Many of us desire to improve our cooking skills when a new year dawns. For successful professional chefs, however, January is a time to reset and renew, reviewing menus and welcoming a new season of produce to the kitchen.

One such example of a highly-acclaimed chef utilising the ambitious allure of a new year to dazzle diners is Peter Gilmore. As one of Australia’s most recognisable chefs, Peter Gilmore has a stellar reputation and impressive following. His many appearance on the international television phenomenon, Masterchef Australia have brought Peter’s genius to a global audience, while his signature restaurants, Quay and Bennelong, are undisputed stars of the Australian cuisine scene.

Food at Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To
Food at Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To

This year, Quay, named after its central location in Sydney’s iconic Circular Quay, will undergo extensive renovation. Peter has expressed his desire to “push Quay’s fine dining experience to the next level” and explains that the overhaul is a fantastic opportunity to push himself to the peak of his creative ability. “My aim is to create a more interactive journey representing my own culinary journey.”, he says.

Speaking exclusively to Elegant Traveller, Peter discusses his motivations, passions and aspirations for the year ahead. He also provides a rare recipe for one of his most famous dishes, the Cherry Jam Lamington. Not for the faint hearted, this dish demands skill and precision, but is the ideal choice for anyone seeking to improve their culinary pedigree to serve a truly delicious recipe at their next dinner party.

Peter Gilmore

Peter, in your native Australia you’re known for bringing two exceptional restaurants, Bennelong and Quay, to the Sydney dining scene. Many of our UK readers however may know you from the international television series Masterchef Australia, where you’re renowned for setting incredibly tough ‘Pressure Test’ challenges. Was this brand of highly skilled show cooking always your preferred style?

I don’t do a lot of TV, but a quality show like Masterchef is a great place to showcase some of the dishes I actually cook in the restaurant.

Your iconic desserts, such as the Cherry Jam Lamington and the Snow Egg have been the undoing, or making, of Masterchef Australia champions. What inspires you to create such complex and impressive dishes?

These desserts are on the menu at Quay and Bennelong. The nature of fine dining is that dishes are quite technical and impressive.

Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To
Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To

The Australian cuisine scene is a blend of Asian, American and Indigenous-inspired, and even incorporates the classic techniques of European cuisine. Is there a challenge when starting out as a restauranteur to stand out from the plethora of excellence that exists across the Australian dining industry?

In any business it’s important to have an edge. I believe originality should be the driving force to give you that edge.

Your restaurants, Quay and Bennelong, occupy prime Sydney locations, as a proud Sydneysider, it must be a source of incredible pride to work in your city’s most iconic location?

Yes, that’s absolutely true. I’m very honoured to be showcasing Australian cuisine in such special places

The Quay food philosophy is
‘A Relentless Pursuit For Perfection’

Your 8 Texture Chocolate Cake, shown below, was listed as one of the ‘10 dishes that changed Sydney’. Having already achieved so much success, how do you say motivated on the quest for perfection?

I think it’s important not to rest on your laurels. Cooking is still very much a passion for me, so coming up with new ideas and concepts is something I enjoy.

 

Quay’s menu is comprised of four pillars: texture, intensity, purity and nature. How have you been able to isolate these four elements as the key components for a perfect dish?

It’s not so much a case of isolating these elements, it’s just the driving philosophy behind the dishes and all of my dishes contain elements of all four principles.

Where does the palate on your passport take you when you’re seeking food inspiration?

I love experiencing all different types of cuisine and travelling is an important aspect in what I do.

What is your current favourite ingredient to incorporate into your dishes?

Abalone

Provenance of ingredients is obviously very important to you, how do you source your preferred ingredients?

I try and connect with passionate, likeminded farmers and producers that are locally based as first port of call.

We have recently seen the rise and rise of food and wine in travel, what do you think it is about the local dining experience that makes it such an integral component of modern travellers itineraries ?

I think there are a big percentage of people that travel with their dining experiences in mind. To me, you get a feeling and understanding of culture through a country’s food. It gives you a real taste of a country.

