Frank Camorra’s MoVida is well known to all food lovers in Melbourne, but Dave Roberts is the head chef who quietly gets on with the job of serving us some of Melbourne’s best Spanish food.
With wintery climes blowing outside and not very much time on my hands to stand in front of a stove, I am in love with my slow cooker at the moment. In the demonstration class run at the cosy Queen Victoria Market Electrolux Cooking School Dave demonstrated several slow cooked Spanish dishes that have at various times appeared on the MoVida menu using cheap and often overlooked secondary cuts – pork neck, beef cheek and pork belly ($90 with tastings and matching wine).
First up was a demonstration of sous vide technique. Not something I’m likely to replicate at home but worth the 36 hour cooking time when you’re presented with the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly with a salted, crispy skin. At MoVida they cook a lot with sous vide – the machines are probably switched off for only an hour a week and regularly run overnight.
The second dish was pork neck with prunes. Apparently this recipe came about because someone booked MoVida for a function and they completely over-ordered the quantity of prunes required for a dish. Faced with the prospect of throwing out all those excess prunes, Dave developed this sweet, sticky and savoury slow-cooked meat dish instead.
I’m not normally much of a fan of prunes but this dish was deliciously warming with a classic slow-cooked combination of onion, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, sherry and dark roasted chicken stock. Dave’s tip was the season every component as it went into the post to seal in the flavours and he uses a Clara Blanca by Seppetsfield Winery.
The third dish was a braised beef cheek in Pedro Ximenez which has appeared in the menu in various guises since MoVida first opened 10 years ago – winter or summer, it always sells well. The recipe was another combination of storecupboard ingredients – onions, carrots, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks, star anise, red wine – plus a whole lot of PX of which MoVida buys a mid-range quality in bulk (if you’ve ever bought it for a recipe it can be very expensive at the bottle shop).
At the end of three courses of meat I was rolling out the door into the cold night air, inspired to whip out my slow cooker and start braising all weekend. Alternatively, I’ll just make a booking at MoVida – it’s been a while since my last visit.
Slow, Slow, Slow Spanish Style for Winter, Queen Victoria Market Electrolux Cooking School, 69 Victoria St, Melbourne +61 3 9320 5822