Monday, May 27, 2013

Sydney Seafood School: a South American cooking adventure

Sydney Seafood School provides participants with the opportunity to learn new skills, taste different flavours and most of all have a bit of fun. I’ve been teaching at Sydney Seafood School for almost 20 years. Started to demystify seafood cooking for customers of Sydney Fishmarket, it is now a popular venue with all manner of guest chefs, food writers, celebrities and seafood demonstrators giving classes. I love face-to-face teaching. It keeps you real and the Seafood School is perfectly set up for this with a demonstration auditorium, spacious hands-on kitchen and dining room for clients to eat the fruits of their labour. I only teach three hour food and wine matching workshops, usually focussing on a different cuisine.

South American seafood
Each time I teach these classes I develop new recipes and work with different ingredients, especially different types of seafood, different cuts, whole fish and fillets and different techniques. Coming up on the 5th of June I have a completely new class South American seafood and wine matching workshop. South American food is so NOW,  brightly coloured, a blend of culinary techniques and until recently relatively neglected.  So I set about researching and worked on developing some different recipes with authentic flavours but with a little of my trademark simplicity.

Things to consider when developing recipes
A priority is always seasonality, both in terms of seafood and other fresh produce. This makes sense from a flavour and financial point of view.  Then  I always consider using different cooking techniques, to facilitate using a range of skills and showing the variety of methods used in a particular cuisine.  Finally I like to use a mix of different types of seafood, using the opportunity to show something whole before cleaning and preparing it for cooking. With these recipes I tried to incorporate authentic South American flavours, remembering that sharing food is a very social event: about celebrating, enjoying food with friends and family. So the recipes must be fun, achievable and taste great. These is what I finally chose:

Ceviche is typical of the area and was a must.  The fish is marinated in lime juice, which changes the protein to 'cook' it until it becomes opaque and softens. While keeping to the traditional method of making ceviche, I wanted to make it pretty to serve and so added some salad ingredients. The combination of the cucumber, radishes and red onion give it crunch in contrast to the soft fish. 

Churrasco prawns with aji sauce
This dish is often served with a Chimichurri sauce, but when I preferred to make the less well-known Peruvian Aji sauce. This is a sweet onion and jalapeno combination, a sweet and spicy combination which brings the prawns to life.

Moqueca with mussels and clams (pictured above)
Moqueca is a Brazilian coconut stew, usually made with white fish. However, I decided to use shellfish as well, all of it only taking 2-3 minutes.

Tuna empanadas
Empanadas tend to made of meat, but because I love them I wanted to do a seafood version. I chose tuna for flavour but I found my first attempt a bit dry, especially when coupled with puff pastry. I tweaked the recipe, increasing the roma tomatoes and adding some cream cheese (surprisingly quite authentic) giving it a richer finish. I also used shortcrust pastry.  Left-over Aje sauce went well too.If you are feeling inspired by these ideas, why not come down and join me at Sydney Seafood School on 5th June 2013. It will be a bit of fun.

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