borrowing the bentley, for new years eve


pistachio nougat icecream 

They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery and frankly, I couldn’t agree more. The fashion world is rife with people flattering in this way. But try as I may, I doubt my efforts to copy the style of Cate Blanchette could ever pass for either imitation or flattery. Fortunately when it comes to the kitchen my attempts at flattery have at least some chance of making the grade.

Back in November I was lucky enough to be treated to the tasting menu at the hip new Bentley Restaurant & Bar by my dear friend Mrs Murray. I had previously had the pleasure of sampling the delights of the Sydney Morning Herald appointed best-new-restaurant in their wine and tapas bar on a few occasions. But even these delicious visits did not prepare me for just how mind-blowingly good the tasting menu was to be.

Brent Savage has been a favourite of mine since I first experienced his cutting edge at the moody and oh-so-cool Moog Food + Wine. As others have noted, if there is one Sydney chef with the potential to be as cutting edge and envelope pushing as the Spanish darling Ferran Adria, it’s our boy Brent. That he manages to challenge and entice without resorting to tricks of molecular fancy makes his food all the more special. I mean you’ve just gotta love a man that thinks to team potato with risotto and get away with it.

I’ll try and give you an idea of just how good The Bentley is. There are few foods that I don’t eat. The only hangup left over from my childhood food dislikes is the stinky banana. Yep, I’m one of those lucky few who didn’t give a toss when banana prices soared sky high last year. So you can imagine my surprise when I was lapping up my milky dessert via a chocolate straw and said to Mrs M ‘this is delicious but what is it?’ And her response after a quick check of the menu was ‘warm banana milk’. Yes Brent Savage is that good. He can make you love to eat the very thing you have always despised.

So when it came time to put together a 5 course menu for a new years eve feast to be held at the lovely Missy Helgs’ amazing harbourside apartment in leafy Darling Point, it seemed only right to brush up on my flattery skills and have a go at imitating Mr Savage. With seven gorgeous ladies to cook for and access to one of the best firework viewing spots on the harbour, and my own home only a short stroll away (no taxis required thankyou) all the ingredients were in place for a very tidy new years eve…..all good things….

a bentley restaurant & bar inspired new years eve feast
almond gazpacho
salmon tartare with tomato & squid ink dressing
seared ‘carpaccio’ of beef with avocado puree & jerez vinegar
crispy skinned duck breast with spiced beetroot puree & field mushrooms
roast carrots with spiced yoghurt & toasted almonds
pistachio nougat icecream

almond gazpacho
serves 12 as part of a tasting menu or 6 as a standard entree
Adapted from a recipe by Brent Savage in an article published by the good people at Australian Gourmet Traveller in Nov06.

This is one of those magic little dishes where the whole is soo much better than the sum of the parts. The almonds and bread combine to give a lovely silken milky brew that gets a good spiking from the vinegar and garlic and finishes with the grassy aromatics of the oil.

At the Bentley they serve it alongside its green and red cousins in the catchy ‘gazpacho three ways’. But the amazing creamy goodness of this soup means it can well hold its own as a first course.

Best served at room temperature.

280g white sourdough bread,
300g blanched almonds
300mL extra virgin olive oil
60mL (1/4C) sherry vinegar
6 cloves garlic
toasted bread crust slivers to serve

Remove crusts from bread reserving enough slivers to serve. Soak crustless bread in enough water to cover for approx 10mins. Puree remaining ingredients in a food processor to form a smooth paste. Add bread and soaking liquid and continue to process adding extra water if required to make a thick soupy consistency. Season well with salt & pepper and possibly with extra vinegar if required.

Stand for at least one hour then strain through a fine sieve discarding solids. Serve at room temp with bread crusts and a drizzle of your very best extra virgin olive oil.

salmon tartare with tomato & squid ink dressing
serves 4- 8
Adapted from a recipe by Brent Savage in an article published by the good people at Australian Gourmet Traveller in Nov06

The original recipe calls for sashimi tuna which was unavailable on this particular day at my fishmonger. Salmon was a reasonable substitute but the leaner flesh of tuna would have taken the dish to greater heights.

Squid ink is one of those enigmatic ingredients that adds amazing complexity and colour to a dish yet I’d be hard pressed to be able to describe the flavour exactly.

I found squid ink sachets in the chiller section of Norton St grocer and it is apparently stocked by David Jones. For the more hard core you could always get yourself a heap of squid and harvest your own ink…it’s up to you.

