MoVida Cooking Class at Sydney Seafood School and a Recipe for Patatas Alinadas con Caballa

Back in 2013, my father-in-law generously gifted K and I a gift voucher to Sydney Seafood School for Christmas. He had attended a cooking class there with Giovanni Pilu earlier that year and enjoyed it so much that he wanted to give us the same experience. After inexplicably sitting on the voucher for nearly eleven months without redeeming it, we finally realised that we needed to book something quickly before the voucher expired!

Luckily, we were able to book ourselves into a seafood masterclass with Frank Camorra of MoVida fame, right on the weekend before Christmas. What luck!

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Scheduled to run from 12-3pm, K and I made the decision to get to the Fish Markets early and have a quick bite to eat downstairs in the market before heading upstairs to the Seafood School. It was a good idea on our part, and I strongly urge others to consider doing the same. By the time you finish watching the demonstration, get around to cooking the same dishes yourself, and finally plate up and sit down and eat, it’ll be well into mid-afternoon and your blood sugar levels will have dropped dramatically! Fortify yourself before you go into a class!

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The classes are extremely well organised. Around four kitchen assistants are around to help facilitate the guest chef’s time in the demonstration kitchen, clearing away dirty dishes, preparing ingredients, and basically doing all the dirty work on the kitchen that is much less exciting than doing the actual cooking itself.

For our class, Frank demonstrated the cooking of a number of home-style Spanish dishes. There was no fiddling around with the beautiful tapas style dishes that characterise the menu at his MoVida restaurants – this was all simple, hearty, home-style cooking just like Mama used to make.

  • Bunuelos de Bacalao (Salt Cod Fritters)
  • Chocos Amarilla (Cuttlefish in Saffron Sauce)
  • Patatas Alinadas con Caballa (Warm Potato Salad with Mackerel)
  • Atun Encebollado (Tuna Cooked in Onion & Sherry Sauce)
  • Gambas con Habichuelas (Prawns with White Beans)

All dishes were inspired from the travels that he undertook in Andalusia while writing his latest cookbook – MoVida Solera.

There were a few laughs along the way as Frank and the kitchen assistants bantered about ingredient quantities (they halved the ingredients in some recipes and not others, which made for some confusion!), and Frank regaled the class with tales from his travels, and the inspiration for all the recipes. It was a lesson not only in food preparation, but also in food culture.

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Once Frank finished his demonstration, we entered the large kitchen workshop. It’s a remarkable space with multiple work areas and room enough for sixty people, with six people to each work station. We chose a workstation and introduced ourselves to our kitchen companions for the next hour – a couple there celebrating a birthday, and a mother and son duo.

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Each group of six was expected to tackle all five dishes that we had seen Frank make earlier. K and I put our hands up to do the Bunuelos de Bacalao and the Patatas Alinadas con Caballa – which, I’m not too modest to say, were the two standout dishes when it came time to sit down and try what we had made! The batter I made for the salt cod fritters was even praised by Frank Camorra itself as being really light, which made for fluffier fritters after deep-frying!

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Parts of each recipe had been started for us already – the Gambas con Habichuelas for example required that the stock simmer for nearly an hour beforehand. The kitchen assistants really think of everything!

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Posing for the cameras…unfortunately the opportunity to take a photo with Frank passed us by as every time he walked past our work station, our hands were busy stirring a pot or de-veining prawns!

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When it came time to dish up and place everything we had made on the table, we were simply astounded with the amount of food we had managed to make between the six of us in only an hour! It was a real feast, and we all ended up taking leftovers home to enjoy for dinner that night.

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I loaded up my plate with a bit of everything – the fritters and the potato salad were definitely highlights for me, but I also enjoyed the Atun Encebollado as something with quite a sweet and subtle flavour. It’s the dish that you could have on its own with some crusty bread and be perfectly satisfied!

Our experience at the Sydney Seafood School was simply spectacular – I would go back in a heartbeat and learn from other inspirational chefs like Frank Camorra at any time. In fact, I’m eyeing an upcoming class with Guillaume Brahimi in April…

And to finish off, the recipe for the potato salad, probably the easiest recipe of the day that will take you barely any time at all to prep and cook!