To the untrained eye, the Australian restaurant scene is overshadowed by the prominence of the nation’s world-class wine scene. Can the food ever be considered to share the stellar reputation of Australian wine?

Our wine scene is very special, but I think it goes hand in hand with the innovative restaurants that are all over Australia.

What are your professional ambitions for the year ahead?

I’m really looking forward to relaunching Quay in early July after the major renovations.

Chefs at Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To
Chefs at Bennelong. Photo Credit: Nikki To

Flash In The Pan (Quick Fire Questions)

Favourite Hotel: Park Hyatt, Sydney
Favourite Cuisine Style: Japanese
Favourite Restaurant: Mugartiz, San Sebastian, Spain.
Favourite Travel Destination: Japan
Favourite Breakfast: Really good smoked bacon and scrambled eggs is pretty hard to overlook
Red or White: Generally white
Rugby or Cricket: Rugby
Marmite or Vegemite: Vegemite
Every visitor to Australia must… dine at Bennelong
Five Australian ingredients visitors should try… Green-lipped Abalone, Southern Rock Lobster, Arkady Lamb, Western Australian freshwater Marron, Australian black truffles
Australia’s best-kept secret: The amazing Minamishima restaurant in Richmond, Melbourne.

Cherry Jam Lamington Recipe

Ingredients

Lamington Sponge
4 Eggs
112g Caster Sugar
112g Plain Flour (sifted)
Canola Oil SprayCherry Ice Cream
350g Morello Cherry Juice
150g Caster Sugar
150g Egg Yolk
150g Pure Cream

Cherry Jam
275g Morello Cherry Jam
110g Preserved Wild Cherries

Coconut Cream Base
500g Caster Sugar
1kg Milk
1kg Pure Cream
1kg Coconut Milk Powder

Frozen Coconut Shavings
550g Coconut Cream Base
275g Double Cream

Whipped Coconut Cream
500g Coconut Cream Base
250g Double Cream

Chocolate Glaze
250g Sugar
250g Water
100ml Cream
100g Cocoa Powder
50g 66% Caraibe Chocolate
3 Gelatine Leaves (Titanium)

Soft Ganache
200g 64% Manjari Chocolate
200g 70% Amedei Chocolate
425g Pure CREAM
75g Unsalted Butter (room temperature)

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 160c. Turn on ice cream machine to chill.

2. For the lamington sponge, lightly spray a ¼ sized gastro tray with canola oil spray, then line with baking paper.

3. Place eggs and sugar into a stand up mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and whisk until light and fluffy. Fold in sifted flour then pour out mixture into the lined gastro tray.

4. Place the tin into the oven and bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Once lightly golden, remove from oven and set aside on bench, still in the gastro tray, and rest for 20 minutes.

5. Once rested, turn out sponge cake onto a cooling rack and set aside on bench to cool completely until required.

6. For the cherry ice cream, strain juice through a fine sieve and measure out 150g of the strained juice into a medium sized saucepan. Bring to the boil. Measure out remaining 200g of the strained juice into a separate bowl and set aside until required.

7. Meanwhile, place egg yolks and sugar into a medium sized bowl and whisk together until pale and creamy. Whisk boiling strained juice into the egg and sugar mixture, and place over a pot of boiling water. Whisk until mixture reaches 80-85c, then place straight over and ice bath and whisk until mixture cools to at least 8c.

8. Once temperature has come down to 8c, whisk in cream and remaining 200ml of strained cherry juice. Pass through a fine chinois and transfer to the ice cream machine. Churn until set.

9. Once set, transfer ice cream mixture to a 1/6 gastro tray and cover with a square of go-between. Place in freezer until required.

10. For the cherry jam, strain cherries and remove stones. Set the pitted cherries aside in a bowl and discard liquid. Place cherry jam into a small saucepan over low heat and gently bring it to the boil. Once boiling, add pitted wild cherries and simmer, gently stirring for one minute.

11. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Once cooled, transfer to clean bowl and set aside in the fridge until required.

12. For the coconut cream base, place milk, cream, and sugar into a saucepan over a medium heat and bring to the boil, stirring gently.

