Chefs' top 50
Cuisine asks 50 top chefs to nominate the one item they could not live without. For some, it’s very practical, a knife or a frying pan, while others choose ice-cream and seasonal scallops.
1. Jerez de la Frontera region, Spain.
The food from that region is spectacular - really pristine, simple seafood - and it's where you'll find the classic Spanish sherries. The town of Jerez itself has an amazing market and these fantastic old bodegas, as well as being the capital of flamenco in Spain.
Favourite things ... Matt Moran with a vanilla milkshake at Speedos Cafe, North Bondi. Photo: Simon Alekna
Frank Camorra, MoVida Bar de Tapas, 1 Hosier Lane, Melbourne
2. Sicilian salt
Salt is so important for me - with curing everything from bresaola to prosciutto to salamis, it is a huge component of our kitchen. Sicilian salt we use to make salamis because it creates the right environment for the yeasts to develop: we use Iblea Sale (sold at Deli Cucina, Edgecliff). We use Himalayan salt for its softness and the iron flavour it imparts to the outside of the meat. I use some Australian normal fine sea salt to draw out moisture.
Anthony Simone, Simone's Restaurant, 98 Gavan Street, Bright, Victoria.
3. Kaffir lime leaves
My cooking is all about fragrance, and kaffir lime leaves give me an instantaneous power of flavour and smell. I don't have to process the product, I don't have to treat it in a different manner - it is the most natural product and the most efficient. We have a big tree and we simply pick them whenever we need.
Jacques Reymond, Cuisine du Temps, 78 Williams Road, Prahran, Melbourne.
4. Chicken broth
For me, it's all about a good chicken stock or broth. It's something I had from a very young age and it's something I feed my children now - it makes a house or a restaurant feel really homely if you have a chicken stock on. There are times I just drink it in a cup like you would water. I like to use a whole chicken, having taken the breasts off, and just bring it from cold to a slow simmer for 45 minutes, usually with bay leaves, garlic, onion, carrot, celery and fresh parsley and thyme.
Karen Martini, Mr Wolf, 9-15 Inkerman Street, St Kilda, Melbourne.
5. Rottnest Island scallops
For me, it is about following the seasons and beautiful Rottnest Island scallops are a perfect example of that. They're in season for only three months, so right now we focus on those as much as we can. By doing this you operate sustainably and are using the produce when it is at its best. It's about respecting the produce and respecting the people who harvest and produce it in a sustainable fashion. That is something we all must be part of.
Guillaume Brahimi, Guillaume at Bennelong, Sydney Opera House, Sydney; Bistro Guillaume, Crown Entertainment Complex, Southbank, Melbourne.
6. Ras el hanout
We always have the Maha ras el hanout: I leave a little container at mum's and a little container at home. I use it in everything from sweets to savouries. Put it on hot chips with salt and pepper. Sexy times! It's got enough depth and aroma to carry anything.
Shane Delia, Maha, 21 Bond Street, Melbourne; St Katherine's, 26 Cotham Road, Kew, Victoria.
7. View from Bras restaurant, Laguiole, France
There is nothing like eating at Bras. One whole wall of the dining room is glass - you're left looking on to an amazing view of wildflowers and rocks; there is a small meadow in front of you that drops off to a cliff. The restaurant connects you to nature to the extent that you feel you are almost among the wildflowers as you're eating.
Analiese Gregory, Quay executive sous chef, 5 Hickson Road, The Rocks, Sydney.
8. Long Lane Capers
Rowena Ellis of Long Lane Capers in Mansfield has produced the first capers in Victoria, and they are amazing. It's a world away in flavour and texture from the overseas capers we know - like biting into a ripe blueberry, there is a little bit of resistance and then it explodes. You're not just tasting salt but experiencing the robust, earthy flavours: the mineral-driven taste of the caper itself. At home I put them through a pasta or a salad. The season starts in October and I go a little bit nuts on them.
Matthew Wilkinson, Pope Joan, 77-79 Nicholson Street, Brunswick East, Melbourne.
Long Lane Capers, (03) 5779 1783.
9. Vitamin C tablets
Vitamin C tablets are always in my kitchen. I crush the tablet and use it to wash lettuce, and I put some in guacamole to keep the dish fresh. Remarkably, I find it better than lemon juice for creating freshness.
Ewart Wardhaugh, The Merrywell, corner of Clarendon Street and Crown Riverside, Melbourne.
