“Why’d you have to go and make things so complicated?” sang Avril Lavigne. Clearly she hasn’t made pasta with Ben Milbourne.
I used to use food to teach chemistry,” says Tasmania’s finest (and Isuzu MU-X drivingest) kitchen guru, Ben Milbourne. “There are just over 100 elements on the periodic table—that is your pantry— and with that we have built the world around us.”
A former high school science teacher, it was his students who nominated Ben for the hit television series MasterChef. Now, of course, he brings that knowledge to the table in a different way.“There are thousands of ingredients in the world of food,” he says. “Imagine the things we can create with that!” As one of Masterchef’s most enduring alumni, culinary creativity is a given. Whether on his SBS Food Network series, Food Lab, or on his earlier shows, Ben’s Menu (Channel 10), or Andy and Ben Eat Australia (SBS), the Logie-nominated star knows his craft. And while he built his reputation as a gifted craftsman of Mexican and seafood flavours, Ben’s Italian cooking is no less impressive.
Like many great chefs, Ben preaches a gospel of good, fresh ingredients, cooked simply. Which, as a Tasmanian, is only natural. When you’re from one of the world’s great foodie destinations, quality produce is a given. And when the base materials are so brilliant, there’s less temptation to overcomplicate things. It’s about restraint. “Some ingredients, just like the world of chemistry, won’t go together,” he says, “but some will create flavours and textures that make life worth living.”
Of course, when you’re out bush, the other benefit of keeping things simple is that you don’t need to lug a full pantry around to eat like a king. You just need a couple of quality ingredients in the esky to create one of the simplest, tastiest pasta standards there is. ‘Cacio e Pepe’ literally means ‘cheese and pepper’, and is a bona fide classic. Salmon and lemon—another timeless match—has just a few more ingredients.
Tasty. Easy. Science was never meant to be this delicious.
Cacio e Pepe
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
- 100g spaghetti
- 50g butter
- 100g pecorino cheese, grated
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Generous pinch of black pepper
- Generous pinch of Tasman Sea salt
Step 1: Add spaghetti to a pot of boiling water, seasoned with a pinch of salt. Boil for 5–10 minutes or until pasta is al dente.
Step 2: In a pan over medium heat, add butter, cheese, oil and some pasta water. Simmer, stirring constantly, until butter and cheese have melted and are well combined. Add the black pepper and then stir until combined.
Step 3: Add spaghetti straight from the pot to the pan and toss until the spaghetti is nicely coated in the sauce. To serve: Top with grated pecorino cheese and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Salmon Lemon Pasta
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
- 2–3 zucchinis, spiralised/ thinly sliced (zoodles)
- 250g hot smoked salmon pieces
- 3 tbsp creme fraiche
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 Red onion, finely diced
- Pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp capers
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Pinch of sea salt
- To serve
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes
- Halved fresh dill
Step 1: In a bowl combine salmon pieces, creme fraiche Dijon mustard, lemon juice, half of your diced red onion, chilli flakes and capers.
Step 2: Add olive oil, salmon mixture and zoodles to a pan over low to medium heat. Mix together and sauté until heated through (this will take approximately 5 minutes)
Step 3: Serve with fresh dill, cherry tomatoes and the remaining red onion.