Gourmet Traveller, Australia’s leading food magazine, has a bumper 50th birthday issue out now crammed with great things to eat and drink.
For this landmark anniversary, the magazine also pays tribute to the evolution of Australian dining, from humble colonial roots to today’s world-beating multicultural powerhouse, with five decades and 276 pages’ worth of stories, recipes and personalities.
One is those rising stars is Mat Lindsay, who features in the magazine’s next generation of chefs pushing culinary boundaries.
Mat likes to let the oven do the talking. His cooking at Sydney’s Ester is all about walking a line between care and consistency in the cooking and letting the caprices of the wood fire and the natural variety in the tastes and texture of his ingredients come to the fore. It’s food with both guts and glory.
“At Ester, I use a wood-fired oven to cook most things,” says Mat, who shares his famous cheddar pie with The Carousel below, and in the latest issue of Gourmet Traveller.
“It requires a certain level of intuition in that you need to understand the wood and how fire reacts. Cooking with an open flame has a kind of romance to it. I like this pie to have a punch and it tastes best when there are a few burnt bits here and there – the bitterness stops it being too rich.
“If you don’t have access to a wood-fired oven, have your oven as hot as it will possibly go. We like to serve the pie with a chilli sauce we ferment ourselves, but a bit of Tabasco, which is also fermented, works well, too.”
Though he likes the pie as it is, Mat says it’s quite forgiving of experimentation with toppings.
“We’ve even gone extravagant at times and thrown a bit of fresh truffle on, but anything that tastes good with cheese is good – make it your own.”
This recipe below can make either one large (40cm), two medium (25cm) or four small pies (18cm). Start this recipe a day ahead to pickle the onion.
Prep time 20 mins, cook 30 mins (plus pickling, resting, cooling)
16 garlic cloves
125ml olive oil, plus extra for greasing, brushing
280gm Pyengana cheddar, coarsely grated (see note)
Dehydrated tomato powder (optional; see note), to season
Nasturtium and peppery baby leaves, such as mustard or upland cress, and hot sauce, to serve (optional)
200ml white wine vinegar 1¾ tbsp caster sugar
golden shallots, or 1 white onion, thinly sliced
600 gm (4 cups) baker’s flour
125ml (½ cup) olive oil, plus extra for brushing
1. For pickled onion, combine vinegar, sugar, ¾ tsp sea salt flakes and 130ml water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve sugar. Place shallot or onion in a heatproof bowl, pour in vinegar mixture, set aside to cool, then refrigerate overnight. Drain before serving.
2. For pie dough, place flour in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add oil, 290ml warm water and 2 tsp salt, and knead until very smooth and elastic (5-7 minutes). Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour to rest.
3. Combine garlic and olive oil in a small saucepan over very low heat until garlic is light golden (25-35 minutes). Strain (reserve oil for another use) and set garlic aside to cool.
4. Preheat oven as hot as it will go (250C-275C fan-forced). Lightly grease two 25cm tart tins with removable bases with a little oil, or garlic oil if you like. Divide dough into 4 then, on an unfloured surface, roll 2 pieces to rounds the same size as the pie tins. Gently stretch dough on the work surface with your hands until almost see-through and large enough to cover tins, with dough overhanging. Place stretched dough into tins, pressing into the sides.
5. Divide cheddar and confit garlic between pie tins, making large clumps of cheese here and there – the differences in texture is what this pie is about – then season generously with ground black pepper and tomato powder. Roll and stretch remaining dough in the same manner as before and place over pie tins to make top crusts. Trim excess dough and pinch around edges to seal. Make a few small slits in the tops of the pies to allow steam to escape, brush olive oil over tops, season with sea salt and bake in centre of oven, swapping pies halfway, until golden, crisp and starting to blacken in spots (20-30 minutes, depending on how hot your oven will go).
6 Serve straight out of the oven topped with green leaves, with pickled onion and hot sauce served alongside.
Note: Pyengana cheddar is available from select cheese shops; if unavailable use another aged cheddar. Dehydrated tomato powder is available from Herbie’s Spices.