“I’ve not gone for the easiest option. With
three hours to go, I’m starting to panic. I just hope I can get
everything on the plate and the judges like the dishes I put up!”
I’m not a MasterChef finalist. It’s 10am on Sunday morning and I have
guests due for lunch at 1pm. I’m attempting Philip Johnson’s open
ravioli with artichokes, pan-roasted tomatoes, basil, goat’s curd and
Meanwhile, my partner has bounced off to the gym having already whipped up another of Johnson’s recipes – saffron and almond cake. At least dessert is in the bag.
Johnson’s book, Eating in,
opens with a number of helpful tips on how to plan your menu to avoid
last minute panic. I try to keep these in mind as I get to work on the
2kgs of tomatoes that will form the base of the sauce. Once they’re
whizzed, sieved and set on the stove at a gentle simmer, I nip off for a
shower and then check of my emails. Now that’s what I call planning.
minutes later the tomatoes are reducing nicely and I start putting
together a melon, ginger, lime and mint salad that will be served with
seared prawns for entree. The tomatoes come off the heat and I’m
starting to own the kitchen, a tea towel is nonchalantly tucked into my
belt to prove the point. I carefully season the tomato sauce tasting as I
go and explaining each move to an imaginary Gary and George.
beauty of this dish is that once you’ve got a good balance of flavours
in the tomato sauce everything else is relatively easy. I pan fry
artichokes, cherry tomatoes, add olives, basil and some of the sauce and
that’s the filling pretty much ready to go.
Partner returns, guests arrive, drinks are poured.
prawn salad is met with appreciation all round, although I wonder if
you can ever serve melon as part of a savoury starter without being a
Next up is the pasta. I drain the water off the
lasagne sheets and they immediate form into a solid mass refusing to be
parted. I need whole squares or my presentation’s shot! I try to think
what Callum [from MasterChef for the uninitiated] would do, but
the only thing that comes to mind is a giant macaroon. I consider
cutting all the sheets into thin strips and telling my guests I always
intended serving tagliatelle. In the end, I settle for a semi-random
arrangement of pasta pieces in various shapes and sizes hoping it looks
I’m slightly ashamed of my plating effort as I serve up,
particularly as everyone around the table is a graphic designer.
However, flavour wins through in the end and the early hours spent on the tomato reduction pay off.
catastrophe aside the lunch is a success and the cake, served with
saffron syrup and ice cream, is a big hit. Our guests depart full and
– Tim Signore
EATING IN by Philip Johnson (Murdoch Books, $60)