Okay, first things first, this post has a crap load of photos so if you’re not on a broadband connection, watch out because your modem is about to get massively gangbanged like a college cheerleader on spring break.

Last night we had the pleasure of attending Amanda, aka madmoneymonkey, and her husband Mervyn’s cooking class. Actually it was more like an LJ meet that masquaraded as a cooking class 😛 For the longest time I’ve been drooling over Mervs cooking and infact, Amanda is the first and only Livejournal person I’ve added (my wife excluded), to my friends list that didn’t already add me first. And that was because of her husbands fantastic cooking that looked incredible and from the sounds of it tasted incredibleer. Put that in a dictionary.

Anyway, Merv to me is like some sort of chef savant as he has no professional cooking background but yet still rustles up these restaurant grade cuisines. He’s like rainman except with the innate ability to pull these amazing dishes out his ass instead of the counting numbers and crying when people touch him thing. This was the third cooking class they’ve held and the first one we’ve been able to attend since we were in Sydney for the previous two.

Learning to do the cooking thing aside, it also gave us the chance to finally meet the cousin of our friend Bev. Her much more normal and Earth based cousin… 😛 And given that most of the attendees where fellow Livejournel’ers, it sounded like it would be a rollicking good time for all :)

Well anyhoo, the theme for today was to be Japanese which is fantastic. The Japs have given the world some wonderful things. Besides brilliant pieces of technological inventions, quality cars, Takashi Kaneshiro (in Erica’s case), and hentai schoolgirl tentacle rape porn. But on top of those things they’ve also introduced to us the wonderful world of raw foods and the means of which to enjoy them. And today, we were going to have plenty o’ that!

The LJ rollcall for this class, that I’m aware of anyway, were Babyflite, madmoneymonkey, tiffanyx, am_klutz, tilden22, cosmic_cow, blissfultyrant, balletpumps, <*lj user="insertnameherethatI'msorryIforgotordidn'tknow">, and a partner or non-LJ person or two. It was great meeting all of you and finally putting real names to fake names and pairing them up with all the familiar faces in their journal entries :)

No, it’s not a typo

The fancy schmancy DIY menu for the evening

The Teacher

The class, or more accurately, the session of greedy buggers notsoanonymous, kicked off with Merv giving us the rundown of what we’ll be doing and cooking for the day, us the usual round of introductions along with what’s the most impressive dish we’ve made ourselves. You know, the “Hi I’m Merrill and the only thing I’ve ever made that wasn’t a complete disaster was a ham sandwich”. That kinda thing.

We were split into two groups and given recipe sheets to keep track of all that we’ll be doing. Ingredients, measurements, methods… thank kinda thing. It just made the demonstrations easier to follow and saves us having to take down our own notes. Taking notes is my achilles heel… one of many. All the ingredients where elaborated upon, explained in detail, and actually proved to be quite informative so hooray for knowledge. After that, it was time to eat! Well… kinda. It was time for the amuse bouche which just really whets your appetite. When you think about it, an Amuse Bouche is really like a dirty sexy SMS you get from your partner in anticipation of a big night in the sack. It teases you, gets you all hot and bothered, but then you have to wait! That’s what the amuse bouch is for. Damn you Ms Bouche, damn you for teasing me like that!!! Don’t make me spike your drink!!!

Amuse Bouche of Tofu with a Miso Dressing. Not a passionfruit cheesecake.

I really enjoyed the Tofu because well… I just really enjoy Tofu in general. But this Tofu went really well thing the tangy citrus miso dressing and I don’t think is too hard to make at all. Truth be told I wasn’t really paying that much attention when Merv was explaining it (me and classes, what else is new), as I was too focused on shooting it instead 😛 But this is something that I’d happily recreate at home because again, I love Tofu.

The cameras all come out to play

Checking out the bigass Hokkaido Scallops

The Tiger Prawns we’ll be using for Tempura

Gameshow girl Amanda doing a great job of displaying the Tuna showcase

With the fresh seafood presentation out of the way, it was time to get “cookyn”! First up was the Grilled Pineapple in Sake with Minted Marscapone. Merv demonstrated to us how to cut a pineapple. I didn’t think I needed to pay attention to this as I know how to chop a pineapple. Oh wait, you mean chop it without wasting about 90% of it? Ohhh that’s completely different.

