Last year Alessandro Pavoni, the chef and owner of a one hat restaurant Ormeggio in Sydney, appeared a few times on Masterchef Australia Series 3 – mostly to take part in the so called “immunity challenges” where the amateur cooks compete against professional chefs for the right to win immunity from elimination rounds of the show. One of the signature dishes that Alessandro once brought to the Masterchef kitchen was Cuttlefish checkerboard. It looked so impressive that I started to think of the ways to reproduce the dish at home.
From the very beginning I decided to substitute cuttlefish with plain white fish which is more readily available in the local markets (and enjoyed more in our family!). The question was how to make it black. Needless to say, it’s next to impossible to get the squid ink (which is used in the original recipe) in Kolkata. I wanted to find a black food condiment that could be used for “painting” the fish – just the same way as I did for creating fish “braid” – but I failed, so I had to leave the idea of making Pavoni’s dish for a while.
This year, however, when a friend from
brought me a jar of Tartufona – thick bread spread made with black truffles – I realized that I can eventually make my “checkerboard”. In order to stress the earthy flavour of truffles I substituted the calamari broth with mushroom fumet. Looking at my serving plate I couldn’t but admit that’s it’s totally a fusion dish: pieces of fish marinated in Italian truffle paste, served on a bed of Indian basmati rice cream with traditional French fumet. It is amazing sometimes to see how different elements combine and merge to form a sheer delight on the plate! Italy
Recipe adapted from the original one by Alessandro Pavoni (www.masterchef.com.au)
1 tbsp olive oil
juice of ½ lime
salt to taste
Basmati rice cream
300 ml milk
260 ml water
a pinch of salt
juice of ½ lime
200 ml hot water
a pinch of salt
- For fish checkerboard, cut the fish fillet into 18 small squares. Apply salt, olive oil and lime juice to 8 of them and cover the remaining 10 with a thick layer of tartufo. Marinate separately in the fridge for a few hours or overnight, then steam the fish pieces till done.
- For basmati rice cream, combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Puree until very smooth, adding more milk if required.
- For mushroom fumet, heat butter in a pan and sauté the mushrooms with some salt. Add hot water together with the lime juice, bring to the boil, low heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture, return to the pan and reduce by half. Check the seasoning.
- To serve, use a mould to form a round base with the rice cream. Using tongs, carefully transfer 5 black and 4 white fish pieces to the plate arranging them in such a way that they will look like a checkerboard. Pour mushroom fumet around and garnish with small cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs. Repeat to make the second serve.
1. Alternatively, you can bake the fish instead of steaming it.
2. Work with the rice cream while it’s still warm – it gets less spreadable as it cools down.