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Cooking Class: Entertaining - Spanish Style!

My chef buddy - whom I've known for years, and whose name I'm going to have to tell you now, since he's deigned to join Twitter, finally - gave a cooking class in Cremorne last week and kindly invited me and my bestie to partake.

Chefs Shane Kenny and Mark Favaloro

Mark Favaloro (Twitter handle @ChefFluffy... don't ask) and his sidekick, Shane Kenny (@Shane_Kenny987), met whilst working at the original MoVida, where Shane still holds the fort. Mark now heads up the kitchen at Naked In The Sky on Brunswick Street, and has maintained a strong interest in (and talent for) Spanish cooking.

Mark chopping stuff really impressively quickly

Our menu/recipe booklets

Hence, the theme of this class was "Entertaining - Spanish Style!" and, for a fee, was open to members of the public. Along with other foodies and food appreciators, we were treated to a hands-on demonstration, and (thankfully) the consumption of several tapas dishes and a calamari paella.

Eurostore Australia (17a Palmer Parade, Cremorne) was the venue: a foodies' haven hidden away in an industrial street a few doors south of the Cherry Tree Hotel. Despite working nearby, I wasn't aware of its existence, but am not surprised it has survived four years since its inception.

Retail showroom

Temperature-regulated cheese room

Predominantly a wholesale supplier of European-sourced gourmet foods, Eurostore is the brainchild of Stefano and Sarah Angelini, and includes a temperature-controlled cheese room, retail showroom, and  kitchen (sponsored by Fisher & Paykel and Mint Kitchen Group) for the cooking class arm of the business, called The Providore's Table.

Owner Stefano Angelini

On arrival, we were very decently offered a glass of wine, encouraged to try sample some of the wares, and given time to generally roam around, meet-and-greet, and have a sticky-beak.

We were then each handed an apron with YUM printed across the front, and ushered into the kitchen area, where Stef gave a short introductory speech and we nibbled on pork crackle chicharons (which, incidentally, are kind of like bacon-flavoured Chinese prawn crackers). The class had begun.

Mark and Shane gave a rundown of their culinary backgrounds whilst prepping food on the main bench. They explained what they were doing as they were doing it, and there was a very casual, friendly atmosphere, so questions were encouraged and always answered. Early on in the piece, calamari was being cleaned and cut, and attendees jumped at the chance to get involved.

Calamari cleaning demonstration

Is this right?

Getting squishy with calamari

For much of the night, the central bench was surrounded by participants asking questions, having a try themselves, or merely nabbing a closer look. Some people even took notes!

In the meantime, Stef kept us well topped up.

Shane showed us how to properly roll the fridge-set bechamel-and-mash mixture into circular or egg shapes to form croquettes. (Interestingly, the cheese in the bechamel is the agent that keeps the sauce together and prevents it from splitting.)

And Mark described how it's best to keep "one dry hand, one wet hand" when crumbing the croquettes. Poetry in motion.

(1) Dust in flour...

(2) Dip in egg wash...

(3) Roll in breadcrumbs.

Even Stef had a go! (He loved it.)

Due to the many hands/one broth, the croquettes came out a little uneven, but were delicious.

Leek and manchego croquettes

Meanwhile, the paella was simmering away on the stovetop. We learned that you should try to only use Calasparra rice for a paella (much the same as how you'd use Arborio for a risotto) - if not Calasparra, then a short-grain rice. It cooks in about 20 minutes in the paella pan, with 600 grams of rice to two litres of water or stock (fish or chicken).

While the rice was cooking, the calamari was seared and then gently boiled in stock and squid ink until it had softened (about 20-25 minutes). Apparently real squid ink is ink-onsistent (mwahahaaa!), so pre-packaged squid ink was used instead, to ensure consistency in colour and texture.

Cooking calamari with squid ink

Looks DELICIOUS! Can we eat it yet?

Next were the anchovy and feta stuffed zucchini flowers. Up close, Mark carefully showed us how to remove the inner stem and which parts of the flower to trim off. Again, participants gladly had a go.

Fresh zucchini flowers

Zucchini flower preparation

Ready for cooking

Contrary to their recipe, the boys actually used goats cheese to stuff the zucchini flowers (the type of cheese doesn't need to be strictly enforced), which made them rich and creamy when cooked, beautifully set off by the salty anchovy. These were probably my favourite dish of the night.

Ta-da! Finished and about to be demolished.

After that, things got a little blurry. It may have been the lovely European wine, or all the people and the flurry of activity, but I seemed to completely miss the preparation of the roast beef with green sauce and pickled chillies. When it came out, it absolutely melted in my mouth.

Finally, the calamari and squid ink paella was ready, so Mark whipped up a green salad with fennel, orange and radish, and we all got to enjoy the caramel-y and charred salty flavours of the paella.

Excitedly dishing up

What a tosser

Calamari and squid ink paella with fennel, orange and radish salad

I was relieved that we didn't have to contribute to making dessert; by that point I don't know how useful I'd have been anyway. So we watched admiringly while the experts sliced up some brioche to make what was essentially a french toast, and served it up with fresh figs, peaches and vanilla ice-cream.

Shane slicing the brioche

Plating up dessert

Three words every woman wants to hear, "Dessert is served!"

Fried brioche with seasonal fresh fruits and vanilla ice-cream

The evening had been a success. Several excellent recipes had been demonstrated and sampled, with appropriate questions asked along the way and the opportunity to get in there and get one's hands dirty. By the end of the night, many of the participants were chatting away like old friends. As my friend pointed out, it was so good to see everyone's clear passion for food and their enthusiasm to learn. I think that may well have been what brought everyone together. Along with the teachers and their food, of course.

Thanks to Mark, Shane, Stef and participants for a great evening.

If you are interested in attending a class at The Providore's Table, go here.

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