclass… In fact, I’ll be the first to admit – she wasn’t my “must see” chef. After all, we can basically see her whenever we want – she’s on Better Homes and Gardens, My Kitchen Rules, and is one of our local chefs with her restaurant Mr Wolf in Inkerman Street, St Kilda. So, I wasn’t sure what more she could offer us.

Animated Karen

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Karen is one of the most down-to-earth, personable, open, honest, humble chefs I’ve seen in action. She was extremely open about her experiences of being a female chef in a male dominated industry, and the challenges of raising a family while running a restaurant and building a brand. She was incredibly knowledgeable about food and gave kudos to the Tunisian and Italian heritage that inspired her to cook. And most of all, the food she cooked was absolutely brilliant! She kept it honest and real – and inspired each one of us with her dishes.

Far more expressive, enthusiastic and joyous than her television appearances would attest, she animatedly told us about her life as she cooked up a storm. Unlike a lot of the other chefs presenting – she came with nothing prepared, and did everything from scratch. Juggling three dishes at once, she talked us through the techniques, the ingredients and short cuts that would help us to feed our families and friends.

Burrata - charring bread

Burrata 1

The first dish she cooked was a beautiful salad with burrata (a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream). Unfortunately, we didn’t get to taste this dish – but the flavours appeared to just pop from the plate.

Burrata salad

Burrata with white anchovies, pine nuts, currants and parsley

She started by plumping up some currants in sherry vinegar, before making a salad out of them featuring vinegar, shallots, pine nuts, parsley and fennel fronds. She piled this all over the burrata, before arranging some white anchovies over the top and some charred some bread alongside. My mouth was watering as she plated it up! Karen explained that this dish was great as a starter because it really got the palate going.

Beetroot & garlic

Beetroot - plating

Beetroot & farro salad

Roasted beetroot salad with leeks, freekeh, spiced walnuts, tahini & coriander

The next dish was an amazing beetroot and freekah salad. The beetroot was cut into rough chunks and roasted, before being layered up on top of a yoghurt and tahini base. One of the amazing features of this salad were the beautifully simmered leeks – a really unusual ingredient in a salad, but according to Karen they add a slipperiness which is a great foil for the nuttiness of the freekah. We did get to taste this salad – and I can say without reservation that it was sensational!! Truly addictive!!

Kingfish - en papillote 1

Kingfish - yoghurt dressing

Kingfish - Having fun

As her final dish, Karen prepared roasted kingfish with cumin labna, walnuts, pistachios, mint, watercress, cucumber and pomegranate. Another amazing dish which just melted in the mouth. She started by baking the kingfish en papillote – slipped it onto a plate, and then added the elements around it. Hint: Let the fish cool down before topping with the yoghurt, so that it doesn’t just slide off!

Kingfish

Kingfish with cumin labna, walnuts, pistachios, mint, watercress, cucumber and pomegranate

The resultant dish looks like a work of art – and tasted spectacular. The fish was tender, the dressing was creamy, the greens were fragrant and fresh, and the pistachio kernels and pomegranate seeds added a wonderful crunch. All in all – an amazing dish.

Twitter

And apparently I wasn’t the only one who was impressed…  From way over the other side of the world, who should chime in but Yotam Ottolenghi  Pretty high praise – but what was even better was that he said he would love to come to MFWF 2014!!!   How exciting!! Isn’t twitter amazing…!

The Karen Martini session ended up being one of my favourite and most surprising sessions – I can now declare: I am a fan. So much so, I immediately ran out and bought her cookbook (the one I didn’t have) just so I could get her to sign it. These dishes aren’t in the books – but they might be in the new one that’s coming out soon.  They’re definitely going on my “must make” list for the next get together with family and friends.

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