Real food the new black for Longrain master

Justine Costigan
25 September, 2014

He’s best known for the Thai restaurants he founded in Sydney and Melbourne, but Martin Boetz is busy adding farming to his repertoire on his own patch of paradise near the Hawkesbury.

A year after turning in his apron and putting down his knives, you’d be forgiven for thinking ex-Longrain chef Martin Boetz would be taking it easy, but instead of relaxing into his retirement from the kitchen, Boetz has swapped the pressure and late nights of restaurant cooking for the early starts and uncertainty of farming.

Throw a new cookbook into the mix, and Boetz is as busy as he’s ever been.

New Thai Food – recipes for home is his latest project and takes Boetz’ deep understanding of Thai food and reworks it for the home cook, losing none of the authentic flavours and freshness Longrain was famous for.

A decade after his first book, Boetz says Thai ingredients are now so readily available that more and more people are embracing their unique flavours and trying to recreate them at home.

He believes good Thai cooking is in everyone’s reach. “Even with a tin of curry paste, if you add in lots of fresh herbs and vegetables you will be able to make something delicious,” he says.

Follow the recipes in New Thai Food, and you’ll soon be whipping up a dry curry of kingfish with green peppercorns, stir-fried squid with smoked speck, or one of Boetz own favourites, the deceptively simple silken tofu with pickled ginger, cucumber and mint.

The emphasis on fresh ingredients in New Thai Food is no coincidence. Now supplying produce to some of Sydney’s best restaurants including Movida, Ormeggio and Kitchen by Mike, Boetz is more committed than ever to using, and now growing, great produce. “It’s on the plate within 24 hours of being picked,” he says of the farm’s produce. “It’s all about good, wholesome food.”

Located in Sackville, in the Hawkesbury shire, just over an hour from Sydney, the Cooks Co-op is a 28-acre farm that is slowly being restored to productivity. Eight acres are already under production and he has big plans for the rest. As well as fruit and vegetables, the Co-op produces honey and Boetz will be adding chickens to the mix soon, too. Plans to host events in the original farm barn are also in train.

Longrain’s contemporary spin on Thai food always focused on fresh produce and so the sideways step from chef to farmer should come as no surprise. After all, Boetz is not the first chef keen to go back to the source.

“I’ve landed in a very beautiful place. It was an abandoned farm and with a lot of work and help, I’m bringing it back to what it was,” he says.

Boetz is so committed to the wholesome food philosophy he’s created a hashtag – #realfoodisthenewblack – that expresses his absolute belief in good food without fuss.

Despite 20 years cooking Thai food, Asian flavours have now taken a backstep. When he cooks for himself, Boetz simply heads to his garden, picks what looks best and cooks it simply. “It’s just normal, ordinary, wholesome food,” he says. “What looks good in the garden, always tastes good on the plate.”

Silken tofu with pickled ginger, cucumber and mint

Serves 4


  • 200 g silken tofu, sliced
  • 100 ml Sweet soy & ginger dressing*
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Crisp-fried garlic to garnish


  • 15 g (½ cup) coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • 10 g (½ cup) mint leaves
  • 1 long red chilli, seeded and julienned
  • Lebanese (small) cucumber, finely shaved into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons pickled ginger **
  • 1 spring onion (scallion), finely sliced on the diagonal


Place the tofu on a serving plate.

To make the salad, toss all the salad ingredients together in a mixing bowl, combining well.

Place on top of the tofu, then spoon over the sweet soy & ginger dressing and the lime juice.

Sprinkle over the crisp-fried garlic and serve.

*Sweet soy and ginger dressing

Makes 2 cups

  • 180 ml mirin
  • 150 ml light yellow bean soy
  • 80 ml (¹⁄³ cup) white rice vinegar
  • 80 g  caster (superfine) sugar
  • 4 cm (1½ in) piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 3 red bird’s eye chillies, thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil


Bring the mirin, 150 ml water, yellow bean soy, vinegar and sugar to the boil in a heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. 

Add the ginger, garlic, chillies and sesame oil. 

Simmer lightly for 5 minutes, remove from the heat and allow to cool. 

Keep in the refrigerator for 6 months.

**Pickled ginger

Makes 1 kg 


  • 1 kg fresh ginger, peeled and cut into batons
  • 250 ml (1 cup) fish sauce
  • 250 ml (1 cup) white rice vinegar
  • 230 g (1 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 2 lemongrass stems, white part only, bruised and sliced
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 long red chillies, halved


If using young ginger, wash and put in a large bowl. If using older ginger, blanch it two or three times in a saucepan of fresh boiling water before putting in a large bowl and proceeding with the recipe.

Bring the fish sauce, vinegar and sugar to the boil in a large heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves and chillies, return to the boil, then pour over the ginger.

Wash storage jars and lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well in hot water, then place on a rack in an oven preheated to 110°C for 20 minutes.

Put the hot ginger and pickling liquid in the jars and seal. Leave for 3 weeks before using

Roasted baby snapper with yellow bean soy dressing

Serves 4 as part of a shared meal


  • 1 × 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) baby snapper or other small firm white fish, cleaned
  • 3 limes
  • 1 bunch coriander (cilantro), leaves picked, stalks and roots reserved
  • 150 ml (5 fl oz) Yellow bean soy dressing
  • 2 long red chillies, seeded and sliced on the diagonal, to garnish
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4)


Score the fish on both sides with a sharp knife and put in an oiled ovenproof dish.

Cut 2 limes in half and place in the cavity of the fish with the coriander stalks and roots. Pour the yellow bean soy dressing over the fish.

Bake the fish in the oven for 10 minutes. Baste, then increase the temperature to 200°C (400°F/Gas 6) and bake for a further 5 minutes. The skin should be golden brown and crisp.

Remove the fish from the oven and place on a serving plate. Garnish with the remaining lime, cut into wedges, the coriander leaves and chillies. Serve with steamed jasmine rice.

New Thai Food will be released on October 1 and published on Cooked.


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