3 vine ripened tomatoes
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4T extra virgin olive oil
8g squid ink
200g wholemeal sourdough bread
400g sashimi salmon
2T chives, finely snipped
lemon halves, to serve

Process tomatoes, one shallot and garlic in a food processor until pureed. Strain and reserve the juice. Heat 2T oil in a small saucepan and cook puree solids over a medium heat for approx 5mins stirring occasionally. Add half the reserved tomato juice and continue to cook for another 5mins.

Strain again this time discarding solids. Return liquid to the saucepan along with the squid ink. Simmer until reduced by half. Combine with reserved tomato juice and allow to cool to room temperature.

With a good bread knife remove the crusts from the bread and chop into 1cm cubes. Toss bread in remaining oil and bake in an oven at 180C until golden and crispy, approx 15mins. Allow to cool.

To serve, dice salmon into 1cm cubes and divide between plates or shallow bowls. Scatter bread cubes in between the salmon. Drizzle over dressing and sprinkle with chives. Serve with lemon  passed separately.

seared ‘carpaccio’ of beef with avocado puree & jerez vinegar
serves 4-8
Inspired by Brent Savage’s venison tartare with avocado puree and jerez vinegar.

I didn’t actually get to try this dish at the Bentley but it sounded so good I decided to have a crack at it just based on the menu description.

Venison was a bit out of the price range  so I made do with some lovely beef eye fillet from pristine King Island. The fact that I briefly seared the outside of the beef means that it’s not exactly a true carpaccio but given that I was cooking for a couple of people that I didn’t know very well decided to err on the side of caution and give the totally raw red meat a miss on this occasion.

While this version is pretty tasty I do plan to recreate this at some stage with pure raw venison.

450g eye fillet, trimmed of all sinew and fat
1t cumin
1/2t cayenne pepper
1T sweet smoky paprika
2T olive oil
1 avocado
lemon juice to taste
4T sherry vinegar
2 shallots, thinly sliced
1/2 bunch chervil, leaves picked

The day before combine cumin, cayenne, paprika and oil and season well. Place beef in a clean plastic bag with the marinade and massage to cover the beef entirely. Refrigerate overnight.

Heat a BBQ hot plate until very hot and quickly cook the beef, turning so that the outside is well seared. Allow to rest for at least 10mins but preferably longer.

When ready to serve slice beef as thinly as possible and divide between serving plates spreading out over the whole plate. Mash avocado with a fork and add 2-3T lemon juice or enough to give it some zing. Season well then drizzle over the beef.

Then drizzle over sherry vinegar, sprinkle with sliced shallot and top with a flutter of chervil leaves.

crispy skinned duck breast with spiced beetroot puree & field mushrooms
serves 4-8
Inspired one of the highlights of an amazing meal by Brent Savage at the styling Bentley Restaurant & Bar.

I’m a massive fan of duck, beets, spice, and mushrooms so even if I hadn’t been having this in the tasting menu I would have just had to have ordered it as a main course. Brent’s original also included a baby artichoke which was starting to make it all a little crowed for my liking but he still managed to pull it off.

Brent’s duck was deliciously slow roasted but for ease I went with a quick pan fry for crispy skin and a finish off in the oven which worked well. 

The mushies were amazing with their earthy goodness that was given a breath of fresh air in the form of the much underused herb: dill. Brent had king mushrooms which I was unable to source. The field mushies did an admirable job as stand in but if you can get your hands on the king variety I urge you to give them a go.

4 duck breasts
1T ground pepper
3 juniper berries
1 allspice berry
1 bay leaf
zest 1 lemon
1T salt
4 sprigs thyme
for the beet puree:
1 bunch beetroot
1 head garlic
2T cumin
1T coriander
pinch salt
3T extra virgin olive oil
for the mushrooms:
5 field mushies
2T butter
2T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 bunch dill, finely chopped.

The day before, make the duck marinade. Combine pepper, juniper, allspice, bay leaf, zest, salt and thyme in a mortar and pestle and bash until the whole spices are pulverised. Rub this mixture all over the duck and place on a plate in the refrigerator uncovered skin side up. Allow to stand for approx 24hr. This give the skin time to dry out a little which will make for a more crispy result.

For the beet puree. Preheat oven to 180C. Trim beets and wrap each individually in foil. Wrap garlic in foil as well. Pop them all in the oven and roast until very soft. The garlic will take 20-30mins and the beets depending on their size 1-2hours.

When cool enough to handle. Peel the garlic and place in a food processor. Peel and roughly chop beets and add to the garlic. Add remaining ingredients except the oil and puree until smooth. With the motor running add oil gradually then season to taste. Keep warm.

