Terra Madra 2016 Food for Thought… or should that be Thoughts on Food
Terra Madra Salon del Gusto is all about food. Where it comes from, how it is grown, who has grown it, how many ways can we prepare it, what does it taste like, can you store it...
We had the pleasure of participating in a number of cooking schools including two with world renowned and Michelin star chefs.
The Vegetable World of Xavier Pellicer
“Barcelona has recently declared itself veg-friendly, and restaurants where vegetables take center stage are sprouting up around the city like mushrooms. But none have yet reached the heights of Xavier Pellicer’s Céleri. After winning two Michelin stars for Àbac and taking over from the late Santi Santamaria at El Racó de Can Fabes, Pellicer has chosen to dedicate himself to the world of plants, overturning the central axis of cuisine by putting animal protein at the service of vegetables. You’ll taste two of his dishes, including the famous beet gazpacho, a perfect example of the marriage of tradition, flavor and technique. These will be paired with a selection of wines from Les Caves de Pyrene, who’ve been specializing in the finest French and Italian estate wines for over 25 years.” Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 events program
Xavier explained that Celeri emerged after a transforming time in has life in which he discovered real food grown bio-dynamically and Ayurvedic medicine. Out of his understanding of these two practices has emerged Celeri, where paying tribute to the produce is paramount and menu combinations are designed with an Ayurvedic understanding of the delicate balance between mind body and spirit. The focus of the meals has shifted from protein to vegetables. Menus are prepared with meat or fish not exceeding 20% of the meal.
Celeri is especially designed with an open kitchen with chef’s work counters which extend out towards diners to create a unique dialog between the two. “The public will be able to be with the chefs, observing the meal’s creation form start to finish, from cooking the dish to serving it and bringing it to the table,” stated the chef. The cooking and the dining experience being a transparent process. All the food used in the restaurant is grown without the use of synthetic or chemical substances and the origin of the product, and how it was produced is of key importance.
He created two dishes for us to experience; a beetroot gazpacho and another featuring the white aubergine. Xavier explained the reasons for his choice of ingredients. “Beetroo tis connected to the earth; grapes add sweetness to the acidic gazpacho…” The white aubergine was cooked “Asian style with white sherry, spices and onions; I used vermouth today as this location is the building where vermouth was made”
Needless to say both dishes were sensational There was a presentation of simplicity in the gazpacho but the subtlety of the flavours was truly wonderful. The white aubergine had a rich deep flavour profile enhanced by a weblike slither of a regional cured sausage. Both dishes were a tribute not only to the featured vegetable but also of the chef who is creating a new philosophical approach to the dining experience.
Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiy, Travelling Along the Trans-Siberian
“The Berezutskiy brothers are reconstructing the common perceptions regarding Russian dishes by focusing on regional diversity. The most famous chefs of Russian nouvelle cuisine, they craft their dishes using modern technologies and traditional ingredients, revisiting culinary traditions in an explosion of flavours that will soon win you over to the gastronomic joys of this country.To drink, a selection of wines from Batasiolo, La Morra (Cuneo)."Terra Madre Salone del Gusto 2016 events program
“We are more interested in Russian products and tastes from different regions. Russian cuisine before the revolution was very regional, like in Italy: people in the Urals did not really cook or eat similarly to the people in St. Petersburg. In our kitchen we try to combine foods peculiar to different regions to create an integral Russian taste. We try to innovate pre-Soviet dishes and reflect on the contrasts and similarities between regions and are committed to using ingredients that originate within the country.”Sergey and Ivan Berezutskiy," Terra Madre Salone del Gusto Media Centre 2016
Sergey worked behind the scenes supervising the meal service and Ivan talked us through the creation of the dishes. He explained they develop their recipes by exploring how to capture the ecosystem where an ingredient is sourced. The first dish is “a kind of ecosystem illustrated by mushrooms.” The recipe features a mushroom that grows at the base of birch trees and is prepared in Autumn. “We have tried to analyse the ecosystem where the mushrooms grow.” The first stage of the recipe was a broth prepared with the mushrooms and the twigs, leaves and bark from the birch tree. The second part of the the dish was a mousse made with the same ingredients as the broth with the addition of onions. The onions had been marinated with powder made from dried birch leaves. The third part of the dish was smoked mushroom prepared by using very dry thin birch bark to create the smoke. “This process gives the mushroom a particular flavour, it is giving the mushroom a Russian twist.” The use of the same ingredients through all aspects of the dish is one of the key aspects that they focus on.
