Wednesday, 4 July 2012

LG Kitchen School @ South Melbourne Market

Stall 90, Cecil Street, South
Melbourne Market

Recent Australian culinary trends haven’t been kind to the humble potato. Currently my Gen Y compatriots are more likely to dish up quinoa, freekah, polenta or couscous than a delicious creamy mash. The spud has become the enemy of the low carb dieter; the tracksuit pants of the vegetables, you’ll always turn to it for comfort but just not in front of your friends.
Perhaps the hunt for the latest trendy ingredient has created somewhat of an abyss of cooking skills regarding more traditional produce and many may be ignorant regarding just how good the potato can be. Last week I was very fortunate to be a guest at the LG Kitchen at the South Melbourne Market for a class on “Spud Heaven – Amazing Tasmanian seasonal potatoes; star of every dish” presented by Georgie Dragwidge of Georgie’s Harvest (remember her here) and chef Emma Mackay.

The LG Kitchen class is a good balance of a little hands on time and a lot of sampling of the dishes!  Our class of ten consisted of a mix of dedicated spud lovers, a couple of bloggers and a former Masterchef contestant. And unlike some cooking classes I’ve been to, this time I learnt a lot of useful things. The best tips I learnt included:

·    Always buy unwashed potatoes – the commercial washing process involves nasty detergents;
·    Boil your potatoes with their skins on, or else the flavour will leech out and your spud will become waterlogged;
·    If you have to rest cut potatoes before use, put them in cold water or they will discolour like apples;
·    Puree any soups containing potatoes if you wish to thicken the soup;
·    When cooking something in a French style, use white onions rather than brown; and
·    If you’re cooking anything with tomatoes, add brown sugar to the tomatoes to bring out the sweetness and reduce acidity.


Energetic Emma

LG screen gave you a bird's eye view of the action!
Check out the bowls of the different types of potatoes at the
top of the screen.

The basic key to spud success is choosing the correct variety for your purpose. Some are great for a creamy mash, some for roasting, some for a gratin, others are best for chips. For example, why mash your Kipfler when it is so much better roasted? And, if you don't know what you are going to cook, buy the Nicola potato - she's the best all rounder.

Our Tasmanian potato lesson plan consisted of: 

·     Seafood Chowder (Pink Eye potatoes)
·     Nicoise Salad (Pink Fir Apple potatoes)
·     Gnocchi Napoli (Blue Zhar and Viking potatoes)
·     Lamb Moussaka (Nicola potatoes)
·     Georgie’s Yia Yia’s skordalia (Blue Zhar potatoes)

Seafood Chowder

Nicoise Salad served with Emma's Tuna Cake
and Yia Yia's Skordalia

Many of the delicious potato varieties we used are hard to find and are definitely not going to be at your local supermarket, so pop down to Georgie’s Harvest at the South Melbourne Market for a visit and quiz her for the perfect potato for your dish.

Georgie's Yia Yia's Skordalia, Blue Zhar potatoes,
garlic and olive oil all from Georgie's Harvest

The food was absolutely delicious, and the gigantic portions cried out for over-indulgence. Aside from the fantastic food, a great aspect of the class was the interaction between class members both with each other and with Georgie and Emma. The class is a great way to meet with other like-minded "foodies", so don't be afraid to attend without your plus-one. In fact, it's hard to think of many ways this class could be improved, other than perhaps making the recipe notes a little more detailed, as some of the tips were not included in the notes.

After experiencing just how good gnocchi can be, I decided to try out my newly acquired skills. Emma and Georgie had taught me that hot potatoes are the key to good gnocchi; if the temperature is not above 70°C the starch in the potato will set. Also buy a potato ricer, it makes the process a lot quicker and means you don't burn your hands trying to mash the hot potato. I paired my gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce with Tasmanian Huon Valley mushrooms (also from Georgie's Harvest) and Pork Chorizo from T.O.Ms. I’m pleased to report my guests found that the results were delicious!

Gnocchi, my way.

I had a fantastic evening at the LG Kitchen cooking school, and as you can see from the photo above I've subsequently enjoyed recreating gnocchi at home. Perhaps rather than looking for the latest 'it' ingredient, we shouldn't lose sight of looking to create more with what we have at hand and sharpening our knowledge of, and cooking skills, using produce from our backyards.

Check out the very tempting class schedule here.  Upcoming classes feature topics as diverse as the celebration of truffles, Japanese fusion, inspirational dishes of Vietnam with Geoff Lindsay from Dandelion and a Spanish evening with Josep Espuga (who has worked in Mugaritz in San Sebastian - currently San Pellegrino's No.3 restaurant in the world!).  I'll be booking in fast!

1 comment:

Bonhal said...

The class sounds fabulous! As the guest who was lucky enough to enjoy your home-cooked gnocchi, I am pleased to report that it was absolutely delicious. There's nothing quite like fresh produce. Plus, you made the gnocchi-making process look so easy! I want to try this at home as well.