13. Place coconut milk powder into a bowl. Once milk and cream mixture is boiling, pour onto coconut powder and whisk well until smooth. Pass mixture through a chinois into a clear bowl, and set over an ice bath to cool down to 3c.

14. Measure out 500g of coconut cream base into a clean bowl for the whipped coconut cream and set aside in the fridge until required.

15. Measure out 550g of coconut cream base into a separate bowl for the Frozen Shavings and set aside in the fridge until required.

16. For the frozen shavings, line a ½ sized gastronome tray with baking paper.

17. Add double cream to the coconut cream base and place into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk until soft peaks form. Pour 820g of the mixture into prepared gastronome tray and level off with an offset metal palet knife. Place into the blast freezer until firm.

18. Once firm, turn out frozen coconut block from tray and cut into 4 even sized blocks. Wrap blocks individually in baking paper and set aside in freezer until required.

19. For the whipped coconut cream, add double cream to reserved coconut cream base and place into a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and whisk until just stiff peak stage. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside in fridge until required.

20. For the cherry jam, strain preserved wild cherries and remove all pits. Set pitted cherries aside in bowl and discard juice. Bring the cherry jam gently to the boil. Add pitted wild cherries to the jam and simmer for 1 minute. Take off the heat and chill. Set aside until required.

21. For the chocolate glaze, start by placing gelatine in a bowl of iced water to soften.

22. Half fill a small saucepan with water and bring to the boil.

23. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer. Place chocolate into a medium heatproof bowl and place over the saucepan of simmering water until melted completely. Keep warm until required.

24. Meanwhile, bring sugar, cream, water, and cocoa powder to the boil. Whisk well and simmer for 1 minute. Strain liquid, add melted chocolate and gelatine. Once incorporated, strain again and keep at room temperature.

25. For the soft ganache, combine chopped Amedei and Manjari chocolate in a medium sized bowl.

26. Bring cream to the boil, then immediately pour over the chocolate. Stir until smooth and set aside until the ganache reaches 36c.

27. Once the the chocolate mixture has reached temperature, add butter a little at a time, blending well after each addition with a stick blender. Continue adding butter until ganache is fully emulsified and shiny, being careful not to incorporate too much air after each addition. Transfer into a piping bag and set aside on a cool bench until required.

Assembly:
1. To finish the frozen shavings, first sit a mandolin flat across an insulated steel bowl of liquid nitrogen. Take a frozen coconut block out of the freezer and shave the longest side using even pressure. Ensure the shavings are thin and submerged in the liquid nitrogen.

2. To produce the lamington mixture, trim crusts off the lamington sponge. Tear the fluffy inside into small morsels. Pick 8 pieces and place in a small bowl. Take one heaped tablespoon of cherry jam and dot over the morsels of sponge cake in the bowl ensuring the jam is evenly distributed. Pipe 8 small mounds of soft ganache, roughly the same quantity as jam, and distribute evenly inside the bowl. Add 2 ½ heaped tablespoons of the whipped coconut cream to the bowl and gently fold ingredients together to roughly combine all ingredients. The mix should be a single mass, but each ingredient should still be clearly identifiable in the mixture. Do not over mix.

3. Place square mould into serving bowl, and fill half way with lamington mixture.

4. Using a 35ml ice cream scoop, scoop a ball of cherry ice cream out and drop into liquid nitrogen for 20 seconds. Remove from nitrogen and but the ball of cherry ice cream into the square mould. Fill the square mould with remaining lamington mixture, completely encasing ice cream. Level off the surface with an offset palette knife until very smooth.

5. Blowtorch the four sides of the mould just enough to loosen, and lift mould away from the bowl.

6. Check that the glaze is 21c. Cover the surface of lamington mix with just enough glaze to evenly coat and cover the top surface and edges.

7. Using a slotted spoon, carefully scoop the frozen coconut shavings from the bowl of liquid nitrogen and arrange evenly around the lamington square. Use to caution to assure none of the shavings touch or spill over onto chocolate glaze. Serve immediately.

Feeling Inspired?

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