Heading into summer, Australian food lovers are on the lookout for new and exciting recipes. Leaving winter behind, we’re aching for lazy Sunday afternoon bar-b-q gatherings and balmy evenings where relaxing dinner parties on the deck are the weekend highlight. A few Queensland inspired recipes from renowned Australian chef Richard Ousby could provide the inspiration.
Blue and orange flames leap from the pan as Richard Ousby expertly pours the Havana Club rum over the bubbling caramelised sugar. There is something about flames in a kitchen that draws a crowd and a collective gasp of excitement. This “crowd” was a group of 15 attending a cooking masterclass with the Executive Chef for the Stokehouse Group Richard Ousby. I was part of the group at The Cooking School – Noosa located behind the popular Wasabi restaurant, at Noosa Heads, a quiet spot nestled on the banks of the Noosa River.
Aware my prowess in the kitchen can always be improved upon, when invited to attend this special cooking class sponsored by Electrolux, in one of my favourite Sunshine Coast destinations – I accepted the invitation.
Who is Richard Ousby?
For a little background on Richard Ousby, if you haven’t dined at either one of the establishments he presides over as Executive Chef – Stokehouse at Southbank in Brisbane and the Stokehouse at St Kilda in Melbourne – take a look at the end of my post*.
Our Friday Masterclass
The masterclass is in an open plan room around a large stone table, adorned with ingredients and utensils. We’re introduced to Richard Ousby and owner of the Noosa Cooking School and Wasabi restaurant Danielle Gjestland. After outlining the day’s events, Richard allocated tasks to the group. I wondered if Richard channeled some psychic abilities, when he suggested the “Rum Roasted Pineapple” dish for myself and my friend Karen. Did Richard know I’m partial to rum and also to pineapples? (As a true-blue Queenslander, pineapples are part of my heritage.)
I wondered if our group were avid fans of Masterchef, because once the dishes were allocated, it was as if the timer had begun. There was a flurry of activity including grabbing ingredients and utensils. While Karen and I struggled to don our aprons – others in the group who’d taken no time to peruse their recipes were already in prep mode. Richard and Danielle “worked the room” answering questions and making suggestions.
I admit it’s a little daunting to take your home kitchen skills and apply them to a commercial kitchen, with two professional chefs hovering. I watched as a mother and daughter team expertly sliced a massive fillet of freshly caught tuna into large chunks for cooking. A non-tuna lover, I was relieved Richard chose us for the rum pineapple concoction. Our first task involved making a dry caramel with the sugar.
The second part of the recipe required us to add water, then rum to “make a flame with the vapour.” This came with the warning in caps: BE CAREFUL STAND CLEAR THE RUM WILL IGNITE. That was enough for us to happily hand the reigns over to the professional. As we waited for Richard to flambé in style, he shared an interesting story about his inspiration for cooking the humble pineapple.
“My mate Simon Lewis and I as 14 years olds used to do a lot of fun cooking,” says Richard. “We’d build a bon fire and place pineapples on the edge of the fire and wait for them to get crisp. You’d assume when cooked they’d be like a hot smoked pineapple, but they’re not. Once you cut the burned section away, the pineapple is just really juicy and not quite as sweet as you’d think.”
Richard’s recipe has the pineapples marinating in the caramel rum creation for 24 hours in the fridge. (A later addition to his burnt pineapple experimentation as a teenager!)
We watched another couple quickly top and tail, then slice seven pineapples ready for marinating. Thankfully this was not a pressure test and we were not required to figure out how we were going to overcome the 24 hour marinating issue. Instead we had the luxury of being supplied with “ones we have prepared earlier.”
The next task was to roast the pineapple! This is a first for me – after all the pineapples I’ve consumed over the years, I’ve never thought to “cook” any! But roast them we did at 300 degrees with some of the caramel to add even more flavour.
Tasting our efforts
The best part of any cooking class comes when it’s time to sample the collective efforts. Sitting down at a couple of long tables in the Wasabi Restaurant, overlooking the Noosa River, with a glass of chilled white wine chosen to complement each delicious dish we’d contributed to making, was the perfect way to enjoy the fruits of our labour. Conversation flowed with our new cooking friends.
The rum roasted pineapples were served with a few complimentary delights: vanilla custard, caramel brioche and fresh passionfruit curd. “The rest of the dish is what I love to eat,” Richard explained earlier in our cooking class. “The vanilla cream we’re making is luscious and better than whipped cream can ever be. With fresh passionfruit curd and torn brioche baked this morning, what could be better?” he asks.
Indeed Richard, what could be better?
*Details about Richard Ousby:
Currently Richard Ousby is the Electrolux ambassador and Executive Chef of the Stokehouse Restaurants in Brisbane and Melbourne. Richard currently lives in Brisbane and has won a few prestigious awards including the San Pellegrino and Acqua Panna Young Chef of the Year in 2012.
Richard worked for celebrated chef Michael Roux at England’s three-star Michelin restaurant, the Waterside Inn at Bray, Berkshire. In 2010 this restaurant had the accolade of becoming the first restaurant outside France to retain all three stars for 25 years. Richard returned to Australia in 2008 where he worked for three years in the kitchen at Sydney;s Quay restaurant with Peter Gilmore. Richard joined the Stokehouse Q in 2012 and in 2015 was appointed as Executive chef for Stokehouse restaurants.
(The writer was a guest of Electrolux and the Cooking School Noosa)