When I resigned from my job recently to look for part time work, my lovely co-workers bought me a day at Mt Tamborine Cooking School for two as a gift. What an amazing gift for someone who loves food as much as me! I was so touched when I received it I was close to tears (which did make it harder to do the impromptu farewell speech). I decided it would be a great way to spend a day with Sime (sorry Sis…;) ).
So what to cook? You can choose between Italian, French, Middle Eastern, Light Asian or Modern Australian. Thinking about what we usually cook at home, we thought French would be best for the technical and traditional aspects of the cooking (e.g. sauces). Not to mention, of course, the French obsession with butter and full fat dishes (didn’t someone once say fat is flavour? Mmm, butter). By coincidence they were offering French Cuisine on Sime’s birthday – what a great way to spend the day.
We did get a bit lost on our way to the cooking school, but a quick call to Terri (Taylor, our host and teacher) sorted things out. We arrived to a narrow driveway winding into an amazing garden with a spectacular view of the scenic rim. Terri has a beautiful colonial style home that perches on the western side of Mt Tamborine. As well as being an experienced Chef, it’s obvious she’s also a talented green thumb.
Terri offered us a choice of local coffee or tea, and when the final guest arrived we were offered fresh Rhubarb and Coconut Cake. We were a small group of 3 that day, which I think actually made things a bit harder on Terri. We did get involved, but mainly to peel or chop as needed. We spent a lot of our time chatting as the other guest was from the Scenic Rim Council, so a popular topic for the day was foodie tourism in the region.
Terri tries to use as much local produce as possible, including using produce from her own garden. On the day we were there she bought Rhubarb from the farmer down the road to use in our meals, and had a bouquet of fresh herbs from her garden which were used frequently throughout the day. Terri also said that although this menu is French, she tries to use lighter options without taking away from the flavours.
So, on to our menu for the day:
- Rhubarb Cake
- Prawn and Fennel Tarts
- Mushroom Terrine
- Chicken Liver Pate and Melba Toast
- Lentil and Scallop Salad
- Red Onion, Pumpkin and Blue Cheese Galette
- Jerusalem Artichoke and Tomato Salad
- Braised Duck in Prunes and pureed Parsnips
- Rhubarb and Strawberry Clafoutis
- Local tea and coffee
- Witches’ Falls (Mt Tamborine) Wines
- Organic Lime Cordial
Whilst we (OK, Terri) were cooking we ate the Prawn and Fennel Tarts, Mushroom Terrine and Chicken Liver Pate. The prawn tarts were delicious, fresh and light, combining prawns, fennel and dill. The Terrine combined porcini mushrooms with a variety of mushrooms, thyme, garlic, sour cream and cream. For a mushroom lover like myself it was divine (my mouth’s watering thinking about it). I have to say usually when I see ‘Terrine’ I think of that weird coloured meat jelly but this was far removed from that – creamy and delicious. Whilst I’m not a fan of Pate, Sime said it was delicious.
We took a brief walk in the garden to take in some more of the view whilst the duck was cooking, and had a couple more Witches Falls Wines. Terri called us back in to sit at the table overlooking the fabulous view, and served us the remaining courses. The Galette was divine, flaky pastry with sweet red onion, tart blue cheese and pumpkin, topped with walnuts and served with mixed leaves. I’ve actually made it since returning home with goats cheese and it was great.
Next came Scallops with Lentils, the scallop was served on a mixture of lentils, a mirepoix (French base of carrot, celery and onion), tomato, garlic, stock, fresh herbs and topped with crispy prosciutto. This was a great textural contrast and the flavours combined beautifully.
I’ve never had Jerusalem Artichokes served in a salad before, with tomato, viniagrette and fresh herbs it was yummy. Finally (for the mains), the duck was sweet, tender and scrumptious.
Just when you’re probably thinking that’s waaay too much food, we had the Rhubarb Clafoutis, made with that same fresh local rhubarb. Clafoutis is a traditional French dessert, which I now wouldn’t hesitate to bake at home because (1) it’s lush and (2) it’s actually quite easy to make. This version had a lovely light almondy crust with lots of tart, sweet rhubarb.
Terri is a lovely host, a talented chef and a natural teacher. Her experience shows through and combines with her passion for local produce and slow food to make for a great experience. Also, whilst cooking Terri gives you tips on how to prepare food (like how to chop an onion), look for the best produce, and substitute ingredients if needed. Plus she very patiently answered all of my many questions :). I recently read some publicity about bridal shower days at the school, what a great idea!
If you’re looking for a great day out to learn about food, cooking and local produce, I highly recommend Terri’s school. Make sure you ask about any good local produce at the time when you visit, we bought a bunch of rhubarb on the way home and made two great cakes from it (Rhubarb Cake from Mt Tamborine Cooking School, and Rhubarb and Cinnamon Cake). Also we bought some fat, sticky vanilla beans from Terri which we hope to use in desserts very soon.
p.s. so why aren’t there any food pictures? Because I was enjoying myself far too much to remember!
609 Main Western Rd (South) (07) 5545 4564