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On the pass: porcini dust


Porcini dust at Pinetrees - Lord Howe IslandMolecular gastronomy is the modern style of food that people love to hate. You often hear opinionated foodies say that they would “prefer to eat an apple, instead of drinking one through a straw” (presumably that excludes apple juice). They have a point. The idea of combining the flavour of one food with the texture of another, while interesting and fun, isn’t really cooking – is it? It turns out that young chefs do think there’s something to it, and most nowadays carry tweezers, droppers and a stash of sodium alginate. Mention the word ‘spherification’ and their eyes light up.

Having served food for over 100 years, we at Pinetrees lean towards the traditional side of cooking, and to be honest, were sceptical of the elBulli contribution to the culinary world. BUT, occasionally something new comes along that is worth exploring.

For example, the humble ‘dust’. We all know about the magic white powder in Asian cuisine, and the extent to which salt and pepper improve the flavour of food in nearly all food cultures. Can you imagine using another powder that was natural, full of intense flavour, simple to make, healthy for your heart and didn’t give you weird dreams? Well, you should make some porcini dust. Yes, you could just make a mushroom sauce, but a good sauce requires multiple ingredients, energy, time and, to reveal a secret, butter. A mushroom dust, however, requires mushrooms. With a few basic steps, you can lavish all sorts of food with the ultimate flavour enhancer – sprinkle it on steak, chicken, risotto, potatoes, stir fries, curries – the list is endless. If you want to be fancy, then use it as a garnish on the side of your plate.

A porcini dust is simple to make, thanks to the recipe from our Sous Chef, Ben Wells. Put 200 grams of dried porcini mushrooms in an oven tray and roast, ever so slowly, at about 100 degrees Celsius (or as low as your oven will go) for 2 hours. Remove the mushrooms, let them cool to room temperature, and then pound them in a mortar and pestle into a fine powder. The final step, while not essential, is to pass the powder through a drum sieve so it becomes light and fluffy. And, that’s it.

Next time you cook a perfect steak (see previous cooking tips) watch what happens when you sprinkle a couple of table spoons of porcini dust on your nicely rested meat. Not only does it add amazing flavour, but it also absorbs meat juices and takes on a silky gelatinous quality – kind of like a beautifully reduced jus. This is what gets our young chefs excited, and having taken time to be convinced, we’re with them. Try it, and let us know what you think…

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