Set in leafy surrounds on the fringe of Stirling in the picturesque Adelaide Hills, Sticky Rice Cooking School has long been running hands-on cooking classes teaching their visitors how to create restaurant quality dishes. Thanks to the generosity of Electrolux, we were able to experience some of this as we got to take part in a ‘back to basics’ masterclass with Electrolux Ambassador’s Massimo Mele (Catering by Massimo, Salt Meats Cheese) and Stewart Wesson (Flinders Street Project, Whistle & Flute, Port Admiral Hotel).
Zucchini dip with freshly made focacciaNow I don’t know about you, but taking control of a bunch of people of unknown and varying skill levels, who have never spent time in a kitchen together – let alone an entirely foreign kitchen – may seem like a recipe for disaster. Personally I feel pretty handy in this realm, but even so, the idea of preparing food for so many people, under the watchful gaze of two of Australia’s most accomplished chefs, this certainly ups the stakes a bit. However we were in very sure hands so my fears were completely unfounded. Even better than this – the end results were truly outstanding.
Perusing what was to come….After the initial greetings and introductions to the chefs, with some delicious nibbles and a glass of wine to break the ice (and calm any nerves), we headed into the kitchen where we were broken into teams to begin the prep. I found myself on ‘team carrot’, tasked with putting together ‘Mumma Maria’s Pickled Carrots’. A seemingly simple recipe that sits in the pantry of Massimo’s family home at all times, we hoped to do this justice. Looking at those down the prep table dealing with whole John Dory, or working on the ingredients for the crispy thai eggplant, we definitely felt like we had the easier of the tasks.
This didn’t remain the case though, as we got through our prep and then stepped into assisting in other areas. It just flowed – there was no real standing around and watching, as there were always different things to be assisting with. The staff at Sticky Rice helped keep the kitchen in a good state of order and tidiness, while Massimo and Stewart were guiding us around the tasks like a well-trained border collie herding their flock of sheep. Ok, so that may seem a little out-of-place, but I was at a country show on the weekend, so you will have to forgive me.
Getting back to basics with cooking definitely did not mean sacrificing flavour or quality. There were still big and bold flavours on show here – just the techniques being employed were not going to be daunting for anyone that can tell the pointy end of a knife from the bit you should be holding. Stewart and Massimo are patient and skilled tutors, and fantastic ambassadors for Electrolux to have in their ranks. The recipes they brought with them to the table were approachable and easily repeatable in a home setting – although I have to say I would love to be investing in a new Electrolux steam oven. A bit big to just sneak out with me….and I think they might notice it missing….
What this all highlighted was something that I try and adopt myself – take some quality ingredients, treat them with respect, and the results can be spectacular. Even something as simple as pickled carrots, which with all due respect is never going to be a headline act, is absolutely delicious. Paired with the right foods, and this simple accompaniment lifts a dinner to even greater heights. The crispy Thai eggplant, full of flavours that we are well familiar with in our own home cooking, was absolutely brilliant and will be adopted into our repertoire immediately. Preparing and cooking whole fish, an idea I have always kept my distance from, suddenly becomes something I will be absolutely doing at home (although with a vegetarian wife, maybe not that often). Fresh honeycomb I have thought about making before but never got to doing, however this box has already been ticked.
Testing the fishEven beyond this though, what I enjoyed most about the afternoon, was immersing in the universal truth that dining really does bring people together. We all got involved in different aspects of the dishes, stepping in and helping out where required. Sure, these were not our recipes, but this was our food that we created. Over a couple of glasses of wine, looking up and down the tables, there was a palpable sense of pride at the dishes that we had prepared. This was great food we had helped make, and now we were enjoying the fruits of our collective labour. Strangers a few short hours before, we were now connected by the simple and daily act of constructing and consuming a meal.
Mammas pickled carrots (left) and the crispy thai eggplant (right)Leaving a little while later, it was definitely a bittersweet thing. It was a fantastic experience we had all taken part in, and we felt very lucky to have been part of it. However there was also disappointment it was over. We had walked into the relative unknown with some trepidation, yet come out with smiling faces, fully belly’s and a reinvigorated sense of culinary adventure. And this, valued readers, is the real gift that we received from Sticky Rice, Electrolux, Stewart, Massimo – and each other.
John Dory with chorizo, olives, wine and herbsSticky Rice Cooking School and Villas is located at 96 Old Mount Barker Road, Stirling. You can read all about their upcoming classes, and details on their accommodation, on their website.
Electrolux have a large range of home appliances, which you can see the details of here.