the tale of the rockmelon preserve
162 Greville Street Prahran
(03) 9510 2233
224 Gertrude Street Fitzroy
(03) 9415 7575
Opening hours at ladro.com.au
Last month I was invited to try the new menu at Ladro in Gertrude Street Fitzroy. Their new Italian chef, Niko Pizzimenti, has taken the Ladro offering to a new level for Northsiders. Chef Niko was born and raised in Sicily in a small fishing village and has been surrounded by food his whole life. Since moving to the land down-under, he's eaten his way around Melbourne and is impressed with our produce (75% of the Ladro menu uses local products, the other 25% is imported). It's fair to say Niko fed us like only an Italian can.
One of the dishes we were served was Prosciutto Di San Daniele Riserva: rockmelon preserve, fig vincotto and Sardinian flat bread. It was at this time that I fell in love... with the rockmelon preserve. I simply had to know how to replicate it. I must have banged on about it, because I soon had an email to-and-fro organising a one-on-one cooking class with Niko. Now I know how to make Ladro’s rockmelon preserve. And although I’m tempted to keep it to myself, it’s only fair that I share the recipe, especially as it's such a good one for the fast approaching Christmas season. This preserve is highly versatile: make it as a gift, add it to your Christmas ham or turkey, or serve it with dessert.
You will need:
- 1kg rockmelon (approximately 3 melons)
For every 1kg of rockmelon:
- 100g raw sugar
- 50ml high quality white wine vinegar
1. Remove the hard exterior of the rockmelons and roughly chop them. If you have time, leave them in the fridge overnight to let some of the natural liquids absorb.
2. Weigh rockmelon in a bowl, and for every one kilo, add 100g raw sugar and 50ml high quality white wine vinegar.
3. Place ingredients in a pot over a high flame until the natural liquid escapes from the rockmelon, then reduce heat. This should take about 20 minutes.
4. Cook over a low to medium heat for around 30 minutes until the water has more or less evaporated and the rockmelon appears silky, exactly like canned peaches.
5. Pour into a tray and allow to cool. The liquid will drain a bit more.
6. Blend as desired (can blend until smooth or leave the preserve a bit chunky).
7. Leave to cool, then refrigerate.
Crunchy spheres of Cerignola olives stuffed with pork and veal, crumbed and fried.
Paper-thin slices of Wagyu Bresaola with shallots, walnut, chard, horseradish and orange oil.
Creamy Bufala Affumicata: cold smoked buffalo milk mozzarella, grissini and extra virgin olive oil.
Vitello Tonnato: slow roasted milk fed veal and tuna sashimi served with tuna mayonnaise and Italian flat bread. This was another highlight, as I never would have thought to serve veal with sashimi. Best surf’n’turf ever.
Polipo alla griglia: chargrilled octopus with shallots, parsley, Niko’s fiery ‘chilli chips’, garlic, and apple and muscovado jam.
Firm and sweet half Moreton Bay bug, char grilled with Tuscan style tomato and bread soup.
PIZZE + PASTA
A classic Margherita with tomato, bufala and basil and a Salumi with tomato, fior di latte, parmigiano and prosciutto.
The pizza special was the standout for me: earthy porcini mushrooms, potent taleggio cheese, fior di latte, sugo and walnuts. Divine.
The pasta is handmade fresh by Ladro’s stand-in donna, Zia Piera, who Niko says refuses to be aided by any from of modern technology. The pappardelle stuffed with veal and served in a baby artichoke ragu with pecorino pepato tasted nothing less than indulgent. It was overly rich for some. Not for me, it came a close second to the rockmelon purée dish.
We also sampled basil tortellini filled with blue swimmer crab, basil and cherry tomatoes, as well as the Gnocchi Al Forno “Alla Sorrentina” San Marzano sugo, with bufala, parmigiano and basil.
Despite endless praise from others, the bomboloni were the lowlight of the dinner. They relied on the vanilla ice cream to counter their dryness. Apparently I’m a minority: Niko wanted to fill them with warm chocolate, but the public uproar at the suggestion of changing the dish resulted in the bomboloni remaining the same.
As for the salted caramel panna cotta with spiced poached pears and toasted almonds, it was up there with the best panna cotta I’ve had. It was the consistency of thick custard and the salted caramel – well – I would have drank it with a straw if I could.
On a return visit shortly after the dinner, we ordered the tiramisu. Creamy, multi textured and served in a jar, it ticked all the boxes, even though I’m not usually a tiramisu fan.
If you’re lucky, you’ll visit when the kitchen is serving freshly piped cannoli. I pinched one during my rockmelon preserve lesson. That was a seriously good day.