Heinz Beck has many accolades to his name, cookbooks and even a reality television cooking show that pits chefs against housewives. On top of that, he has the only restaurant in Rome with 3 Michelin stars: La Pergola.
The German-born chef makes fantastic Italian and Mediterranean dishes, inspired by his Sicilian mother-in-law, that are also health-conscious.
So you can imagine our excitement when we found out that we were going to attend a masterclass with the great man himself!
Beck has quite a presence (and those piercing blue eyes!), yet he was soft-spoken and quite laid back as he answered our questions about his passion on Italian cuisine, fresh produce and his favourite dish (a simple spaghetti bolognese – the secret is making the sauce from the right type of tomatoes and topping it off with the perfect sort parmesan cheese).
We also learnt a little about his flagship restaurant, La Pergola (he has about 4 other restaurants), where 99% of the dishes only stay for one season on the menu. The dishes that we were going to be introduced to are actually on his current menu – how exciting.
Sedanini ‘de Cecco’ is a dry pasta dish that is flavoured with a crab bisque, which consisted of fennel, celery, cherry tomatoes, white wine, thyme oil and of course crab.
I was a bit slow on the uptake, but I should have realised this was just a demonstration of how he would start making the bisque, as the bisque needed quite a few hours to develop its depth in flavour (such a big duh moment).
The actual bisque used in the pasta is in that massive pot in the background, which I think has been reducing overnight.
To the pasta, he added a spice I couldn’t identify and orange zest, then liberally added the bisque as the pasta was being expertly tossed with a flick of a wrist. Both chefs would constantly taste the dish while cooking and would add more bisque, salt or orange zest to their satisfaction.
The pasta dish rested on a roasted aubergine coulis (as eggplants soak up oil like a sponge, turning it into a coulis / puree ensures for the desired flavour without the greasiness) and finished off with bread crumbs (made from an old family recipe) for texture.
Beck and one of his chefs make it look so easy to turn out such a delicious pasta dish that is full of flavour and surprisingly light – amazingly light considering it is a pasta dish.
I loved the earthiness of the eggplant and the gentle zest from the perfectly al dente pasta and surprisingly from the bread crumbs too; the prawns were so soft, they melted like butter on the tongue – heavenly!
Not only did we have the pleasure of watching Beck and his chef at work, we were lucky enough to score the recipe for the dessert!
For the orange jelly:
1 Litre freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Sheets of gelatine
250 Grams of sugar
For the vanilla custard:
250 Grams of fresh cream
1 Pod of vanilla
150 Grams of egg yolk
50 Grams of sugar
For the basil pearls: 1 Litre of water
2 Sheets of gelatine
300 Grams of fresh basil
For the orange granita:
1 Litre of orange juice
300 Grams of sugar
For the bergamot ice cream:
500 Grams of milk
500 Grams fresh cream
250 Grams of sugar
40 Grams of dextrose
2 Drops of pure bergamot essence
Let the gelatin soften in iced water for 10 minutes, melt it gently on the double boil and add it to the orange juice that has been filtered and sweetened with the sugar, let it set in the serving plates for at least 8 hours in the fridge.
Pasteurize the cream at 80 degrees with the pod of vanilla opened and scraped, pour it on the sugar and yolks previously whisked with the sugar, place back on the double boil gently stirring with a flat folder until creamy and velvety. Let cool down and chill in the fridge.
Blench quickly in boiling water the leaves of basil and immerse them in iced water, blitz them into a fine pulp after being drained properly, add in the litre of water and pour in the gelatin pre-softened in iced water and melted on the double boil. Set in the fridge for 8 hours.
Whisk the orange juice with the sugar, filter and pour in a stainless steel bowl, place in the freezer and repeat whisking it every half hour until completely crystalized.
Bergamot ice cream:
Churn the ingredients after being pasteurized at 80 degrees, pour in a stainless steel container and leave in the freezer for 8 hours.
Assembling the dessert:
Put the basil sauce and the vanilla custard in two separate piping bags cutting with a pair of scissors a fine extruding hole. Lay on the orange jelly 7 drops of each sauce in a decorative way. In the middle of the dish prepare a nest of orange granita by scraping it from the bowl obtaining a snow-like consistency. Now scoop the bergamot ice cream letting roll the firm surface of it onto a wet spoon and then place it softly on the nest of orange granita. Garnish with two edible flowers.
I absolutely adored this dessert – it was incredibly refreshing and so delicately flavoured; the bergamot ice cream was mind-blowingly fantastic. This is one dessert I would love to try out (or rather, pester F to make it for me hehe).
Heinz Beck is a passionate chef that demands and achieves perfection, from the produce he uses in his dishes to the cutlery and crockery it is served in. And yet he is incredibly sweet and humble.
Beck prefers to use local, sustainable, organic products and the presentation of his dishes are inspired by paintings, architecture and the environment. He mentioned that he’s always trying to think of new ways to present dishes, to make it healthier, to improving his technique, skill and flavour of his food. We asked him what he does when he’s not in the kitchen – he kind of chuckled and returned with: “I am never not in the kitchen”.
628 Crown Street
Surry Hills, NSW, 2010
Ph: (02) 9699 8787
es&t attended the Masterclass event as a guest of Wasamedia