No matter how good you think you are at cooking, I think a cooking class from time to time is a fabulous source not only of inspiration, but of fun too!!
This weekend saw my lovely friend Ruza and I hit Melbourne for a Thai cooking class. We came away very impressed. We made my favourite soup ever – Tom yum – as well as six other fabulous dishes including green chicken curry, Thai spring rolls and the famous, pad Thai.
I think we have all attempted Thai cooking – I know I have – but I’ve almost always felt disappointed because I just can’t seem to properly recreate my favourite dishes. It always tastes like there is something missing, and I can’t put my finger on what it is.
So, while I’m not going to share the recipes from the day, because I don’t feel as though they a mine to share just yet, but I learnt some terrific tips to authentic Thai cooking that I can’t wait to put into practice in my own kitchen.
One of the most important things about cooking Thai food is using the freshest and best quality ingredients. This bowl of beautiful, fragrant herbs and veggies just cooks so delicious!!
It’s important to find an Asian grocer you know has the best products and keep going back to them.
Creating the perfect Thai dishes requires lots of preparation – but one of the best things is that in a lot of cases, including the Thai fish cakes we created – you can chop and roll the day before, pop them in the fridge and cook when your guests arrive. Perfect for entertaining as you won’t be left slaving in the kitchen.
Perfect fish cakes is all about chopping the aromatic ingredients and the fish extremely small. It’s also about ensuring the mixture is very well mixed. Your clean hands are the best tools in this case.
Spring rolls were also on the menu. I know most people think it’s easier to buy them from the frozen isle of the supermarket – but these were really yummy and actually really fun to make.
The best tip for the day was to cook the filling before adding them to the spring rolls wrappers. Without this step you run the risk of cooking your spring rolls beautifully on the outside, but the inside filling on the raw side. Not good at all!
So, this is me cooking the filling – we used pork mince, carrots, soy and other yummy delights 🙂
Our wonderful teacher Gail said you can make the spring rolls to this point and then pop them in the freezer. You can even cook them frozen – but just need to make sure the oil isn’t too hot. Such a great tip for what, with a bit of organisation in advance – could be a very quick and easy entree.
Pad Thai is Ruza’s favourite dish – especially after she honeymooned in Thailand late last year. No wonder she was so keen to do these classes! So, she took to the stove to learn how to whip it up.
Gail said the key to pad Thai – and stir-frying any noodles, is to soak them in cold water for about 10 minutes. Never use hot water as it will cause me to stick together and go gluggy. I know this is true from experience!
Galangal is part of the ginger family, but it’s stronger and has more heat. I have tried many times to make Tom yum soup and it’s always laked something. It was galangal!!
We added lots of other things including mushrooms, tomatoes, and made a stock from coriander root, kaffir lime leaves and lemon grass.
I think the tip of the day was this one … Season with fish sauce and lime juice off the heat. Gail says direct heat causes these flavours to change – so the best thing to do is take your food off the heat once it is cooked, taste and season to your taste.
But with he next step came the best advice. Normally I would add my chicken at this point – but no. Gail says it is best to add a touch of coconut milk and cook for a good few minutes, until you get bubbles on the side of the saucepan. This helps to ensure the coconut milk won’t split when you add the rest of the can – but also adds a depth of flavour. Add the chicken, veggies and coconut milk and cook until done. It really was absolutely beautiful and oozed with authenticity.
Thank you to Gail and her husband Nigel for the cooking class. Visit their website here to find out about their classes- http://originalthaicooking.com.au/ – highly recommended.
It was a memorable and fun day and I learnt so much about Thai cooking – I know I will put my new knowledge to good use and use it to create truly authentic Thai dishes.
I truly think it’s a great idea, no matter how confident you feel in the kitchen – to grab a friend and go and enjoy a cooking class. You get to cook, have fun and eat … All things that put me in a very happy place! Next I think I’m going to research French cooking classes. Very exciting!!
I have wanted to try chilli mud crab ever since my dad raved about how amazing it is.
I’ve seen it cooked on TV – and apparently it’s normal and quite traditional for the sauce to consist in-part – of tomato sauce.
The recipe we learnt during the masterclass was no different – and my God it tasted incredible. I really like hot food – but not so hot that you can’t taste the flavours. The heat in this recipe is absolutely perfect. In saying that, if you aren’t a fan of a bit of heat – this isn’t one for you.
Our teacher – Executive Chef of Oakdene Vineyard Marty Chichester gave us some great tips on how to prepare the crab – like popping it in the freezer for 20 minutes to ensure it is “asleep” before removing the claws, the top part of the shell and getting rid of the very creepy-looking “dead man’s fingers”. Eewww they look yuck!! You also remove the brown meat – but like the lobster – don’t be tempted to wash it under water. It ruins the flavour. Just clean it up as best as you can, and then go ahead and cook it.
I think the most vital part of the crab is the claws – that’s where most of the yummy white flesh is. Make sure you crack the claws with the back of a heavy knife – but not so much that it cracks into little pieces. Just enough to let the flavours of the sauce in.
