Sometimes I think the universe is trying to speak to me. Case in point; I was waiting at the airport waiting for a flight back to Auckland on a Friday night, and thinking that I had no plans for the Saturday apart from a long list of chores. Cue message from my blogger friend, Chef Kevin Blakeman. He had some last-minute dropouts from his inaugural cooking class, and did I want to come? Oh heck, YES!
And when I checked what class it was, I found out it was a vegetarian class. Double oh heck, YES! I had resolved to increase my vegetable consumption this year and use meat as flavouring, rather than the main ingredient. So far, it’s been good, but I was getting lazy and cooking the same dishes (and getting slightly bored with them).
Kevin is the talented chef at Como Street Café (previously at Coco’s Cantina and Waitakere Estates), he also generously gives his time to demonstrate recipes using local ingredients at the Hobsonville Farmers Market, and has run several successful knife skills classes. These small group demonstration classes are the next cab off the rank.
The cooking class are held at Two Feijoas demonstration kitchen, with owner Svetlana, assisting. This is a dream kitchen; all that marble countertop, sleek joinery and power points by the island. There was a mountain of nibbles to start the lunchtime class; with breads, cheese and Svetlana’s award-winning Two Feijoas jam. Yum. Two Feijoas also has a commercial kitchen available for rent for any budding food entrepreneurs out there.
Kevin took us through 5 dishes starting with bruschetta with lightly dressed Curious Cropper tomato medley. The fresh cherry tomatoes were bursting with flavour highlighted by the red onions and chives.
Next was the beetroot risotto with dill and goats cheese where he showed us how to make amazingly creamy and brilliantly hued beetroot risotto using beetroot stock.
Hollandaise and I are not friends; in fact I think I’m jinxed when it comes to making this bastard of a sauce. Kevin guarantees that I will have success with his recipe, which was ridiculously simple and tastes glorious. His tip is to use microwaved butter (surprise!), which is slowed added to the egg yolks in a food processor. This was served with grilled early season asparagus. Delicious!
My favourite was the grilled halloumi and pineapple with mint salsa. I think this is going to be regular this summer. The pan-fried halloumi is interlaced with grilled pineapple and dressed with a salsa made with red onions, mint leaves, coriander, olive oil, white wine vinegar and red chilli. This was simply divine. Sweet, tangy, salty and a bit of heat, all in one bite.
The final dish was Curious Cropper tomato tart with mozzarella and rocket salad. As with the other dishes, this not only tasted fantastic, it also looked stunning.
In all of this, I never felt that I was lacking meat. These are recipes you can serve to both vegetarian and omnivore friends which they will love. Kevin was full of hints and tips, and seriously, you can ask him anything, even questions about what really goes on in a restaurant kitchen.