10. Liquorice herb
We have a great kitchen garden and, at the moment, I like using our liquorice herb a lot. We forage for our own stuff, but a mate came in and said they sell it at Bunnings - not romantic at all. It's a green herb that resembles rosemary, only with finer leaves. It tastes seriously like liquorice allsorts in a slap-you-around-the-chops sort of way. We use it with duck brined in star anise, sugar and coriander seeds, cooked and crisped. It gives the sweet duck a bit of spice. It's quite strong, so a little sprig is enough for one plate.
Darren Robertson, Three Blue Ducks, 141-143 Macpherson Street, Bronte, Sydney.
I love tomatoes. The very best I can find. I don't think there is a day that goes by that I don't use tomatoes, and I go to great lengths to find them, no matter where I am in the world. My favourite casual weekend meal? Kofte with spicy tomatoes and baked eggs.
Cath Claringbold, food consultant and chef.
12. Huffman's Hot Sauce
Chilli sauces are big in our house - there's one for every occasion. From the plum chilli sauce that I make to eat with roast pork belly, to the XO chilli sauce from the Flower Drum we keep when we get takeaway. But the Huffman's is special. Nick Huffman was a chef at the Matterhorn in Wellington, New Zealand, when it was restaurant of the year, and it was then that he decided to make his own hot sauce. Incredible. It's good with eggs and great with quesadillas.
Daniel Wilson, Huxtable, 131 Smith Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Source at huffmanshotsauce.com.
13. Thai basil and Vietnamese mint
Thai basil and Vietnamese mint are essential for the cookery I do at Longrain. Needless to say, I can't live without Peter my herb-grower. He supplies me with all my herbs (as well as supplying Asian restaurateurs in Chinatown) and because he grows them locally, they are always the freshest quality.
Martin Boetz, Longrain, 85 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills.
I believe texture is just as important as flavour in the kitchen: a crunchy fresh apple; a bowl of silky noodles; the texture of good gelato.
Peter Gilmore, Quay Restaurant, 5 Hickson Road, The Rocks.
I have found a new way to cook. Steaming a chicken, for instance, is something I suspect very few of us chefs have ever braved. The trick is in steaming, then letting the meat cool in its own juices. Next, slightly acidulate the chicken with some simple vinegar, olive oil, soy and fragrant herbs, before breaking the chicken up into eight or 10 pieces. Nape the sauce over the top and you have an amazing, one-pot dish.
Shannon Bennett, Vue de Monde, Rialto, 525 Collins Street, Melbourne.
16. Oxfam East Timor fair trade whole coffee beans
I'm a chef, therefore I am a train wreck until midday. If for some insane reason I have to get up before 10am (funerals, morning flights, natural disasters?), I won't even consider speaking to anyone until I have had a double macchiato made with decent beans: the idea of paying unfair prices to producers in marginalised economies is an even grimmer thought than waking up with no coffee at all.
Simon Bryant, ABC's The Cook and the Chef.
17. Slow Food Revolution
My favourite cookbooks are all in Italian but there is a really great book that's been translated into English called Slow Food Revolution. It is the founder of the Slow Food movement, Carlo Petrini, in conversation. It doesn't have recipes but it's fascinating: a book all about food that speaks of why and how the Slow Food organisation came into being. At its essence, this is a movement that's very, very important about a group that has done some great things throughout the world.
Steve Manfredi, Balla, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, Sydney.
If you need purity in your food, you need to use pure water. It was something I started to think about as I became more involved in brewing tea: the water you use has such an impact on the flavour of the end result. It's the same with food. Water really is such a precious resource and I think it's vital we start thinking about that.
Peter Kuruvita, Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar, Jones Bay Wharf, 19-21 Pirrama Road, Pyrmont.
19. Bird's eye chillies
My midnight snack is dim sims dipped in lots of bird's eye chilli, swirled in soy sauce. Chilli sauce, unless it's home-made, is too vinegary. I prefer the fresh kind: that clean, fragrant and tingling sensation you only experience with good chilli.
Adam D'Sylva, Coda Bar and Restaurant, 141 Flinders Lane, Melbourne.
20. Le Creuset pot
I cook everything at home in my Le Creuset pot. Basically, that's how the idea for Four in Hand [the hotel restaurant] came about - it's the sort of cooking we wanted to do: no fuss, you can do it all in one pot and nothing's a drama. We put a lamb shoulder in the other day in the morning before taking the kids to day care and left it at 80 or 90 degrees. When we came home, our cold house was warm and dinner was done and hot. It saves on the heating bill.