Patatas Alinadas con Caballa (Warm Potato Salad with Mackerel)

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Nicola potatoes, scrubbed
  • Salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 60ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 1x 300g piece Spanish mackerel fillet, skin off, pin-boned
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chipped
  • 2 teaspoons salt flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives

Method:

  1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan, cover with water and add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 35 minutes, until potatoes are cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a frying pan, add a drizzle of oil and add mackerel. Sprinkle well with salt and pepper and pan-fry for 2-3 minutes each side until cooked through. Remove from pan and set aside at room temperature.
  3. Drain cooked potatoes and set aside until cool enough to handle, then peel while still warm and place in a bowl.
  4. Add onion, garlic, olive oil and salt while potatoes are warm, and crush with a fork until potatoes have broken down into small-medium chunks.
  5. Layer potatoes onto a serving plate, break mackerel into pieces, lay over the top, drizzle over a little extra virgin olive oil and serve.

This is a really simple and filling salad that would work well as a side dish for a larger dinner party!

Paratha Masterclass With Sarojini

Have you ever had a colleague that you simply click with right from the very start? My colleague Sarojini is one of those for me. Originally from the south of India, she spent her teenage years in Brazil, and university years in Canberra before settling in Sydney with her husband and starting work at JDRF. I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that we’re quite close – we eat lunch together most days, went to the opera and the Beyonce concert together, and do hang out outside of work with our partners as well.

As a vegetarian with other food intolerances, Sarojini’s food choices can be quite limited when she dines out – and so she makes up for it by being a better than average home cook. After months of ogling her home-made chapatis and curries, I finally went over to her apartment a few months ago to learn how to make flatbreads.

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Her amazing collection of spices definitely beats my mishmash of supermarket-bought spices sitting in a spice rack. Her two spice containers were purchased in India, however I’m told that it’s possible to find these in Sydney as well in specialist Indian grocery stores. It’s definitely on my shopping list!

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We start our masterclass with learning how to make simple chapatis using a 50/50 mix of atta flour and water. It’s very hands-on, and within twenty seconds of kneading, we have a solid ball of dough that’s ready to be rolled out.

Tip from Sarojini – the atta flour that you can buy in Woolworths and Coles isn’t very authentic. Atta flour is best purchased directly from Indian grocery stores, however it can be harder to find it in quantities smaller than the standard 5kg bag.

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Take a large pinch of the dough (vary the quantity depending how large you want your chapati to be) and roll it out with a rolling pin. Sarojini has a small marble platform specifically for rolling out flatbreads, but you can do this on any clean flat and level surface.

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Heat up a non-stick pan on high heat. The pan in the photo (available for purchase from good Indian grocery stores!) is specifically designed for flatbreads and so has no edges, however you can just use any flat pan. Put a chapati on once it reaches high heat, and spread a tiny dab of ghee on one side.

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Flip the chapati when it starts to change colour, and spread ghee on the other side. The chapati should start to puff up and darken on both sides. It should be completely cooked within a minute, so keep a close eye on it!

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We moved on then to making parathas, with aloo paratha (potato paratha) as our first choice. After boiling and draining some peeled and sliced potatoes, add in a generous amount of chopped coriander and various spices such as cumin and paprika. Mix thoroughly with one hand until all the ingredients are integrated.

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Using a similar atta flour dough, take a large ball of dough and roll it out, keeping the dough quite thick. Place an amount of the potato mixture into the centre of the rolled out dough, and bring the edges of the dough up until you recreate a ball of dough, with the potato mixture in the middle.

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Taking great care roll out this ball of dough, making sure that no holes appear and release the potato mixture. You cook this in the same way as the chapatis with a small amount of ghee on either side. Just keep in mind that you do need to cook it for longer given that it is much thicker and includes other ingredients as well.

And of course – after spending nearly an hour making chapatis and parathas and a daal as well, I completely forgot to take a photo of all the dishes on the table! You’ll have to take my word that it was all extremely delicious, and I’ve now added spice containers and a flat non stick pan to my shopping list.

