This story was originally written for a publication - although it has yet to be published in print, I didn't think there would be any harm in sharing it with my readers. Obviously a story like this takes a bit more effort than the usual blog post, so I wanted to thank a couple of friends for the editing and encouragement you have given me. You know who you are.
Due to personal reasons, I've had to take a little break from blogging. Hopefully I will be back soon, but wanted to share a few tidbits with you in the mean time.
What’s a frustrated amateur cook to do when they want to insert a little Maggie Beerness into their lives?! Head to a cooking class, of course! If you’ve found yourself getting caught up in Australia’s food revolution, want to sharpen your skills and love the idea of whipping up some delicious food – a cooking class is the order of the day. And with that, this little frustrated cook is going Greek.
Tonight’s 3 hour Greek cooking class is held at Taste Trekkers Cooking School. The school is temporarily located in a rented house, while the original cooking studio and home of owner, Sally Lynch, is rebuilt after being destroyed in the recent Brisbane floods.
Along with eight other participants, I arrive after work on a Tuesday evening to find long tables set with chopping boards and a myriad of other kitchen essentials. As wine and ouzo are served, differences in age and experience disappear and one thing becomes clear – a shared love of food and a hankering to know more about everything Greek.
Sinking into mismatched chairs and stools throughout the open plan kitchen, Sally takes the opportunity to brief the class. ‘Tonight is all about simple food. Using good but accessible ingredients and learning how to cook food that you will be able to re-create at home.’ Sal’s experience of 20 years in the industry specialising in everything from cooking classes, to catering, cafes and foodie treks mean she is unbelievably knowledgeable and has the magic touch to help the class relax.
Pre pep-talk the large number of dishes on the agenda may have seemed a little overwhelming, but with a little bit of direction and a lot of encouragement, the class splits into two groups and gets cooking.
First we brown off some pork collar to pop into the pressure cooker with crushed tomato, cinnamon sticks, risoni and a touch of feta at the last minute. Traditionally this pork is called Hirino Youvetsi, and we’re eagerly waiting for it to cook, because the earthy, homey smells wafting around the room are sending our stomachs crazy. Next we move onto some dolmades.
Turning mountains of meat, rice, herbs and leaves into tightly wrapped green parcels takes a bit of perfecting, but once our table discovers the secret (don’t pack in too much filling) our efforts end up looking pretty profesh. The eggy lemon sauce gives an authentically rich touch and perhaps, puts these babies in contention for the most popular dish of the evening.
Our concentration is periodically broken by the BBQ on the verandah wafting delicious aromas our way- slowly charred lamb marinated in garlic, sage, feta, lemon and rosemary; meltingly tender. Tonight’s surprise standout is the yoghurt bread - made simply with Greek yoghurt and self raising flour, mine topped with chopped kalamata olives, sea salt and rosemary. Hulp hulp.
Beautiful dishes finally finish cooking and it has become clear we have transitioned from a bunch of unsure amateurs, into a group of more confident cooks. At the evening’s end we sit together to enjoy a feast fit for Zeus. Equipped with some simple Greek recipes and experience under my belt, the only thing left to do is perfect the accompanying line to family and friends. Does “just an old recipe I hadn’t used in years” or “something I threw together with what I had in the pantry” sound better?
Cooking School:Taste Trekkers
Greek Mezze cooking Class - $135
Class duration: 3 hours
What we cooked: Melitzanosalata dip, Herb Labna with Olive oil (demo), Yoghurt Bread, Stuffed peppers with feta. Whitebait fritters (demo), Dolmades with meat & rice, Greek Lamb & Lemon Hollandaise (demo), Smashed Potatoes, Selinosalata (parsleyy Salad), Hirino Youvetsi, Baklava Cigars with walnuts and chocolate, figs and mascapone