Peter Gilmore: 'Congee – Chinese rice porridge – is great hangover food'
Sunday 20 May 2012
My earliest food memory... I have a photo of me aged two sitting in my mum's kitchen and licking the beaters from her mixer after she'd made a pavlova. I can't remember that particular occasion, but I do generally remember always wanting to give the beaters a lick.
My store-cupboard essentials... If you have a packet of pasta and good-quality Parmesan cheese, eggs and butter, you can always make yourself a meal. I also have fish sauce, green curry paste in the fridge, and Basque chilli powder [Piment d'Espelette]. It's got lots of flavour and a lovely aroma but it's not too aggressively hot.
My favourite cookbook... I have hundreds of cookbooks, as all chefs do, but one of my favourites is Thomas Keller's The French Laundry Cookbook. It was one of the first cookbooks that I found really got behind the scenes [of a restaurant], in terms of Keller telling you the stories of his suppliers and the lengths they go to to provide amazing produce. It was a benchmark for me when I was writing my own book.
My top culinary tip... When you're planning a meal, don't think too far ahead. It's nice to be able to go down to your local shop or market and be inspired by the produce that you see.
My favourite food shop... Victor Churchill, the butcher in Sydney, which is probably the most impressive butcher's shop I've seen anywhere in the world. You walk in there and it looks like a designer salon – it's all copper and brass and glass and you can see the beef dry-aging through the glass against a wall of Himalayan salt. It's all about their sheer commitment to quality: they treat meat with serious respect.
My desert-island dish... Dim sum. I love Yauatcha – I think it does the best dim sum in London, if not some of the best in the world – so I'd get them to cater for me on the island. I could probably live on that for the rest of my life, I reckon – there's enough variety in there.
My dream dining companion... [The revered French chef] Michel Bras, though I've already been lucky enough to dine with him. I know his son Sébastien and when I went to Bras restaurant a year-and-a-half ago, he invited me over to his father's house for lunch the next day. It was a beautiful country lunch – simple, or simple for Michel Bras at least – and pretty much the dream meal.
My guilty pleasure... Definitely ice-cream: late at night; every now and then I'll break out the good-quality vanilla ice-cream from the fridge.
My comfort food... Congee, which is a Chinese rice porridge. I make a mud-crab congee at [my restaurant] Quay, but I also love going down to Chinatown [in Sydney] and having a really big bowl with some nice fish such as cod, and ginger and spring onions et al. It's great hangover food, actually.
The strangest thing I've eaten... Raw ox heart, which was made by the Swedish chef Magnus Nilsson at the Sydney International Food Festival last year. It's one of his signature dishes: he just dices it up sashimi-style and serves it with horseradish or something. It was challenging but surprisingly tender, considering it's a muscle that works all the time in a big animal.
My pet hates... Kidneys: they're one of the only things I don't eat – though I'm not a really big fan of offal in general. It's the smell, the flavour... everything, really.
My tipple of choice... Single malt whisky. My dad used to drink it, and I've had an appreciation from an early age. I particularly like the more smokey ones, such as Lagavulin and Laphroaig.
Peter Gilmore is the executive chef of Quay Restaurant, Sydney, placed 29th in San Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants of 2012. His cookbook, 'Quay', is published by Murdoch Books, priced £35
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