Archive for ‘Cooking Adventures’

July 17, 2011

Couture Cake Cupcake Decorating Class

by minibites

I’ve always enjoyed the smiles and oohs and aahs that come from people admiring fondant decorated cupcakes, and although I admit they are not the most flavoursome things on a cake, it’s amazing what things this icing can make.

My fellow baker and I spent our Saturday morning learning some neat tricks and tips from the pros at Couture Cake in a quick 2-hour class. It felt like being in kindergarten all over again moulding and rolling play-doh textured icing and cutting our wonderful shapes and faces.

Cupcake Couture Class

Cupcake Couture Class

Beginning with 6 plain cupcakes, we begin by spreading chocolate ganache and white fondant as a base for our decorations. We dive into the world of quilting, edible pearls, shimmer dust, floral tools, cutters, water and edible pens – learning to make 3D ladybugs and flowers, balloons and cheesy bears.

Cupcake Couture Class

The tools that are definitely going on my wishlist is a water pen (so much easier to use than a paintbrush & pot of water!), KopyKake edible pen for fiddly details, a set of ball tools for 3D flowers, a quilting tool and plenty of cutters! And not to forget, the wonders of what a square of transparency paper, which is used as little sander for the white bases.

Cupcake Couture Class

This lesson was purchased on the daily deal website, JumpOnIt. More classes are available on the website.

Couture Cake Classes 

July 5, 2011

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo

by minibites

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo

Stumbling through the large barn like doors on Danks Street, it was nice to be shielded from the rain and cold. Cafe Sopra sits on the top of the constantly busy Fratelli Fresh market below – bringing the freshest fruit and veggie produce along with the pantry basics.

Cafe Sopra in Waterloo is probably my favourite, being the most rustic, being warehouse styled with gorgeous wooden finishes and natural light beaming through french styled windows.

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo

There’s only the 2 of us so we grabbed a seat at the bar where we could peer into the kitchen and watch countless dishes emerge from the relatively zen-like kitchen. Whilst also eying all the numerous desserts that we guiltily wanted…

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo

The menu is generously extensive and most likely has a dish to tickle everyone’s fancy, and undergoes numerous changes to match the seasonal produce. As the afternoon progresses, the menu becomes shorter and shorter as the dishes become snapped up. Skipping the entree (to save belly space for dessert), we dive into some warm hearty pastas, mmmm!

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo
Mezze Rigatoni

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo
Penne al Forno 

It’s not long when the waitress leans over and presents a large bowl of steaming mezze rigatoni – soft cylinders of pasta mixed with soft beef ragu, bolognese sauce and light parmesan snow on top. My fellow foodie devoured the penne al forno (Italian for “from the oven”) – a terracotta dish filled with penne pasta, amazing slices of smoked ham, spinach, florets of cauliflower and oozy melted mozzarella on top.

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo
Banoffee Pie

The rain began to fall, so we chit chatter until our mains digest and dive into the infamous banoffee pie that countless friends have recommended. Banoffee is an English dessert which is simply, banana and toffee! Surprisingly it wasn’t too overwhelming sweet nor heavy even with the naughty layers of cream on top.

The next day we were battling banoffee cravings, so I gave it ago! The recipe was from Taste. Instead of just a dollop of cream on top, I whipped thickened cream, a tablespoon of vanilla extract and sugar till soft peaks formed then piped it on top. Viola!

Banoffee Pie

Cafe Sopra, Waterloo

Amazingly satisfying Italian dishes made from the freshest produce for brunch and lunch. Delish!

Cafe Sopra
7 Danks St
Waterloo, Sydney 

Cafe Sopra on Urbanspoon

June 29, 2011

Sydney Seafood School: Warren Turnbull

by minibites

Sydney Seafood School - Warren Turnbull

After my first cooking class here with Brent Savage, I’ve been hooked! This time, my colleagues join me to cook alongside Warren Turnbull of Assiette and District Dining. I have yet to go check out these two thriving restaurants that I have heard all the fuss and chatter about.