The broth was served separately and Ivan advised that we should taste the broth first and then explore the other part of the dish. For me the dish had a glorious mushroom taste with a depth of flavour; a sense of earthiness but also very clean.
The second recipe was a meat dish prepared from a small mammal native to Russia possibly similar to a rabbit. The meat was prepared using a solar oven, cooked at a very low temperature. It was served with a blackberry mouse on a very thin slice of pumpkin; and a sauce made from pumpkin and spices. The final aspect of the dish was an olfactory element. A mist to endow the dish with the aroma of the Russian Autumn, the smell of leaves and the humid earth. To eat, the meat was quite different; the pumpkin sauce was delicious and the scent almost evoked mushrooms.
The third recipe was another incredible food experience. Essentially it was a simple chocolate ganache made from pure chocolate and cream. But of course there was a twist. This being that the cream used for the ganache had first of all been used to cook Morall, a type of Russian dear. The cream infused with venison is mixed with chocolate. A very different take on a dessert. The dish was not overly sweet with an essence of something difficult to define - the Morral
The dishes were the most amazing food we had ever tasted. Absolutely sensational. The concept of exploring and escapulating the ecosystem in to the design of the dishes was an exciting innovation to experience first hand.
These stories have been written from our extensive notes taken at the conference.
This month is the time to explore the wonders of Stinging Nettles.
Stinging nettle has a long history of culinary (and medicinal) usage especially in Europe and they grow abundantly in the highly fertile soils here at Wynlen House. Nettles are a good source of fibre; are very high in vitamin A; and are also a good source of dietary calcium, iron, and protein. Nettle is recommend as a high-protein, low-calorie source of essential nutrients, minerals, and vitamins particularly in vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, or other specialized diets.
In our region Nettles are at their best at this time of year. They thrust themselves up from the barely warm ground in late July /early August and this early fresh young growth is the best time to eat them. By late September nettles are starting to become coarse and hoary, and they should not be eaten once they begin to form flowers. It is important to remember that they are called Stinging Nettle for a reason. Nettles have fine hairs that even only brushed lightly on bare skin, create the feeling akin to dozens of little syringes injecting fiery pain. Wearing gloves and long sleeves is essential attire for harvesting and in the kitchen it is essential to wear cloves for cleaning and preparing. Cooking or drying neutralises the stinging (toxic) components. Nettles can be used as a tea, in soup, blanched for a salad or even added to pizza. I am exploring the culinary wonders of nettles this week with plans to make nettle pesto for the stall. Nettles can be used to replace other green veg, particularly silverbeet or spinach in any recipe.
In the garden stinging nettle is often just seen as an annoying weed, that is literally a pain to remove. However like many weeds they can have a role to play. They're a good indication that the soil is quite high in nutrients, especially phosphorus; and nettles are high in nutrients such as iron, magnesium and nitrogen. They can be turned in as a green manure crop; used in compost; can be made into a liquid fertilizer (tea). We are currently using them as a living mulch. Of course if using nettles for these purposes it is best that they be turned in or removed before the seed has set. If they have gone to seed you can still use them for a fertilizer tea.
A simple recipe for a fertilizer tea.
There are many recipes available using specific ingredients and quantities, however the following is a good standard recipe:
Bronwyn Richards has cared for animals and has been growing vegetables successfully all her adult life. She is principle gardener for Wynlen House Farm