Colin Fassnidge, Four in Hand, 105 Sutherland Street, Paddington, Sydney.
21. Pasta tip
People believe they need to use an egg wash when making filled pasta but, in fact, it's detrimental: it's best to use the natural stickiness of the pasta, otherwise it becomes slippery and difficult to handle. It's really the case with all pastry as well, including puff pastry. There should be enough natural moisture to make it stick.
Philippa Sibley, Albert St Food & Wine, 382 Sydney Road, Brunswick, Melbourne.
22. White peach
My favourite food has always been a perfectly ripe white peach. They bring back memories of my grandmother's tree in her backyard and being able to pick and eat them, sun-warmed, direct from the tree.
Christopher Whitehead, Mad Cow, 330 George Street, Sydney.
23. Japanese boning knife
Knives are a chef's best friend and the Japanese boning knife - garasuki - is ideal: the blade is about 15 centimetres and it has a heel so you can perform a chopping action as well. As opposed to a Western boning knife, which is flexible, the Japanese knives are quite stiff and thick, so can be used to cut bone as well as cutting flesh off the bone. Mcusta makes a beautiful knife or the Chef's Armoury can create one from its bespoke range. Incredible.
Michael Ryan, Provenance, 86 Ford Street, Beechworth, Victoria.
I do love the fact that cumin is very robust and strong. It's the earthiness of the flavour that brings out so much in both Middle Eastern and Western cooking. Often I'll talk to my chefs about the difference between a masculine and a feminine spice, and cumin is definitely the former: as a seed or a powder it's in there with cardamom and clove and those direct spices that show their weight.
Neil Perry, Rockpool; Rockpool Bar and Grill; Spice Temple, Sydney.
25. Chinese-style suckling pig
All cuisines have their own style of barbecue but I still think the best in the world is the Chinese roast meats, my favourite being suckling pig. It's such an art form and it's dying in Sydney because no young guys want to learn the trade: the process they go through to make it - drying the whole animals before they roast to make the skins nice and crisp - is so laborious. For me, No.1 BBQ House in Campsie is the best in Sydney.
Dan Hong, Ms G's, 155 Victoria Street, Potts Point, and El Loco, 64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills.
26. Plum vinegar
Vinegars are essential in my cooking because of their ability to round out the balance of flavour. There are some interesting examples in my pantry at the moment - cherry, pedro ximenez, apricot - but plum is a favourite. We use it on a foie gras dish to create interest and this beautiful balance. The vinegar just brings everything else together.
Grant King, Gastro Park, 5-9 Roslyn Street, Potts Point, Sydney.
27. Red Burgundy
It has to be a good red Burgundy with cheeses, especially a washed rind. The style is not too heavy but still complex. And while I love a white, the red is easily drunk all year around.
Eugenio Riva, Uccello, 320 George Street, Sydney.
28. Slippery jack mushrooms
Slippery jacks are something I go out looking for most mornings at the moment. We use them raw, shaving them really finely, and you get really wonderful earthy flavours of unadulterated pine forest and grass. This year we serve them with a dish of home-made sourdough poached in a liquor of water, eggplant, yeast and a little bit of sugar and then braised until it's like a soft sponge. Sliced slippery jacks are scattered over the top and served with native spinach, clover and hazelnut oil.
Dan Hunter, The Royal Mail Hotel, 98 Parker Street, Dunkeld, Victoria.
29. Mortar and pestle
Rather than always using a knife, I tend towards the mortar and pestle: grinding spices for a curry or I even use it for vinaigrettes. For things such as garlic and spices, the pulverising action gets more flavour and really releases all the aromatics.
Nicky Riemer, Union Dining, 272 Swan Street, Richmond, Melbourne.
30. Australian-grown extra virgin olive oil
When I make my nightly green salad from greens gathered in the garden, I don't add anything other than (Australian-grown) extra virgin olive oil and a little bit of salt. To me it's inconceivable to do anything in the kitchen without it: it's the cornerstone of my cooking and I think Australia is pouring outstanding examples. Newly pressed extra virgin Cobram oil is delighting me at the moment, along with oil from Rose Creek Estate in Keilor and my favourites from Nolans Road and Maggie Beer's single-estate extra virgin olive oil.
Stephanie Alexander, patron and founder of the Kitchen Garden Foundation.
