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Truffle Series: Butter poached crayfish with seafood linguine

What did I do with the other half of that Pemberton truffle I posted about with my pie recipe?

Two words: Crayfish. Pasta.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure this dish would work – I’m so used to eating and cooking with black truffle in heartier dishes and ingredients with deeper flavours. But I had done red meat – beef cheek, lamb – and I had done mushrooms to death, I had done simple things like a cheesy gratin or soup or even scrambled eggs and toasties that really let the truffle shine. What I hadn’t used truffle with was seafood. For some reason (*ahem* Masterchef Australia, I’m looking at you) I was suddenly really desperate to make a crustacean stock and also had a craving for some succulent, sweet, fresh crayfish. Plus, I had all that truffle butter that I had made, and I thought that I must be able to build a dish around all of these semi-disjointed ideas.

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In the end, I made a very rich and flavoursome crustacean stock and worked it into a decadently creamy, buttery pasta sauce, truffled some scallops and butter-poached a crayfish tail. I was pretty happy with the outcome, though I wish I had used better linguine (you can!) because that almost ruined it.

Truffle butter poached crayfish with seafood linguine

Truffle Butter

For the truffle butter, I just sliced a block of good cooking butter into 5 pieces and stuck very thin fresh truffle shavings in between them, and put them back together into one block. I surrounded the block with more truffle shavings, and wrapped everything in up in cling wrap, put it back in the fridge overnight.

The next day, I took out the butter and let it soften at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Then I put it into a metal bowl and used a spoon to work and mix it until the truffle was distributed pretty evenly throughout the butter.

The Main Event

6 scallops
6 king prawns
1 crayfish tail
1 large shallot (diced)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
300mL (approx) vegetable or mild chicken stock
200mL (approx) dry white wine
150mL (approx) heavy cream
tarragon (chopped finely)
parsley (chopped finely)
chervil
fresh black truffle shavings (approx maybe 20)
1 red chilli (optional)
1 tablespoon corn flour
2 servings of linguine (dried or fresh)
1 tablespoon olive oil

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  1. The night before cooking, wrap scallops individually in cling wrap with thin slices of truffle on either side
  2. Peel and de-vein the prawns, set shells aside. Remove the crayfish tail from its shell, set the shell aside. Remove the membranous bits of the underside of the crayfish as best you can.
  3. Break apart and smash the crustacean shells from above. Place shells in a tall saucepan/pot, add half the vege stock and all of the wine, and a couple of pinches of salt
  4. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring from time to time, until visibly reduced
  5. While that’s happening, in a separate pan, melt a tablespoon of truffle butter from above, then saute garlic and shallots (and a little bit of chilli if you like) until the shallots are translucent. Set aside.
  6. Remove crayfish and prawn shells from stock; strain the stock through muslin or a very fine sieve, then return to saucepan
  7. Turn heat to low and add about 100g (yes, that much!) of butter to the stock, in 6-8 separate chunks. After adding each chunk, stir slowly until fully mix, before adding the next chunk. Do not let the stock boil or the butter will separate from the stock.
  8. Add some tarragon and parsley to the stock, and a little more salt to taste. If there’s more than 5cm of liquid at the bottom of your saucepan, remove some of the stock mixture and set aside.
  9. Quickly sear the crayfish tail (about 45 secs each side on high heat if small, 1 minute each if a bit larger). Then add the crayfish to the buttery stock that’s left in the saucepan.
  10. Poach crayfish on a very gentle simmer for about 7-8 minutes (turning halfway through) – but check it this as it will depend on the size of the crayfish, the liquid level in your saucepan. Remove when just cooked and very tender. (If you removed any stock before, now re-add the the stock you removed to the saucepan.)
  11. Add the garlic and shallots sauteed before. Add in the rest of the original vege/chicken stock. Bring back to a gentle simmer
  12. Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil. Add plenty of salt, olive oil, and cook the linguine until al dente. Set aside with some olive oil mixed through to prevent sticking.
  13. Stir in the cream very slowly in 2-3 batches.
  14. Pan-fry the prawns and scallops in truffle butter until the scallops are golden brown, then set aside.
  15. Mix the corn flour with 2/3 tablespoon of cold water until mixed fully, then add to the saucepan. Stir in and simmer gently until the sauce thickens a little, simmer for two more minutes, then turn off the heat.
  16. Either slice the crayfish tail in half down the middle, OR, you can slice it into 3 cm pieces. I like biting into a nice, juicy crayfish chunk so I choose the first option.
  17. In two pasta dishes or shallow bowls, place one serving of the linguine in each. Spoon a small ladle of the sauce onto the pasta and mix gently until it coats the linguine.
  18. Distribute half the crayfish pieces, three scallops and three prawns into each dish on top of the linguine. Ladle more sauce on top of the pasta and seafood until attractively covered.
  19. Top dish with finely shaved or sliced truffle, chopped chervil and one sprig of chervil.

