Sixteen things we learned during The Online Edition

Published on 12 June 2020

Photo: Making pasta is easy with Julia Busuttil Nishimura (image supplied)

We mixed drinks, poached chicken, toured farms and kitchens, and picked the brains of some leading figures in food, drinks and hospitality for a week in May as part of Melbourne Food & Wine Festival: The Online Edition. The videos of our live events are available now on Instagram and are coming soon to YouTube. But if you’re after some quick wins, here are some of our favourite pearls of wisdom and fun facts that we gleaned from our friends.

1. Ottolenghi pastry chef Helen Goh’s mother never baked. Instead she used their oven to store salted fish and belacan paste.

2. The key ingredient to the very best lasagne isn’t pasta, ragù or besciamella – it’s air. Or at least that’s Massimo Bottura’s take.

3. You can over-braise meat, according to Neil Perry. An hour and a half is sufficient for lots of slow-cooking cuts. “You still want it to be juicy.”

4. Cam Smith, host of The Builders Arms Pub Trivia and RRR’s Eat It, should be on TV.

Cam Smith hosting The Builders Arms Trivia on Zoom

5. Michael Madrusan’s checklist for a good bar includes how bright the lights are, how loud the music is, and whether the bar staff say hello to you. (When in doubt: lights down, music up.)

6. Leftover sourdough starter makes a great batter for fish and chips, according to Mike Russell of Baker Bleu.

7. There are some things you shouldn’t put in your stock or broth. Oakridge chef Matt Stone steers clear of citrus and the trimmings of root vegetables, both of which can become bitter.

8. Attica has had to borrow equipment from other restaurants to be able to cook food at the scale that’s required for some dishes on its takeaway menu.

9. Ice can help to maintain the carbonation of your mixers, according to Starward ambassador and bartender Matty Follent. Don’t be shy with the ice when you’re making drinks at home.

10. The design of the ceiling at Lune Croissant’s Fitzroy store was inspired by the hyperspace jumps in Star Wars. But it's practical as well. The ceiling follows on from the design of Lune’s boxes for takeaway croissants: each line on the box provides ventilation, letting steam from the warm pastries escape and keeping them crisp.

11. Welsh rarebit comes up pretty darn well in a woodfired oven. (Or at least it does in the backyard of Black Axe Mangal chef Lee Tiernan).

12. Shannon Martinez keeps a few items in her pantry at all times to add oomph to vegan dishes: dried mushrooms; kombu and other seaweed (and not just for use in Asian dishes); Maggi Seasoning sauce; and anything fermented.

13. The soil profile at Brae is “pretty shit”, in the words of chef Dan Hunter. And yet he’s managed to grow wheat for the restaurant’s bakery (and a forthcoming beer), dozens of citrus trees, apples and pears, brassicas, berries, olives and much, much more.

14. Don’t have a gnocchi board to impart ridges on your pasta shapes? You can use a sieve or a Microplane to add texture to handmade pasta like cavatelli, says pasta queen Julia Busuttil Nishimura.

15. Mauro Colagreco, chef at the current number one in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, plans to reopen with menus that change daily in tune with the biodynamic calendar.

16. René Redzepi and his team still set the tables each day at Noma, so that they feel as ready as possible to reopen.

By Emma Breheny and Pat Nourse