Archive for the ‘Learn’ Category

Chocolate Macarons at Essential Ingredient, Sydney

Chocolate Macarons at Essential Ingredient, Sydney

“I can’t watch”  I told my Mom, the Blog Monster.

I was teaching her to make macarons as part of my “practice run” before my first class at the Essential Ingredient in Sydney and she was piping a row of macarons.

Her piping, to put it nicely, was unique.  I had to stop myself from grabbing the piping bag and do it myself.


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Stuffed Chicken Leg with Brussels Sprouts and Speck

When I graduated  University, I was asked to speak before my  class about my experiences during my four or so years.  I still remember the message I wanted to convey.

I wanted them to know this:

Most of the lessons that we learned at university we would probably forget after a few years  but the lessons that gave us a sense of accomplishment we would take with us forever.

Back then, I simply meant that I would probably forget all my lessons in microeconomics and accounting but the fact that I knew I struggled through those courses and still managed to get top marks meant, at least to me, that if I put my mind to something, I would succeed.  No matter how hard it seemed at first.

Little did I realize that even today, I take what I said to heart.  Which is why I enjoy taking cooking lessons so much.  You could say, I am a serial “cooking lesson taker”.  I have to admit, I take my lessons seriously.  At the end of this month alone I would have attended a total of six different classes covering Italian cuisine, bread making, pastries, verrines, (flying to Melbourne for three days for that!) and a very private lesson with Peter Gilmore of Quay (but more on THAT another day!).

Logan Campbell's Dish Stuffed Duck with Broad Beans and Pecorino

My favourite lessons are inevitably the ones where I can learn something that I:

  1. would have never thought of trying if not for attending the class
  2. can take and vary to make it “my own”
  3. make over and over again

Logan Campbell, Head Chef at Lucio’s in Paddington is one of those teachers that embraces this philosophy.  I have attended two of his classes at CIRA and each time have added each of his creations to my armory of “impress your friends” dinner staples.  In fact, during the class I jokingly told him that I made his dishes so often that these were now known as “my signature dishes”!

Logan likes to teach dishes that you would be fearful to try yourself  but under his guidance you become confident and go home knowing you can do it yourself.

Logan Campbell's Prawn Salad with Artichokes and Parmesan

So far I’ve learned to (1) make pasta, (2) debone a spatchcock, (3) debone a duck leg and (4) peel an artichoke.  Pretty cool huh?  Well, this post was initially meant to show you how I adapted his recipes to make my own.  So Logan taught us how to debone a duck leg, and I deboned a chicken leg and varied the stuffing a little bit.  I also placed the chicken on a bed of brussel sprouts and speck. Again, another lesson I learned from Logan – how to enjoy brussel sprouts!

In the next day or two I’ll post the recipes for the chicken dish I made as well as the brussel sprout recipe (which is fantastic!) but in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a few pictures from the day at CIRA and a question:

When was the last time you learned something new?

Buon Appetito!  🙂

A Day at CIRA

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Butter Chicken

Butter Chicken

Ajoy Joshi is a passionate man.  He is the owner and chef of Nilgiri’s Restaurant in Sydney.  If there was anyone you’d want to learn Indian Cooking from – this is the man.

A few months ago I developed a serious addiction to Indian food.   Being a creature of habit, every other day I would insist that we have dinner at the local Indian restaurant five minutes from our house.  It came to a point that the waiters would memorize our order already.  One butter chicken, one jinga molee, garlic naan, basmati rice and two mango lassi.  One day, the waiter said to me “Wow!  You’ve become addicted to our food!” – which was true but somehow embarrassed me a little bit.

The next day, I was craving for Indian (again!) and I decided that I would ask my husband to go and get take away instead.  In that way, I would not have to see the waiter that knew my Indian food addiction.  So anyway, when my husband got home he said to me that one of the waiters said something funny to him.  “What did he say?”  I asked.

“Your wife is addicted to our food!” he replied!  There was no escaping it.   The only way to overcome this (not that it was really a problem!) was for me to learn how to cook that butter chicken!

