Posted: 24 Oct 2012

Matt Preston’s weird flavour combos that rock

For MasterChef star, world-famous food writer and bon vivant MATT PRESTON, flavour is the key to everything. In this special guest post, Australia’s favourite TV foodie shares his TOP 5 weird flavour combos that taste fabulous.

Sometimes the secret to a great dish is the simple combination of flavours that rock together, whether it’s tomato and basil on your pizza or lamb and mint in the Sunday roast. Other less familiar combos can also really delight. Here are some of my slightly weird favourites…

1. CARDAMOM & APRICOTS: There’s a famous stewed apricot dish in Hyderabad where the fruit is cooked to a dark jammy stickiness with loads of spices. I’ve taken the idea and stripped it right back for my first cookbook. Just poach firm apricots in a sugar syrup with a smattering of crushed cardamom pods. The result is an exotic dessert that’s far more complex tasting than it should be with just two component flavours. To serve, remove the fruit, reduce the poaching liquid to a syrup and serve it all with a dollop of cream. Also try apricot jam on toast with a splash of Worcestershire sauce – an old favourite of my Dad’s that is rather magical.

2. FETA, LIME & AVOCADO TOAST: The creaminess of the avocado, the tartness of the lime and the echoing creaminess of good feta with its saltiness biting against the smarting
tartness of the lime and you have the perfect eye-opening breakfast. Also serving almost anything on toast (ie chocolate, olive oil and flake saltcheese and beer; etc) makes it extra delicious but here that crunch is a perfect foil to all the creaminess.

3. CUCUMBER, BBQ OCTOPUS & OUZO: If three flavours can encapsulate a whole nation then here is Greece in a mouthful. Char-grilled fresh octopus takes on an almost bacony smokiness from the grill making it perfect with the aniseed sweetness and alcoholic heat of a shot of neat ouzo. But the booze’s lush mouthfeel needs the refreshing wet crunch of cucumber, which also cools fingers stinging from the octopus plucked sizzling straight from the grill. If you can’t get octopus try smoky bacon or just go with ouzo and cucumber which still work well as a duet.

4. BLUEBERRIES & WHITE CHOCOLATE: There is something perfect about the billowy vanilla sweetness of white chocolate and these pert, tart, fleshy berries. It’s that classic perfect partnerships of opposites. The coolness of the berries and the warmth of the white chocolate; the berries’ pop and the chocolate’s easy softness. A little salt in the white chocolate lifts the blueberries’ sweetness. Whether your serve a blueberry turnover with white chocolate custard or fresh blueberries with a white chocolate mousse, you are on a winner. This combination is a sure-fire inclusion for the next  cookbook, especially now that I’ve discovered that Melbourne uber-chef Ben Shewry has blueberry with a vanilla granita on his menu, which has distinct white chocolate overtones.

5. MANDARIN, THYME & EARL GREY TEA: Few chefs showcase more unique pairings than the UK’s Heston Blumenthal, whether it’s white chocolate and caviar or red cabbage and seeded mustard. This is one of his real gems – a suggestion that I’ve yet to see on the menu of his restaurant The Fat Duck. So I worked up a simple dish for my column in News Ltd’s Taste section with plump mandarin segments roasted on a puff pastry base and then sprinkled before serving with a little fresh thyme and a dollop of frozen Earl Grey granita. The secret here is to eat the dish quickly as the granita will melt, and to ensure that the granita itself is free of any tannic astringency by steeping the Earl Grey tea in cold water to draw out just its fragrance. It’s also really good with a yoghurt and ginger ice cream if you want to throw a couple more complementary flavours into the mix. This would work wonderfully as a sundae… another idea for the new book perhaps!

WANT MORE? Check out his new book Matt Preston’s 100 Best Recipes (Pan Macmillan, $39.99) in good book stores.

Matt Preston's 100 Best Recipes (Pan Macmillan, $39.99)



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