There I was with my weekend all planned when I saw a post on Facebook from Freestyle Escape about a cancellation they’d had for their nose to tail cooking class to be held on Sunday from 10 to 3. Freestyle Escape in the hinterland on the Sunshine Coast has a wonderful reputation for great cooking classes and when they said they were offering a free ticket I instantly put my hand up.
I wasn’t first but I congratulated the winner and went on to do other things and then I noticed a message from Freestyle that said something like, “oh what the heck, come on along, Maureen.” (I paraphrased that a lot.)
My vegetarian friends were all “Ewww” or “Gross” but my carnivore friends were all “Yummy” and “Terrific.” I cook meat and I eat meat and I do my best to buy from my butcher who sources humanely produced and slaughtered animals. I’d never watched the butchering process before so I was eager to go.
Armed with my tablet for Facebook and Twitter posting and my camera, I headed for Freestyle. When I tell you “you’re going bush” to get there it’s no exagerration. Windy roads, dirt roads, steep roads are all a part of the journey to get to breathtaking views from the mountain to the ocean.
I was greeted by Martin who introduced me to Peter Wolfe, the chef and qualified butcher who would be presenting the class and Sally Lynch, owner of Taste Trekkers, a cooking school and food travel host who was Peter’s assistant for the day.
Peter and his wife Shauna own Cedar Creek Farm Bush Foods and produce a range of gourmet sauces, jams and chutneys made from Australian fruit, herbs and spices. They also manufacture food products in their commercial kitchen for private businesses.
Martin Duncan is the dessert king of Australia. I didn’t know this until last year when I mentioned on Facebook that I was headed to Brisbane for a photography class. A woman in Seattle said, “Brisbane? You MUST go to Freestyle Tout in Fortitude Valley.” I think I said to myself, “uh huh.”
Then she emailed me and said she’d just arrived home from Brisbane and she was adamant that I visit and then tell her what I thought. Long story short, I went. I fell in love. Look at that photo – the dessert I got was this one and it looked exactly like that. This is no McDonald’s photo – every dessert looks this good. He’s known across Australia for serving only the best and you can’t be around him without smiling because he’s got tremendous energy and charm.
Martin opened Freestyle Escape on the Sunshine Coast where he offers cooking classes, art classes and wonderful holiday accomodation. One of their stand-alone cottages even has an outdoor bathtub!
It was great to meet Sally after following her on Twitter and finally putting a real face to the personality. She’s a hoot and anyone wanting to go on a taste trek anywhere in the world should visit her site. I’d love to go on her upcoming trip to France.
The group of people I was with were a lot of fun. One woman has a business that makes ladies clothing from mens’ shirts (see above – isn’t that cute???). One owns a magazine. One works for the tourism board. One does the school kitchen garden scheme for Stephanie Alexander — so you see I was with some snazzy folks.
Introductions over, I’ll get to the meat of the story. Yes, I know, horrible pun. First we took a trip up the hill to the veggie patch and orchard. Martin shared his love of fresh produce and what he grew in the garden. The view from the top all the way to the ocean is spectacular.
The class started with fetching the pig from the cool room and hanging it from a hook like you see in the movies. I’ve never been up close and personal with a dead animal that I could eat before and I wasn’t sure how I’d react. When Peter told us how the animal had been raised (think happy pigs) and slaughtered, I had no problem making friends with Hector. No, he didn’t have a name but I thought he should so I gave him one.
First the head comes off and then the tail and then the pig is split in two and half goes in the cool room while the other gets butchered. All along the way Peter told us not only how to do things but the why behind it and what tools to use. No commercial bandsaws in this class as he wanted to use tools that we’d have at home.. knives and cleavers.
Once the meat had been cut, the shoulders and other sausage bits went into the mincer. If you’re making sausage the meat has to be cold, so Peter tossed in some ice cubes to both chill the meat and add moisture to the sausage.
Trust me, when I next make sausage, I’m using the ice trick. He has an ancient hand crank sausage stuffer machine and Ben Southall, the guy that won the best job in the world, got the job of threading the sausage casings (intestines) on the machine.
Sally made the best pork and macadamia sate spring rolls and everyone got a chance to roll them. This is Ben and his wife Sophee mastering the art of rolling a spring roll. The recipe is below and they were SO good.
We had pork belly served on bamboo salad rolled in a betel leaf.
Vietnamese sausage cooked in a banana leaf. If you heat the banana leaf before cutting it becomes flexible and won’t break apart.
There were also sticky trotters, roast pork with feijoa chutney, roast veggies, banana flower salad, strawberry eucalyptus crème with native berry compote and roast feijoas (shown above). Seriously and we didn’t finish cooking the entire menu. It was quite warm and I think we weren’t helping enough so the morcilla (Spanish blood pudding) didn’t get done.
It was a fantastic day and one I could cheerfully repeat.
- 500 grams coarsely minced pork sautèed in macadamia oil
- 1 packet of spring roll wrappers
- Macadamia oil for frying
- 300 grams mixed finely sliced vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, green beans or bean sprouts
- 15 grams fresh ginger
- 15 grams fresh galangal
- 15 grams fresh turmeric
- 15 grams fresh garlic
- 1 small onion
- 2 tbs macadamia oil
- 30 grams macadamia nuts
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp pepper
- Salt to taste
- Soy sauce to taste
- ½ can coconut milk
- Finely blend or grind in a mortar, macadamia oil, ginger, galangal, turmeric, garlic, onion and macadamia nuts.
- Cook over low heat until aromatic and then add spices. Cook for a few minutes until you have a thick paste and then add half a can of coconut cream and half a can of water.
- Reduce until you have a thick sauce and season with soy, salt and more chilli if you prefer very spicy food.
- Add pork and simmer.
- In a separate pan or wok sautè the vegetables and add to the sauce and pork.
- Heat together for 2 minutes and place in the refrigerator to cool. The mixture should be coated with sauce and not soggy and sitting in a puddle.
- When the mixture has cooled, separate the spring roll wrappers. Place the same amount of mixture in each wrapper, roll into a cylinder and seal the ends with a paste of flour and water or use egg white.
- Allow to rest for one hour
- Heat the macadamia oil in a wok to 190C/375F
- Place one in the center of the pan and cook 30 seconds and flip for another 30 seconds and then move to the sides of the wok before adding another.
- Fry until golden brown
- Eat while hot.
My thanks to Martin, Peter and Sally as well as Tom who tended the fire and sat next to me at lunch. I can’t forget what my friend Max Porter (the Prince of Duckness) told me when I announced on Facebook that I was going. “You are in for a treat.” He wasn’t wrong.
Disclaimer: I attended this class courtesy of Freestyle Escape.