So that’s how I found myself at Nilgiri’s on a Saturday morning with twelve other people to learn the art of chicken korma and mughlai cuisine. Mughlai cuisine I learned comes from the kitchens of  Indian aristocracy or the Moghul Emperors.

The first thing that strikes me about Chef Ajoy is how passionate he is about his cuisine.  We get a lesson on the history of Indian cuisine.  As with any cuisine, many factors including climate, availability of ingredients, natural resources etc have their influences on the regional styles of food.  For example, food from the North of India have richer sauces while the Southern states have lighter sauces.

The next thing that strikes me is how methodical he is.  In fact, his philosophy in cooking is that if you”get the procedure/process right, you reach your destination”.   He asks us to lay all the ingredients per recipe on a large tray, the first ingredient on the 12 o clock position and placing the following ingredients (in the order that they will be used) clockwise.

There are six dishes that we need to go through in about 4 hours so the class is very fast paced.  The dishes on the menu were:

Pakay Gosht Kebab – skewered lamb kebabs made with fresh herbs and garam masala
Paneer Makhani – which is paneer in “butter chicken sauce” and yes! we made our own paneer!

Making the panee.  I didn't realize it was so easy!

Making the paneer. I didn't realize it was so easy!

Murg Nawabi – which is a classic korma dish
Dal Palak – a vegetarian dish of spinach and mung lentils
Cucumber Raita
Naan Bread

Naan Bread

Naan Bread

Of course the true test to see whether a cooking class that I’ve attended has been successful is if I am able to re-create the dish we made in my own kitchen.  While we didn’t make the butter chicken in our class that I’ve become so addicted to, we did make paneer in the same sauce.  So with a bit of help from Chef Ajoy this is my Never have to go back there again butter chicken” recipe.


The first part of this recipe is making the Tandoori chicken.  The next part is the butter chicken sauce.  The process is quite an experience (ie LONG) but the results are fantastic.  I do suggest making a large batch and this recipe is suitable for freezing.  Freeze the butter chicken in individual portions and defrost as necessary.

  • 1 kilo chicken thigh fillets (no skin)
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar or lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup coriander seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick, about 2 inches long, broken into small pieces
  • 5 brown cardamon pods
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 3 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt (he uses Dairy Farmers brand)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • salt to taste
  1. Cut the chicken fillets into quarters.  In a glass bowl, combine the chicken with the vinegar/lemon juice.  Set aside.
  2. In a spice grinder, grind the coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardamon, and cloves to a powder.  Place in a bowl and combine with turmeric, chili powder, paprika, nutmeg, mace, yogurt, garlic, giner, and oil and mix well.  Season with salt and add the chicken.  Mix well and cover.  Place in the refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.
  3. Preheat the over to 240C and in a shallow roasting pan, place the chicken pieces in a single layer.  Bake for 12 to 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and set aside.


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil and melted butter combined
  • 1 kilo brown onions (about 6 medium), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons crushed garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh green or red chili
  • 1 kilo tomatoes, chopped, and pureed in a blender or food processor
  • 2/3 cup cream (150 ml)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 teaspoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves
  • 1/3 cup chopped coriander
  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil and butter over a medium-low heat.  Add the onions and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, uncovered stirring occasionally until onions are dark golden brown.  This will take around 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for around 2 minutes.  Add the chili powder, turmeric, and chili pepper and cook for 1 minute.  Add the tomatoes and cook, uncovered stirring often, until tomatoes are soft, around 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cream and butter to the pan and cook, stirring until the butter melts.  Stir in the chicken, honey, fenugreek and cook, stirring often until chicken is cooked through.
  4. Stir in the coriander and serve.


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Rolled Spatchcock with Brussel Sprouts

CIRA – The Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia hosts a number of cooking classes.   I was fortunate enough to attend this class (taught by Logan Campbell from Lucio’s restaurant).  A previous post talked about the Eggplant Ravioli we made.  The second dish we made was a rolled spatchcock and brussel sprouts.  Deboning a spatchcock is not easy, especially when you are doing it for the first time.  I don’t even think I can begin to go through the process but I am sure that the internet contains a number of videos you can google to show you how it’s done.  Otherwise, a number of good butchers will do this for you.

