My daughter gave me a cookbook from left field for Father’s Day this year. It is a guide to fermentation written by the chefs Rene Redzepi and David Zilber of Noma fame in Denmark.
As you would expect from Redzepi, the work is incredibly detailed and takes you on a wild ride of fermentation from the basics of soy sauce to intricate fermentation processes taking many weeks and resulting in complex layers of flavour. It reminds me more of university chemistry than cooking and is complex to say the least.
When reading my new book, I was reminded of a chef I worked with many years ago called Marcel. We collaborated to present the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival’s long lunch for many years. Marcel was a man ahead of his time and, although he served his apprenticeship under the very hierarchical French hotel system, he was probably more interested in the science of cooking than the art. So, when reading of the fermentation process and the chefs at Noma setting up a food laboratory, my thoughts wandered to Marcel.
Of the many dishes we produced together, one stood out as particularly challenging. It was a confit duck breast served with an artichoke and cheese pithivier. I had never made either dish so the thought of preparing, storing, transporting, and ultimately serving the meal to over a thousand enthusiastic and knowledgeable “foodies” was daunting.
We did not have the facilities to successfully achieve this, so the preparation was done at the kitchens of William Angliss in Melbourne. The man in charge of the bulk cookery school was none other than Marcel.
Our first meeting was at breakfast where Marcel consumed the first of his regular dozen short black coffees and two or three of his innumerable daily cigarettes. What else would you expect from a Swiss born, French-trained head chef?
Like so many of his students, I was both in awe of his talents and intimidated by his presence. He had a booming voice and constantly barked commands in the kitchen. If these commands were not met promptly with the obligatory “yes chef”, there was hell to pay! Back to the menu.
The preparation was elaborate with many days of planning, tasting, cooking, and discarding until all Marcel’s parameters were met. It truly was like a science experiment.
Once the ingredients and method were perfected, he complied complex spreadsheets which detailed orders, timing, staffing, cooking, storage and transport logistics both during preparation and service. I had never seen anyone approach cookery this way and it was a thing of beauty.
The longest lunch was held on the banks of the Yarra at Birrarung Marr and was an enormous success. Marcel and I teamed together for several more long lunches and like so many with a gruff exterior, I soon learned that the man with the loud bark had a generous heart. Giving of his time, loving to his family and friends and one of the most wonderful people I have had the pleasure to worked with. I miss our short blacks and conversations, even if they were punctuated by his ever-present cigarettes. I will write more on fermentation next time.
Following is Adrian Richardson’s recipe for wonderful hot dogs incorporating fermented kimchi.
Fermented kimchi hot dogs
- Good-quality pork or beef hot dogs
- 1 tablespoon kimchi, drained
- 1spring onion, green part only, finely sliced
- ½ cup coriander, chopped, plus extra to garnish
- 1 tablespoon capsicum, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon red onion, finely diced
- 1 tablespoon cucumber, seeds removed, skin on, finely diced
- Half tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
- 1 teaspoon gochugaru (dried Korean chilli)
- 3 hot dog buns
- Mayonnaise, to serve
- Sriracha sauce, to serve
- Grated cheese, to serve
Score hot dogs with a sharp knife and cook on a hot griddle pan for fi ve minutes, turning to brown on all sides. To make kimchi salsa, place
kimchi, spring onion, coriander, capsicum, red onion, cucumber, sesame seeds and Korean chilli (any chilli fl akes will substitute), in a bowl.
Season with salt and pepper. Stir until ingredients come together. (Adjust chilli component to your tolerance and taste).
Cut hot dog buns down centres along tops. Assemble by placing a hot dog in a bun and topping with a spoonful of kimchi salsa. Drizzle over mayonnaise and Sriracha sauce. Top with cheese and garnish with coriander.