So, once you have made all your preparations – you’re ready to cook
Chilli Mud Crab
- 2 mud crabs
- 3 Tbs of olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 banana chillies – chopped into chunky rounds
- 2 Tbs of ginger chopped julienne
- 1/2 a cup of tomato sauce
- 1/4 of a cup of sweet chilli sauce
- 1/2 a cup of water
- 3 tbs of hoisin sauce
- 1/2 a cup of spring onion, sliced
- 1/2 a cup of a mix between Vietnamese mint and coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 tbs of coriander root, finely chopped
- 1 tbs of fish sauce
- 3 tsp of sugar
- 1 tsp of sea salt
- 30 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
Heat the oil in a wok, then add the garlic, chilli, ginger and coriander root. Cook until it’s fragrant.
Add crabs and toss all together.
Add tomato sauce, chilli sauce, water, hoi sin sauce, fish sauce, sugar and salt.
Stir to combine all ingredients and bring it to the boil.
Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add the spring onions, cherry tomatoes and herbs and cook for a further 5 minutes.
At the masterclass we served this with jasmine rice. It was perfect because it soaked up the beautiful, tangy and spicy sauce. We also made an apple salad. It perfectly complimented the crab, and was really fresh and sweet.
See you tomorrow for the apple salad recipe!
The main course we cooked at the chef masterclass with Marty Chichester meant I got to not only cook, but eat an entire lobster – all to myself!! Talk about a very special treat.
The meat was delicate and perfectly cooked (not thanks to my skills – but to very good instruction) – and the garlic butter complemented the sweetness of the flesh. We also cooked chilli mud crab (which I know is one of my dad’s favourite dishes – I’m sure he’ll be thrilled that I now know how to cook it!)
But, more about the crab tomorrow.
As we all know, lobster is really expensive – so you want to make sure you know what you’re doing. I think you’d be heartbroken if you served it, and it was rubbery and tasted like rubbish.
Marty gave us some great tips about cooking lobster:
– Put your live, uncooked lobster in the freezer for 20 minutes before you cook it. This puts the lobster to “sleep”. Apparently they kick and make a big miss if you pop them in boiling water while they’re still alive. Let’s face it – it’s cruel. Putting them in the freezer is the most humane way of cooking them.
– Cook a medium to large-sized lobster in boiling water for about 7 minutes. At the end of the 7 minutes, plunge it into a sink filled with ice water. This brings the temperature right down, stopping the cooking process. This will not cook the lobster all the way through – just enough for it to hold together when you cut it in half, lengthways. You finish the cooking after adding your flavourings, in an oven or under a griller. This ensures you don’t over cook the lobster and make it rubbery.
– After you have cut your lobster lengthways – you have to clean out the innards (or mustard, as some people call it – I’m guessing because of the colour). You can eat it – but I have no desire to. Now you really do need to get in with your hands and scoop it out – you could use a spoon, but I don’t think it would work that well. Marty said that no matter how tempted you are, don’t wash the lobster. Like with the oysters I wrote about yesterday, it washes away all the great flavours. You also need to remove the waste tract which goes through the tail. It looks much like the vein in a prawn – just bigger.
Now that the yucky stuff is done the fun stuff begins. It was great to learn all the above tips. It was all the things I was so nervous about. But, now I know I can tackle a lobster with confidence – and I’m sure the recipes will flow now. Well, I might have to save up to buy a lobster – but I think now that I have some idea of what I am doing, it’ll be a worthwhile investment.
Grilled Lobster with Garlic and Herb Butter
2 whole live lobsters – about 600 to 800gm each
150gm of unsalted butter (room temperature)
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 a bunch of parsley
2 anchovy fillets, chopped
1 tsp of capers, chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
Mix chopped ingredients into the softened butter and then put to one side.
Put the live lobsters in the freezer for 20 mins (as stated above).
Plunge the lobster into boiling water for 7 minutes. Once the time is up, place into ice water.
Once cooled, cut the lobster lengthways through the middle and then clean out the waste from the head as well as the waste tract (as stated above).
The flesh should look rare – so quite white on the outside parts near the shell, but quite translucent towards the middle. This is what you want to ensure the lobster isn’t overcooked under the grill.
Season well with salt and pepper and then smother the flesh liberally with the butter mixture. This will protect the flesh from the heat of the grill and allow the butter, garlic and herbs to seep into the flesh. This can be done in advance, with the rest of the process to be completed when ready to serve.
Place under a grill and cook until lightly browned in colour. This should take only 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer to a 180-degree oven for 4 to 5 minutes, until cooked through and tender.
I have to admit, I did eat the whole lobster – so with two lobsters for this recipe, it serves two. But for an entree serve – half per person would be plenty. Tomorrow I’ll share with you a brilliant crispy apple salad – and of course, the delicious chilli crab.
I just can’t wait to get my hands on another lobster and make this again. Soooo yum!!
