No jacket necessary: From the mountains of India to the Matso’s kitchen

No jacket necessary: From the mountains of India to the Matso’s kitchen

By Jamie Burnett

Sometimes it’s best to go with the flow. And at other times, it’s best to check the weather report. Just ask Hem.

“I didn’t google anything about the climate in Broome because I was just so excited to get there. I was wearing my jacket on the flight and I noticed everyone was looking at me because I was wearing a jacket in January in Broome. I haven’t worn that jacket since!”

Hem Pande is the head chef at Matso’s Broome Brewery. And while he now knows the local dress code, it was a unexpected moment that saw the Indian chef leave the jacket wearing cold of New Zealand, for the singlet and shorts warmth of Broome.

“I was on a break one day when I randomly saw a job vacancy, so I applied. Within a few days I got a call and I was offered a job. It all happened very quickly and within a month I was leaving New Zealand for Broome.”

When Hem arrived, he started work in the famous Matso’s curry hut. But it wasn’t long before he moved into the restaurant kitchen, and a few years later, became head chef.

“In the curry hut we do a range of curries, and in season we do kebabs and also traditional breads and specialties. I cook Indian food because I’m Indian, but I’ve always specialised in a range of cuisine like French cooking and I had my formal education in western cooking.

“The food that we do here is multicultural, we keep in touch with all the different styles and we change our menu regularly.”

Clearly the challenge of a diverse menu excites Hem, but it’s also the comradery of the team and the daily challenge of service that drives him.

“Broome is a tourist town and we see people from a lot of different countries. We have people from Asia, especially Japan and China, as well people from Europe and the United States and South Africa.

“The kitchen is our kingdom and my videogame is my kitchen. I get to see my results and I love working with my team and trying to motivate them.”

Motivation is something that Hem has in spades. Speaking to him, there’s a genuine desire to learn, grow and get better. It’s what led him to leaving home, travel the world and cook.

“My hometown is in the mountains of India. It’s seven-thousand feet above sea level. I used to work in Bangalore, and then I went to work in the Philippines and later I opened my own restaurant in north India.”

“I’ve spent time working in New Zealand as well. I just love to go to new places. Our profession is one where you have to always improve and learn and you need to travel to learn. The more you know, the better you are.”

Hem's Butternut Ricotta Gnocchi in Tomato Fondue recipe

Gnocchi

butternut pumpkin, peeled de-seeded & roasted (1 kg)

potato boiled (200gm)

semolina (150gm)

plain flour (50 gm)

ricotta (100gm)

fine chopped onion (50gm)

fine chopped garlic (20 gm)

salt & white pepper to taste

Method

Mix everything together & roll into gnocchi.

Cook in mildly salted boiling water until they float on top.

Remove & Sprinkle some olive oil & allow to cool.

Tomato Fondu

olive oil (50ml)

1/2 chopped onion 

crushed garlic (50gm)

chilli flakes (5 gm)

fresh basil(50 gm)

butter (150 gm)

whole peeled tomato (2.5kg)

thicken cream (one litre)

grano Padano cheese (200gm)

sea salt

Method

Sauté onion and garlic until translucent.

Add chili flakes, basil and tomato. Stir well.

Add 100ml water; and bring to a boil.

Set aside to cool.

Strain through conical strainer

Add thickened cream to strained tomato puree

sauce is ready

To Finish

In a pan, add butter & olive oil toss the gnocchi.

Add sauce & cook on high flame for 2-3 min stirring continuously

Garnish & serve with fried tempura prawns / charcoal prawns