Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Cooking the books: Huxtabook

There are cookbooks that come and go, and when you are lucky, you stumble across a cookbook that is destined to be a treasure. And holy shit batman did I find one this week. I feel like Mikey and Chunk in Goonies when they find the treasure of Pirate One Eyed Willie. Boom. Its called Huxtabook. And you need it. My copy is already dog-eared (kinda pointless when you are likely to try and cook it from cover to cover), splattered on with kitchen aftershocks, and one I know I’ll love for a long time to come - we're really going to go the distance. Right now its total infatuation. I throw adoring looks in its direction at random times, its part of my bedside reading vigil, and I don’t want to leave the house without it. Actually it makes me not want to leave the house at all - I want to squirrel away in my kitchen and cook from it. Constantly. Right now it’s leading the fray for the top ten cookbooks of 2014.

I love living in Sydney. But Huxtable, The Estelle Bar and Kitchen, Moon Over Water, Pei Modern and The Town Mouse are restaurants that make me long for Melbourne. This is not to dismiss the amazing food here in Sydders, there is just something about these places – the food and the spirit when you visit that I long for. At least now I can cook from Huxtabook and pretend I’m there. Chef Daniel Wilson actually shares some of his most popular recipes. It shits me to no end when chefs link their books closely to their restaurants then don't actually include any of the favourites - culinary false advertising. But here, Daniel offers em all up for greedy cooks like you and me. Kudos Chef.

Well he is a chef. And given how damn arse hard, unrelenting and often thankless that job is - there is some pretty sweet cred straight off the bat. He's worked for Andrew Blake in Melbourne, a stint for chef Daniel Boulud at Daniel, jointly won The Age 2003 Good Food Guide Young Chef of the Year award, 4 years as head chef of Arintiji for Jaques Reymond and family, then the Graham restaurant before opening Huxtable in Fitzroy as well as two burger joints - Huxtaburger (and trust me these are not burgers to be sniffed at).  

Because the recipes are outstanding. And a little bit different. And most importantly I feel, this is a book that also doesn't undermine the confident home cook. Too often chef's books whether intentional or not, throw a tone of "lofty" haute cuisine and treat the reader like an idiot. There is a really fine balance in how a recipe reads and the advice it does/doesn't provide the reader. Huxtabook has really nailed it. The book is divided into sections - land, sea, bites and sweet - straightforward and quite a lovely way to divide recipes into sections.
And despite being a chef's recipes they do work. Too often the translation from commercial kitchens to home kitchens mean wayward quantities like a kilo of aioli for a dish that serves 3 - that sort of thing. But obviously time and care has been taken in testing and scaling
down quantities and it shows. Because of the dishes I have already cooked (and I will be doing more) everything has worked like a treat.

Quite simply, all of them. I’ve cooked the wagyu and green peppercorn curry with coconut, shallot and lime leaf. Outstanding. Although I didn't bother with wagyu intercostals (that's chef speak for meaty beef ribs) I just used oyster blade. It said to serve with rice and beer. So I did. And then had a bit more beer. And it was lovely. Both the curry and the beer. My only  bit of advice here is to watch it while it brews and potters on the stove. I was a bit concerned about the amount of liquid  - it really cooked down too much for me and I had to add a bit more coconut milk - that's not me questioning the recipe - just me acknowledging my over anxious gas heating element and warning you to keep an eye on yours if it has similar tendencies.

For Easter lunch I cooked the  crisp lamb puttanesca with lemon yoghurt for warm up, then the grass fed porterhouse with caramelized onion puree and pepper sauce. I possibly should have read the quantities more closely - still eating lamb puttanesca filo logs and will be until the end of the week (it makes 24). Could be worse things to eat on repeat though. For dessert I made the quince cakes with cinnamon crumble and almond ice cream.  Crazy amazing delicious. 

Thank you Huxtable for sharing the recipes here. You have to try these!!


