Spice Bazaar Cooking School, 79 Victoria St, Seddon: Phone: 9687 2659
We’re at Spice Bazaar in Seddon for a Saturday cooking class and we’re both pretty excited about that.
Today’s subject, mezze and tapas, is not one perhaps that would’ve been our first choice, given Jill and Patrick cover such things as Moroccan, African, Persian, Greek, South American, French and Italian food.
But it turns out for the best – the recipes we cook are mostly simple with a twist of complexity here and there.
The food they help us and our fellow classmates prepare all has something of a “wow” factor, with only a single dish falling a little short. And even that tastes real fine – it just doesn’t have the desired “look”.
We met Jill and few weeks previously when we pressed our noses against the Spice Bazaar windows as a class was in progress.
She came out for a chat and a deal was done – a cooking class for the Consider The Sauce crew in exchange for a story and photos (full disclosure below).
But now it’s show time!
Having discussed the subject the previous night, Bennie and I place our ourselves in different groups – basing our decision on the same reasoning that dictates it’s usually not a good idea to have parents teaching their kids how to drive.
So he’s in with Mick, Steve and John, who gain an extra helping hand from Jill.
I’m with Luke, Zoe, Deb and Viv.
The pace is so intense that we barely get to know our fellow classmates, but working side by side so companionably with these food-digging strangers is undoubtedly a high point of our day.
Another for sure is working in a big kitchen in which there is a never-ending supply of knives, bowls and gadgets, with a plastic tub nearby in which to toss items needing cleaning.
We start with the entrees.
Bottled green olives have their pepper stuffing removed using toothpicks before they’re re-stuffed with two mixes – one of onion, seasonings and marchengo cheese; and another of onion, seasonings and anchovies. It’s fiddly work but fun.
Then the olives are coated in flour, dipped in beaten egg, coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried.
This is my first experience with deep-frying, and I’m surprised how easy it is.
Prawn fritters are made using chick pea flour, paprika, a little chilli, fresh coriander.
These are shallow-fried using olive oil, and they, too, come together really well.
Patrick has already boiled a couple of octopi.
Our two groups marinate those suckers with olive oil, garlic, sherry vinegar and smoked paprika before they’re flash-fried for a few minutes.
Then it’s break time – and time to eat what we have so far prepared.
Wine bottles are opened as we dig in.
The prawn fritters are sensational, have a great chilli kick and are more than a little familiar – the besan flour is what we get ordering onion bahji and pakoras when we go Indian.
The fried green olives are salty, crisp, ungreasy and superb – the equal for sure of similar olives we have on occasion ordered in eating houses.
The marintaed baby octopus fails to delight either of us. It’s well done but we find it just too oily and rich, perhaps because of the sherry vinegar. Maybe we should’ve immediately reached for some lemon segments.
By this time I’m feeling like a nap, but there’s no scope for malingering here.
We’re on to the main courses, two of which hardly pass as mezze or tapas. But who cares?
Two salads … one of orange, fennel and black olives; another of roast red capsicum, anchovies and capers.
Then there’s tagine of chicken cooked with pomegranate molasses and a spice mix called ras el hanout.
For me, the most fun is preparing the paella using whiting, mussels, prawns, saffron, other seasonings and (of course!) rice.
I have eaten plenty of paella previously – but not, I suspect, particularly good paella.
This Spice Bazaar paella experience is so engrossing and gratifying that I’m keen to have a crack at home. After all, I know I can turn out fine jambalayas.
As with jambalaya, the arborio rise we use in our paellas doesn’t need constant stirring in the risotto manner.
And our group certainly achieves the prized crusty, crunchy bottom layer of rice sticking to the paella pan.
Just before sitting once more at the dining table, we all help prepare the blackened Portuguese tarts, pouring the real-deal custard we’d prepared earlier into puff pastry shells.
Then we’re once more we’re eaters rather than cookers.
Bennie loves the chicken tagine most, but I find it a little too sweet for my taste.
The paella is easily the best I’ve ever eaten – delicious!
Though perhaps a couple of our classmates with hands-on Spanish paella experiences to boast of may not rate it so highly.
I am so full I only manage a nibble of both salads, but all our food looks and tastes fine.
As we await our tarts, Patrick and Jill regale us with some humourous stories of classes past.
Hens parties during which many bottles of bubbly were consumed before the cooking even started.
A pyromaniac with a gleam in his eye giving over-the-top blow-torch treatment to a cream brulee – and then complaining about his cream brulee being burnt.
And so on …
Finally it’s tart time … sadly, due to vagaries of oven temperatures, these don’t look the part.
But, oh my, they certainly TASTE the part.
We leave happy, very full and a little on the exhausted side, fully reckoning a Spice Bazaar cooking class is as much fun as you can have in four hours.
The class has been skillfully well-paced and between them Jill and Patrick really inspire their pupils.
Check out the Spice Bazaar website for details about classes and various other activities offered by Spice Bazaar.
On Saturday, March 2, they will hold an open day from noon to 3pm to coincide with Seddon Festival – drop in for “a look at the cooking school, have a chat, or enjoy a tapas plate for $7, and wines by the glass”.
Bennie and Kenny were non-paying guests of Spice Bazaar, who provided us access to one of their cooking classes in exchange for coverage on Consider The Sauce. Spice Bazaar neither sought nor was given any say regarding the content of this post.