Five minutes with George Calombaris
The celebrity chef reveals what's in his fridge, where he eats and his signature recipe
Popularly known as the cheeky one on MasterChef Australia, there’s more to the 36-year-old chef George Calombaris than meets the eye. He’s got a new cookbook coming out this September, is visiting India to launch his own Collection on Zomato (a feature on the website/app where you find curated lists with restaurant recommendations; Calombaris has picked places you should be eating at in Bengaluru) and eats so healthy, he’s banned his kids from eating at McDonalds. We caught up with him to find out his top places to eat (food), favourite ingredients (more food) and what he keeps in his fridge (more food).
ELLE: How’s the India trip going so far and what are you looking forward to most?
George Calombaris: I got here late last night and it's been a fantastic morning. I'm looking forward to experiencing the culture. That's when you get a good understanding of the place. Just this morning, we had the tastiest dosa and these crispy donuts - vada. It was great! I’m looking forward to just immersing myself in the culture; really digging my heels into the place.
ELLE: What’s the one Indian flavour that draws you in most as a chef?
GC: Whole coriander seeds. I toast them and eat them whole because they're so yummy. But then I think about saffron and cardamom. The culture is so full of these delicate spices that make the food taste so great. But I think coriander is my favourite because it adds that extra something to the curry flavour.
ELLE: What’s the one dish that takes you back to your childhood?
GC: It’s got to be my mum’s Avgolemono. Translated in English, it’s an egg and lemon soup. And it's something I associate with my childhood because that's all my mum would make when we were sick to make us feel better. It's really simple - it's got bit of rice and whole chicken and you finish up with bits of egg and lemon juice. It makes you feel so good. I've recreated it in so many ways at my restaurant too. And that's my mantra for what I do at my restaurant - take my Aussie-Greek spirit and put it on a plate. Nothing needs to be the way it used to be but it needs to respect it, that’s what I strive for.
ELLE: What are the three most memorable dishes you’ve eaten around the world recently?
GC: I recently had the sashimi of beef with truffles at this new Japanese place in Melbourne – Minamishima; that was excellent. I remember the first time I ate at the Fat Duck in London - just the scrambled eggs there – they’re incredible. And then with my relation to Greece; I love being in a little village somewhere and eating the simplest char grilled octopus with lemon juice. These are memories that I don't forget. Travel is a wonderful thing and it's what gives you these wonderful experiences that are imprinted in our heads. This is what I do, I'm a food person - and food is the one common language we have.
ELLE: What’s in your pantry/fridge and what’s a quick dish you’d put together if you have guests at the last minute?
GC: I'm a very simple cook and I'm very healthy. So, there are a lot of lentils and chickpeas, lots of green vegetables in the fridge. It's all about a fresh, vibrant palate. I'd put some sweet potatoes in the oven. Prepare some fresh yogurt. Tahini. Toast some sesame and pumpkin seeds maybe some feta. I can whip this up in 10 minutes and that’s lunch. For us it's all about healthy yummy eats and easy to-go food.
On his trip here, he recreated a signature dish at the JW Marriott in Bengaluru. Flip to the next page for the recipe
Salted caramel rice pudding
It's a three layer dessert consisting of burnt butter kourambiethes and rice cream topped with salted caramel. Get the three elements ready, layer and voila! Here's a breakdown:
Burnt butter kourambiethes
Makes approx. 20
3.8kg unsalted butter (at room temperature)
1.1kg icing sugar
10 vanilla bean, scraped
4 tsp salt
1.7kg plain flour
1.7kg self-raising flour
10 eggs, beaten
10 cups flaked almonds
5 cup icing sugar mixture to dust
1. Place half of the butter in a heavy base saucepan and heat over a high heat until turn’s black (not brown, completely black). Leave to cool to room temperature.
2. Once completely cool, pour into a medium sized bowl along with all of the burnt milk solids from the bottom of the pan, the other half of the soft butter, the vanilla seeds and the salt. Using your hand whisk together until combined.
3. Sift in the flours and work together until the dough comes together.
4. Divide roughly into 20 balls. Roll into small two-inch sausages and lightly bend into crescent shape. Place onto lightly grease baking tray and place into the fridge to set.
5. Pre-heat fan forced oven to 170 degrees Celsius.
6. Lightly brush the outside of the biscuits with the beaten egg and roll through lightly crushed flaked almonds. Return to baking tray. Repeat until all finished.
7. Bake biscuits until deep golden brown.
8. Once cooked remove from the tray and place onto a wire rack to cool.
9. Once cool sprinkle with loads of icing sugar. Store in an airtight container.
6 Cinnamon quills
1kg Castor sugar (1)
1kg Sushi rice
1.8kg Cream 35%
960g Egg yolks
600g Castor sugar (2)
12 Vanilla pods, scraped
1. In a heavy based pot, make a spiced sugar syrup by boiling castor sugar (1) with water and cinnamon quills
2. Allow to cool and reserve until needed
3. Rinse the rice under cold water to clean. Cook via absorption method until well cooked
4. Strain rice well and toss with enough spiced sugar syrup to coat and stop it sticking together
5. Allow to cool and reserve
6. To make the ice cream base, place the cream, milk, egg yolks, castor sugar (2) and vanilla pods into a thermomix and cook until the mixture reaches 90 degrees Celsius
7. Pass through a fine chinois and chill in a blast chiller
8. Once cooled, fold through the rice and distribute evenly between paco canisters
9. Freeze paco canisters in blast freezer or freezer
10. Churn before use
10kg caster sugar
3kg butter, roughly diced
1. Place the glucose and sugar into a heavy based pot (glucose first)
2. Cook until it is a dark colour at 175 degrees Celsius (use a pastry brush to wash the rim of the caramel)
3. Bring cream and salt to the boil
4. Add cream to the caramel and stir until dissolved
5. Allow to cool to 40 degrees Celsius before blending in diced butter with stick blender
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