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MFWF 2014: The World’s Longest Lunch

Imagine my disappointment when I found that, for the third year in a row, I had missed out on getting tickets to the World’s Longest Lunch, the Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s annual signature opening event, this year promising courses by Jacques Reymond, Stefano de Pieri and Adam D’Sylva. The idea of sitting at a half-kilometre long table in the late-summer sunshine being served a delectable alfresco lunch with courses designed by some of the country’s most accomplished chefs not surprisingly excited and intrigued me. I kicked myself for not getting organised earlier, again, and vowed not to miss out next year.

If you’ve never heard of the Longest Lunch, the “longest” refers not to the time-frame of the meal (though it does tend to span the better part of the afternoon) but the length of the table – this year, over 530 metres of pristine white-tablecloth and 1504 charmingly mismatched chairs set along the Yarra river by Alexandra Park.

Let’s backtrack a little at this point.

Years ago, many people knowingly nodded when I informed them I was moving to Melbourne. “You’re just doing it for the food, aren’t you?”

I wasn’t, actually. Somehow, I’ve felt at home in this city since the first moment I set foot in it to visit a friend, and though I returned quite a few times before becoming a resident, I never gave much thought to “why” – when you find a true city soulmate, you plan to move there as fast as possible and don’t really overthink it. I guess if I were to name a few things I love, they would be the focus on culture and art, the beautiful historic buildings, the very old trams, the many events and enthusiastic way Melbournians take part in even the oddest ones, the boutique and outlet shopping, and yes, its world class dining and amazing things to eat on every budget.

So, before I digress any further, my point is – the World’s Longest Lunch is a perfect example of a very “Melbourne” thing, encompassing both the Melbournians’ love of slightly different events and the city’s rich epicurean culture.

My annoyance at missing out was pretty understandable.

Then… I received an unexpected email newsletter in early February from a website (Club Secure) I’d just used a couple of times. Before I could get annoyed at the spam, I saw that it contained exclusive ticketing offers for, among other things, the WLL event which had been sold out for weeks by that time. I snatched up a couple of tickets without delay and set out to find the ideal dining buddy.

The funny and charming Yen from theyennipenni channel ended up accompanying me on the day and we were both pretty excited by the prospect of a day of good food and interesting company.

After same taxi dramas, we arrived at the gardens breathless due to both anticipation and running late and were ushered towards the action by staff who handed us each goodie bags that included straw fedoras. Our places were a breeze to find as we were right down the very end of the table in seats 1501 and 1503. While we wouldn’t be in the “thick of the action”, we had an amazing view of the whole half kilometre of table.

Obligatory photos were taken and of the entire length of the table – or as much of it as we could fit in frame – to be Instagrammed, of course, and almost immediately afterwards we were engaged in friendly conversation by our immediate neighbours who turned out to be incredibly lovely and interesting people. In fact, we could not asked to be seated with better company. We seemed to have been lumped in with many people who worked in or were related to the industry.

The food that afternoon was a little bit of a letdown in terms of both dish execution and presentation – perhaps my expectations were simply so high due to the stellar reputations of the chefs involved that they couldn’t be reasonably met in such a setting, catering to so many guests!

First dish to table was smoked hiramasa kingfish, which turned out to be my favourite of the three courses, though I wouldn’t have guessed it at the time. The fish was a lovely, tender texture with a nice smoky flavour, however, some of the diners’ plates (including mine) were missing the tamarind sauce that was supposed to accompany the dish, while others had the sauce and assured us it worked well with the fish. I feel that failing to include an essential condiment was a fairly large oversight, though it was obviously through no fault of Adam D’Sylva’s.

The main was duck tucupi (“tucupi” being apparently a yellow sauce extracted from Brazilian manioc root), which was the dish designed by Jacques Reymond. There was a bit of a show involving the plate of duck and cute little glass bottles of hot broth being served separately, and the diners having to pour the broth over the poultry themselves. The broth was rich deeply flavourful, however, the duck itself wasn’t well cooked – the fat not having been fully rendered and the flesh somewhat chewy and overcooked.

I personally enjoyed De Pieri’s carrot cake dessert well enough, however, being very dense and moist but not particularly rich and indulgent it was not everyone’s cup of tea.

The service (provided by Peter Rowland Catering) throughout the afternoon was slightly brisk (understandably, with 1504 guests to wait on!) but still friendly and capable, and the staff were impeccably dressed in cute uniform. Conversation with our companions flowed beautifully and naturally and the long afternoon flew by in a blink even with long gaps between the three courses.

Wine was interchangeably poured by the staff or sitting in ice buckets at intervals along the table – not being a drinker at all, I’m not sure if this was preferable to full service, but from what I could tell it meant that those who came for mainly for food and company were able to better control their intake and those who wished to get a little tipsy could do so to their heart’s content.

As it approached 4pm and guests started dispersing, the afternoon ended with an optional boat ride up the river to Southbank and as it was a beautiful, sunny day, I jumped at this opportunity and spent the later afternoon walking along the river bank eating gelato.

All in all, the long lunch was a fabulous experience, thanks to the glorious weather, the relaxed atmosphere, the good-natured service and the amazing company.

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