A Masterclass with the “Crazy Bull” (aka Miguel Maestre, that energetic, paella pan wielding Spaniard), his good friend and very good chef, Ruben Martinez, and a theatrette full of food bloggers. A novel kick-off event for this year’s Good Food & Wine Show.
Actually it’s more than a kick-off, in a show first, this year’s Good Food & Wine Show will introduce hands-on cooking classes at the “Fisher & Paykel YUM Kitchen”. Partnering with the likes of the Sydney Seafood Cooking School, they’re offering participants the opportunity to cook, learn and enjoy the results of their efforts with a matched wine.. so tonight’s a taster, a tempter of that new experience.
Warmly greeted by Chef on our arrival, he’s every bit the animated, passionate, crazy character that first graced our TV screens in the “Boys Weekend” series (with fellow larrikins Gary Mehigan, Manu Feildel and Adrian Richardson) and more recently with his latest gig on Channel 10’s “The Living Room”.
Speaking fondly of his Spanish upbringing in Murcia, it’s wonderful produce, and of learning to cook at a young age with his extended family (his mum was 1 of 20 children), we know we’re in for a treat.
Our mission for tonight, a fresh, bitey Peruvian Kingfish Ceviche and the colourful, flavour packed Paella A La Maestre.
“You’ll find 47 different types of paella across Spain” Miguel observes, and within that, each family has their own tweaks and variations that are handed down to each generation.. there is no one right version.
Miguel shares some insights for cooking an authentic, tasty paella:
• The Sofrito – The “soul” of the dish, gently sautéed onions, garlic (yes, lots of it.. Miguel’s mum allows one clove of garlic per person in the dish) and tomatoes that bring so much flavour to the stock and the rice.. and adding one of his favourite ingredients, the lovely El Navarrico piquillo peppers harvested and bottled by a family producer in Spain. As a rough guide, use 2 spoonfuls of sofrito per person.
• The Pan – it’s got to have a heavy base. You never scrub it, just a wash with soapy water and give it a protective wipe of olive oil. The great paella chefs meticulously care for their pans, never letting their kitchen hands touch it.. it’s how they build the pan’s “personality”.
• The Rice – it has to be Calasparra rice (and not just because it’s from his hometown Murcia in the Costa Del Sol). The sun is so strong there, the rice dries out 2-3 times more than elsewhere in Spain, and that means the rice can absorb so much more flavour. You have to use the right product, you don’t “use fettuccine to make Singapore Noodles” he jests.
Assembling and blending the sofrito.
Adding fresh seafood to the paella, making sure everything is “sleeping under the stock”.
Paella simmering, time to construct the Peruvian Ceviche. Taught to Miguel by former Bilson’s Head Chef, Diego Muñoz, it’s a refreshing, zingy South American seafood dish.
If you get it right, the Ceviche should “kiss you and slap you”.
Miguel introduces us to Leche de tigre, the Tigers Milk, the name given to the citrus-based, cloudy juice produced from marinating the raw fish. Lining up some vodka shots across the table he puts a splash of the Tiger’s Milk in each shot glass (in Peru you’ll likely find this citrus juice mixed with Pisco).
Miguel and the Good Food & Wine Show have generously shared the recipes for the Peruvian Kingfish Ceviche and the Paella A La Maestre.
Food bloggers up to the plate now, our turn to enter the Sydney Seafood School Kitchens and re-create those two exotic seafood dishes (under the expert tutelage of our two Spanish chefs).
..and how do you check that you’ve got a good socarret, that layer of crunchy rice that forms on the bottom of the paella ? Gently push your spoon into the rice, you’ll feel the crust. There should be a thin layer. The smell wafting off the rice will also guide you.
.. and keep your pan rotating, evenly cooking the rice and ensuring that a consistent socarret will form across the base of the pan.
Prep time for the Peruvian Kingfish Ceviche and some words of advice from Ruben as the bitter tasting bloodline is removed from the sashimi kingfish before being deftly sliced.
There’s a blender use rebellion on our table, the Ceviche ingredients instead hand-chopped in a search for authenticity. A taste test confirms there’s plenty of “slap” in the dish, an agreeable chilli hit.
Turning back to our paella, as we ready to lift it to the dining table.. it’s picture perfect. Good job team and thanks to our Spanish food coaches.
Retiring to our long communal dining table, just like Miguel’s extended family, we talk and share the fruits of our labour, accompanied by a nicely matched First Creek Semillon (courtesy of Good Food & Wine Show sponsor, Citibank).
It’s been a fun, enlightening, and tasty evening. Being a long term patron of the Sydney Seafood Cooking School, I think the Good Food & Wine Show might be on to a winner here.
Miguel, thanks for an entertaining and extremely tasty night (and congratulations on your impending citizenship ceremony) !
The Sydney Good Food & Wine Show returns June 28-30 2013 with celebrity chefs on stage including Maggie Beer, Curtis Stone, Ainsley Harriott and Miguel Maestre. As well as the new hands-on cooking classes, you’ll find Riedel wine classes, coffee tastings, cheese master classes and chef-designed tasting menus.
.. and don’t forget to bring your pull-along shopping cart. With the variety of producers, purveyors of kitchenware and chef book signings you’re sure to walk away with a few goodies, I know I always do.