Remember the voucher that I was blessed with at the Food Blogger's Dinner lucky draw? I'm glad I didn't.
Kindly sponsored by the people from yum.sg and Samia Ahad of the Coriander Leaf, the voucher for two was for a cooking class during the recent Singapore Sun Festival.
For company, I had my lovely sister. Pearl is the only person whom I've cooked and baked together with for the longest time now. Her interest in cooking and baking makes it a no-brainer to convince her to come. Since our younger days, we would help out in the kitchen and learn the ropes from mum. But this would be our first cooking class. So you could just imagine the excitement!
Upon reaching Coriander Leaf, we sat in around the rectagular table and were watching what Samia and her two kitchen assistants were doing. Samia seemed to exude this cold, no-nonsense aura which sent shivers up my spine. I thought to myself that she was either a kitchen b*tch or had a very dry, wicked sense of humour. Fortunately, as I soon found out after the ice thawed, it was the latter.
Another thing that brought back that memorable Food Blogger's Dinner was the bottle of Fiji water provided to each participant on the table. And I noticed that they've started to appear on the shelves at cold storage too.
Back to the cooking class. Initially, I had thought that each participant would be provided with a small tasting sample of the food but I was W-R-O-N-G. A generous protion was distributed to each participant and it became my lunch that Saturday. And what a lunch it was!
The cooking class titled 'A Taste of the Mediterranean' featured Labne, Olive & Tomato Tapenade with Bruschetta, Shrimp & Onion Tortilla, Marinated & Roasted Red Pepper & Cherry Tomato Salad, Grilled Shrimps with Chermoula and Moorish Skewers- Grilled Lamb Kebab with Harissa, Moroccan Mint Tea Granita, Saffron Risotto and Chocolate & Almond Baclava. If that has not got you drooling yet, I think the tastebuds need a bit of a good shake up...with the Harissa.
The Olive & Tomato Tapenade with Bruschetta was a potent mix of flavours with capers, anchovies, olives and tomato on a crisp bruschetta. Unfortunately I found the salty anchovies a little too strong for my liking.
An ingredient in the tapenade above was semi-dried tomatoes. Samia scooped out some from the tub and offered us a taste before proceeding with the recipe. I really love the rich, fresh flavours that emerged upon chewing on these semi-dried tomatoes. Unlike some prepared tomatoes, these were not salty at all. Furthermore, the fragrant olive oil that they were emmersed in added more flavour too.
The Shrimp & Spring Onion Tortilla wasn't a flour wrap thingy but more like a fritter. I'm certainly not complaining when the small, sweet chunks of shrimps and bits of chopped spring onion provided a nice bite to the flour batter. This went well with the Labne. In fact, almost everything went well the Labne.
Talking about the Labne, this yoghurt dip was absolutely delicious. Tangy with a slight savoury touch, it had a very creamy mouthfeel that was equally refreshing.
The Marinated & Roasted Red Pepper & Cherry Tomato Salad consisted of roasted red peppers, garlic and onions tossed with fresh cherry tomatoes, olive oil, sherry vinegar and cumin. The freshly-pounded cumin was uplifting and together with the sweet roasted veggetables and marinate, provided a Mediterranean/Middle Eastern touch.
I thought shrimps were supposed to be small but when I saw the ones here I was slightly taken a back. Very decently-sized prawns were briefly marinated with Chermoula, a Moroccan paste of coriander, Italian parsley, cumin powder, paprika and garlic. These were then skewered and grilled over a griddle.
The Grilled Shrimps with Chermoula were fresh, firm and sweet. One could actually taste the
Moorish Skewers- Grilled Lamb Kebabs were a big turn-on. The normally lamb/mutton-adverse me found myself enjoying each tender cube of lamb. There was no strong lamby smell or foul taste. Instead, the lamb was juicy and flavourful. This is arguably one of the best lambs that I have tasted. Samia used a young Australian leg of lamb. She said the younger the better and advised to avoid local lamb as it has a strong smell.
The lamb kebab was paired with Harissa, a spicy and yummy chilli paste. The mix of chilli and spices gave the Harissa a really good kick. This could be kept in a jar for a long time and would also go well with seafood. Should one find the Harissa too spicy, the Labne would instantly cool things down.
As a palate cleanser, the Moroccan Mint Tea Granita effectively cooled and refreshed the tastebuds with its fresh minty-ness.
Feeling the need for a bit of starch, I was happy to see the Saffron Risotto. And even happier to see the humongous asparagus (Check out the picture at the top of this post). These spears of asparagus were the biggest I've seen. Compared to the normal types, these were like 'Spartan' variety- big, strong and burly. Crunchy and sweet, with a smokey aroma from the grill, these aspargus were simply good.
The risotto was flavoured with saffron, garlic, onions, red peppers, black olives and manchego cheese and oh how these flavours melded together wonderfully. Each grain (yes, the Indians and Pakistanis are very particular about their grains) was fluffy but yet had a nice bite. Do you know that having a bottle of wine (for the person cooking) while cooking risotto helps?
As a digestive, Samia prepared this simple and quick Moroccan Mint Tea which was based on the recipe for the Moroccan Mint Tea Granita. Hot and comforting, I couldn't help it but kept topping up my small cup with more of this soothing tea.
For desserts, Samia whipped up Chocolate Baclava Cigars and she'll have you know that there are no such things as a healthy dessert. For me, the baclava was too dry for my liking and my source of dessert joy came from the damn good vanilla ice cream that she generously scooped onto our plates.
And I also have to thank her for the two bottles of Sauvingon blanc that she treated all of us to. This lady is certainly very generous with her quality ingredients and warm hospitality.
This was a shot I took of the plated food which the Singapore Sun Festival photographer Henry had arranged. Really pretty eh.
And this my happy sister enjoying her granita and the cooking class. I told her candidly that she should be a poster girl for the event.
Finally, thehungrycow and Samia. This chef rocks! I really had a memorable (and delicious) time and here's a big thank you to yum.sg and Samia who kindly sponsored the two tickets and to Joone for arranging the lucky draw and Food Blogger's Dinner 2007. It was this cow's humble pleasure.
3A Merchant Court
#02-03 River Valley Road (Clarke Quay)
Tel: 6732 3354
Chew On This: Samia has just opened a cosy place called the Screening Room at 12 Ann Siang Road. She aims to evoke the same feelings, through food, that one gets after watching a particular movie screened there. Sounds cool already.