Dutch chef Richard Ekkebus shocked food lovers when he announced that the new incarnation of Amber, the fine-dining restaurant at the Landmark Mandarin Oriental hotel in Hong Kong, which reopened in May 2019 after a three-month renovation, would be dairy-free. He's since backtracked very slightly, and is now serving butter with the bread - but that's it.
You don't miss the dairy products in the light, elegant dishes that Ekkebus is now serving at the two-Michelin-star restaurant. Take this dish of snap peas with cuttlefish and wakame (seaweed). The peas, also known as sugar (and sugar snap) peas and as teardrop peas, which are as popular in Shanghai as in Spain, go into two components of the dish. They are cooked with precisely diced cuttlefish to make a light ragout, and also boiled, pureed then sieved so they provide a creamy element. Cooking the dish is easy, but shucking the peas will take at least an hour.
Ekkebus says if you can't find vegan butter, the dish can be made with unsalted butter.
Make the pea puree. Prepare an ice water bath by putting lots of ice cubes with cold water in a medium-size bowl. Pour two litres (two quarts) of water into a medium-size pot and add six grams (1tsp) of salt. Place over a high flame and bring to a full boil. Add the shucked snap peas and cook for three minutes, then drain in a colander before immediately placing the peas in the ice water bath. When the peas are cold, drain them in a colander and shake off the excess moisture.
Put the peas in a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth puree. Force the pea puree through a wire mesh sieve placed over a bowl. You should have at least 120g (4¼oz) of the sieved puree. Put the puree in a small saucepan.
Make the cuttlefish dice. Place the cleaned cuttlefish head on a cutting board and trim the edges to create a rectangle. Cutting parallel to the work surface, trim the cuttlefish to obtain a uniform thickness of 1cm (7/16in). Put the cuttlefish on a foil-lined clean plastic tray and place in the freezer until slightly frozen. Once frozen, carefully cut the cuttlefish into a 1cm (7/16in) dice. Keep the cuttlefish frozen while working to obtain an even cut, placing it back in the freezer whenever it starts to soften. (You need only 60 g/2oz of cuttlefish dice; the remaining cuttlefish can be used for other dishes.) Spread the cuttlefish dice onto a clean tray and refrigerate until ready to use.
Make the pea and cuttlefish ragout. Mince the shallot. Place a sauté pan over a low flame and add a little extra virgin olive oil - enough to lightly coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil has warmed, add the shallot and gently sweat it until it softens, without colouring.
Add the shucked sugar snap peas, water and vegan butter (or unsalted butter) and turn the flame to medium high heat. Boil until the peas are cooked and glazed with the butter, and the water is evaporated. If the peas are still hard when the water evaporates, add a little more water and continue to cook until tender but not mushy.
Turn the flame to low and add the diced cuttlefish and chopped wakame. Stir the ingredients, warming them gently until the cuttlefish pieces turn translucent. Immediately remove the pan from the heat. Season the mixture to taste with salt.
At the same time you're cooking the ragout, warm the pea puree by putting the saucepan over a low flame. Add a little water to thin the puree slightly, and stir to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Taste the mixture and add some salt, if necessary.
Divide 120g (4¼oz) of the pea puree between four small bowls. Spoon the pea and cuttlefish over the puree, then add the pomelo cells. Garnish with the pea shoots.
Over each bowl, drizzle one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, then use a microplane to grate some lime zest over each portion. Serve immediately.