On Tuesday night I was treated to a cooking Master Class with one of Victoria’s best executive chefs – Marty Chichester from the Bellarine Peninsula’s Oakdene Vinyards restaurant - a multi-award winning venue that last year won the National Award for the Best Restaurant in a Winery.
I have to admit that I was so nervous going into the Masterclass. The menu included oysters, lobster, mud crab and pannacotta – all things I had little or no experience with cooking. The last time I did crab – it really wasn’t great and I wasn’t sure how to clean it. I’ve never attempted lobster before, simply because it’s just so expensive and with my inexperience – I didn’t want to risk ruining it.
As for the oysters – well I’m sad to say, I don’t really like them. I WANT to like them – but I just don’t.
However, my apparent dislike for them didn’t stop me from wanting to try serving them in different ways.
Marty gave us a demonstration of all the dishes before we went ahead – and after getting started on the pannacotta and popping it in the fridge – we started on our oysters. Marty showed us three ways to serve them – each very different.
Sadly, I’m still not a huge fan of oysters – but these three recipes are absolutely extraordinary nonetheless and any lover of oysters is going to want to give these ideas a go.
Firstly we had the watermelon and chilli granita. Secondly, Marty showed us how to make a Welsh Rarebit sauce, which is much like a mustardy mornay - and finally (and my favourite) marinated cucumber spaghetti with Avruga caviar. All these toppings wouldn’t only be useful for oysters. I could see the Welsh Rarebit served over prawns and the cooling, tangy cucumber spaghetti would have endless applications – as a side salad with something spicy would be perfect – or on top of a nicely fried piece of fish, like salmon or tuna.
One of the key things I learned about preparing oysters is that you should never rinse them, because it washes away all the great flavours of the sea. Marty said that if you want to get rid of some of the liquid – then just to dab them gently with some paper towel. He also said it was critical to buy them from a reputable fish monger and use them the same day you buy them. Fresh is best, of course.
Oysters with marinated cucumber spaghetti and Avruga caviar
1 continental cucumber
4 tbs of chardonnay wine vinegar
A pinch of salt
A Pinch of sugar
1 tsp of fresh dill
Avruga caviar to serve
Peel the cucumber and cut julienne, discarding the seeds.
Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the caviar) with the cucumber in a bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge for 1 hour to marinate.
To serve, place a teaspoon of the cucumber mix on top of each oyster and top with half a teaspoon of the caviar.
As for the next filling – Marty said this would also be great on some toasted sourdough bread. Once you taste it, you’ll realise it has many applications. I personally think it would be delicious on steak
Oysters with Welsh Rarebit Sauce
60gm of unsalted butter
75gm of plain flour
375ml of apple cider
375gm of mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbs of dijon mustard
1 1/2 egg yolks
Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook out for 1 minute.
Slowly add the cider and cook for two minutes, making a veloute (the term velouté is from the French adjectival form of velour, meaning velvety).
Remove from the heat and add the mustard, Worcestershire and egg yolks, whisking until smooth.’Add the grated cheese and whisk until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper and cool for 3 hours.
Put a teaspoon of the sauce onto each oyster – then grill under a hot grill until it is browned.
My attempt at this dish, as you can see centered in the image above, wasn’t as grilled as Marty suggests. In my defence – I was terrified of burning it and looking like a goose!
The next option is a granita. Marty said he made this because he always had lots of leftover watermelon offcuts from making another dish. Hating to throw things away, he came up with this lovely dish. I enjoyed this one the most because the granita is frozen, making the oyster beautiful and cold – as it should be.
Watermelon and Chilli Granita
- 1 litre of watermelon flesh (no peel)
- 1 tbs of soyabean chilli paste (available at Asian grocery stores)
- 1 tsp of tabasco sauce
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Taste and correct seasoning, if required. Transfer into a tray (the liquid should be no more than 1 inch deep – using a larger tray, if required) and freeze for at least four hours or overnight.
Using a fork, scrape the froze granita so it forms a light, fine ice and transfer to a container after each scraping.
Serve a teaspoon of granita on top of each oyster.
I think this dish would be amazing on a hot summers day – so cooling and refreshing – with a hit of warmth from the chilli paste and tabasco to tickle the tastebuds.
Watching chefs cook on TV is great fun for me – but this was one of the best experiences ever. If you live in the Geelong region, jump onto the Oakdene website and find out about Marty’s masterclasses. I promise that no matter your cooking ability – you will love it.
Tomorrow I’ll share with you the great tips I learnt about cooking lobster/crayfish. I couldn’t believe how easy, yet impressive it is!
Hopefully this inspires you to go and have a cooking class – or even just get into your kitchen and have a go at something new.