Tonight we learn two of his dishes from District Dining; Prawn Cocktail with Prawn Toast and a Smoked Eel Pate with Green Onion Flatbread. I was super keen to learn a dish to spice up the humble prawn, as well learning to incorporate a tricker protein of smoked eel. Both dishes have featured on his menu recently.

Sydney Seafood School - Warren Turnbull

Sydney Seafood School - Warren Turnbull

After Warren’s demonstration, we’re spilt into teams of 4-6 people and we prepare our mise en place; by de-shelling prawns, skinning and deboning a smoked eel and chopping our mountains of fresh herbs. Warren takes his time to wander around the kitchen to each bench aiding us with our techniques as well as having a quick chat about his favourites in Melbourne and his future ambitions, another restaurant perhaps?

Sydney Seafood School - Warren Turnbull

This time round, there are many more components to absorb including making the eel pate, frying prawn toast, pickling cucumbers, preparing the prawn cocktail sauce, a green onion spread for the fresh toasty flatbread while trying to think of how to best plate everything up!

Sydney Seafood School - Warren Turnbull

After a long hour of go go go, our table is set with a nice bottle of white wine for us to dive into our creations. Delicious! Simple but my favourite are the prawn toast with a drizzle of sauce and crunchy pickled cucumber on the side. The smoked eel pate is interesting but a little overpowering for my palate. Nevertheless, it was intriguing to learn how to make a pate without feeling paranoid.

Sydney Seafood School has classes all year round with the occasional handful with restaurant chefs, check their website for more details.

Sydney Seafood School
Sydney Fish Market
Bank St, Sydney

48 Albion St
Surry Hills, Sydney

District Dining
17 Randle St
Surry Hills 

May 25, 2011

Perfect Pork Crackling @ Quarter Twenty One Cooking School

by minibites

Quarter Twenty-One Cooking School

Quarter Twenty-One Cooking School

After seven years, you begin to run out of exciting things than the same ol’ anniversary dinner. Instead of sitting through a 3 hour degustation, I booked in a cooking class at Justin North’s Quarter Twenty One for the both of us to learn some cooking techniques to up our cooking game!

IMG_0070Quarter Twenty-One Cooking School

Quarter Twenty One is divided into 3 quarters; Eat, Feed and Cook for the Soul. Turning right, there is a gorgeous table filled with fresh and colourful produce and looking through into the glamorous kitchen. The kitchen is dressed with a backdrop of bottles of herbs and spices, a LCD demonstration screen, burners on the side and a shiny U-shaped cooking bench for us to work on.

Quarter Twenty-One Cooking School

The perfect pork cracking is served with pear, a side of crushed kipfler potatoes and a sprout and chestnut saute. The aim for this express class is for us to learn the techniques and prepare our mise en place so everything is wonderfully packaged to take home to quickly cook and share with everyone.

All the vegetables and herbs are prepped and stored in take away containers, along with all our possible needs; lemon wedges, garnishes and brandy. Our slab of pork from Victor Churchill is nicely scored and we generously rub in our fennel and salt coating and taken away to be vacuum sealed and ready for home. The class is also nicely limited, so it’s easy to quickly shout out questions to the chef.

Quarter Twenty-One Cooking School

The finished product is a super crispy pork crackling, that doesn’t chip your teeth, and guards tender pieces of pork goodness. It is a guilty pleasure dish but when cooked with love and with quality ingredients, it’s all worthwhile.

This class was an express class, but there are plenty to choose from, ranging from learning techniques, skills, chef demonstrations to a full dish with sides.

Quarter Twenty One
Level 5, Westifield Sydney

March 20, 2011

Taste of Sydney 2011

by minibites

It was time once again to whip out the picnic blanket, loose shirts and expandable pants because it’s Taste of Sydney!! A showcase of Sydney’s top restaurants offering mini versions of their best.

