Have you ever stared in jealous wonder at the perfectly presented, candy-coloured pastries made by Adriano Zumbo, or devoured a slice of fresh crusty Phillippa's bread and asked yourself 'how do they do it?' Then The Essential Ingredient Cooking School is for you.
Based at Prahran Market, the Essential Ingredient invites top chefs from Melbourne and internationally to teach their secrets.
The 2011 class schedule includes Italian cooking with Tobie Puttock, 'Tasting Barcelona" with Frank Camorra of MoVida, Breadmaking with Andrew O'Hara of Phillippa's, Mediterranean cooking with Cath Claringbold , Chocolate Desserts with Thomas Schnetzler (Chocolatier at Lindt & Spruengli), and cocktail-making with Matthew Rees from the award-winning Richmond cocktail bar Der Raum.
Classes are designed for all levels of cooking expertise, from the culinary challenged to budding MasterChefs. There are a variety of class formats to choose from - hands-on cooking sessions, dinner or lunch demonstration classes or interactive tutorials.
From the 2010 schedule, we chose a Risotto Masterclass with Joseph Vargetto, Head Chef at Melbourne institution, Mezzo Bar & Grill (this class offered again in August this year).
The School's classroom is well fitted-out. Students are seated at tables supplied with olives and bread to satisfy rumbling tummies caused by the divine smells from Joseph's work in the demonstration kitchen. With an angled mirror directly above the stovetop and bench, everyone in the room is able to see the pots and pans with which Joseph is working.
Although not a hands-on class, it's extremely interactive. Joseph demonstrates the different rice grains used for risotto, passing them around so we can see & feel the differences. According to Joseph, choosing the correct rice is vital to achieving the creamy consistency of a great risotto.
Taking us step by step through four different risotto recipes, Joseph explains some tips for risotto success: use a short-grain rice (arborio rice is good, carnaroli rice even better), always heat your stock before adding it to the rice, and make sure rice still has good body but not too much crunch when you take it off the heat.
A small dish of each risotto is served to each student, with the most intriguing being a tuna and stinging nettle risotto. Stinging nettle loses its sting when cooked, and is apparently high in iron and vitamin C. It gives a beautiful emerald colour to the risotto, and has a unique flavour.
We leave the class with full tummies, keen to put our newfound risotto expertise to the test. A recipe folder with comprehensive notes gives us a handy reference for future culinary successes.