Some of you know that my posts get published in the awesomely entertaining Inner West Live portal. IWL’s editor kindly gave Tina and myself the opportunity to attend (and blog about) seafood cooking classes generously provided by the Sydney Seafood School (SSS).
I contacted Roberta Muir from the SSS to book my class. Unfortunately the one I chose was not suitable for the gig, but after a few emails back and forth I was booked into the Seafood BBQ class on February 19. Roberta was super helpful and understanding about my food allergen concerns. Some days before the class I printed out my booking confirmation and realised it was made for 2 guests. I emailed Roberta to ask if it was a typo; it was but she gave me the thumbs up to attend with a guest (ie, Alvaro), which turned out to be the perfect way to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary.
The school was established in 1989 and renovated in 2009. It was my first time there and I must say everything looked brand new. The class starts with a 2-hour demonstration in the fancy and well-equiped auditorium. Comfy lecture-type seats, top-quality kitchen equipment and four big TV screens make the whole experience a luxury.
Vincenza Scalone, our teacher for the day, is very passionate about fresh local seafood. During the class she didn’t only went through the recipes but also gave us valuable information on how to purchase fresh seafood, how to handle and store it when raw, how to properly cook it (not overcooking it), how (and why) to clean the BBQ, etc.
The first recipe Vincenza demonstrated was BBQ prawns with herb marinade. She showed us the easiest and most efficient way of cleaning prawns, and told us the many uses of chermoula, the herb marinade that was used for the recipe. Half of the marinade was reserved for dipping the prawns and/or spooning on bread.
The second recipe was a Thai-style squid salad. Vincenza mentioned the types of squid that can be found in fish shops and showed us how to clean and prepare them. She told us that scoring the flesh not only tenderizes it, but also also allows the marinade to get in.
The next recipe was blue mussels with garlic butter. I was very excited about this one as I love mussels but don’t get to eat them very often. Vincenza showed us how to clean them and told us that discarding the mussels that didn’t open in the cooking process was a thing of the past. Nowadays it’s ok to open them with a blunt knife and sniff them to check if they’re ok. This was by far the easiest recipe: cook mussels on the grill covered by a lid, melt butter & garlic in a small saucepan, serve in bowl with chopped chives.
It was not in the program, but Vincenza showed us how to produce the best, moistest barbecued whole fish, using the en papillote method.
Then she showed us how to butterfly a fish for the next recipe: BBQ garfish. The fish was crumbed in a flour + Parmesan mix, cooked in an electric grill, and served with a super simple rocket salad.
The final recipe was salmon with lime mayonnaise. We used sashimi-grade salmon, term that refers to the way the fish is harvested, which produces better quality meat. In the case of salmon, it’s fattier, and thus has a completely different texture and mouthfeel. The salmon was marinated in lime juice + zest, salt and pepper, and grilled skin side down first (with sea salt sprinkled on the skin to avoid it from sticking to to BBQ plate). The result was perfect salmon: beautiful crispy skin, perfectly seared on the outside and pink on the inside.
Needless to say, the smell in the auditorium was phenomenal, but we had to ignore our hunger a bit longer: it was time for us to move to the kitchen to try and replicate what we had just seen. We split into groups, each one was assigned a cooking island geared up with everything we needed: from bowls and knifes to fridge and electric BBQ.
Herbs, sauces, water in fridge
Seafood in fridge
There’s a separate area with several gas BBQs lined up, with a cool seafood blackboard-type mural in the back. They must have a hell of an smoke extraction system in place, too.
We were given initial instructions and started cooking. Vicenza and other staff members were available the whole time to answer questions and offer guidance. We managed to organise ourselves pretty well, despite the fact that we didn’t know each other (except for Alvaro and I, that is).
Prawns in the BBQ
Squid in the BBQ
Garfish in the BBQ
Salmon in the BBQ
One of the coolest things about the class was that, except for a few items like knifes and measuring cups, we didn’t have to do any washing. That saved us a lot of time, and we were able to finish up fairly quickly (great job, team!).
My team in action
We took our finished plates to the dining room, where each group was given a table and a bottle of Wild Oats 2010 Pinot Grigio to enjoy with lunch.
It’s difficult for me to rate the dishes. They were all very tasty, and I’m not saying it just because we cooked them, but because IMO the quality of ingredients and equipment does make a difference. If I had to choose, I’d say my favourite was the salmon, followed by the Thai-style squid salad (although it had sweet chilli sauce and palm sugar, so it’s not something I’d normally prepare at home).
Salmon with lime mayonnaise
Thai style squid salad
The mussels and prawns were great, too, as well as the garfish (we cooked ours just with salt and pepper, so I can’t comment on the “real” dish).
Blue mussels with garlic butter
BBQ prawns with herb marinade
It was a lovely lunch, followed by great coffee courtesy of Nespresso. Apart from the class notes and apron, we left with a classy SSS insulated bag for our future seafood purchases and tickets for the Taste Of Sydney festival (which I already posted to two lucky readers).
Seafood classes in the SSS are suitable for corporate functions (for staff and/or clients), team-building events, milestone celebrations, and in general as a fun thing to do with your partner, family, and/or friends. Oh, and they have gift certificates, too!
Sydney Seafood School
Sydney Fish Market
Locked Bag 247
Pyrmont NSW 2009