When preparing a special dinner for family or friends (in your bubble), inspiration can be found anywhere. This is especially the case for celebrated chef Nic Watt, who has taken a cue from beautiful bouquets to create a bespoke at-home dinner menu that has as much charm as cymbidiums.
A feast of floral matching, the recipes reflect the most beguiling qualities of Watt’s favourite blooms. Cratfed in collaboration with the Feel Good With Flowers, it reminds us how flowers can improve a dining experience by their mere presence.
To begin, an entrée of Salmon Gravlax is inspired by the erica and viburnum flowers, known for their wild yet intricate textures and appearance. “The combination reminds me of the top of the Gravlax, with its pink peppercorns, fennel seeds and the delicious aromas,” says Watt.
The main event, the Roasted Lamb Backstrap with Garden Herbs and Agria and Sweet Potato Presse, evokes childhood memories of protea red venus, paired with one of the chef’s favourite (and most impressionable) meals made by his mother.
To complete the sensory meal, the Vanilla Bean and Brown Sugar Scorched Ruby Grapefruit Custard Tart is a sumptuous allusion to the layers of texture and colour of the vibrant cymbidium orchid. “What better way to finish a delicious meal layered with caramels, citrus, vanilla and custard, than with a stunning orchid?” says Watt.
While the dishes are showpieces in their own right, a vase of the appropriate petals makes the ultimate finishing touch for an evocative table setting.
Follow Nic Watt’s florally-inspired recipes below:
Entrée: Salmon Gravlax with Rye Waffle and Horseradish Cream Recipe
600g salmon fillet, skinned and boned
120g sea salt
80g castor sugar
2tbsp pink peppercorns, toasted
2tbsp fennel seeds, toasted
100g cooked and peeled beetroot
1 cup fresh fennel herb, coarsely sliced
1. Combine the sea salt, castor sugar, pink pepper, fennel seeds and beetroot in a food processor. Blitz quickly to incorporate and create your pink rub. Add in sliced fennel herbs.
2. Rub across your salmon fillet, evenly on all sides. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for 48 hours.
65 rye flour
50g unsalted butter
2g baking powder
1 pinch sea salt
1. Combine rye flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Mix milk and egg together. Combine and whisk together with rye flour to form batter.
3. When ready, cook in waffle maker to serve.
60g horseradish puree
100g fresh cream lightly whipped
1 fennel bulb
Iced lemon water
1. Combine horseradish puree and whipped cream.
2. Slice fennel bulb thinly into iced lemon water. Drain when ready to serve.
3. Rub off excess salt cure and thinly slice salmon.
4. Serve with waffle, a side dish of the horseradish cream and side dish of lemon fennel.
Main: Roasted Lamb Backstrap with Garden Herbs and Agria and Sweet Potato Presse Recipe
2 lamb backstraps
1 cup garden herbs — we have used flat-leaf parsley and mint, coarsely sliced.
½ cup toasted panko bread crumbs
Cracked black pepper
1 thyme sprig
Knob of butter
Olive oil to seal and cook
3 medium sized agria potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly
2 medium sized golden kumara, peeled and sliced thinly
100ml olive oil
1 tbsp picked fresh thyme
8 garlic cloves in their paper
½ cup olive oil
1 cup beef stock
½ cup red wine
1. Pre-heat oven to 180°c.
2. Line a small baking dish with grease proof paper. Layer up the sliced agria and sweet potato. Adding thyme and sea salt as you layer.
3. Cover again with grease proof paper and place a weighted pan on the top.
4. Bake in a pre-heated oven for about 30 minutes, until the potato is soft and tender with the tip of a knife.
5. For confit garlic, warm olive oil and whole garlic cloves together in a small pot. Repeat with heating and cooling about four times, until garlic resembles and feels like roast garlic.
6. In a medium pan, sear off the seasoned lamb fillets and brown on both sides. Add the sprig of thyme and butter, bast in the pan for 3 minutes. Set aside to rest ready for serving. Pour in the red wine and reduce to a sticky syrup, add in beef stock and reduce by half.
7. Take out the potato and brown it under the oven grill.
Slice the lamb, place on the potato, season with fresh garden herbs and toasted bread crumbs, pour around the pan juices, add two warm garlic confits in the paper and a drizzle of the garlic oil to the plate.
Dessert: Vanilla Bean and Brown Sugar Scorched Ruby Grapefruit Custard Tart Recipe
180g unsalted butter softened
80g icing sugar
2 egg yolks
25ml cold water
250g plain flour
1 egg for wash
1. Pre-heat oven to 160°c.
2. Use a mixer with the paddle attachment. Work butter until smooth.
3. Add in icing sugar and mix until smooth.
4. Combine eggs and water in a side bowl. Add to butter to just incorporate.
5. Add flour and work slowly so it binds and crumbles.
6. Dust the benchtop and hand knead the dough until smooth. Cover and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
7. Dust bench and roll out pastry to about 3mm thick.
8. Spray the tart liner with non-stick and carefully line the tart. Press down the sides and trim.
9. Egg wash, line with grease proof paper and baking beans.
10. Bake in oven for 20 minutes to seal off tart case.
11. Remove and allow to cool.
Vanilla Bean Custard
Zest of 3 lemons
150ml lemon juice
160g castor sugar
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean split
1. Set oven to 110°c.
2. Combine the lemon juice and sugar, heat to dissolve sugar. Add zest, infuse and pass.
3. Heat cream with vanilla beans.
4. Whisk eggs and yolks together, add over lemon sugar and then vanilla cream. Thoroughly mix.
5. Pour into cooled pastry tart case and bake at 110°c for about 45 minutes. It should be set on the edges but still wobbly in the centre.
6. Allow to cool on the bench. Refrigerate ready to use.
Ruby Grapefruit Brown Sugar to Decorate
2 ruby grapefruit
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup water
1. Slice the grapefruit into segments.
2. Combine the brown sugar and water and warm to dissolve.
3. Line tart top with grapefruit. Brush lightly with dissolved sugar and caramelise with blow torch.
4. Slice and serve.