So here’s the others trying their hand at pineapple chopping whilst I stand around with my camera hoping to learn by osmosis.

Is that a pineapple in your pocket or are you just happy to se…. never mind

The chef demonstrates

The lemmings follow

Marinating the pineapple in enough sake to get even Boris Yeltsin drunk…

Mixing the Minted Marscapone for the Pineapple

With the pineapple now wallowing away in it’s sake bath it was time to move to the next dish. Next up is the prepping of the ingredients for the Tempura mushrooms and prawns. We had to cut some funky little stars on the tops of the mushroom. I can’t remember if this was purely for funkiness or because it actually served some functional purpose, but either way it made it all that much prettier. Whilst one group was doing that, another group was responsible for prepping the prawns.

Now Merv demonstrated to us how to “massage and straighten” the prawn. Amanda said that she had this gut feeling I would be responsible for making some sort of immature and innappropriate joke when it came time to tell the class this. I take offense to that. Me, why me?? I really don’t understand. What possible sexual or phallic connotations could massaging and straightening a prawn possibly have? It just boggles my sweet and innocent mind. I mean, I think I heard my masseuse mention something like the last time I went to this dodgy massage parlour but… ohhh bugger. Let’s pretend I didn’t just say that.

And then came chopping, chopping, and more chopping. This was the preparation for scallops. We had to chop red onions, carrots, celery (barf), garlic (not for the scallop dish), and the scallops themselves. Now although it may look as if I’m doing nothing more than hovering around using my camera as an excuse to escape getting my hands dirty, that wasn’t the case at all. I did my almost fair share of chopping thank you very much.

The production line in full swing

Celery… truly the devil’s food

Chop Chop

Chop Chop Chop

Ahhh… that’s a good wife. Maketh me my dinner woman!

Scallop Chopping

The smaller sized scallops to be used for the tartare

Scooping out the cod roe

The wonderful wonderful cod roe…

Amanda normal

Amanda strangely going nuts when she saw the camera

It was now time to cook the pasta. Merv again demonstrated the whole thing and I was amazed at how easy it was to do. I’ve always thought fancy tasting pasta sauces were tricky but this proved me wrong. It was just a very very simple mix of butter, cream, japanese mayonnaise, and cod roe. But OMFG did it taste good!!! Now I almost never use “OMG” in my sentences unless something really excites me. But this excited me indeed! The cod roe sauce tasted soooooooooo damn good. The pasta he used was a Lemon and Herb flavoured pasta but knowing me I’ll end up using the cheapo dried boring one 😛 The pasta dish was actually going to be served chilled which was something that Merv decided to try out but in the end it turned out that it tasted much better hot. This is one dish that I’m definitely going to make again. So simple but yet so incredibly tasty.

The chef creaming himself…

Hey sweetums…. Pay Attention!!!

The sauce pre cod-roe

Tossing the pasta in

The wonderful Lemon Herb Pasta with Cod Roe Sauce

Look at the vultures swarm!!! Get away!!! My food!!!

I’ve been waiting quite a while for this but finally it’s tempura time!!! I can never get tempura right!! I’ve tried many times and could never ever get the batter to be the same consistency as in a restaurant. Sure some occasions have been better than others but generally they’ve all been quite miserable on the whole. Hopefully today would change that. Merv showed us how to make the tempura sauce from scratch plus also the batter.

Grating the radish for the tempura sauce

Is there something you’d like to explain to us Andrea?

The batter… the Batter!!!

Now here is where I always went wrong. The batter needs cold water to give the same consistency as you find in the restaurants. That’s why their Tempura is always so light and fluffy whilst mine is nothing like it. Not only that, after you make the batter with cold water you then also dunk a heck load of ice in there!!! So that’s the secret! And I have to say, it turned out incredible!!! This tempura I would definitely say is restaurant quality. But there are more tricks to it besides dunk the prawns in and waiting for it to cook. Merv explained that you first have the swish the battered prawn back and forth a couple of times in the oil before releasing it. This helps to keep it straight (assuming you’ve massaged and straightend the prawn properly previously). Dunking it into the own increases the chances of it curling up in the heat. Don’t ask me how it all works, I probably didn’t pay attention to that part.

