“This salad utilises many of the rarer herbs and flowers that I have researched over the years,” says celebrity chef Peter Gilmore of this incredible creation from his new cookbook Organum (Murdoch; $100).
“Combined with shaved celery heart, barrel-aged feta, Sicilian capers and olive sourdough crumbs, this dish is a light and aromatic way to start a meal. It embodies simplicity, complexity and the beauty of nature.”
However, while the flavours maybe fresh and simple, the method and ingredients most certainly aren’t. Not that we’d expect anything less from one of the most celebrated chefs in Australia and the culinary genius behind Quay in Sydney (and the famous Snow Egg)! However, if you’re up for a bit of Masterchef style action in the kitchen this salad is sure to seriously impress.
Celery heart, aged feta, rare herbs and flowers
Part 1: Frozen feta shards
500g traditionally aged Greek feta
1 litre liquid nitrogen
1. Place the block of aged feta in the freezer for 2 hours or until firm enough to shave. Wearing appropriate protective eyewear and gloves, pour the liquid nitrogen into an insulated bowl or a small styrofoam container.
2. Remove the frozen feta and use a Japanese mandolin to shave 4–5 slices, as thinly as possible, into the bowl of liquid nitrogen. Allow the liquid nitrogen to further freeze the cheese for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon, put in an airtight container and store in the freezer. Repeat until all the feta has been used.
Part 2: Olive sourdough crumbs
100g pitted Ligurian olives
250ml olive oil
2 slices of sourdough bread, 2cm thick, crusts removed
1. Put the pitted olives and 50 ml of olive oil in the bowl of a small food processor and blend well. Pour the paste onto a small tray and soak the sourdough slices, pressing down into the mixture on both sides of the bread to soak up all the oil.
2. Dehydrate the oil-soaked bread in an 80°C oven or dehydrator for approximately 6 hours or until the bread is dry and crisp. When dry, crumble the bread into rough 5 mm (¼ inch) pieces. Heat the remaining oil in a large non-stick frying pan over medium–high heat and fry the crumbs until crisp. Drain well, cool and store in an airtight container until required.
Part 3: Lemon crème fraîche
50g crème fraîche
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1. Combine the crème fraîche and lemon juice well, cover and refrigerate until required.
Part 4: Lemon juice vinaigrette
½ eschallot, finely diced
Pinch sea salt
2 teaspoons lemon juice
¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1. Mix the eschallot, salt and lemon juice. Allow the eschallot to soften for about 5 minutes. Add the mustard and mix well. Whisk in the olive oil until well incorporated and set aside until required.
Part 5: To finish
64 Pea flowers
32 ice plant buds
64 small nasturtium leaves
64 small bucker-leaf sorrel springs
32 salad burnet springs
40 tiny celery flower sprigs
80 white edible linaria flowers
40 curly cress sprigs
16 small sweet cicely sprigs
2 tablespoons tiny Sicilian capers in oil
2 celery hearts, well-trimmed
1. Separate the pea flower petals and discard the stems. Wash all herbs and flowers in cold water and allow to dry in a single layer on a clean tea towel.
2. Drain the capers well.
3. Use a Japanese mandolin to finely shave the celery hearts into a large bowl. Immediately dress the shaved celery hearts with the lemon vinaigrette.
Part 6: To plate
Place a teaspoon of the lemon crème fraîche in the centre of each serving plate and gently spread out with the back of the spoon. Place a small handful of the dressed, shaved celery heart on top of the crème fraîche. Place 8–10 olive crumbs on each pile of celery with 8–10 capers. Add a couple of slices of the shaved frozen feta on top with a small pinch of the combined herbs and flowers. Add another small handful of the celery heart, more frozen feta and a handful of herbs and flowers. Serve.