Aussie chef challenges Pinoys to get ‘creative’ with lamb

By KC Santos

MANILA CITY, METRO MANILA – Renowned Australian chef Danny Russo believes Filipino cuisine can easily “synergize” with foreign cooking and incorporate not-so-familiar ingredients such as lamb.

“Filipino chefs are very adaptable to a lot of cuisine and cultures. Language or differences in technique may be a barrier … but it's really the food that brings people together,” said Russo, who visited Manila courtesy of the Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), a trade organization representing Australia’s red meat and livestock industry.

Described by Conde Nast Traveler as one of Australia’s “most inventive chefs”, Russo also graced the World Food Expo (WOFEX), wherein he shared tips on how to cook lamb.

Due to recurring cases of foot-and-mouth disease on cattle, demand for high-grade Australian lamb in the country has steadily increased, according to MLA.

“I could not stress any more the importance of using local ingredients. However, cooking entails an evolution and chefs have to expand... adapt to changes because at the end, it’s the flavors that count,” Russo said over dinner with local media at the La Cocina de Tita Moning Restaurant in Manila.

Russo believes Filipinos can likewise enjoy lamb, much like pork or beef.

“Australian lamb has a mild and delicate taste. The good news is that one doesn’t have to be a top chef to enjoy tasty and safe Australian lamb at home,” he said.

Rack of lamb is usually the most expensive cut but Russo said there are plenty of ways to cook more affordable parts of lamb, such as shank or leg. Also, the more popular lambchops sold in supermarkets.

Fresh Australian Lamb-pia (a take on the local lumpia) and Braised Lamb Adobo are among the more familiar recipes that Russo says represents a “synergy” between Filipino and foreign cuisine.

Although largely unfamiliar, Russo said local chefs can test their creativity when cooking lamb. “Cooking other parts of the lamb requires a technique so that it achieves the same flavor dominant in lamb racks, which is often the most expensive,” he said.

Whether using local or imported ingredients, Russo said the attitude of the person cooking largely determines the outcome of the dish.

“Think outside the square and cook with passion. Everyday, you might be able to do the same recipe, but believe me when I say that it’s not always the same, it changes.”

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