Kitchen Spy: Shane Delia, Chef

His subterranean city restaurant Maha (named after his wife) has been a hit with Middle Eastern fans for eight years and in December he’s opening Biggie Smalls – a casual kebab joint in Collingwood. But if you haven’t had the pleasure of eating his food, you’ve probably seen his SBS cooking show, Spice Journey, which begins again in October – its third series. He’s Shane Delia, 35, born to Maltese parents and a western suburbs boy through and through. Used to feeding 30 people or more at home in Moonee Ponds, Delia struggles to cook for four people. On the upside, that means there are always plenty of leftovers for wife Maha, daughter Jayda, 6, and son Jude, 3.

The staples

My pantry

I’ve always got this Korean red bean chilli paste – it’s got punch, it’s sweet, it’s jammy and I smear a bit on the bottom of burgers or put it in marinades.  Also Kewpie mayonnaise – you can put Kewpie on a dog turd and it’ll taste good. I’m a sucker for salty sweet, and Darren Purchase makes a salted caramel that I love (it’s great on crepes, pancakes, on ice-cream or Nutella and banana toasties for the kids). My two go-to spices are black and red Aleppo pepper, which is the base of the Adana kebab. And I spend money on good olive oil. This Venta del Baron extra virgin from Cordoba in Spain won the best olive oil in the world three times in a row. I just finish dishes with it. It’s out of control.

My fridge

There’s never a lot because Maha buys what she needs for the day, so there’s chicken schnitzels that she made for tonight (I’ll be at work) and vegies at the moment. But in the freezer I always have Classic Artisan Foods Maltese ravioli and pastizzi and Pasta Classica pumpkin gnocchi filled with ricotta. It’s a quick meal solution and it’s not boring. And because I’m a chef, I’ve always got jus because you can’t make a sauce without a good stock. This one is about 15 litres of beef stock reduced to 500 millilitres. Ideally you store it in ice cube shapes and pop one out as you need.

Secret vice

Lolly Gobble Bliss Bombs. They’re so bad. It’s like popcorn on crack. I loved them as a kid and Mum didn’t want us to eat too much sugar. So when I left home, I think I ate a packet of them every couple of days for a while there.

Last night’s dinner

I actually fast two days a week, so I’m not eating today or yesterday. I’m an ambassador of Sons of the West – a Western Bulldogs health initiative – and fasting seems to make me feel a bit sharper. The last home-cooked meal I made, I chopped up fresh rolled rice noodles and fried them with Korean bean and chilli paste and heaps of fresh vegies. I just sautéed it all up with peanuts and a bit of fish sauce. It was mega-tasty.

I’m drinking

I like to drink Hawkers pilsner. It’s a local artisan product made by Joe Abboud (owner-chef at Rumi) modelled on 961 from Lebanon. It’s clean and doesn’t taste like every other beer. I’m not a wine connoisseur but we’ve been drinking a lot of Levantine Hill pinot. It’s from the Yarra Valley and has been winning a heap of awards. Otherwise, I’m into clean, single-malt scotch, like Glenmorangie. But I’m drinking this Glenfiddich single malt at the moment – it’s a big daddy scotch, 21 years old, bloody expensive. I’ll have a nip when I come home and I’m done.

My toolkit

I’ve got a million of the same knife at home because I’m lazy about sharpening. But you can’t go past a traditional drop-forged, German F.Dick or Trident. I use a Thermomix a lot now but before Maha broke it I had a Braun stick blender with a food processor base. It was great for making small batches of pasta, or fish mousse and purees.

My inspiration

I’m a collector of cookbooks but I’m lucky if I’ve opened the cover of  2 per cent of them. I’ll see Tim [White] down at Books For Cooks, buy a stack of them, come home and Maha puts them in the study and that’s where they’ll stay. Otherwise I’m inspired by good produce at the market or a great meal I’ve eaten.

Favourite

I’ve had this wooden chopping board for 15 years. It was made by a kitchen hand in a hotel I used to run. It’s such a beautiful piece. Every six months I flip it, salt it, give it a scrub, wash it all off and rub a bit of olive oil into it.

Most unforgettable meal

On the last day of filming Spice Journey, we were in Malaga at a restaurant called La Cosmopolita. The chef there cooked the most amazing meal – the best I’ve had through all three series. A stand-out dish was this bone marrow tapas served with fresh prawn tartar, mixed with a sticky jus and croutons. I spent the whole afternoon and evening eating and drinking.

Recipe stalwart

Maltese ravioli. I get it from Classic Artisan Foods in Melton. It’s just semolina dough stuffed with ricotta but they’re really simple, really big ravioli and I just make the same sauce that my mum used to make: tomato with some spice – a little bit of curry – onions, parsley, garlic, water.

Discovery

A pressure cooker. Mum used it back in the ’80s but I used this Silit one on Spice Journey to save time. It has a heavy base that you can put on the stove to seal off your meats – it’s unbelievable. I do kangaroo tail, lamb shanks,  even Asian-style chicken master stocks. It’s out of control.

Tip

Cooking fish, I like to grill it with a little bit of thyme and garlic. As soon as it comes out of the pan I add a little bit of sea salt and drench it in good olive oil. My dad used to tell me off but I actually smash the flesh of the fish so it absorbs all the oil. Then I get some bread and eat it. I love that.

Quote

“At home it’s more about what I want to eat and what the kids want to eat. I love cooking but at home I’ve got more of a free rein.”

 

Words by Peter Barrett
Picture by Pat Scala
Originally posted on GoodFood.com.au