September 11, 2011

Basque Dinner

On Thursday a good chef friend of mine and I put on a dinner at Sydney's Basque Club. Tustra from The Big Paella and I are trying to narrow our field down to the jobs that we actually really want to do instead of the food we must do to survive!
When you have been cooking professionally for over 20 years (eek!) you start to get a bit fed up with all the bulls----t of the kitchen world (and believe me there is a lot). Cooking for a job realistically can get a bit ho hum. It's not all wow and ooh behind the scenes....sorry to burst that bubble for any of you who were thinking of giving up your current job and stepping into the throws of a commercial kitchen.

Tustra is from the Canary Islands, he has cooked all over the world and now in Australia. The man is infatuated with this great big country of ours, so it has been his mission for the past 10 or so years to live and cook all over the Great Southern land. Every time I work with him we have a great time. We laugh, work hard and then laugh some more so when he asked me if I'd like to start doing dinners around Sydney, food we actually WANTED to cook I thought it was an awesome idea.

Our first night was Thursday just sides are still hurting from all the laughter and tomfoolery. Our first group was small but totally successful. Because the Basque club kindly let us use their building we wanted to honour their tradition and incorporate our ideas into their history and I think it worked a treat. Lots and lots of pintxos were eaten and well received, I shall now give you a photo commentary so I don't bore you with the details.....

We started with beautiful Sydney Rock oysters topped with an orange and balsamic salsa, plus oregano and garlic marinated olives

after this little taste we moved on to jamon with a drop of aioli and served with lightly roasted cherry tomatoes and coriander flavoured white anchovies.
I love how pintxo's are mainly served on slices of bread.....according to Tustra you are not meant to eat all the pieces of bread, it is more like a vehicle for the flavoured toppings, however, I remember when Nic and I were travelling Spain on a shoestring we ate everything!

Tustra made a delicious lemon and bacalao mix that we stuffed into these beautiful mini Spanish capsicums. We also served the traditional omelet with mushrooms and spinach.

Moving right along to our meat pintxo where we couldn't go past some beautiful, freshly made chorizo. Tustra went to visit his Spanish supplier for this wonderful sausage while I rolled apricots in a pork fillet, lightly poached and sliced it then warmed the slices in the oven and served it with sweet caramelized onions.

Just when everyone thought the show was over we managed to keep their attention with slow braised beef cheeks served with sauteed asparagus and oyster mushrooms. No wonder our lovely server Kris was surprised when we told her to set for the main course!

In traditional Basque style we served fish and potatoes. Roast ling fillet served on a baked potato with a parsley volute made from the mussel and pippi stock and garnished with a boiled egg, asparagus and squid ink squeeze.

By this stage we allowed ourselves a beer and a little light entertainment while everyone was finishing up. I think we might of got a little too relaxed because I totally forgot to take pictures of the churro and chocolate sauce for dessert!

Once the kitchen was spotless and the guests stopped dragging us out to say thank you and "come have a drink" my eyes were starting to glaze over and the legs were a little sore. I think it had something to do with the 5.30am start that morning and the 100 sandwiches I had to make before I got to have a little fun in the kitchen. Tustra being the good Spaniard managed to party into the night with the guests until 1.30am. I however had to get up at the crack of dawn and make morning tea for 60, so 11am was super late for me.  
Sore legs and all, I will do this again and again. It is why I first started my trade many moons ago and I am just happy I have realised once again why I love working with food and great people and why I need to pursue the bits I love and not necessarily focus on the part of cooking I loathe- sandwiches!
Stay tuned for our next location dinner.


Mal Streeter said...

Well done Milly.......I thought I had a big week!! Would love you to put a dinner on in Launceston .. Please.. The food looks wonderful.

Camilla Baker said...

Sounds like an excellent idea to me....Tustra would love a trip to Tassie- lets set something up for the summer? I'm serious!

Susie said...

What a stunning meal. Cooking for pleasure is exhausting and rewarding. There is something about the satisfaction of the diners whether it is casual or an affair like this. Everything looks mouth watering! You know I was scrolling right to dessert....

Bryan said...

What a great meal and good time... every bit of it looks so awesome I don't even know what to say! I am so happy for you (and a little envious) that you are finding a niche that you love so much CONGRATULATIONS!

As for what it is like to work in professional kitchen, people have some strange romantic idea of what it is like... Stop watching Food Network for a minute and look into a real kitchen! I can't think of a profession that has driven more people to alcoholism than working in this industry.

Camilla Baker said...

Hey thank you Bryan and you are spot on with the driven to drink comment!
I'm thinking we will be cooking like this in January -right? lol

Susie said...

OK, "rush" is a college ritual where girls or boys go from house to house in the fraternity or sorority system, They bid for houses and the houses bid for them, and then they pledge a house. It is an old tradition and sororities and fraternities are found on almost all college campuses in the US. It is a very competitive and stressful process that culminates into many parties, social events and friends for life! this is wiki's definition...we are learning so much from each other!