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Published June 28th 2014
Bring a wooden spoon, a whisk and a great big appetite
Cooking in the library. Brisbane City Council Libraries image.
The smell of fresh pork sausages sizzling intermingles with the aromatic hit of red onions caramelising in a mixture of garlic, white mustard seeds, dark brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. And as I eye the breadsticks, chutneys, terrines and cheeses on display, my stomach begins to growl.
Our unlikely location for this gastronomic adventure is the local library and the chef at the helm of this makeshift kitchen in one of the meeting spaces is food consultant Alison Alexander of Seasonal Pursuits. She's talking us through the process of making caramelised balsamic onions as part of her Preserving the Season workshop still on offer - for free - at select Brisbane City Council libraries. 'Get the onions sauteed to the transparent stage and then add the garlic,' she explains, adding that garlic turns bitter if overcooked. 'And just use your supermarket balsamic vinegar - don't use your 30-year-aged stuff for this, it's a waste.'
Alexander also demonstrates how to make labna (yoghurt cheese) through a method involving muslin, herbs, chillies and peppercorns that seems too simple to be true. And we watch fresh cucumbers being transformed into pickles before our eyes. Getting the amount of salt right, she explains, is crucial to a palatable cucumber pickle: 'You want the taste of the salt on the tip of your tongue, not at the back of your throat'.
Over the course of the next two hours, we have the opportunity for ample tastings of these and other recipes - chutneys (apricot and orange, pear and currant, spicy eggplant and capsicum and more), pistachio terrine, basil and pine nut cheese, divine sprinkles of dukkah. We're given plenty of inside tips on where to source the best produce in Brisbane. And there's even a collection of these delicious recipes to take home.
Cooking with citrus is coming up. Brisbane City Council Libraries image.
Bestowed with the title of Queensland's inaugural food fellow, Alexander acts as an ambassador for the diversity of food produced across Queensland - including beef, barramundi, scallops, pork and tropical fruit and fresh winter vegetables. Her encyclopaedic food knowledge and her easily-dispensed humour make her workshops both informative and interesting.