Cornersmith have come a long way from humble beginnings in Marrickville by advocating food that is sustainable, ethical, and local. Now that they have two cafes, a retail space affectionately named ‘The Picklery’, and a cooking school, it is safe to say they are revolutionising Sydney’s food scene.
Their most recent cookbook, ‘Salads and Pickles’ ventures into the ancient arts of fermentation and pickling to provide a simpler, at-home guide to the skills. As Alex puts it, the book is “a bit of a roadmap for where we think the future of food needs to head”, focusing on minimising waste, whilst still exciting the taste buds.
Their eco-friendly recipes introduce amateur cooks both young and old to experiment in the kitchen, and cultivate some unique dishes along the way. The girls from Cornersmith have reinvented the notion of the side dish with this book, and this twist on potato salad illustrates why.
New potatoes with peas, mint & brown butter vinaigrette
Sabine’s brown butter vinaigrette in this potato salad is so good you’ll want to bathe in it! Full of flavour, it’s an excellent alternative to the more traditional mayonnaise-based dressings, and will be even better if you use a good-quality cultured butter. In fact it’s so addictive you may as well make extra and keep it in a jar in your fridge. It will last for up to 5 days, and you can reinvigorate it by placing the jar into a bowl of hot (not boiling!) water and shaking it every now and then until the vinaigrette has emulsified again.
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus 20 minutes marinating
Cooking time: about 30 minutes
1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) new-season harvest potatoes – a waxy variety, suitable for boiling
300 g (10½ oz) fresh podded peas (frozen are also fine; just pour boiling water over them, leave to thaw for a few minutes, then drain)
60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) hot chicken or vegetable stock
1 large handful of picked mint leaves, torn just before serving
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
1½ tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
Brown butter vinaigrette
1 French shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
60 g (2¼ oz) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
Scrub the potatoes and place in a saucepan. Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to medium–low and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are just cooked. Drain, then set aside to cool down. (New-season potatoes don’t need peeling as their skins are very soft and thin.)
Meanwhile, blanch the peas in another saucepan of boiling salted water for 1–2 minutes. Refresh under cold running water, then set aside.
Cut the potatoes into quarters or chunky bite-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Pour the hot stock over, cover the bowl with a plate and leave to marinate for 15–20 minutes.
In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until it begins to foam. Stir and watch the butter carefully, scraping up any milk solids that stick to the bottom of the pan, until the butter becomes nutty and brown. (Don’t let it turn black and bitter!)
Once the butter has the right colour and flavour, add the olive oil and lemon juice directly to the pan. Pour that mixture into a tall container. Add the mustard, and the vinegar and shallot mixture, then blend with a hand-held stick blender until smooth. Add the cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper.
Gently but thoroughly mix the peas through the marinated potatoes. Add the dressing and gently mix until the vegetables are well coated. Check the seasoning. Add the mint, dill and tarragon and serve immediately, in a large salad bowl.
About the authors
Alex Elliot-Howery is the co-founder of what has become a thriving and boundary-breaking food community in inner Sydney. She runs the Cornersmith cafes, renowned for their big heart and strong conscience when it comes to sustainably sourced food. Alex teaches pickling and preserving workshops at the cornersmith cooking school, the Picklery. She and her team of picklers, fermenters, cheesemakers, bread bakers and others have taught many hundreds of classes over the years.
Sabine Spindler, known as the ‘waste warrior’, is head chef and chief salad creator at the Cornersmith cafes. Her experience working in fine dining restaurants in Europe left her shocked by the amount of good food that goes to waste on a daily basis in the hospitality industry.