Cook Like A Local
An Interactive Cooking Experience With Sense of Taste
So, ahem, cooking … not something I really do or know lots about. I make fantastic scrambled eggs and I’m pretty good at baking. That’s about it. The other day after a week of research I made chicken a la king for the first time. In my life. I was so excited I called my dad and everything. He wasn’t as excited. Neither was my sister, telling me it’s the easiest thing in the world. Ah well. I still patted myself on the back and am super proud of myself. So, it’s fair to assume that any foodie event that actually involves cooking would be a bit of a challenge for me. But as I love a challenge and love learning things, an interactive experience with Chef Sue-Ann Allen and Chef Peter Ayub at the Sense of Taste Cooking School sounded just about right to me.
Chef Sue-Ann and Chef Peter have come together to create a ‘Cook like a Local’ interactive cooking and dining experience, consisting of cooking demonstrations, loads of useful info, and a South-African-inspired four-course menu, which you (partly) get to cook and plate! A bunch of us lucky foodies and assorted plus ones got to experience the very first one.
Experiencing The Sense of Taste Chef School
As mentioned, I know very little about cooking and kitchens, so luckily I had the foresight to take my friend Leon along. Now, Leon loves cooking and I figured that is just who I needed for moral support and dousing any fires I may create. Thank goodness I didn’t have to worry about the second part, cause Sense of Taste made sure there were loads of chefs-in-training available on the night to make sure people like me are not a danger.
When we arrived at the Sense of Taste Chef School in Maitland, we were warmly greeted by Chefs Sue-Ann Allen, Peter and Debbie Ayub, and Byron Thebus. We were further welcomed by a delicious gin cocktail and had a bit of a look around the Sense of Taste Chef School. There was a beautifully set long communal table with the night’s menu, cooking stations set up for each of us, and, of course, the cooking demonstration station.
After catching up with fellow foodies and taking a million photos, the evening officially began! Chef Sue-Ann, Chef Peter, and Chef Byron introduced themselves and the courses they would demonstrate and which we, in part, would cook, plate, and then, of course, eat. The chefs-in-training would assist us where needed and make sure the wine was always flowing.
Boschendal and Bellingham are the official wines for the ‘Cook Like A Local’ experience and each course is paired with a wine. And, because Chef Peter loves beer, Windhoek Beer is also there. Also worth mentioning is that Oryx Salt supplies the awesome aprons for every guest to wear and later take home. Oh, and a super cute travel salt and pepper set too! Whoohoo!
Making West Coast Mussels with Roti
The first course – West Coast black mussels, Cape Malay curry, charred corn, leek, foraged chickweed with roti – was presented by Chef Sue-Ann. First things first, she showed us how to make rotis from scratch. Flour, oil, water and some salt, mixed by hand, rolled up, cut, and a few steps I have completely missed because I was trying to take action photos of her.
Chef Byron then showed us how to cook the roti. And off we went to our stations to make our own. From earlier posts you may remember my struggle with aprons, but I’m happy to report that the Oryx one is super easy to put on … or that I am just getting better at it. Don’t judge. Remember, I don’t usually cook.
Leon and I had a roti to make and he took over the cooking while I snapped away. Once he had cooked it to a beautiful golden hue, I took over the crumpling of the hot roti by hand to make sure it stays soft and malleable. Nifty little thing we had just learned!
Back to the demonstration station we went so Chef Sue-Ann could demonstrate the rest of the first course. We learned how to make the curry from scratch with handy tips on where to get spices, fresh mussels, etc. Chef Sue-Ann also showed us how she would plate this dish – and it looked divine.
After getting some super yummy Boschendal Sauvignon Blanc, we went back to our cooking station to attempt what Chef Sue-Ann had just shown us. Luckily a few things had already been prepared for us, otherwise we would have spent the entire night on this one course. Leon was already several steps into making his starter, but I was still having words with the induction plate. Luckily a chef-in-training saw my ordeal and stepped in to help. Into the pot went my sauce and mussels. And then I plated it all with charred corn, baby corn, roasted leek and super cute chickweed. I thought it looked pretty awesome and turns out it was pretty yummy too!
