Chefs and their Favourite Dish - Drew Nocente

We catch up with Chef Drew Nocente, the executive chef of Salted and Hung, who shares with us his best dish on his menu, and the recipe for home cooks to recreate this dish at home.

Posted on Apr. 7, 2017
By Editor

Chef Drew Nocente

Who or what inspired you to become a chef?
I grew up on a farm where we reared livestock and grew our own produce; so good produce is something I’ve always been familiar with. When I was younger, I used to help my grandmother in the family kitchen. Coming from an Italian heritage, food and the kitchen was always an important aspect in the family. As a kid, I helped to make and cure meats and charcuterie, so that’s one thing that has always inspired me, and that features dominantly in the restaurant. But the kitchen is what truly inspired me to become a chef. I’ve always enjoyed the vibe and energy of the kitchen ever since I started working in a professional kitchen. I love the pace and the intensity, as much as the freedom to experiment and the creativity when creating new dishes.

What is the best dish on your menu?
I would have to say it is the mackerel or the hamachi collar. The mackerel is one of my favourites as I don’t normally love mackerel, but I really like this dish for its intense but balanced flavour, texture and the char you get on the skin.
I particularly like the hamachi collar because of the flavour you get from it. The more you torch it, the better the flavour. It’s also a really good snapshot of what we do at the restaurant—using offcuts with plenty of grilled or charred elements and incorporating our homemade lardo, which is one of the charcuterie we make in-house.

Sum up your cooking style in three words.
Communal, genuine and honest.

Which is your favourite restaurant and why?
It would have to be Artichoke. I simply love what Bjorn does with his food. The place is unpretentious and chilled, while the food is hearty, tasty and easy to comprehend—what you see is what you get.

I’m often there for Sunday brunch and I like the simple, fuss-free menu that you can eat with lots of beer.

What’s your ultimate comfort food?
I enjoy anything Italian, namely a good Italian spread. Everything from antipasti and charcuterie to pastas and ending with mum’s homemade cannoli. A good homemade flat pasta always does it for me, whether it’s spaghetti, tagliatelle or pappardelle. This has to be paired with any meaty sauce like ragout or Bolognese.

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RECIPE FOR MACKEREL - GIN, HORSERADISH, PICKLES & NORI ASH

Ingredients

  • For mackerel:
  • 1.5g pink peppercorn, ground
  • 1.5g black peppercorn, ground
  • 1.5g coriander seed, ground
  • ½ orange, zested
  • 40g salt
  • 30g sugar
  • 40ml gin (we used Hendrick’s)
  • Horseradish cream:
  • 23g fresh horseradish
  • 2ml wasabi oil
  • 8ml water
  • 1ml lemon juice
  • 1.6ml sesame oil
  • 10ml soy sauce
  • Nori Ash
  • 3 sheets of Nori

Method

Step 1

Prepare the mackerel. Combine pepper, coriander seeds and orange zest in a bowl and mix with salt and sugar.

Step 2

Combine gin with the salt and sugar mixture, and mix well. Cure fish in the fridge for two hrs.

Step 3

Prepare the horseradish cream. Blend all ingredients until smooth.

Step 4

 Strain the horseradish mixture through a fine sieve.

Step 5

Incorporate the crème fraiche with the horseradish mixture.

Step 6

Prepare the nori ash. Preheat oven to 220C on conventional (no fan) setting.

Step 7

Bake the nori sheets in the oven until burnt, then blend till it becomes a fine powder.

Step 8

Using a blowtorch, char the mackerel until the skin becomes crisp and crackly.

Step 9

Place the mackerel in the centre of the plate, then using a spoon, quenelle the horseradish cream and place to the right of the fish.

Step 10

Garnish with a generous pinch of nori ash, and serve immediately.

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