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Lifestyle : Taste of Europe
1HERSA1 E017 The Sydney Morning Herald Tuesday, August 31, 2010 17 good living taste of europe special report Can't beat the classics Modern touch . . . chef Peter Conistis with his moussaka. Photo: Lee Besford There is a good reason that old recipes still delight modern palates, writes Carli Ratcliff. Bistro Moncur 116 Queen Street, Woollahra, 9327 9713. Eleni's at the Civic Hotel 388 Pitt Street, Sydney, 8080 7000. Ormeggio d'Albora Marinas, The Spit, Mosman, 9969 4088. Steaming bowls of Provencal fish soup have been served at Bistro Moncur from the day it opened. The staple contains seven types of fish and three types of shellfish, with onions, garlic, carrots, celery, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves and saffron. ''It is a comforting dish,'' says owner and chef Damien Pignolet. Served with rouille and croutons, the soup is as popular today as it was 18 years ago, as are many of the dishes that premiered beside it. ''There are certain dishes that stay on the menu because of demand,'' Pignolet says. ''We'd be persecuted and hanged if we took them off.'' These include classic offerings such as sirloin with cafe de paris butter, fillet steak with bearnaise and salmon fillet with lobster boudin blanc and shellfish sauce. Peter and Eleni Conistis feel the same way about their moussaka. Mother Eleni's classic lamb moussaka is the most requested lunch dish at her basement cafe, Eleni's at the Civic Hotel. Eleni combines finely-diced lamb shoulder and lamb mince for the filling. ''The shoulder gives body to the dish and the traditional mince gives the dish a silkiness,'' Peter says. Rather than bechamel, Eleni tops her moussaka with a cheese custard of ricotta, feta and kefalotiri (a hard sheep's cheese). Peter has watched his mother make it since he was a child. ''You need to have an understanding of the classic way of preparing a dish,'' he says. ''From there you can begin to interpret and experiment, if you don't have an idea of where things come from there is a void.'' Peter's long-standing signature dish is his interpretation of moussaka. Using Hervey Bay scallops instead of lamb and taramasalata made from white cod roe, he has adapted the dish to canape size for functions at the Civic Hotel. Chef Alessandro Pavoni of Ormeggio agrees that a thorough understanding of traditional techniques and recipes is required by all chefs. ''You need to follow the rules before you can break them and there are some dishes where you simply can't break them, like risotto,'' he says. Pavoni believes tradition is paramount when it comes to executing the most famous dish of his native Lombardy. ''It takes 20 minutes to make a risotto and it has to be made to order every time,'' he says. He also believes less is more: ''A risotto should have a maximum of three ingredients -- like pizza, the fewer ingredients the better.''
2010 Sydney International Boatshow