As strange as this may sound, I rarely enjoy the experience of eating out. Which is not to say that I'm not dazzled by the cooking of a great many chefs, nor that I think Petersham is a barometer of perfection. It's just that I always crave a certain type of food and restaurant that I rarely seem to find.
I am always in search of restaurants which are full of heart, with a fundamental honesty and simplicity. I don't crave clever food or dramatic backdrops, nor do I want to pay homage to a particular institution or the person who cooks there. I just want to be served food that demonstrates a sense of culinary curiosity, but stays true to the produce from which the dish originally came.
I have only a handful of restaurant memories which live up to this ideal – and a recent meal at the MoVida tapas bar in Melbourne is one of them. Situated in a back lane in the bustling heart of the city, you enter the restaurant by a tiny door in a graffiti-covered wall. Inside, you can expect beautiful, simple dishes and one of the most convivial dining experiences possible thanks to owner Frank Camorra. It was my most memorable meal of the past few years; I'm just sad it was somewhere that could hardly be further from where I live. Please go if you ever get the chance.
Skye Gyngell is head chef at Petersham Nurseries, Church Lane, Richmond, Surrey, tel: 020 8605 3627. For information on MoVida, visit www.movida.com.au
500g/17oz pickled Spanish anchovies, drained
1 white salad onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
A handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
150ml/5fl oz Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
150ml/5fl oz white-wine vinegar
Lay the anchovies flat in a ceramic dish. Place the sliced onion on top, along with the garlic and the chopped parsley. Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar and pour over the anchovies. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled. For a flourish, follow MoVida's lead and add a tomato sorbet.
It's best to use frozen octopus, as the icicles break down its flesh during freezing, which makes it more tender.
3 tentacles weighing 11/2kg/3lb in total, frozen, thawed and drained
19 waxy potatoes, such as Roseval
A good pinch of sea salt
A drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
2tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1tsp sweet Spanish paprika
Bring a large pot of well-salted water to boil. Wash the octopus under cold running water. When the water is boiling rapidly, plunge the octopus in for 15 seconds, then remove. Allow the water to reboil and repeat this four times, allowing the water to boil between each immersion. On the last plunge, turn the heat down to barely a simmer and leave the octopus to cook for 40 minutes, or until tender. Remove the octopus from the pan and allow to cool.
Bring the water back to the boil. Add the potatoes and cook for 30 minutes, or until tender. Remove from the pan and peel once cool enough to handle.
Using a sharp knife, slice the octopus tentacles and potatoes into 1cm slices. Arrange the potatoes on a serving plate and cover with the octopus. Sprinkle with the sea salt, drizzle generously with the olive oil and finish with the parsley and sweet paprika. Serve immediately. '
MoVida makes its own chorizo and blood sausage. We ate the blood sausage, which was probably the best I've ever had – light as a feather and aromatic. Below is one of Frank's recipes that is neither chorizo nor blood sausage, but is a perfect place to start.
1 1/2 metres of wide sausage casing
700g/25oz pork shoulder, cut into 4cm strips
300g/10oz pork-back fat cut into 2cm strips
2tsp of sea salt
1 level tsp sugar
1tsp ground black peppercorns
Soak the sausage casing in fresh cold water for 12 hours, changing the water several times, then drain well. Coarsely grind the pork shoulder and pork fat in a meat mincer or using the appropriate attachment of your food processor. Tip into a large bowl and add the salt, sugar and ground peppercorns. Mix together with clean hands for about five minutes to ensure it is well combined.
Slide one end of the sausage casing on to the nozzle of a sausage-filling attachment on your food processor. Alternatively, you can use a commercial pastry bag with nozzle. Tie off the opposite end of the casing with string, then fill with the sausage meat. Make sure the skin is not too tight or the sausage will burst when it is tied at the other end. Carefully pull the sausage casing off the filling tube and tie off that end. Twist into 10cm links, twisting each new link in the opposite direction. Remove a shelf from the refrigerator and hang the sausages in a bundle from a hook. Place a plate underneath to catch any fluid that drips. Cook within several days of making, or put in plastic bags and freeze for up to a month.
Makes 7 ramekins
500g/17oz caster sugar
500ml/17fl oz milk
500ml/17fl oz double-cream
2 whole organic free-range eggs
9 organic free-range egg yolks
Place 300g/10oz of the sugar in a heavy-bottomed, medium-sized saucepan over a high heat, swirling every now and then until it begins to turn a light golden brown. Cook for another two minutes without stirring until it turns a deep, golden brown. Be careful not to burn the sugar as it will give the final dish a bitter flavour.
Quickly spoon two tablespoons of the caramel into seven small ramekins, dividing the caramel equally among the dishes. Place the moulds in a roasting dish.
Pour the milk and cream into a separate heavy-bottomed pan and place over a medium heat. As the milk comes to just under a simmer, remove the pan from the stove and set aside to rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/Gas3.
Combine the yolks and whole eggs and the remaining sugar together in a bowl and whisk together until just combined. Gradually whisk the warm milk into the eggs, then pour this custard back into the pan in which you have heated the milk and place over a low heat. Stir with a wooden spoon for 10 minutes until the custard is thick enough to coat the back of the spoon. Remove from the stove and ladle the warm custard on top of the set caramel.
Pour enough hot water into a roasting tin to fill up to 1cm from the top of the ramekins. Cook in the oven for one hour. Remove, then allow to cool before refrigerating overnight. Serve well chilled.
The Forager by Wendy Fogarty
Petersham's food sourcer reveals where to find the best tapas ingredients...
Garcia & Sons, a specialist Spanish food shop, has been catering to all tapas lovers since 1957 (248-250 Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London W11)
Brindisa sells a range of produce from its shops in London's Borough and Exmouth Markets ( www.brindisa.co.uk)
Delicioso serves the rest of the UK well with an extensive selection of Spanish ingredients, produce, cooking utensils and tableware ( www.delicioso.co.uk)
For further reading, try 1080 Recipes by Simone Ortega and Ines Ortega (Phaidon Press, £24.95). This is the bible of Spanish home cooking, handed down from mother to daughterReuse content