“When I think of a European feast I imagine hearty, provincial French and Italian cuisine,” says Ben Williamson, head chef at Gerard’s Bistro. “Big, bold flavours served on a long table.”
Williamson recently helped bring that concept to life at Greenglass, one of Brisbane’s newest venues. Teaming with Cameron Votan, co-owner of Greenglass, and Cordell Khoury, co-owner of Italian favourite Julius, the trio created a three-course Italian- and French-themed feast.
Votan kicked things off with a French-inspired entrée, serving a plate of three circular components: chicken persillade, potato gratin with a béchamel glaze, and a nut tuile with enoki and greens.
“It’s a comprehensive and technique-driven dish,” says Votan. “Light and understated, but ultimately very fulfilling. That’s what French cuisine is all about – finding that balance between being restrained, but still delivering a meal that’s fantastic.”
Williamson says Italian cuisine takes a much different approach.
“Italians love the generosity that food brings and the big, bold and punchy flavours,” he says.
For the main course, the head chef of Gerard’s customised a special dish of Italian-inspired, whole-suckling-pig porchetta.
Stuffed with blood sausage, smoked almond and fennel pollen, the porchetta was rolled and roasted and served with sautéed stinging nettle, porcini mushrooms and colatura di alici (Italian fish sauce) on a bed of white polenta.
“The colatura di alici is a really great anchovy product,” says Williamson. “It’s an amazing way to season a dish and has a great history in traditional Italian culture. [And the stinging nettle] is similar to spinach, but sharper in flavour.”
Both the entree and main dishes were served with wines selected by Greenglass, which displays more than 100 wine bottles on its in-house wine wall. “For the richness of the persillade and bechamel in the entree, the Koerner Watervale riesling from Clare Valley made a great acidic balance,” says Votan. For the main dish, he chose a Shiny Wines pinot noir from Tasmania: a lighter style with enough acidity to cut through the rich porchetta.
The evening was capped off with an Italian-inspired dessert by Julius, designed to be eaten by hand. “Following the entrée and main, we wanted to make sure people didn’t leave the place exploding,” says Khoury. “Our dessert lightened up the palate and was a fun and interactive way to end the meal.”
Khoury served cannoli Siciliani with two different traditional fillings: sweetened ricotta with toasted hazelnuts and candied fruit, and thick Sicilian chocolate custard.
“The dough is fried to be crunchy, then you pipe in the creamy filling,” says Khoury. “When you take a bite, you get the crunch and softness together. It’s perfect.”
Here’s Khoury’s recipe for you to try at home.
270g (1 ¾ cups) plain flour
45g (¼ cup) icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, chopped
2 eggs, 1 separated
1 tbsp marsala
Chocolate crème patisserie
6 egg yolks
9 tbsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp flour
1 ½ tbsp cornstarch
2 ⅔ cups milk
1 ⅓ cups heavy cream
1 ¼ cups dark chocolate, chopped
500g fresh soft ricotta
100g hazelnuts, toasted, peeled and roughly chopped
100g candied peel, finely chopped
100ml pouring cream
100g icing sugar
Cannoli dough To make the cannoli dough, process flour, sugar and butter in a food processor until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add egg, egg yolk and marsala. Process until mixture just starts to come together. Turn onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead until just smooth. Wrap in plastic and place in the fridge for one hour to rest.
Divide dough into two portions. Cover one portion and place back in fridge. Use a rolling pin on remaining dough until 2mm thick. Cut dough into 9cm squares. Wrap each square of dough around a cannelloni tube so opposite corners overlap. Brush overlapping corners with egg white to seal (do not get any egg white on the tube or the dough will stick).
Add enough oil to a saucepan to reach a depth of 8cm. Heat to 180°C over medium-high heat (when the oil is ready, a cube of bread will turn golden brown in 15 seconds). Deep-fry half the tubes for 2–3 minutes or until lightly golden. Use tongs to transfer to a plate lined with paper towel. Cool slightly. Remove cannoli shells from cannelloni tubes. Discard tubes. Deep-fry cannoli shells for a further one minute or until golden brown. Transfer to the plate to cool. Repeat with remaining tubes, reheating oil between batches. Repeat with the remaining dough and tubes.
Fillings To make the crème patisserie, add the egg yolks, sugar, flour and cornstarch to a bowl and whisk. In a saucepan, bring the milk and cream to a simmer. Whisk ½ cup of liquid into the eggs, then whisk the egg-milk mixture into the saucepan. Cook the pastry cream over low heat, whisking constantly for two minutes, until thick. Take off the heat and whisk in the dark chocolate until melted. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about two hours, until cool.
To make the ricotta filling, mix all ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
To serve Place the crème patisserie and the ricotta in separate piping bags. Fill half of the cannoli shells with each filling. Arrange on plate and enjoy.
This dinner and article was created in partnership with the Holden Astra, 2016 European Car of the Year.