And you know all those bits of batter that sticks out from the edges of the tempura, you have to deliberately do that. After releasing the prawn into the oil, you use your fingers to drizzle more batter onto the prawn. This creates the same look as what they do in the restaurants. So simple but yet… I was to dumb to figure it out.

Battering and dunking the prawn

Messy however…

Tempura perfection!

Where there’s food there’s…. greedy LJ people stealing it!

Me taking my turn at being the Tempura bitch…

Next up were the seared scallops. Now these bad boys were absolutely humungous!!! They almost looked like chicken fillets they were that big!!! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such huge scallops before. These scallops were to be pan seared and served with a vinaigrette that was made. These scallops were absolutely divine. You couldn’t tell they were frozen scallops at all. Plump, juicy, and succulent, these were were absolutely top shelf. Hot seared on the outside and still raw on the inside, these thick fact morsels of scallopy goodness were like steaks…. scallop steaks… Mmmm…. The tangy/sweet vinaigrette and the scallop went together as perfectly as Lindsey Lohan and a line of coke.

The scallop tartare was also great though I’m not a hugest fan of carrot or celery. But I love the dressing which has truffle oil in it. I adore truffle oil and having that familiar truffle taste lacing your tongue after is just…. Mmmm.

Class in session

Massive Hokkaido Scallops, and that’s no dessert spoon you see there!

Plating the scallops

Check out this bad boy!

Presenting a duet of Scallops.
Marinated Scallops with Classic Mirepoix and Soyu Vinaigrette
Seared Scallops in Teriyaki Balsamic

The Carpaccio of Tuna was up next which like the rest proved to be incredibly easy but yet tasty. Hot sear the tuna steaks on both side for 15 seconds, then slice and plate the thing. Season it and spread on the shoyu and lemon juice. Now the way Merv did the next part was to heat up the oil and spoon it over the carpaccio thus cooking it a little bit more when it’s on the plate. I prefer mine still raw so will probably not heat up the oil. Tasted good, but then again how can carpaccio not taste good right? :)


Seared Tuna

Plated Tuna

Drizzling the hot oil

Ta da!

Cold Mentaiko Angel Hair Pasta

Now we get to finally have the pasta we’ve all been drooling over! After having it chilled we were quite glad we got to also try it hot as the hot suited it much better. But it was worth trying it cold because it’s something different. Who knows, it may have turned into the best thing ever. I absolutely love this pasta dish and will try making it myself reeeaaallll soon.

Lastly, we have dessert. Grilled Pineapple in Sake with Minted Marscapone. From here it’s pretty straight forward, just grilling the sake marinated pineapple slices on the griddle and then serving it up with the Marscapone. Very refreshing. Personally I think I’ll grill the pineapple with some cinnamon sugar on top next time as I think that would go really well. Also maybe serve it with a side of a tangy sorbet. We had some left over of this dish today and ate it cold straight from the fridge. Refreshing….

We poured the sake that the pineapple had been marinating in into glasses with ice and that too proved quite the tasty beverage.

Grilling the pineapple

Amanda coming under friendly fire from camera wielding foodies…

Grilled Pineapple in Sake with Minted Marscapone

Chilling, chatting, and recovering from food coma…

And that last dish brought the night to an end!! And a great night it was with great food and a stellar cast. Not only did we all learn things but it was so much fun to boot. Definitely pencil me in for the next one Amanda!!! It was great meeting everyone finally and I have to say especially say that Merv’s reputation is very well deserved. The man is gifted and I have aspirations of being his full time taste tester.

So thanks again to our wonderful hosts, see you guys at the next one! :) Oh, and all food you see has been supplied by Greengrocer.com.sg *plug plug*. Incredibly fresh, I know where I’ll be doing my gourmet grocery shopping!!! :) *plug plug*