When we introduced our new weekly Five Minutes With column last year, in which we interview an identity in the culinary world about their likes, dislikes and embarrassing habits, you embraced it with gusto.
You’ve made it clear you want to know what makes the people who put the food on your table tick – from where they like to eat for breakfast on their day off and who they most admire among their peers, to what they’d choose for their death row meal and which local culinary gem they’d prefer to keep to themselves.
Our guest columnists’ professional tips on how to prepare a ridiculously simple meal that will impress even the pickiest of unexpected visitors have proved particularly popular (more on that later…)
I suspect I’m not alone in adding to my ever-expanding ‘must-visit’ list many of the dining and drinking spots mentioned by our series of industry experts who have appeared in the column so far.
So many of those interviewed have mentioned Teddy Pickers in Campbell as their favourite breakfast spot that it would be rude not to make a beeline there for a closer inspection of their French Toast with Messina Gelato at the earliest opportunity. Then there’s Barrio in Braddon, frequently praised for its small and eclectic menu.
Likewise, Pilot in Ainslie, Rebel Rebel in New Acton and Bar Rochford in the city have been repeatedly mentioned by our columnists as prime examples of the sophisticated, thoughtful and innovative dining experiences that have helped lift Canberra to the status of international dining destination. Having visited each of them again very recently, I can’t argue with that.
From pop-ups run by the young up and comers in Canberra’s hospitality industry who are keen to share ideas and push themselves outside their comfort zones, to the brave step-changes many in the industry have had to make to survive the savage impact of COVID-19, the column has shone a light on a vibrant, daring and determined bunch.
In 2021 we will introduce you to many more of those behind our food and wine scene, if for no other reason than to remind ourselves of how lucky we are to have them.
Do you have a local food hero we should feature in our Five Minutes With column? Someone with their finger on the pulse, who is doing great things and deserves to be recognised? If so, we want to hear from you.
In the meantime, if you’ve been run off your feet cooking complicated festive feasts and want little more than a simple yet flavoursome start to 2021, enjoy our cheat’s guide to impressing your guests, courtesy of our “Five Minutes With” friends.
Dash Rumble, Pilot
My go-to simple dish is olive oil pasta with anchovies, chilli and garlic. Or if I have pepper and cheese in the house (pretty much always), I’ll make cacio e pepe. We always have garlic bread in the freezer too.
Mini Gaundar, Rama’s Fiji Indian Cuisine
My quickest and easiest recipe is Indian scrambled eggs. All you need is three eggs, a quarter of a small onion (thinly sliced), two green or red chillies (cut lengthwise), a few fresh coriander leaves (optional) and a pinch of salt and pepper. Add all ingredients to a bowl and hand whisk. Pop enough olive oil in a frying pan to cover the pan, and make sure the oil is well heated before adding the egg mixture. Cook the eggs for a maximum of two minutes and serve with roti or bread of any kind.
Lucas Woods, Aubergine
My go-to is a noodle salad. Ramen or soba noodle cooked and cooled, tossed with a chopped salad of whatever you have, and dressed with soy, mirin, olive oil, herbs and chilli. So quick!
Pasquale Trimboli, Italian and Sons
A classic spaghetti aglio e olio – the easiest pasta in the world and so tasty. Always keep some anchovies and pasta in the pantry. Render down your anchovy in some olive oil, garlic and chilli for about five minutes while the pasta is cooking. Then simply toss the pasta in the pan and combine to develop the gluten and finish with a good handful of aged Parmigiano-Reggiano and parsley (toasted bread crumbs if you don’t have parmesan). Remember you must always use a high-quality dried pasta – we love the brand Martelli. The difference is enormous.
Sunny Matharu, Inka
Make an antipasto board – easy to do and good for the conversation to continue while grazing. Also, if I’m having friends around I like to create a ceviche while sitting on the kitchen bench having a glass of wine. I cut up some seafood, avocado, fresh herbs from the garden and some limes, then grill some cut tortillas (make them a little charred for flavour). It’s a zesty dish and has a great wow factor.
Dave Young, Temporada
Cook some rice in the rice cooker. Whisk some eggs with soy sauce, a bit of chopped garlic and ginger. Heat a pan, add vegetable oil, and cook the eggs quickly (stir fry – sort of). Eat your rice and eggs with a good amount of sriracha chilli sauce. Trust me – this has gotten me out of trouble so many times!
Paul Wilson, Monster Kitchen & Bar
I like to make potato gnocchi with brown butter, cheese and black pepper – comforting and so tasty. The dish requires little prep, and you’re likely to have all the ingredients in your pantry (those week-old potatoes you forgot about are the best for making a great gnocchi dough). Make sure you take the brown butter to a deep, nutty flavour to really appreciate the final pan sauce.
Live Rollings, Teddy Pickers
My husband, Mark Raets, is definitely the cook in our family but if there’s anything he has taught me it’s that salt and herbs are your friend. Our quick go-to would be a simple bruschetta – a yummy loaf of bread, some avo, tomatoes, Meredith feta, heaps of salt and pepper, and heaps of herbs.
Grant Astle, Marvie & Wolfe
I would likely fire up the barbecue out the back, throw on a nice piece of meat, pick some herbs from the garden and make a herb butter. Hopefully, my guest would be impressed enough with a really nice glass of wine and a nicely cooked steak.