It's been a minor break since my previous blog entry for a sad reason: I dropped my old laptop and it got very, very sick. When I say 'old' it was probably purchased less than 4 years ago but anyone who saw it pitied the machine. I used it as my plate holder, cup holder, army-grade portable table and more. It had food stains all over its screens and keys and I only rebooted it once in a blue moon so constantly had programs running. It's a wonder it survived till now. I was wondering if I should even bother with a new laptop but impulse purchasing got the better of me and today, I came home with an Apple Macbook Air.
I already owned Apple everything bar the Macbook so it sort of made sense as the next step to total Apple-dependancy. The thing that put me off was that I've been a Windows user my whole life so I didn't know how I could adjust to a new OS. It has been a struggle to say the least! I'm just grateful I have actually fiddled around enough to get a post up on my blog. The photo editing was the most challenging and as I type, I still have photos all dumped in one big folder. Sorting can wait. I couldn't figure out how to make my 'Hungry Kittens' watermark become italics but I figured that's no big deal. Maybe the straight font will freshen the look.
Alright, let's move back a week to the date of this cooking class. Jenny and I are always talking about things we should do to make our days off more productive. On this occasion, we actually committed to a "we should do this" proposal and booked the class. After looking through the variety of cooking classes there are in Brisbane (quite a few nowadays), we decided on seafood because it's something we both don't have confidence in cooking at home.
It was a rainy and miserable day last Friday but we managed to find parking in the James Street Markets quite close to the entrance of the cooking school. Technically, there is a 2 hour parking limit and the class is 3 hours but I left the car there and lived to tell the tale. Don't get mad at me if you do the same and pick up a fine.
Prawns in poaching liquid
Our class was about 17 folks large, which is a tad bigger than most cooking classes I've attended in the past. We were given a short yet necessary talk about workplace health and safety and the likes. After that, we were told to sort ourselves into groups at each of the 4 benches. Jenny and I must have moved at sloth pace because of all the people who could have been split up, it ended up being us.
Pasta sauce bubbling away
The structure of this cooking class is less guided than others I've been to, which may or may not be a good thing for you. Rather than walking you through each dish, you start by watching, as a group, an extended demo of knife skills for the various ingredients you'll be using, as well as tips on how to cut squid and clean shrimp. And then, you return to your benches and go for broke. We were given a verbal guide on which steps we should start with and there were detailed recipes for each of us at the benches.
I thought it would be uber awkward trying to teamwork with a group of strangers but it wasn't too bad. To start with, people just grabbed at ingredients they were comfortable with but as the night progressed, we put our brains together to figure out which components went where. The two head chefs were always around to help us when required.
The food prep went surprisingly quick. I spent most of the night peeling prawns, with a short stint of garlic mincing and onion chopping. I know these tasks sound a bit menial but I have a firm belief that at any educational activity I attend, if I learn just one useful thing, it's well worth it. I picked up at least a few useful tips at this class so I know I benefited.
After all the food prep, the entire class grouped together to discuss cooking of the proteins; on our night it was the prawns, mahi mahi fish and squid. Because seafood cooks rather quickly, we were soon plating up various components and carting them to the table.
We kept the same formation for dining as we did for cooking so I'm glad Jenny and I weren't long distance friends who had planned on doing this class together to catch up. As it is, we see each other often so it was fine that we were cooking and eating separately but I can imagine if a pair or group were doing this class as a date or social event, it would have been annoying to be split up.
The best part of all cooking classes is the eating! When the class starts at 6:30 and cooking takes over 2 hours, dinner is dragged out to the late end of comfortable for me. I was starving so I was very excited by the sight of all our creations. We also had our choice of red or white wine or beer. I had a bit of red and white to reward myself for the evening.
The food was plentiful and delicious. My favourites were the squid and seafood pasta.
Swordfish and prawns with penne, tomato kasaundi and lemon
I just can't get enough of pasta these days and this tomato, prawn and fish penne was right up my alley. The recipe calls for a type of tomato paste called kasaundi that I tried on its own and found very tasty. It definitely leant some depth of flavour to the dish.
Asian squid salad
The squid was nicely marinated and very tender. I've never even seen squid be prepared before so I think I learnt the most skills from this dish. I liked its accompanying salad too.
Pan-fried Mahi Mahi in bush spice
The mahi mahi steaks were a bit bland to me. I thought it needed some kind of creamy sauce. Maybe ours was a shade overcooked?
Prawns poached in coconut milk and Thai flavours
I thought the coconut-poached prawns were very easy to recreate at home and I'll be looking to give that a go in the near future.
My dinner plate
It was a fun night at James Street Cooking School. This class was less guided than others so if you don't like being told what to do every step of the way, it would suit you. Our chef teachers were really knowledgeable, enthusiastic and approachable. The dishes were easy enough to create at home but interesting enough that I learned some new tricks.