For the mushrooms, wipe clean with a damp towel, remove stems and chop the caps into batons approx 5mm x 5mm x 2cm. PLace mushies in a ceramic baking dish with the garlic and drizzle over oil and dot with butter. Bake at 180C for 30-45mins or until mushies are well cooked. Season and keep warm.

Heat 1T oil in a large frying pan and cook duck skin side down over a high heat until crispy and very golden. Turn duck over and transfer to the oven. Bake for 10-15mins or until duck is cooked to your liking (I prefer to leave it slightly pink). Allow to rest for 10mins.

When ready to serve place a large dollup of beet puree to one side of each plate. Toss dill through the mushies and place a pile of mushies next to the beet puree. Thinly slice duck and arrange prettily on top of the puree.

roast carrots with spiced yoghurt & toasted almonds
serves 8 as an accompaniment
Inspired by a dish on the menu at The Bentley Restaurant & Bar.

1 bunch baby (dutch) carrots, trimmed
2T olive oil
125mL (1/2C) natural creamy yoghurt
1/2t ground cumin
handful sliced almonds, toasted.

Preheat oven to 180C. Toss carrots and oil together in a roasting tray and season with s&p. Roast carrots for 25-30mins or until golden and just cooked through.

Combine yoghurt and cumin and season to taste. To serve place carrots on a platter, drizzle with yoghurt and top with toasted almonds.

pistachio nougat icecream
serves 8-10

The idea for this unusual custard base for the icecream came from one of my Christmas cookbook acquisitions: Saha by Greg & Lucy Malouf (thanks mum & dad). It gives a lovely light and airy texture and is a hell of a lot less stressful than stirring the custard base over the heat. It’s also a lot more energy efficient because you’re only heating a small part of the mix so cooling time is much quicker. Al Gore would be proud.

Mixing the yoghurt through cuts the richness of the icecream without sacrificing the silken creamy texture. And I find that the slightly tarter taste balances the sweet sweet goodness of the pistachio nougat.

125g sugar
1/2C water
4 yolks
500mL (2C) thickened cream
250mL (1C) yoghurt
500g pistachio nougat, chopped (recipe to follow)
pistachios to serve

Bring sugar and water to the boil in a small saucepan and simmer until dissolved. Beat yolks with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy then add the sugar syrup in a steady stream while continuing to whip. Keep beating until the mixture is cool and increased in volume.

Stir through cream and yoghurt and refrigerate until well chilled. Freeze in an icecream machine according to the manufacturer’s directions. While the icecream is freezing place the chopped nougat in the freezer.

Fold cold nougat through icecream mix and transfer to a loaf pan or terrine dish lined with cling wrap. Cover tightly with extra cling wrap and freeze.

To serve, remove icecream from mould and plastic wrap. Cut into slices and top each with a sprinkling of chopped pistachios.

pistachio nougat
makes approx 1kg
Adapted from spunky Sean Moran’s Let It Simmer.

You really need an electric mixer and a sugar thermometer to make nougat. The recipe sounds a lot trickier than it actually is. Feel free to vary the main flavourings, Sean uses dried strawberries and mixed peel in his along with the pistachios, rosemary & white chocolate.

4 sheets confectioners rice paper*
440g (2C) castor sugar
1/2C honey
1C liquid glucose (or corn syrup)
2 egg whites
pinch salt.4 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped
200g shelled pistachios
240g white chocolate, chopped
125g butter, chopped
4 sheets confectioners rice paper*
440g (2C) caster sugar
1/2C honey
1C liquid glucose (or corn syrup)
2 egg whites
pinch salt.

Line a 25cm square cake tin with half the rice papers to cover the bottom and some of the sides. Place chocolate in the freezer to harden.

Divide castor sugar, glucose and honey between two small saucepans. Place both on the stove and cook over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.

Beat egg whites and salt in an electric mixer until firm peaks form.

Increase heat on the saucepans and bring to 125C on the sugar thermometer. Remove both from the heat and pour the first saucepan into the egg white mix in a steady stream while the motor is running.

Heat second saucepan to 157C and gradually add it to the egg white mix while beating. Add butter and beat until combined. Stir through pistachios, chocolate and rosemary and working quickly pour mixture into the prepared tin. Smooth surface and cover with the remaining paper. Refrigerate until cold. Then cut into desired sized pieces.

*Confectioners rice paper looks kinda like writing paper but is edible. Not to be confused with Vietnamese rice papers. Available at David Jones food halls or confectionery suppliers.


Bentley Restaurant & Bar
320 Crown St
Surry Hills, Sydney
+61 2 9332 2344


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