Freshness and quality are buzzwords in any commercial kitchen. They are crucial when blending fats, salts and oils with other flavours.
Tainted botanicals or herbs in second-rate olive oil are never going to cut it, so use cleaned and dried fresh herbs or quality dried products.
A robust premium quality pure extra virgin olive oil will be a vehicle for another flavour well, and label it with a use by date. Rancid oil is not going to make anyone happy.
Using a natural sea salt from seawater which contains sodium as well as other important trace minerals – rather than common salt which is just sodium chloride – will carry it’s own flavours, as well as anything else you may add to it, be it aromatic dried rosemary, thyme, oregano or chilli flakes. Or go all out and add onion powder, cumin, sweet smoked paprika, ground fennel seeds and cloves.
Using unsalted butter is always a better option and will not overpower any other element you put with it. Kombu butter has become synonymous with Chef Neil Perry, little ramekins of the seaweed powder concoction making appearances at the various versions of the original Rockpool over the decades.
Up the road from Perry, at relative newcomer Mode, in the Four Seasons hotel, new head Chef Francesco Mannelli offers a few tentacles of Fremantle octopus served over a reduced potato and leek soup, seasoned with paprika-infused olive oil.
Duncan Welgemoed’s recipe for corn salad with prawn salt from his award-winning Africola, in Adelaide, offers a double whammy, supplying both an oil and a flavoured salt. Fry prawn heads until crisp, add lemon rind and garlic, remove from heat and drain on paper towels. You can reserve the prawn oil for use in salad dressings and to season dishes. Put the prawn heads in a food processor on high with three teaspoons of sea salt and blitz to a fine powder. Refrigerate until required.
Prawns also get the royal treatment at the waterside Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman. A king prawn is simply split and grilled and covered in a hot spicy butter.
Also at the more casual alfresco Chiosco by Ormeggio on the marina, Alessandro Pavoni throws tradition to the wind with garlic bread, using caramelised garlic and herb butter on brioche instead.
Meanwhile, Pierre Issa of Pepe Saya Butter, does a blazing winter sale of butter flavoured with fresh Australian truffles.
The Stokehouse in St Kilda has been known to offer an impeccable sirloin, served with silky potato puree and a mushroom butter.
It’s about complementing, not competing flavours. Let the individual quality ingredients shine.