What happens when renowned chefs play in each other’s kitchens? Well, a whole lot of innovation (and perhaps a healthy dose of competition). This month chef Chui Lee Luk, of Sydney’s Claude’s and Chow Bar & Eating House is taking up residence at Berta, Andrew Cibej’s innovative Italian restaurant. And boy is she having fun. Approaching the stint with her passion for playing with cuisines and flavours, Luk’s dishes include beef short rib agrodolce (spices, honey and molasses) and a sweet potato chocolate flan. Luk will also take on the Berta tradition of ‘sagra’ nights, which take on one ingredient and come up with inspiring interpretations on it.
We sat down with Chui Lee Luk to find out more about her experiment at Berta, how she’s putting her own spin on Italian food and what she’s up to next.
Chui Leek Luk is guest chef at Berta Sydney.
How did the pop-up with Berta come about?
Berta has been one of my favourite places to dine and when my old friend owner, Andrew Cibej asked if I might want to help out, I was keen at the chance.
How are you approaching your stint at Berta? How will you put your own spin on Italian food?
I like exploring the origins and cultural meaning of dishes in all types of cuisine and haven’t deviated from this with Italian. I’m re-learning some things like timbale and working my way around how to give it an original spin and how to make it delicious and appealing in the middle of our rather steamy summer (solution, lighter pastry, lighten with use of lentils not rice, spices to whet appetite, lots of green leafy kale and silverbeet in filling). So putting my spin on Italian food, to me, means working out the original context and meaning of a dish and playing around with its form.
What’s exciting you about the Sydney restaurant and food scene right now? What changes have you noticed?
What’s exciting is the pace of change of the food scene. I had thought the Korean thing would be at the frontline of change for a while but it’s now Indian street food.
What’s your favourite ingredient to cook with and why?
I’ve been asked that before and I said it was garlic. I think it still is. When we do a sauce like the puttanesca or peperonata and I’m plating it up, I still wonder what it is that makes the scent so appealing for me and it is the garlic element.
What’s next for you after Berta?
I’ve been engaged to work on the bar/restaurant concepts for a Sydney-based company that’s expanding into overseas markets.
Berta’s Beef Short Ribs
Marinate the beef
4kg beef short ribs, keep whole
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp aniseed
¼ tsp fennel seeds
¼ tsp dill seeds
½ tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp hot smoked paprika or ground chilli or cayenne
Toast spices in oven at 160 degs C for 10mins or until fragrant. Crush in mortar and pestle and combine with garlic, crush further into paste and rub over the meat. Leave to marinate overnight.
Bring about 2L of beef stock or brown chicken stock to the boil and pour onto the marinated beef so that it covers the ¾ of the beef in an ovenproof baking dish/casserole of some sort. Place in oven covered for a couple of hours at 160 degs C then take off the cover and cook until the softness you like. For spoon soft, 6 hours or so. Take out of the stock and let cool then cut into individual ribs.
Glaze the beef
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp crushed black pepper
Puree together all the ingredients. Adjust consistency if necessary so that the glaze clings to the ribs when brushed on. Glaze by placing painted beef in oven at 190 degs for about 10 minutes. Serve with red onion relish, aka agrodolce. Use large nasturtium leaves to wrap pieces of beef with a little relish.
Make the red onion relish or agrodolce
2 red onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground cinnnamon
150ml extra virgin olive oil
100g dried currants or raisins
100ml red wine
100ml red wine vinegar
50g pine nuts, toasted
2 tbs brown sugar
salt, black pepper
Heat braising pan to medium heat, pour extra virgin olive oil into the pan.
When oil is heated up add red onions and bay leaf. and the ground cinnamon.
Let onions cook until meltingly soft.
Add the sugar and raisins, season with some salt and black pepper.
Add the red wine, let reduce to nothing, and then repeat with the red wine vinegar.
Taste to see that the mixture is salty, sour and sweet and add the toasted pine nuts.
Adjust seasoning accordingly. Serve room temperature or warm.
Chui Lee Luk will be at Berta until April. For more details visit www.berta.com.au