Archive for ‘Cooking Class’

May 25, 2011

Perfect Pork Crackling @ Quarter Twenty One Cooking School

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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

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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

December 17, 2010

Sydney Seafood School: Brent Savage

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One of the best presents are experiences (sometimes… apart from diamonds and shoes) – so my awesome colleagues treated Jen and I to our birthday surprise for a cooking night at the Sydney Seafood School with Brent Savage of Bentley Restaurant and Bar. I was super excited particularly since I had been over to Bentley not long ago for their dessert degustation.

The night kicks off with a Brent demonstrating how to cook his Pan Roasted Baby Snapper with Sweetcorn, Zucchini Flower, Black Fungi and Cuttlefish Ink in a lecture styled kitchen, then we moved along into an absolutely amazing industrial kitchen where we spilt into teams of 4-6 to cook the dish!

We learn techniques like sweating off vegetables, the different ways of making puree, tricks of rejuvenating zucchini flowers, deboning and cooking fish. The best lesson learnt really is how to use ingredients outside the square, seriously, zucchini flowers, black fungi and cuttlefish ink!? In one dish?! The ink was surprisingly not impossible to attain after all, Jen was scared thinking we had to do this again.

Brent took the time to wander from kitchen to kitchen answering questions, checking sauces and fish and teaching us more techniques (you can catch a blurred glimpse of him checking our fish prep in the photo above!!!)

After cooking our meals, we shuffle into a glamorous dining room furnished with amazing lights made from fishnets of lightbulbs! We set our tables, pop open the matching wines and we’re ready to eat!

Pan roasted baby snapper with sweetcorn, zucchini flower, black fungi and cuttlefish ink

Ta-dah! Our combined efforts compared to Brent’s, which I think is pretty close to the real deal… we were a little generous with the portions though! The recipe is also in Brent’s new book, Bentley Contemporary Cuisine. Brent was absolutely fantastic to work, with as he did rounds of the dining room talking to each group individually, answering questions and signing copies of his new book! He’s so humble and talks so passionately about his food, be sure to visit him at Bentley!

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, Pyrmont

Bentley Restaurant & Bar
320 Crown St
Surry Hills, Sydney

December 13, 2010

Kudu Lounge Cocktail Making Class

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So after a countless number of girls nights out and cocktail trails, my colleague thought it would be nice to spice up our Wednesday night by checking out a cocktail class at Kudu Lounge.

Splitting into 2 groups, we begin with the humble Mojito, diving into the history of rum, different techniques of muddling, stirring and clapping herbs and most importance about balance of flavours in cocktails. Our cocktails are a little off from the original, but funnily enough it all matched each of our cocktail preferences, whereas I enjoy my cocktails sweet – so my cocktail was sweeter, whereas the other girls’ were either more alcoholic, more sourer and more fruity, just like how we all like it.

Next on the agenda is learning The Bramble, and although I’m only a recent convert to Gin, my Russian counterpart was giggly to find out that we were going to learn a gin based cocktail, that didn’t involve cucumbers, rose petals or tonic. Not as commonly known as the Mojito, The Bramble is gin shaken with lemon juice and sugar syrup, then poured over ice with a shot of raspberry liqueur drizzled over. This lesson was all about the tools, like the Hawthorn strainers and the tricks and dangers of using a Boston shaker, properly.

The Bramble


Ta-dah! Our finished products, The Bramble and Mojito. Great (and slightly tipsy) night taught by wonderful bartenders that not only knew their stuff, but were dedicated in making cocktails and were very down to earth to entertain us after the class with our cocktail challenges.

Class booked on Adrenalin, and includes 2 cocktails and canapes.

Kudu Lounge
225a Victoria Rd
Darlinghurst, Sydney

Kudu Bar and Lounge on Urbanspoon

October 30, 2010

SIFF 2010 Chef’s Armoury’s Toyko Food Trends – MG & More

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I know I’m probably behind the times but recently I’ve taken greater interest in area of molecular gastronomy particularly after expanding my food adventures. The best thing I would imagine for a chef is seeing the element of surprise this art brings to their diners. Apart of the Crave festival, I attended an intimate class at the Chef’s Armoury playing around with Japanese flavours and molecular gastronomy.

First off the mark was a technique that I was particularly interested in learning how to do properly – having tried and sort of, succeeding, I wanted to know all the inside tricks and secrets. Sphereification is combining a flavoured liquid with sodium alginate and dripping this into a water bath of calcium chloride – then into some clean water to wash off the chloride. If they float, you know it’s not right as there is air trapped inside. And, it’s best to make them just before serving.

