Friday, 13 July 2018

Cooking Class, Big Birthdays And Blood

What does the average food blogger do on their birthday?  Cook of course!  My oldest (I mean most long-term) friend came up for a mutual birthday visit recently.  Where did we go?  Down to my fave part of the world - yep, you guessed it - Northern Rivers, just over the Queensland border.  And what did we do?  We went to a cooking class with the marvellous Belinda Jeffery.  She always seemed like a lovely person when she was on telly, and she is just as fabulous in person.    

this is what we cooked 

The classes are held in the Federal Hall, next to the old church, now used for occasional weddings and for the general community.  They only allow 12 weddings per year, so that it is really a communal space, rather than a commercial one.  I can proudly say that I donated a wee bit of money to help keep this Hall in the hands of the townspeople a few years ago.   

jalapeño peppers with pancetta

There were 6 of us in the class, all cooking different dishes to make up the whole menu.  Because my mate Lady M is 99% vegan, we got to make the vego dishes.  So not this one clearly:=)  This was delicious, with the salty pancetta, the soft goat's cheese and the hot chillies.

Imam Bayildi

This is eggplant stuffed with a tomato-ey, herby filling.  You slit the outer skin so it looks like pyjamas, apparently.  I have a bit of a blackout about the cooking on this day.  But I'm pretty sure Lady M did most of our share!  I know I seemed to be endlessly chopping garlic for every recipe.  And I can't remember eating this dish either.  Must have been the blood loss:=).  I bet it tasted great, though.

almond skordalia

Skordalia is a Greek dip, usually made with potato.  Here we made an almond version, which is fed with lots of olive oil so it becomes a smooth, creamy mayo consistency.  Let's be honest, Lady M made this one too.  But I chopped the garlic!

eggplant, ginger and sesame dip

This was a delicious, smoky dip that went beautifully with the focaccia.  And it looked so pretty with those blissfully blue borage flowers.

caramelised fennel tart

Fennel was in season so it starred in this tart.  Beautifully glossy fennel over a layer of buttery pastry.  And though it looks amazing, it is easy to make - the pastry is whizzed together in the processor, then the veg. is covered with it, and it all goes into the oven in the same pan.

cream poured all over the focaccia

Yep, I know it sounds weird but there was heaps of cream poured all over this beautiful focaccia dough.  It poured over the side, and seemed kinda crazy but oh my, it was soooo delicious.  And yes that's another bloody finger you can see there wrapped in band-aids.  (Not mine.) 

lovely ladies showing off their beautiful baked bread 

Belinda photo-bombed this one:=)  Glorious, fresh focaccia just out of the oven.  Crispy crust with a soft inside.  I'm not a bread lover usually, but this was delicious.

rhubarb with a hazelnut crumble

This looked very pretty in the glass, and I really enjoyed the cardamom yoghurt on top.  Rhubarb? - mmm not so sure I'm a fan, but it was beautifully fresh.

beautiful rustic table

What a lovely day in a perfect setting.  Shame about the bloody finger:)  There were 3 of us who managed to hack away at our fingers in this class.  But I was so impressed with the knife, that I ordered one when I got home.  I know, I'm just a glutton for punishment.

marvellous Mick

This is Mick, who along with Clive, Belinda's husband, help the classes run so smoothly.  I wish I had one of each of them in my kitchen:=)  Dirty dishes whisked away, everything you need laid out for you, a quick bash of the garlic cloves as they pass by...  Sorry Clive, I missed getting your photo.  

I have been to quite a few cooking classes in my time, and this was one of the best.  I loved the organisation and the calm atmosphere.  (I have been to some chaotic ones in the past, so I appreciate the difference.)  I loved that we were instructed with such kindness; and helped by the fellas with such humour and consideration.

How joyful it was to sit down at the end of the day, and eat together.  Three husbands turned up at the end, and they too were included in the fun - and given something lovely to eat!  This class is a real must if you are ever in the area, with a free day.  I've gotta get me to another session :=).

Lady M. working hard

Here she is, turning those eggplants into slitty pyjamas.  Still not sure what pyjamas have to do with stuffed eggplants, but they're meant to look like they're wearing striped pyjamas...  Yep I know, it's a mystery to me too.

many hands make light work

And just because I love this photo, I'm whacking it in at the end of this post.  You can see Belinda's hands along with a couple of the ladies ready to have a go at the dough.  It felt so wonderful under your hands - soft and springy and alive.

a parting gift - Belinda's handmade marmalade 

blood and gore and a sharp knife - artwork by sherryspickings


  1. I love Belinda Jeffery, I have lots of her books. Glad to hear you had a great day. Glenda

    1. thanks glenda. we did indeed have a fabulous day in spite of the blood and gore :) cheers sherry

  2. Great write up - love the photos!

  3. I'm fascinated by the cream on the focaccia! Sounds like an excellent birthday.

    1. it was a wonderful birthday lorraine! the cream on the focaccia turns it into the most incredibly delicious bread. it caramelises on the bottom and just tastes like heaven. cheers S x

  4. It looks like you had a great day and made some delicious food, collateral damage to fingers aside. I like the fact that you said it was calm because I have done plenty of chaotic classes.

    1. oh i'm so interested about the classes you went to. wonder if they were the same place i went to?:) You'd think a cooking teacher would have more sense! cheers sherry

  5. My sister used to love watching belinda jeffreys but I never watched her a lot but she does have some great recipes. I am impressed just how much of the food is veg on the menu - I am wary about doing cooking classes as a vegetarian so this is heartening - though I usually don't have the time or money to do them either! Sounds like you had a bloody great time (pun intended). Was fun to read about it.

    1. hi johanna
      belinda very kindly thought up a menu that would suit my vegan friend. i think normally she would have had more meat:) it was a fab day. cheers S

  6. What fun! And such lovely food. Happy Birthday, although probably belated!

    1. thanks muchly mimi. my birthday was a few weeks ago now. can hardly believe it has sped by already. cheers sherry


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