If you’re feeling inspired to do a masterclass, why not check out the Oakdene Vineyard website and find out about Marty’s masterclasses. You won’t be disapointed 🙂
On Tuesday night I was treated to a cooking Master Class with one of Victoria’s best executive chefs – Marty Chichester from the Bellarine Peninsula’s Oakdene Vinyards restaurant – a multi-award winning venue that last year won the National Award for the Best Restaurant in a Winery.
I have to admit that I was so nervous going into the Masterclass. The menu included oysters, lobster, mud crab and pannacotta – all things I had little or no experience with cooking. The last time I did crab – it really wasn’t great and I wasn’t sure how to clean it. I’ve never attempted lobster before, simply because it’s just so expensive and with my inexperience – I didn’t want to risk ruining it.
As for the oysters – well I’m sad to say, I don’t really like them. I WANT to like them – but I just don’t.
However, my apparent dislike for them didn’t stop me from wanting to try serving them in different ways.
Marty gave us a demonstration of all the dishes before we went ahead – and after getting started on the pannacotta and popping it in the fridge – we started on our oysters. Marty showed us three ways to serve them – each very different.
Sadly, I’m still not a huge fan of oysters – but these three recipes are absolutely extraordinary nonetheless and any lover of oysters is going to want to give these ideas a go.
Firstly we had the watermelon and chilli granita. Secondly, Marty showed us how to make a Welsh Rarebit sauce, which is much like a mustardy mornay – and finally (and my favourite) marinated cucumber spaghetti with Avruga caviar. All these toppings wouldn’t only be useful for oysters. I could see the Welsh Rarebit served over prawns and the cooling, tangy cucumber spaghetti would have endless applications – as a side salad with something spicy would be perfect – or on top of a nicely fried piece of fish, like salmon or tuna.
One of the key things I learned about preparing oysters is that you should never rinse them, because it washes away all the great flavours of the sea. Marty said that if you want to get rid of some of the liquid – then just to dab them gently with some paper towel. He also said it was critical to buy them from a reputable fish monger and use them the same day you buy them. Fresh is best, of course.
Oysters with marinated cucumber spaghetti and Avruga caviar
1 continental cucumber
4 tbs of chardonnay wine vinegar
A pinch of salt
A Pinch of sugar
1 tsp of fresh dill
Avruga caviar to serve
Peel the cucumber and cut julienne, discarding the seeds.
Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the caviar) with the cucumber in a bowl. Cover and leave in the fridge for 1 hour to marinate.
To serve, place a teaspoon of the cucumber mix on top of each oyster and top with half a teaspoon of the caviar.
As for the next filling – Marty said this would also be great on some toasted sourdough bread. Once you taste it, you’ll realise it has many applications. I personally think it would be delicious on steak 🙂
Oysters with Welsh Rarebit Sauce
60gm of unsalted butter
75gm of plain flour
375ml of apple cider
375gm of mature cheddar cheese, grated
1 1/2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbs of dijon mustard
1 1/2 egg yolks
Sea salt and ground white pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and cook out for 1 minute.
Slowly add the cider and cook for two minutes, making a veloute (the term velouté is from the French adjectival form of velour, meaning velvety).
Remove from the heat and add the mustard, Worcestershire and egg yolks, whisking until smooth.’Add the grated cheese and whisk until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper and cool for 3 hours.
Put a teaspoon of the sauce onto each oyster – then grill under a hot grill until it is browned.
My attempt at this dish, as you can see centered in the image above, wasn’t as grilled as Marty suggests. In my defence – I was terrified of burning it and looking like a goose!
The next option is a granita. Marty said he made this because he always had lots of leftover watermelon offcuts from making another dish. Hating to throw things away, he came up with this lovely dish. I enjoyed this one the most because the granita is frozen, making the oyster beautiful and cold – as it should be.
Watermelon and Chilli Granita
- 1 litre of watermelon flesh (no peel)
- 1 tbs of soyabean chilli paste (available at Asian grocery stores)
- 1 tsp of tabasco sauce
Blend all ingredients until smooth.
Taste and correct seasoning, if required. Transfer into a tray (the liquid should be no more than 1 inch deep – using a larger tray, if required) and freeze for at least four hours or overnight.
Using a fork, scrape the froze granita so it forms a light, fine ice and transfer to a container after each scraping.
Serve a teaspoon of granita on top of each oyster.
I think this dish would be amazing on a hot summers day – so cooling and refreshing – with a hit of warmth from the chilli paste and tabasco to tickle the tastebuds.
Watching chefs cook on TV is great fun for me – but this was one of the best experiences ever. If you live in the Geelong region, jump onto the Oakdene website and find out about Marty’s masterclasses. I promise that no matter your cooking ability – you will love it.
Tomorrow I’ll share with you the great tips I learnt about cooking lobster/crayfish. I couldn’t believe how easy, yet impressive it is!
Hopefully this inspires you to go and have a cooking class – or even just get into your kitchen and have a go at something new.
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