The benefit of this technique is that the spatchcock remains moist all throughout your cooking and is flavoured with the butter and rosemary.  Amazing dish and relatively simple (except for the deboning part)

The idea is pretty simple.



Spatchcock – one per person or if using chicken, half a chicken per person

Butter – around 20 grams per person


Salt and pepper to taste

Debone the spatchcock (if you can’t find spatchcock, use a chicken instead) and lay it on a board.

Deboned Spatchcock

Next add some butter, salt and pepper and rosemary on the flesh side and wrap in cling wrap to form a log and then wrap in aluminium foil.

Rosemary, butter, salt and pepper

Steam (or simmer) for some time (the spatchcock took me around 17 minutes).  Rest.  Before serving fry with some olive oil to crisp up the skin.

Steamed chicken

For the brussel sprouts


Brussel Sprouts



Speck, diced

Pan fry the speck until crispy, add the brussel sprouts and saute until cooked.

To serve, lay out the brussel sprouts and top with a portion of the rolled spatchcock.

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The Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia offers cooking lessons on a regular basis. The classes are held at Casa Barilla in Annandale and many of them are hands on. I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a number of classes, these are conducted by the who’s who of Australia’s Italian cooking world.

Attending a class is almost as good as eating in anyone of the restaurants from where the chefs are associated with.

The first lesson I attended was a hands on class with James Kidman from Otto Restaurant where we learned the secrets to making a great rissotto. The second class I went to was taught by Armando Percuoco from Buon Ricordo. Signore Percuoco is one of the most amiable and down to earth people I have ever met. His class was entitled Cucina Povera (Peasant Cooking or humble food) where he shared pragmatic yet very delicious recipes.

Two weekends ago I managed to drag my husband to CIRA once again for a class with Logan Campell, head chef at Lucio’s in Paddington. My husband had never cooked a meal in his LIFE prior to the class so it was interesting to see how he would react to this whole new experience. I am happy to report that he LOVED it! Absolutely loved the experience.

The class was entitled “Logan’s Ligurian Experience”. The hands on class featured two dishes, Eggplant Ravioli and a Rolled Spatchcock. Both were amazingly easy to prepare (yes, even deboning the spatchcock) and can be recreated at home.

I’ve written down the eggplant ravioli recipe and hope you’ll enjoy it!

Pasta Ingredients
300 grams plain flour
3 large eggs
pinch of salt

Filling Ingredients (you will probably have leftover filling depending on how you fill your pasta)
1 large eggplant, diced
1/2 bunch picked thyme
100 grams diced taleggio cheese (I used Mauri Taleggio)
50 grams parmesan cheese
1 egg
1/4 bunch chopped parsley
salt and pepper

To Serve
125 grams butter
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
A few sprigs of parsley

Pour flour onto benchtop and make a well in the centre.
Place the salt and add the eggs into the well and incorporate until the dough forms
Knead for 5 minutes and rest covered for 1 hour

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and let stand 20 minutes
Rinse off the salt and drain
Saute the eggplant in a little olive oil, add thyme and cook until eggplant is browned
Allow to cool and then mix the eggplant with the cheeses, egg and parsley
Season with salt and pepper

Using a pasta machine roll out the dough until a thin sheet is formed. Brush with egg wash and place some the ravioli mix along the sheet 3 centimeters apart.

Roll another sheet and place on top of the first, pressing down around the mix to remove any air pockets.

Using cutters, cut the ravioli out removing excess dough around each one.

Place on a floured tray and cover.
Brint a pot of water to the boil.
Melkt the butter in a large frying pan
Blanch ravioli for 3 minutes
When butter is brown and foaming, add the pasta, balsamic vinegar and walnuts.
Garnish with chopped parsley
Toss and serve.

That’s not the end of it!

This weekend I invited a few guests to try out the pasta… here are a few shots of my version of the eggplant ravioli.

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