I think the good thing about Sense of Taste preparing a few of the ingredients beforehand is that by the time you get to cooking it, there is not too much you can do wrong and you are pretty much guaranteed a delicious meal. And if I can, you most definitely can.
Next up was the kudu carpaccio with peppered strawberry salad, balsamic mayo, lime, and olive oil. Chef Peter showed us how to make kudu carpaccio by peppering and tightly wrapping it in cling wrap. Of course he showed us how to make the rest of the dish too, thank goodness. And back to our stations we went. A vacuum packed portion of kudu carpaccio waited for us, as did the micro greens and strawberries.
This dish was easy and fun to put together, especially for someone like me. Put carpaccio on plate, make peppered strawberry salad with microgreens, add to plate, splash of lime, a sprinkle of olive oil and, in my case, a squiggle of balsamic mayo. Note to self: Squiggles of mayo look funny, don’t do that again.
Squiggle or no, the balsamic mayo was absolutely delicious, as was the rest of the course. We paired this with some Boschendal Chardonnay Pinot Noir. Now with Chardonnays being my favourite wine at the moment and Pinot Noir being my favourite colour, how could this wine be anything but perfect? And it really was!
The Story of Pork
Next up was the Story of Pork, our third course, consisting of trotter bone marrow tomato bredie, sous vide pork cheek, biltong dusted braaied pork fillet, and a rich apricot pork jus. Chef Peter demonstrated how to make the trotter bredie, then explained that pork cheek was one of his favourite cuts, and gave us tips on where to buy it (and meat in general). The pork fillet was generously dusted with biltong powder and spices, braaied for a little, and then popped into the oven to finish.
Grabbing some wine, this time the 2015 Boschendal Pinotage, Leon and I got to work spicing and braaing our fillets, which we then also popped into the oven. I’m a super visual person, and I must say the idea of a pork cheek got to me a little, but I still bravely cooked it in the pan, whilst the chefs-in-training kept an eye on me. When it was almost done, I added some sugar snaps and mushrooms as Chef Peter had demonstrated. I was starting to feel a lot more confident with my little induction plate, and although it still scares me, I did manage to successfully cook on it! So yay!
Next step was the plating. A dollop of pea puree, sliced fillet and cheek, peas and mushrooms, a marrow bone filled with the bredie and topped with a grilled tomato, and a drizzle of apricot pork jus completed this step.
And the next step was to eat. Now, as mentioned, I’m a visual person and I struggle a bit with eating ‘stranger’ things. So I struggled with the pork cheek and trotter bredie. I know it is better to eat all of the animal. And I truly believe that is what we should all be doing. But I am still very much a work in progress …
To end the interactive experience, it was time for dessert. This was a Butternut and Inkomazi Brulee with rooibos crumble, cinnamon tulle, brandy cream, berry jelly, and cape gooseberries. Chef Byron demonstrated how to make cream cheese from Inkomazi, a key ingredient in the butternut brulee. He then put the dessert together and explained how to make tulle and brandy cream along the way.
Dessert was the one dish we didn’t make. But, we did get to enjoy it with some yummy Boschendal Demi Sec bubbles. I had never thought butternut belongs in a dessert, but if the Americans can have pumpkin pie, I guess we can have butternut brulee. Lucky us, cause it was really good.
Rounding Up Cook Like A Local
I am proud to say I did not set the kitchen alight. I did, however, learn quite a bit and had a really good time. Chefs Sue-Ann, Peter, and Byron were the perfect teachers. They keept the evening upbeat and fun and it was clear as day that they loved doing it! It truly was an interactive South African cooking and dining experience perfect for foodies, lovers of food, and even tourists wanting to experience our local flavour.
Experience It Yourself
The ‘Cook Like a Local’ experience will happen every second Tuesday and costs R900 per person. This includes the four course meal, a local craft gin cocktail, wine pairing (Boschendal and/or Bellingham) and Windhoek Beer and, of course, the Oryx Salt apron and travel shaker set. The event takes place at the Sense of Taste Chef School in Maitland. To join the fun and for details on dates etc., email Debbie at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A huge thank you to the Sense of Taste Chef School, Chefs Sue-Anne, Peter, and Byron, all the chefs-in-training, and to Debbie for your warmth and hospitality! I look forward to cooking with you again soon!
Article Date: December 2018
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