When Carole told me she was coming, she asked if there was a cooking school close to where I lived. “Mom wants to send us to cooking school,” she wrote.
My sister took care of my mother every day in very trying conditions. When mom died there was a small inheritance and I insisted that Carole take my share as well. She did the job I couldn’t have done and it was the right thing for me to do. She saved some of that money so mom could send us to cooking school. Isn’t that clever? We had the BEST day.
We’ve got several cooking schools in our area but there are a few top ones that I’ve been dying to go to. Last year at the Real Food Festival I watched chef Cameron Matthews cook and I was mesmerized. He took that food to a different level after showing us all how to trim a full sirloin and cut it into steaks. He says it’s much cheaper to do that then buy steak by the piece and you get better beef.
Cameron is the executive chef at The Long Apron Restaurant and Cooking School at the Spicers Clovelly Estate in Montville in the hinterland of the Sunshine Coast. He’s a talented chef, he’s immensely funny and he’s very serious about using top quality local food. He’s also not impressed by food bloggers who are celebrities with no food training at all. I love it when people tell us honestly how they feel, especially when they explain their reasoning.
He said chefs with years of experience who’ve done all the hard work to learn their craft, be inventive and consistent get an ordinary payday after working really long hours. Along comes a blogger who goes on one of the cooking shows and becomes an instant success earning squillions of dollars – and it hurts. ‘They don’t have to learn traditional techniques, food safety, kitchen management or anything else and they’re stars while those of us who’ve really put the work in go virtually unrecognised.’
When he said it like that and seeing all his fantastic food, I could understand the frustration he felt.
The class was all Italian and the first thing we made was panna cotta. I’d eaten it before but I’d never made it. It’s very easy to make and only a few ingredients are required. I followed the directions but I didn’t cool the mixture long enough before pouring it in the moulds. That’s why you see the vanilla seeds on the top. If you chill the panna cotta before pouring it into the moulds, the seeds will stay in suspension.
Whatever – it was fantastic! I gave John a bite from my first fail. I unmoulded two of them too soon and they collapsed. He thought the panna cotta was “all right.” All right means really good. That’s the best it gets around here.
Then for dessert I gave him another (fully set) and when he was finished he said, “Do we have any more?” He ate another! Remember, John doesn’t like dessert but this panna cotta isn’t too sweet, very vanilla-ey, perfectly wibbly wobbly (technical term) and the texture reminds me of something you’d make for the gods. Seriously. It’s creamier than cream. If that’s possible.
Cameron told us to buy plastic dariole moulds because they’re easier to squeeze and unmould. You have to order them from a restaurant supply company and mine haven’t arrived. I wanted something red white and blue for the 4th of July so I used rice measuring cups and some small plastic storage containers. My mother always told me, “Make do or do without,” and these made do.
This photo was taken by our friend Martin Duncan at the Noosa Food and Wine Festival “drinks after the show”. Yes, Cameron is that tall and yes, I’m that short. I can’t remember what I was laughing so hard about but it wasn’t that the beer was resting on my head!
- 330 ml milk
- 470 ml cream
- 120 grams icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
- 3 sheets of gelatine, bloomed
- 2 vanilla beans (or you could use vanilla bean paste)
- Lightly brush dariole moulds with an unflavoured oil.
- Soak gelatine sheets in a bowl of ice water until soft.
- Split and scrape vanilla beans into the milk and heat to warm, 80C / 175F
- Take off heat and let the beans infuse into the milk for 30 minutes.
- Remove beans and stir in sugar.
- Squeeze gelatine sheets and add to milk and stir well.
- Add cream and stir mixture over ice until cool so vanilla seeds stay in suspension rather than falling to the bottom (like mine did)
- When mixture begins to set up, pour into oiled dariole moulds and place in refrigerator for several hours.
- To unmould, lightly press the side of the panna cotta and it will come away from the side of the mould. Turn it out onto a serving dish.
- Garnish with fruit, coulis or anything else you like.
Carole left this morning, leaving behind her granddaughter’s violin. All sorted and it’s on its way to the states too. I felt a bit sad all day for the 4th of July so I made this red white and blue panna cotta to remind me of where I come from even though it’s an Italian dessert and my heritage is French. heh