There’s a collective gasp as French chef Manu Feildel enters the room.
Females of all ages seem to melt as the confident, yet approachable My Kitchen Rules star takes to the stage, stopping first to kiss and pose in selfies for fans.
We’re at the Parmelia Hilton, here to hear this flirtatious foodie spruik his new cookbook, More Please! (and his recipe for Salmon Terrine is below) at a Dymocks event.
Co-written with his Perth-raised, Malaysian partner Clarissa, it’s full of their favourite recipes. “It’s what we like to eat at home,” he tells The Starfish.
Before meeting Clarissa (now mum to his 22-month old baby daughter) six years ago, “I never knew much about delicious Malaysian cuisine.” He’s now well acquainted with some fabulous new ingredients, including “those little dry baby anchovies, perfect for prawn paste.”
She and her mother, he says, are “amazing” cooks. “Whenever Clarissa cooks for me, it’s done with love,” he positively purrs.
“I’ve included a laksa recipe in this book from my grandmother-in-law which until now, has been firmly in the family vault!”
The 94 recipes in this cookbook, he says, are simple, delicious and easy to prepare. They include a few easy-peasy delights like a favourite spaghetti recipe of his, and some Asian delights from Clarissa’s side of the family.
And some, he suggests, are ideal to serve up on Christmas Day.
“I’ve never understood why so many people stick to the same boring, traditional meal on Christmas Day!” he scoffs. “Turkey is the worst food on the planet. If the legs are roasted properly, the rest is overcooked and dry!” he crinkles his nose. “Goose used to be the classic bird, but then people switched to turkey because it was bigger.”
“Now my Salmon Terrine is an ideal Christmas dish, either as a starter on everyone’s plate or placed in the middle of the table and shared,” he enthuses.
It’s time for lunch.
We all tuck into the Salmon Terrine (yum, yep it would be ideal at Christmas) along with the Cheesy Mashed Potato, Pork Cutlets and and Oven-Baked Ratatouille, all from his book.
During the meal, Manu reminds the crowd he’s worked hard for all the success he enjoys today, (he was a high school dropout) and he’s certainly had his share of setbacks. He’s still devastated that his recent Melbourne restaurant venture was a failure. For that, he blames the food critics.
“When you’re running a restaurant, 30 per cent of your costs if food, 30 per cent overheads, and 30 per cent staff costs. You’re left with 10 per cent, but it’s probably nowhere near that by the end of the year,” he says.
“So you’re not left with much. And when you run a restaurant with all your love, energy and passion, then a food critic comes along and says something awful about you which can have a profound effect on the business, it just kills you.”
He adds, “A food critic in the paper is just a monologue, but it can do such harm. There’s no other job I can think of, that can suffer to this degree just due to some criticism. If a doctor or a lawyer gets a negative comment, they can go on. But for a restaurant, it can be devastating.
“I’m one of the lucky ones in that I’m OK, I still have a career. But for people who’ve put their life savings into something that can be destroyed so swiftly, with no recourse, it’s just devastating.”
A sympathetic lull hovers over the room, until Manu changes the topic and talks about his family. His eyes light up again. “My children and my family are my greatest joy,” he says. “I’m pretty tired right now actually – it’s been a really full-on year and next year’s calendar is already filing up with work commitments, but I’m really happy.”
Before he jets back to Sydney, he’s planning to pop into a few restaurants. “Tonight I’m going to go to Wildflower and one of my all-time favourite places over here is Long Chim – it’s fantastic.”
To great applause, Manu takes his bow, before being flooded by women who just want to get a little closer to this Gallic gourmand.
Here’s Manu’s recipe for his Easy Salmon Terrine, which we tasted at lunch. Yum!
My Easy Salmon Terrine
melted butter, for brushing
300 g (10½ oz) salmon fillet, skin removed and pin-boned
2 egg whites
300 ml (10½ fl oz) thin (pouring) cream
200 g (7 oz) smoked salmon, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped chervil
1 tablespoon snipped chives
½ teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1½ tablespoons olive oil
micro herbs, to garnish (optional)
Mayonnaise or Aïoli (see page 201 in my book) and thin slices of toasted baguette or crispbreads, to serve
Terrines can sometimes be a bit labour-intensive but this one couldn’t be simpler. It makes a great starter if you have a group of friends coming for dinner, and can also be served as a canapé with drinks.
Preheat the oven to 150°C (300°F). Brush the inside of a 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cup) terrine mould with melted butter.
Cut the salmon fillet into large chunks. Put them in a food processor with the egg whites and blend for 5 minutes, or until very smooth.
Fill a large bowl with ice. Scrape the salmon paste into a medium bowl and set it over the bowl of ice. Stir in the cream, smoked salmon, herbs, salt, cayenne pepper and olive oil and keep mixing until you reach a mayonnaise-like consistency.
Pour the salmon mixture into the prepared mould. Place the mould in a deep roasting tin and pour boiling water into the tin to come about two-thirds of the way up the sides of the mould. Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until the blade of a small knife comes out clean. Remove the terrine from the oven and leave in the mould to cool completely.
Garnish with micro herbs, if you like. Serve with mayonnaise or aïoli (or even a cocktail sauce) and thin baguette toasts or crisp breads.
Image and recipe from More Please! by Manu Feildel with Clarissa Weerasena (Murdoch Books). Photography by Rob Palmer. RRP $39.99
Starfish Photos: Peter Rigby