Capsicum caviar and kingfish sashimi with ponzu foam

As kingfish sashimi was on the menu, a sauce was in order. Ponzu, a light soy sauce commonly served with gyoza was made into a foam. And as water does not foam on its own, it’s crucial to add a emulsifier such as soy lecithin to the solution, hand blend, and viola! It’s as easy as scooping the flavoured foam onto the dish just before serving.

The dish was fantastic and something we could definitely replicate in our home labs – although, I would have loved to have a greater explosion in the mouth, with a more intense and surprising flavour in the caviar. It’d be interesting to try this with some crazy flavours.

Tomato agar jelly and sesame sand

Next up was sands and soils. A common purpose of sand and soils is the element of texture or to plant a protein on top. In this case, sesame was mixed with a sugar substitute like isomalt – the isomalt doesn’t absorb much moisture so it can be combined with flavours, melted and left on a silicon mat to cool, then grounded into powder. If you took this one step further, it would be baked in the oven and shaped – much like the one used for the Snow Egg (it would have been handy if we attended this class before we failed at Masterchef!)

This dish was definitely more intriguing than the first, with a cube of savoury jelly and very sandy sesame. It reminded me of the grounded peanut and sesame treats we would devour during Chinese New Year.

Miso soup

Another very commonly used method in the molecular gastronomy world is reverse sphereification – where calcium chloride is combined with the liquid and submerged into a water bath of sodium alginate (so the opposite to sphereification!). This allows larger spheres and greater bursts of flavour.

On the menu were spheres of miso soup that was taken down like a sake shot. Once bitten, the warm miso soup bursts into your mouth. It definitely drew a “wow”. To make spheres warm, submerge them into a warm water before serving.

Sous vide has been around for quite some time, and it can become quite a heated dinner table discussion amongst foodies – some love it and some hate it. It’s all a matter of preference, like how do you like em eggs? The concept is French meaning “under vacuum” and involves cooking proteins in a vacuum sealed bag submerged in a temperature controlled water bath. The argument for sous vide also dervives from the point that food is best cooked in their own juices to maximise and maintain the flavour. Chef Leigh makes the good point that when carrots are boiled, the water tastes like carrot water but the carrots then taste absolutely bland and unflavoursome.

Using the sous vide machine, Chef Leigh demonstrated how to cook the one ingredient that determines the skill of a chef, eggs. Using an egg clacker to remove the top of the eggs, the inside slipped out effortlessly leaving a clean empty shell. Eggs were cooked in the sous vide machine at 64 degrees for an hour.

Sous vided eggs, onions, rice and chicken oyakodon

The outcome was a take on the humble chicken oyakodon. At the bottom of the egg was a slightly runny yolk and white, topped with onions and sushi rice drenched in a absolutely addictive sauce of mirin and white soy, served with sticks of chicken. My favourite savoury dish of the night alongside the warm miso spheres.

Whitebait sous vided with parsnips and carrots with microherbs

Another sous vide dish is demonstrated using whitebait and good ol’ carrots and parsnips. The whitebait was delicious and perfectly cooked, falling apart as my fork sliced through and the vegetables did indeed taste like carrots and parsnips, although they’ve been cooking for an hour. The broth was a simple as white soy sauce, mirin and dashi – lightly flavoured so the fish and vegetables could be the stars of the dish.

Yappies with miso butter bathing in potato and yuzu foam

Chef Leigh explains how crucial for any cuisine it is, to cook with produce that is in season. With our luck, yappies are on the menu tonight – cooked with miso paste and butter in a iron caste pan and served with a potato, olive oil and yuzu flavoured foam. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus fruit that could be described as the baby of a lemon and a lime. Presentation for this dish was brilliant, humour is the best part of dinner. The yappies were delicious with a hint of the miso butter, although the foam was just a little too sour for my liking.

Green tea and honey parfait served with green tea soil and azuki beans

Onto dessert, Chef Eddie serves us a gorgeous dessert that leaves the table silent for a solid five minutes with the occasional hmm and aahh. A green tea soil served with a green tea and honey parfait rolled in a macadamia praline with a side of azuki beans. The best desserts have a balance of flavours and most importantly, textures! I love how the praline left a crunching sensation while the parfait was soft and just melted in the mouth.

Blackforest cake

Second dessert for the night was a DIY blackforest cake and being in a molecular gastronomy class, it was only fitting to ensure it was really a black cake… Eddie places plates of ingredients like charcoal cake bases, Chantilly creme, chocolate mousse, cherries, chocolate sauce and a sour cherry gel. The charcoal didn’t really taste like much, but entire cake had amazing flavours and it wasn’t as sweet as I had anticipated it to be – my favourite layer had to be the sour cherry gel which was amazing in texturally in the cake and flavour.

Amazing class, both entertaining and delicious!

Classes now ended, but keep checking Chef’s Armoury for any upcoming classes.

Chef’s Armoury
747 Botany Road
Rosebery, Sydney