Sunday, 12 October 2008

B is for Bungendore: a cooking class

Yesterday I spent the morning in Bungendore, which I will claim as B for my Canberra alphabet. It's only 20 minutes drive from my house - the same as Mawson - and it's a pleasant spot to visit. There's bookshops, antique shops, cafes, pubs, restaurants, and even some good food shops. The woodworks gallery and cafe is a favourite for breakfast, and for the amazing craftsmanship. When I win Lotto I will furnish my house from there. (Must buy a ticket one day. Or not, the odds are much the same.)

This time I was mostly up the back of Le Tres Bon, making wattleseed pasta, icecream and meringues with my friend Fi. She is a big bushfood enthusiast who writes the insufficiently updated Eat Australia. I gather she's been busy collecting chooks and digging gardens and training dogs and otherwise having a life instead of writing.

The cooking classes we're attending are not the ones run by Christophe himself, who is off in France at the moment. While he's away, Julianne and Anthony Cowley are teaching about bushfoods. They are a Canberra couple with a large bushfood garden, which they have on occasion opened to the public. I think I missed one showing this year. Julianne is an enthusiastic cook, and watching her knead pasta dough and prepare it is a delight. That unfussed smooth action must have taken her a lot of practice to develop.

I'm no dab hand with pasta, nor is Fi - her bloke is, though, by all accounts. We managed to produce some decent fettucini anyway, though with much less flair and panache, and much more overworking and compromise. Actually, we really didn't do ourselves proud at all: our meringues inexplicably failed to puff up and rise. Not my greatest moment. I had thought that if you got your egg whites safely to the firm peak stage that the rise was inescapable, but apparently not! Usually I use electric beaters, though, and hand whisking is clearly *not* better. Yay, technology!

Oh well. We had a lovely lunch of wattleseed pasta with a simple tomato sauce, followed by wattleseed icecream with a chocolate dipped wattleseed meringue, and wattlecino coffee. And we had leftovers to take home. Fi's & my skinny unrisen meringues actually taste excellent: a good strong flavour rush. I had a couple after dinner last night.

I wanted to pick up some of the wonderful ham from Food Lovers on my way home, but they had sold out. Fortunately I'm going to the next class in two weeks, so I've ordered some. Until then, I'll have to content myself with a garlic and rosemary rubbed leg of saltbush lamb, a couple of organic sirloin steaks and a pair of organic chicken breasts. I haven't decided on an exact menu for the week, but a Sunday roast lamb is always attractive.

Last night I used some of the chicken with a mango and native mint marinade from Outback Spirit. Served with oven chips from a packet, fresh steamed green beans and a simple mango salsa that was just half a Kensington pride mango, chopped with a fresh jalapeno and a couple of slices of red onion. Very yummy, though a bit expensive this early in mango season - I got two at $3.75 each, but I do love them.

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