I had sampled the beautiful product from Raging River at a Wagyu Degustation Dinner hosted by Opal Cove in Coffs Harbour. The beef defies description; it has a rich melt in the mouth, buttery texture and is full of flavour. The opportunity to attend a class at Cooking With Company, and learn how to cook this product properly was the ultimate treat for someone like me, who appreciates beautiful quality food, cooked to perfection.
Cooking With Company is located near Port Macquarie, 13km West of Wauchope. The school is set on a magnificent 8.2 hectare farm, with sweeping views over the valley and bushland. The citrus tree lined drive way leads you through the property and up to the kitchen. The majority of fresh produce we will be using in the class today has come fresh from the farm.
When I arrived I was greeted by Lyn Withers, the owner of the cooking school, and dedicated food lover. Lyn has been supplying restaurants with organic produce from the farm for many years, and is passionate about using fresh, quality, local product. The school has grown out of this passion, and her love of teaching people to prepare and appreciate good food in a variety of styles.
Lyn showed me through to a professionally styled kitchen. It was complete with industrial coolroom, commercial appliances and burners, but still with a lovely homey kitchen feel. The eight participants for today’s slow cooking workshop were already assembled in the kitchen ready to begin.
Lyn introduced us to our chef for the day, the Head Chef from Cassegrain Wines, Lisa Ryan. I have dined at Cassegrain many times and the menu choices have always been absolutely delicious. This was a real honour, to be taught by the chef responsible for some of the great meals I have had whilst in the area. I had high expectations for this class, and I am already very impressed.
We were given our recipe booklet which included the days’ menu. As I ran through the list of dishes we would be preparing I was quite excited about the selection. All the dishes were completely different, so we will be learning alot of different techniques and sampling many different flavours.
Wagyu Carpaccio with 3 Citrus Aioli & Smoked Tomato
Grilled Wagyu, Hot & Sour Salad
Chocolate Tart with Preserved Tangelo
It is a day for surprises for me and I find that Sue from “About Food” is also a hosting the day. I had been hearing good things about her business and the quality of the fresh produce she stocks. It had been my intention to visit the store whilst I was in Port Macquarie so I was pleased to finally meet her.
Lisa started by giving us a quick lesson in pastry making as we commenced with the Chocolate Tart. We learnt the correct technique to roll a pastry, and how to fix any cracks. The group is jovial as we concentrate on what we are being shown, there is a bit of good natured ribbing amongst the ladies and friendly banter.
An hour into the lesson and we have baked the tart shell, and it is resting in the fridge ready for a chocolately filling. We have marinated the Wagyu for the Thai Beef Salad.
Next the meat gets seared on the grill and the put into the oven to continue the cooking process.
The salad leaves have been plated up ready for the Wagyu, and the eggplant sliced. The hot and sour dressing has been made, and all that needs to be completed before lunch is to cook and slice the Wagyu.
We were given a lesson on trimming the Wagyu fillet. Then we divided the meat into two portions for two Beef Wellington.
The next lesson was a quick talk on the technique behind smoking foods. Lisa explained how she had smoked the tomatoes in paper bark for the Tomato Relish. Lisa has already shared so many tips and techniques, and we are in complete awe of her knife skills.
We have begun to work up and appetite so we move onto preparing the appetiser. Lisa demonstrates how to cut paper thin slivers off a fillet of seared Wagyu for the Carpaccio.
The delicate slices of rare beef are arranged on a serving platter with the smoked tomato, and a citrus aioli made from the fruit off the farm.
We sampled the Carpaccio and the flavours were huge. It was the ideal appetizer for me, simple and fresh. The delicate Wagyu was perfect with the smokey tomato, and the creamy citrus aioli finished the flavour nicely. Lisa suggested using the smokey tomato relish on oysters or even homemade hamburgers. This is definitely a technique I will be looking forward to trying at home.
Back to work, and we set about pounding turmeric, ginger and garlic in a mortar and pestle for our curry. This dish is of particular interest to me, I love curries but they never taste right when I make them.
As we are preparing the spices and cooking them off in coconut oil I start to get an understanding of what I have been doing wrong. It is not one particular mistake, but a series of incorrect techniques and ingredients. The aroma in the kitchen is divine when the beef is added to the spice paste. The remaining ingredients are added to the curry and the dish is allowed to simmer.
We move onto the filling for the Chocolate Tart. The ingredients are placed over a double boiler to melt and combine. We are using specific brands of chocolate with the appropriate cocoa content to ensure the finished tart has a lovely chocolate flavour and beautiful consistency.
The chocolate filling is added to the tart shell, and there is much discussion over who gets to lick the bowl when we are finished.
We are all having fun, joking and giggling like a bunch of girls. Although most of us have not met previously, the group is chatting as if we were all old friends.
Next we tackled the Beef Wellington. After seeing the contestants on MasterChef attempt this dish I’d decided it would not be a dish I would probably ever try. It looked absolutely delicious, but it did seem to be a lot of work with a big chance of failure. I was concerned my meat would be completely uncooked when I sliced the finished dish, or that my mushroom filling would make the pastry soggy. I am really pleased this dish is on the menu today. I not only have opportunity to attempt the dish with supervision, but we are using the best cut of Wagyu, so it will be the ultimate Beef Wellington.
Lisa explains correct way to seal meat. We all watch as she demonstrates sealing each surface of the Wagyu fillet to ensure we have no juice escaping from our pastry once the dish is complete.
Lisa stepped us through the frying off of the onion and mushroom, and getting the right consistency and seasoning. She explains how to avoid the possible problems of soggy pastry.
We are making two Beef Wellingtons, one will be medium rare and the other cooked a little more, for the ladies who prefer it served in this manner. Lisa takes the mystery out knowing what will be rare, medium or well done inside the pastry. We are all a lot more confident of our skill in cooking the meat to perfection.
The chocolate tart is removed from the oven, and the whole group takes a big deep breath in to get the full sweet aroma. Mmm, there is a little bit of discussion on who can be trusted to stand next to the tart while the rest of the dishes are completed.
Our attention is turned back to the Beef Wellingtons. We probe the meat with a thermometre to test, and find we are ready to eat. All the dishes are completed and plated up. I have been really impressed by Lisa’s ability to demystify some of the cooking techniques and her patience in explaining the use of more specialised ingredients, and cooking styles. I am surprised that we have been able to complete quite a lot of dishes in a relatively small amount of time, and now there is a sumptuous banquet ready for us all to enjoy. Lyn is busy pouring red and white wine from Cassegrain Wines, and we are also offered fruit juice from the farm trees.
Everyone takes a seat at the dining room table to enjoy the beautiful dishes that have been created. The conversations are all about how much we’ve learnt today, our favourite dish, and which will be the first meal we try at home for the family. Some of the ladies are also sampling dishes they have not tried previously.
We all agree that the day is all about having fun with food, learning new techniques and creating dishes you wouldn’t otherwise attempt at home. The cooking class has taken everyone skills and interest in cooking to a new level. I have met a great group of people who all have a similar interest in food and enjoyed a fantastic day cooking, laughing and eating.
In the background as I am writing, the aroma of the Beef Randang has completely filled the air, just as it had in the cooking class. The smell is sweet, spicy and deliciously rich. My dear husband requested that I put my lessons into practice, so I have chosen the Beef Rendang to prepare for dinner tonight. It is simmering away nicely, I have tasted the dish and the flavour is exactly right.
Thank you so much to everyone from Cooking With Company I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at the farm and participating in the Slow Cooking Class.