Monday, 1 July 2013

Flavours of the Valley, Kangaroo Valley

For Christmas last year I gave my partner gift certificates to an Italian cooking class in Kangaroo Valley. I know I know, it's one of those presents where I get in on it as well but I saw it as an opportunity for us to have a lovely weekend getaway and a fun road trip somewhere neither of us have been!

Kangaroo Valley is a two hour drive from Sydney, of course a bit longer if you're making pitstops and rest breaks. It's great to have country towns only two hours away as it means you can quickly get away from the hustle and bustle. 

View from cottage
The view was exceptional, it was great breathing in the crisp air and lovely weather before we got down to business. We were amongst couples, so I knew I wasn't the only one conning the other half to participate! 

Kitchen workspace

A lovely home and cooking class workspace! Big enough for everyone to get together and learn how to make quick and easy pasta, and also to split up and work in pairs. Our host and chef, Toni, informed us that we were going to make pasta together but each couple would then be assigned to cook various components of our three course meal then we would all come together to plate up and eat at the table. I thought it was a systematic way of organising the class but unfortunately we didn't get to choose what element of the menu we wanted to cook! 

Pasta machines
We have made pasta a couple of times back home but it was great learning new tips and tricks! Working directly on the wooden table was great fun as the pasta dough was much more manageable and cleaning up was easy. 

My first tortellini!
Handmade tortellinis

I loved handcrafting the pumpkin tortellinis! I love working with my hands and the experience of making tortellini was very therapeutic. The perfectionist in me wanted to make sure every dumpling was flawless!

We also made trofie pasta which surprisingly required a bit of skill and patience. By the time I got my hands cleaned from the pasta dough and got the camera to take photos they were already set aside to be cooked.  
Dining table
After all the cooking was done and the utensils cleaned we all sat down and enjoyed the food! We told each other which component of the menu we cooked, sharing tips of the trade and foodie experiences.

Creamed leek, ricotta and tomato tartlets with warm caponata salad and garlic bread
My partner and I were in charge of making the warm caponata salad and we did not disappoint the others! Each vegetable, eggplant, capsicum and mushrooms, was cooked till soft yet firm. It's very satisfying when others like your food! Toni added some finishing touches such as the ricotta she made earlier and it worked well with the veg. The garlic bread was nice and crisp. The creamed leek, ricotta and tomato tartlets complemented the salad nicely. The leek was cooked before it was put into the tartlets so they were sweet and soft. The tartlet had a crispy outside and a creamy centre, tasting like a mini quiche. But the balsamic was definitely necessary to tie all the elements together and give it more flavour.      

Pumpkin tortellini with butter cream sauce and parmesan crisps
Fresh pasta is definitely one of my favourite things to eat and making it yourself gives the entire eating experience delicious as well as rewarding! I was very excited to eat the pumpkin tortellinis and they were very silky yet al dente. The roasted pumpkin filling was very sweet so when we made it at home a few weeks later, we made a burnt butter sauce instead so the slight bitterness could cut through the sweetness. The parmesan crisps were great as a salty kick to the dish. 

Trofie with pea puree and toasted pine nuts 
I actually liked this pasta more than the tortellini because it was fresh and light yet the pine nuts gave it great earthiness. I love that the trofie pasta were all different lengths and shapes which made it very homemade. When you're eating at home, rustic is the best and freshly made pasta is impressive enough! The lemon juice, pea puree and pea shoots made it more like a pasta salad and I would have enjoyed it warm or cold!  

Cannoli with raspberry & white chocolate and toffee pistachio fillings
When we were assigned to cook the caponata salad I was slightly disappointed because I really wanted to make the dessert - cannolis! They were so light that you could hardly feel guilty eating them (just don't read the ingredients). There were two flavour fillings, toffee pistachio and raspberry white chocolate. The toffee filling was quite sweet but deliciously addictive. The raspberry white chocolate was a great contrast as the berries were slightly sour. 

After we had all finished the three-course meal, Toni and her husband Robert offered coffees and teas for the table. Robert sneakily brought out the piping bags that had the two cannoli fillings and were offering us to finish it off. My partner and I couldn't resist and did something a little embarrassing; piping the filling onto our plates and eating it with our coffee! But then again it was so good, there was no need to be embarrassed! Everyone else started piping it onto their plates after we made the first move! 

I highly recommend couples, families and friends going to a cooking class together! It's great fun to make a bit of a mess, meet other foodies and eat your accomplishments! It will also inspire you to take what you've learnt, cook at home and show off your cooking skills at dinner parties. Whether it's going to the Kangaroo Valley or somewhere closer to home, it's a good gift to give someone, especially for those who have everything! 

Flavours of the Valley
4465 2010

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