31. Clotted cream
While working in London at The Lanesborough hotel, they would serve clotted cream as a condiment to their high tea stand. I thought it would not be possible to find the richness and creaminess of Devon clotted cream here in Australia but, lo and behold, a company in Tasmania is doing it - and doing a mighty fine job of it, too: Meander Valley Dairy. Love it with our house-made raspberry jam and freshly baked scones.
Andrea Reiss, Chez Dre, 285-287 Coventry Street, South Melbourne.
Mussels from the Sea Bounty mussel farm in Portarlington are, in my opinion, the best. The farmer, Lance Wiffen, should be applauded for growing such a reasonably priced, nutrient-rich, sustainable source of protein for the community. We shuck them raw, crumb them in rye crumbs and fry them quickly at high temperature to seal in the mussel’s moisture. It’s served with a locally foraged sea succulent.
Ben Shewry, Attica, 74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, Victoria. Source at 160 Old St Leonards Road, St Leonards, Victoria.
33. Vanilla milkshake
I'm a fan of the vanilla milkshake and it's hard to go past the example served up by Speedo's Cafe in North Bondi.
Matt Moran, Aria, 1 Macquarie Street, Sydney, and Brisbane; Chiswick, 65 Ocean Street, Woollahra, Sydney.
34. Mullet roe
Mullet roe is the main ingredient in the taramasalata, our signature dish, and a staple in Greek cooking. We dry and cure it to shave over dishes or grate into salad dressings, we brine it to make mayonnaise or emulsions. You can get it all year round but there is a six-week season and we try to get as much as we can and preserve it. This means heading to the Sydney Fish Market to buy up the mullet so we can harvest the roe ourselves.
Jonathan Barthelmess, The Apollo, 44 Macleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney.
35. Old No.7 Jack Daniel's
Ben [Milgate] and I drink Jack all the time, as well as using it a lot in our cooking. In our version of an Old Fashioned we use banana-infused Jack with smoked maple syrup; we use it in ice-cream. A lot of people see it as being a cheap whiskey but it's not at all. We get spoiled at work because we have all these high-end whiskeys, and I do appreciate it, but every time I have Jack it's just, it's like coming home in a glass.
Elvis Abrahanowicz, Porteno, 358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills.
36. Scottish whisky
A lot of women are probably not vocal about loving whisky but I am. It's the way I finish an evening. I have to say I've drunk quite a lot of Scotch whisky so I'm partial to those. I particularly love a whisky called the Oban. It's a real pudding-wine whisky - medium-range but still serious. Accessible but still delicious. The kind of whisky that is easily drunk by someone who would never normally drink it.
Jo Corrigan, The Commoner, 122 Johnston Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
37. Japanese frying pan
This frying pan is constantly in use in my house. It's known as oyaji-no-teppanyaki, which translates to ''middle-aged man's pan''. It's just a remarkable cooking surface to work on. There is no non-stick surface, no coating; it is the quality of the cast iron and the way that it's forged that makes it non-stick. It fries the perfect egg and is awesome for pancakes. To clean it you run it under water with a nylon brush. The pan's got a slight curve and it transfers heat well. All around, just perfect for the middle-aged person!
Jared Ingersoll, Danks Street Depot, 2 Danks Street, Waterloo, Sydney. Source at chefsarmoury.com.
38. King Island
I've been going there for 25 years and it's about the whole hunter-gatherer thing. You jump off a plane and go diving for abalone. Dinner is dependent on what's in the garden. It takes me back to the grass roots of what the produce is and what's in season.
Karen Batson, Cookie, Level 1/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne; The Toff in Town, Level 2/252 Swanston Street, Melbourne.
39. Mint choc-chip ice-cream
Because it's the best flavour of the best food … and ice-cream is my Achilles heel. Best eaten from a beachside cafe.
Nathan Johnson, Felix, 2 Ash Street, Sydney.
40. Milawa chicken
Our rotisserie really is the focus of the dining room, particularly in winter when it's cold outside and the warmth is so inviting. We cook everything on it - duck, the rack of lamb - but the free-range, organic Milawa chicken is our most popular. We season with salt and pepper, and it is self-basting on the rotisserie for 45 minutes until it's moist and crispy with beautiful colour. Not everyone has a rotisserie at home, so the oven is the next option: cook 15 minutes on each side then 15 minutes on the back for a total of 45 minutes. Baste throughout and add garlic and rosemary. It's something I always do for Sunday lunch.