Review: Salvatore Pizza Class and How To Make Your Own Pizza Base From Scratch

Truth be told, K is probably the more obsessive foodie in this relationship. While I’m fairly laid-back and more pragmatic about food origins, he spends a lot of time thinking about how to make things from scratch from organic materials. It’s the difference between my choosing to run down to the shops to buy a loaf of pre-sliced white sandwich bread, while he’ll spend days researching the best no-knead bread recipe that requires a three day resting period for the dough and an intricate ten-step baking process.

With this in mind, I bought K a gift certificate to a pizza making class for his birthday, indulging his need to learn how to male everything from scratch. We attended the three-hour Salvatore Pizza Class with a dozen other couples, armed with a healthy appetite and a willingness to get our hands dirty!

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The Sicilian host Salvatore has a particularly sardonic type of humour, and very obviously takes his pizza seriously. He regales us with facts not just about the history of pizza making, but hard, scientific facts about the dough-making process. He goes into detail about the exact chemical reaction that happens when you use certain types of yeast, and the components of different types of flour, precisely the type of information that the knowledge-hungry K just drinks in!

I won’t go into detail about what we did in the class. Essentially, we just got our hands dirty as we made our own dough and enjoyed a pizza meal together. I really enjoyed the class, and do recommend it for those who feel passionate about making all their meals from scratch. Learning how to make a good dough is a good life skill to have, and you get to reap the benefits of much more authentic pizza at home! To book your spot in a class, visit Salvatore’s website.

Since attending the class, K and I have made pizzas a few times. We’ve even experimented with using the same base recipe, but using sweet toppings for a dessert pizza – a winning combination! Take it from me, the below recipe is good for both savoury and sweet pizzas.

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Salvatore is very passionate about making sure that all his students are comfortable with the process of making pizza, stressing the fact that the quantities of ingredients you use to make pizza dough are never exact, and that you have to rely on your sense of touch to really understand how much to use and when to use it. He advocates for playing it by ear, adding flour and water as needed throughout the process.

With that in mind, please take the ingredients and the method listed below with a grain of salt – use it as a guide, but find a recipe that works for you as an individual!

Ingredients

500g flour, 300ml water, 15g salt, 10g sugar, 10g fresh yeast (or 7g dried yeast), 15g extra virgin olive oil

Method

Mixing Your Ingredients

  1. Dissolve the yeast in 30 ml of water, and add the sugar and set aside.
  2. Place the flour on the bench and make a well.
  3. Add salt, olive oil, and the remaining water.
  4. Mix gently, incorporating a little flour at a time until creamy.
  5. Add yeast mix and the remaining flour while working in the excess dough stuck on the bench.
  6. Assemble the mix into a ball shape.

Kneading the Dough

  1. Dust the bench with flour & place the dough on top.
  2. Fold the dough in half towards you and kneed by using the palm of your hand.
  3. With the other hand, rotate the dough anti-clockwise.
  4. Repeat this process until the dough is smooth and elastic.
  5. Cover it with cling wrap and let it rest for about 10 minutes.

Preparing the Dough

  1. Cut the dough obtained in 4 portions and repeat the kneading process.
  2. Roll them up into round shapes and place them in a lidded container.
  3. Seal and keep refridgerated for at least 24 hours.
  4. Prior to use, allow 1 hour outside the fridge before stretching into shape.

Stretching the Dough and Making Pizza

  1. Preheat the oven at maximum temperature (280c on conventional ovens).
  2. Brush a baking tray with some plain or herb infused extra virgin olive oil.
  3. Place a portion of dough on the tray and gently stretch it all the way to the edges of the tray.
  4. Pinch pizza base with a fork and add your favourite toppings.
  5. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

You can also blind bake the pizza bases for future use without any toppings by cooking the stretched out pizza base in the hot oven for about half a minute before removing it, wrapping it in cling wrap, and freezing it. A frozen pizza base should keep for about two months, so you can very easily bake a dozen pizza bases in one night and set yourself up for the next few weeks!

Tell me – do you make your own pizza bases? Are you like K and prefer making everything from scratch?