NOMAD Sydney’s Roasted Pork Chops with Prunes, Pickled Radicchio and Spiced Pepitas

T Australia sat down with NOMAD Sydney’s Head Chef Abby Kitchen to talk about winding down after service, the venues that most influenced her career, and her favourite new ingredient.

Article by Phoebe Tully

Nomad SydneyPhotography by Nikki To.

Occupying a warehouse in Surry Hills, NOMAD first came to life in 2013 when Rebecca and Al Yazbek decided to fill a gap in the market for an inner-city cellar door. Their objective was to showcase Australian produce and wine, inspired by travels through Spain, Morocco and the Middle East and cooked with fire and smoke. The NOMAD Group is continuing to expand, with a Melbourne venue open last year, and a wine bar and deli slated to open later this year in Surry Hills.

We sat down with NOMAD Sydney’s Head Chef Abby Kitchen to find out what’s inspiring her at the moment, how she unwinds after service, and where she enjoys dining on her days off.

Nomad Sydney
Abby Kitchen, Head Chef. Photography courtesy Nomad Sydney.
Nomad Sydney
Abby Kitchen, Head Chef. Photography courtesy Nomad Sydney.

On becoming a chef…

I knew I wanted to cook from a young age so I wanted to get started right away. I studied at The Culinary Institute of America for three years right out of high school and that is when I realised how much I really had to learn about working in the hospitality industry. The reality of the hospitality industry is not what I had watched on the Food Network growing up… but this is what made me fall in love with it even more! It was loud, fast, a bit rough around the edges and it was exactly what I had been looking for.

On life before Nomad…

Before Nomad I worked for Merivale for four years at a few different restaurants but my time at Fred’s is what really helped shape my career the most.

On what drives her each day…

I love that no two days are the same. Everyday there is a new challenge to overcome and something new to learn. It’s the little wins throughout the day that keep me coming back day after day. Having a bit of perspective gives me the ability to appreciate how much the team and I have accomplished in what can sometimes be ‘mundane’.

On unwinding after service…

I don’t live far from the restaurant so I really like to walk home from work and usually call my family back in America to catch up and have a debrief about my day as they are starting theirs. Sometimes they aren’t ready for the post-Saturday night service crazed rantings at 7.00am but by the time I get home I can actually settle and relax.

Nomad Sydney
Photography courtesy Nomad Sydney.

On what she’s enjoying experimenting with…

Bonito vinegar. We source this from Two Providores for the restaurant and I have to stop myself from adding it to every recipe. It has a delicious smoky savoury sweetness that I love to add to butter sauces and salsa verde.

On cooking at home…

Not much to be honest. At midnight on the weekends after a busy day I’ll make my current go-to snack of Lurpak and Vegemite on corn thins while my partner and I watch an episode of The Office. We love to host dinner parties to consolidate seeing all of our friends into one visit. For these dinners we like to do simple crowd pleasers like ocean trout roasted in the oven and a big crunchy fresh salad.

On what she’s most excited about at the moment…

This is my first time as a Head Chef and being able to do it at a restaurant like Nomad is such an amazing opportunity. Right now we are working on developing a few new dishes for the spring/summer menus, which has been a new challenge. Menu development is a really collaborative time working with the other chefs in the kitchen and our suppliers to create a new dish.

On the chefs who inspire her…

I had a really beautiful weeknight dinner at Bar Vincent in Surry Hills. The food and staff were relaxed yet refined, which just made for such an amazing experience. Their veal tonnato is definitely something I will be going back for again and again. For a casual meal on my day off Banh Xeo Bar in Rosebery is always at the top of my list. Their eggplant croquette Banh Mi and a cup of their amazing broth will help you reset after a busy week.

Nomad Sydney
Photography courtesy Nomad Sydney.

Nomad Sydney’s Roasted Pork Chops with Prunes, Pickled Radicchio and Spiced Pepitas

“Pork chops are a beautiful cut of meat that look really impressive but are super simple to prepare. Ask your butcher for two double bone pork loin chops with the rind on. You want a nice thick cut pork chop to prevent the meat from drying out while you get that nice crackling.” – Abby Kitchen

Serves 4 | Recipe by Abby Kitchen

Prune Puree

200g pitted prunes
1 medium brown onion, thinly sliced
50ml red wine vinegar
50g pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Pickled Radicchio

1 head of radicchio
200ml red wine vinegar
100g sugar

Carefully remove the core from the head of radicchio with a paring knife. Unfurl the leaves into a bowl, trying to keep them as whole as possible. Wash and dry the leaves and return to the bowl. Bring the vinegar and sugar to a boil then pour the hot liquid over the radicchio leaves. Cover and place in the fridge for a few hours to pickle.

Pull your pork out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking and give it a good sprinkling of salt while it tempers. This will help season the meat and achieve even cooking.

Toast pepitas with a drizzle of olive oil and flaky sea salt over low heat in a saute pan. Toast until they are fragrant and golden brown. Finish with a sprinkle of aleppo pepper or chilli flakes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

For the puree, saute the onions in a small pot with a neutral oil (such as grapeseed) until they are tender and translucent. Add the prunes, then add just enough water to cover. Allow this to simmer on low heat until the prunes are falling apart and very tender. Transfer to a blender with the toasted pepitas, vinegar, salt and pepper then blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary.

In a cast iron skillet, add a drizzle of olive oil and place your chops in the pan skin side down. Slowly warm the pan over medium heat to start to render the fat from the pork and to help get a nice crackling. Cook skin side down for 5-10 minutes then sear each side of the chops until golden brown. Pop them into a 200C oven until the internal temperature reaches 55-58C. Remove from the oven and allow them to rest to 60C.

While your pork is resting, warm your prune puree up and finish with a little knob of butter. Put your puree down on a plate topped with sliced pork, pickled radicchio leaves, and a sprinkle of pepitas to finish it all off. Serve with a simple salad or crispy roasted potatoes and enjoy!