Philippe Mouchel, PM24, 24 Russell Street, Melbourne.
I make my own smallgoods and I love my lardo. Some people call it white prosciutto or pork butter. It's incredible you can have something that is pure fat and turn it into something that's so delicious, decadent and wrong. I find the best way to use it is to slice it into a nice, thin curl and put it on a crouton before sprinkling with a little tiny bit of Murray River Salt. That has to be the best way to have it.
Adrian Richardson, La Luna Bistro, 320 Rathdowne Street, Carlton North, Melbourne.
42. Chickpea flour
I was talking to our oyster supplier, Steve Feletti, and he mentioned he was making chickpea flour. We ordered a bag and started playing around with it, with great results. We now use it as a component of our chickpea-crumbed eggplant with labne, shanklish, almonds and fennel. Steve is regarded as producing some of the best oysters in Australia and he's now producing some very fine chickpeas as well.
John-Paul Twomey, Cutler & Co, 55-57 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
It goes without saying that we love chocolate, especially anything from the Selvatica range of chocolate from Chocovic. They use a yoghurt powder in the milk and white chocolate that gives a beautiful sour note and takes away that sickly sweet taste. We use it in everything. I don't think there's a cake in our range where you wouldn't find it, whether it's there as a chocolate-velvet spray finish, or present as a straight-up chocolate bar to which we've added freeze-dried fruit.
Darren Purchese, Burch & Purchese Sweet Studio, 647 Chapel Street, South Yarra, Melbourne. Source at cocoaalliance.com
44. Tasting spoon
For me, I can't do without my spoon. It's the thing I use to taste, to adjust, to tweak. It's the alchemy: every mechanic needs a spanner and every chef needs a spoon. And every chef has a spoon they love. I've had the same one since I was an apprentice and it's always in my back pocket when I'm on the pass. The spoon is the connection you have between the chef, the cook, and what you make. I ''acquired'' it from the first hotel I worked at and just never gave it back.
George Calombaris, The Press Club, 72 Flinders Street, Melbourne.
My addiction to tea is a running joke in the kitchen. I like it nice and strong and drink at least five cups in the morning and three or four in the afternoon. I mix Earl Grey and English Breakfast. With milk. Tea bags only. It certainly keeps me in the bathroom.
Daniel Southern, Comme, 7 Alfred Place, Melbourne.
Bread made with love is the link that holds the European table together. I love crusty light loaves with hearty dishes; darker, denser bread with cheeses. I'm not too particular: just loaves made with care.
George Biron, Sunnybrae Restaurant and Cooking School, 4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, Victoria.
I grew up on biltong as a kid in South Africa. It's just the best. My dad used to make it and now I do the same in my restaurant. It's taken me a while to get the flavour I remember. You need Malaysian coriander seeds and they must be slow-roasted. We cook on the robata grill and serve with seafood. It brings salt, spice and depth to the plate.
Ross Lusted, The Bridge Room, 44 Bridge Street, Sydney.
48. Jerusalem artichokes
I am loving Jerusalem artichokes. They're in season at the moment and have such a unique sweet and earthy flavour and have an amazing texture when slow-roasted.
Brent Savage, Bentley Restaurant & Bar, 320 Crown Street, Surry Hills, Sydney.
49. French inspiration
Not to be confused with Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, The Art of French Cooking is the first English edition of the L'art Culinaire Francais, first published in France in the 1940s by Flammarion. My old blue copy was passed on to me about seven years ago by Pam, an elderly customer who found it in her shed. Apparently, shortly after it was published in France, Flammarion became a household word for food lovers. It contains no fewer than 3750 recipes and really is a compilation of secrets from the best French chefs over 200-plus years. It includes so many classic combos and it's actually become a little bible for me, when I'm stumped or need a bit of inspiration. Right now I'm cooking the flattened quail with paprika, toasted crumbs, pommes Anna, mushrooms, horseradish and Madeira. The photographs are bad; it reinforces that food photography was not always what it is today. It's also a reminder that in food, nothing is new.
Annie Smithers, Annie Smithers Bistrot, 72 Piper Street, Kyneton, Victoria.
50. Masala dosa
I love street food no matter where I'm travelling, particularly in India. Masala dosa is a favourite - I like the textures and the flavour contrasts of the sour bread, the coconut chutney and the spicy sambar. In Sydney I go to Aki's. It's close by and a bit of a favourite.
Christine Manfield, Universal, Republic 2 Courtyard, Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, Sydney.