Assisette; Crispy pork belly, cashew nut caramel with palm treacle and roast cashews

District Dining; Spicy free range Lilydale chicken with lime aioli and coleslaw

To kick start us off, it was first up to Warren Turnbull’s Assisette and District Dining. Pork belly was slightly undercrisp on our dish, but the watermelon, cashew nut caramel and mint all worked wonderfully. Would have been perrrrrfect if only the pork belly was super crispy! Next up was District Dining’s famous fried chicken, and mmmm! Everyone loves a slightly healthier version of KFC. Great tender juicy chicken on the inside with a spicy crispy outer and cooled down with some lime aioli and fresh coleslaw.

Four in Hand; Confit pork belly, squid, chorizo, chickpeas

Four in Hand; Dark chocolate snickers

To feed our expanding bellies, is another pork belly. This dish was a meaty delight with the pork belly, tender and falling apart and sitting in a bed of Mediterranean flavours. Their deconstructed dark chocolate snickers was a chocolaholic’s delight with warm caramel, oozing chocolate, nuts, ice cream.

Etch Dining; Seared scallops with cauliflower bhaji and curry

Justin North presents this seafood delight that is aesthetically pleasing to the eye and palate. It had wonderfully seared scallops with a little curry oil and cauliflower bhaji; an Indian vegetable fritter filled with herbs and spices.

A Tavola & Omerta; Potato gnocchi with slow cooked lamb ragu

The Italian duo, A Tavola & Omerta from Darlinghurst, presented an amazing dish of super soft melt-in-your-mouth gnocchi with creamy also melt-in-your-mouth slow cooked lamb ragu. Delight! Also, on a random note, they own Messina on the same street (Victoria St), and it has the absolutely BEST gelato in Sydney.

L’etoile; Slow cooked shoulder of lamb, smoked potato puree and jus

We definitely couldn’t go pass the opportunity of sampling Mr suave French man, Manu Feidel’s L’etoile. Manu serves up a generous portion of slow cooked lamb shoulder on a bed of smoked potato puree (amaaazing!) and they were a little light handed on the jus, I wanted more! He also stopped to take a breather by taking photos with the swarm of girls (and men!) making their way towards him. Sweet!

Flying Fish; Black pepper and curry leaf prawn skewers with lime & fresh coconut

Flying Fish; Seared petuna ocean trout with a white curry sauce, jasmine rice, raw vegetable sambal

Last year, Flying Fish had my favourite dishes of the day with prawns and tuna with crackling. This year, they’ve done it again – bringing generous portions of black pepper and curry flavoured prawns and ocean trout. This year, the prawns were nicely skewered, and topped with lime and fresh coconut. The second dish was a slightly seared trout sitting on a bed of fluffy jasmine rice, white curry sauce. Slightly seared meant the fish was tender and soft on the inside. Can I say amazing any more times in this post?

For the first time, Taste brought along the Sensology Bar; with the option to have your cocktail made or learn to make your own! With the classic Pina Colada song pumping in the background, we learn in a quick 15 minute class the basics of cocktail making, the equipment and ingredients for our Pina Colada. Muddled fresh pineapples and coconut juice, sugar, ice, rum and shake, shake shake! Top with more ice and a pineapple leaf and viola!

Bird Cow Fish; Tiramisu roulade with caramel sauce

I’ve always been a fan of tiramisu so I definitely jumped at the opportunity to try Bird Cow Fish’s tiramisu roulade. Simply delicious, with the perfect balance of chocolate, coffee and marcarspone – even my fellow anti-coffee foodie granted it a “mmmm!” and took a second spoonful.

Victor Churchill; Creme brulee

Lucky last, one of the best desserts is Victor Churchill’s creme brulee. For those who haven’t been to Victor Churchill, it’s definitely worth an excursion. This butchery (yes, butchery that makes desserts) shows others in town how to make raw meat look super sexy by hanging hams and pork legs elegantly behind glass cabinets. On a totally unrelated talent, Victor Churchill makes one of the best creme brulees I have devoured. A crunchy sugary top protecting a chilled creme brulee with hints of vanilla bean baked through.

Another year gone, can’t wait till next year!

Taste of Sydney
March 10-13th 2011
Centennial Park, Sydney