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Butter is back as a culinary star.

Dig in... Pepe Saya handmade cultured butter from NSW at the Invite the World to Dinner press event, Hobart, Tasmania, 14 November 2014.

Dig in… Pepe Saya handmade cultured butter from NSW at the Invite the World to Dinner press event, Hobart, Tasmania, 14 November 2014.

BY JOHN CORBETT. According to one of her biographers, the late Elizabeth David, the foremost English cookery and food history writer of the 20th century, was observed more than once sitting at her kitchen table staring raptly at a pound of butter.

“Beautiful,” she is said to have murmured, “Beautiful.”

Butter flavoured with carrot. Garagistes restaurant, Hobart.

Butter flavoured with carrot. Garagistes restaurant, Hobart.

As always, she was right. Nothing compares to the taste of butter. From a generous smear on a slice of bread, to its use as a browning agent, as an essential ingredient in baking and in the haut-est of haute cuisine nothing fills the mouth and delights the senses quite like this simple alchemy of churned cream.

Now that butter (eaten in moderation) is proven to be not nearly as bad for you as was thought, restaurateurs and chefs have picked up the butter ball and run with it. On a recent swing across Australia (Adelaide, The Barossa Valley, Sydney, Hobart and Melbourne), butter was a star turn on every table and presented with panache

Our favourite is butter sprinkled with flakes of sea salt. Kingsford Homestead, Barossa Valley, South Australia.

Our favourite is butter sprinkled with flakes of sea salt. Kingsford Homestead, Barossa Valley, South Australia.

We tasted it whipped with milk or oil until fluffy (Google has plenty of tips), blended with garlic and herbs, and sprinkled with dukkah-like flavourings. Cultured butters such as Pepe Saya’s delicious handmade range from NSW were served, deservedly, on their own. Quenelles (spoon-shaped servings see Google again) were a favoured serving style, and whipped and flavoured butters were piped into elegant whorls. Our favourite? Simple round pats of butter sprinkled with a few flakes of sea salt.

Quenelle of butter with a seasoned flavouring. Ethos restaurant, Hobart,

Quenelle of butter with a seasoned flavouring. Ethos restaurant, Hobart,

Whether you prefer your butter salted or unsalted (we’re no purists about it unless you’re doing high-stakes baking) the creative approaches we saw work with both. And contrary to the usual advice, you can try all of them at home. Add servings of butter to a casareccio (home-made-style) platter of bread, meats and dips, or just bring them to the table. Either way, the result is beautiful. www.alimentary.co.nz. #RestaurantAustralia.     

Photos: John Corbett

Butter whipped with garlic and herbs and piped into elegant whorls.

Butter whipped with garlic and herbs and piped into elegant whorls.