1 boneless lamb or mutton shoulder, about 1.5 kg (3 lb 5 oz)
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz/4 cups) tinned whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands
155 g (5. oz/1 cup) pitted kalamata olives
6 anchovy fillets
12 garlic cloves
3 tablespoons salted capers, rinsed
2 long red chillies, sliced into rounds
10 basil stems, leaves finely chopped
375 g (13 oz) packet kataifi pastry (shredded filo), left in the packet at room temperature for about 1 hour
melted ghee (clarified butter), for brushing
1 kg (2 lb 3 oz/4 cups) Greekstyle yoghurt
 juice of 2 lemons

Line a sieve with muslin (cheesecloth) and set it over a bowl. Put the yoghurt in the sieve and leave to drain overnight in the fridge. The next day, mix the lemon juice through and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Refrigerate until ready to use, but bring to room temperature for serving.
Preheat the oven to 110°C (230°F). Line a roasting tin with baking paper. Trim any large pieces of fat from the outside of the shoulder, but dont remove all. Season the lamb with salt and pepper, then place it in the roasting tin. Spread the tomatoes, olives, anchovies, garlic, capers and chilli over the lamb, then wrap well with foil. Bake for 10 hours, or overnight. When the meat is done, transfer the meat and other bits to a colander set over
a bowl. Once the meat has cooled a little, but is not cold, pick it apart with your fingers and discard any fatty bits. Mix the meat well with all the olives, garlic and other bits.
Once the juices have settled, transfer them to a saucepan, skim of f the excess fat, then reduce the liquid over high heat for 20 minutes, until thick. Mix the liquid through the meat mixture, then add the basil. Check the seasoning: it may need some pepper, but should be salty enough from the capers and olives. Line a 25 cm x 30 cm (10 inch x 12 inch) dish with baking paper. Press the lamb mixture into the dish, so its about 1.5 cm (. inch) thick. Place another piece of baking paper on top, then a flat tray roughly the same size. Top with some
weight, such as a few tins of food. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until firm.

Cut the meat mixture into 24 logs. Tease the kataifi pastry strands apart with your fingers. Lay a portion of the pastry on the bench, in a rectangle shape, and brush liberally with melted ghee. Put a meat log on top, and roll the pastry around it. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper and repeat with the remaining pastry and meat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to allow the ghee to set. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Bake the logs for 10 minutes, turning once.
Serve warm, with the lemon yoghurt on the side.


Serves 4 as part of a shared meal

2 x 250 g (9 oz) grass-fed porterhouse steaks
30 ml (1 fl oz) olive oil

100 g (3. oz) butter
3 large brown onions, sliced 
50 ml (1. fl oz) sherry vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil
100 g (3. oz) beef trimmings
1 tablespoon blackpeppercorns, cracked 
1 tablespoon whitepeppercorns, cracked
4 French shallots, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly
100 ml (3. fl oz) red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons port
300 ml (10 fl oz) red wine
1 litre (34 fl oz/4 cups) veal stock

Heat the butter in a wide-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn the heat down to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 hour, until the onion is very soft, sweet and golden. Remove from the stove and leave to cool, then place in a blender with the vinegar and blitz to a smooth puree. Check the seasoning and set aside somewhere warm.
Heat a heavy-based saucepan over high heat and add the olive oil. Cook the beef trimmings and peppercorns until the beef is quite brown and caramelised and the juices have caramelised on the bottom. Add the shallot and garlic and sweat for about 7 minutes, until they have caramelised. Stir in the redcurrant jelly until dissolved. Add the vinegar and reduce until almost dry. Add the port, then cook until almost dry. Now stir in the wine and cook until it has reduced by half. Add the stock and cook over low heat, skimming frequently, for about 10 minutes, until it has reduced by half. Strain the sauce through a fine strainer and reserve in a small saucepan.
Heat a barbecue or cast-iron grill plate to high. Rub the steaks with the olive oil, then cook for 5 minutes on each side, or until mediumrare. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to rest for at least 10 minutes.
Quickly reheat the steaks for 1 minute on each side on the grill. Spread the onion puree along the middle of a platter. Slice each steak slightly on the bias and lay slightly spread over the puree. Generously drizzle the pepper sauce over and around the steak.

Gift it only if you have also purchased a copy for yourself. Its that simple. Its definitely for the more foodie orientated confident cook. This is not your Donna Hay, 10 minute meals sort of cooking, you want to be comfortable with multi step, multi component recipes. In saying that though – the ingredient list is simple enough – no truly random esoteric ingredients that will have you schlepping all over town to try and find. And quite a few of the elements can be pre-prepped so if you are cooking for a crowd its easy enough to manage.

As always I say go for your local bookstore - we need to keep them alive. I am scared for the day when  beautiful little bookstores that smell of paper and surprise no longer exist - there is something truly pleasurable about a few stolen moments or lazy saturday afternoons spent nose deep in a bookstore, oohing and aahing over beautiful cookbooks and pondering what to cook from them. You can of course buy online from all the usual suspects. If you live in Melbs I am sure you can hustle on up to Huxtable and buy direct in the restaurant. Stop and have lunch if you do! 

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