Australian Functional Ingredients – by Vic Cherikoff

May Walkabout in Europe

Lamb with Illawarra plum sauce and mango salsaFor four weeks in May I was on a country a week tour beginning in Germany where I had the pleasure of again working with Patrick Jabs. I first met Patrick when he was a chef at Casino Zolverein in Essen, near Düsseldorf in Western Germany.

This trip, Patrick had just opened his superbly finished restaurant and bar called Bliss (www.bliss-essen.de) where he is serving outstanding food and really making waves in the local social scene. I was fortunate to be able to use Bliss Restaurant for my demonstrations to numerous chefs from the area and we held a public dinner which also attracted a good crowd eager to soak up the Australian flavours melded with the local German specialties.

Hot Board(TM) chickenThe event gave me a great reason to demonstrate my adaptation of the North American Inuit Indian method of plank cooking. I used my new Hot Boards™ which are Eucalypt slabs and a lot harder than the usual cedar, apple and maple planks of North America. There are two ways I have found so far, which utilize the Hot Boards™ well: The first is to mimic hot rocks where the boards are placed into a cold oven and the heat brought up to maximum temperature. Hot Boards™ are best suited to scallop cut pieces of red or white meat or fish. Prawns (shrimp), tenderized pieces of calamari or octopus, shellfish including mussels, oysters, scallops, clams and so on. The protein is best cooked half through before the Hot Boards™ are taken to the table for the guest to turn and finish at the table. A range of dipping sauces can accompany the protein.

The other way to use the Hot Boards™ is to literally cook with them over direct heat. The Hot Boards™ are effectively used as a pan and placed on a hot plate or even an open grill at high heat with the scallops of protein added and turned as the heat builds up. It can all be covered with a bowl or saucepan which will intensify the smokey flavour as the timber burns, smoulders and transmits sufficient heat to cook the meats all the way through. The finished meal can be served to the table or plated and the board possibly used a second and even a third time before it is too burned to use again.

Okker Cuiper in the test kitchenOne attendee at the Bliss Restaurant show cooking was Okker Cuiper who is now representing VCFS products in Switzerland. Okker (how more Aussie can you get?) got right into tasting and working with my sauces, syrups, fruit confit and other preserves and probably now knows more than many Australian chefs.

After Essen, I headed for Bos Foods in Düsseldorf with Patrick, Okker and a few of his chefs to meet with Ralf Bos. Ralf distributes my entire range around Germany and handles some export markets complementing my other major distributors in Belgium and The Netherlands, ISPC International.

I am pleased that the caliber of these distributors and the chefs they service is such that they appreciate the high quality of my ingredients and their cost-effectiveness in use. There are some Australian seasonings floating around Europe now which are primarily salt and fillers but numerous chefs I met and who recognize quality produce commented that they were more than happy with my range of ingredients.

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Vic Cherikoff