Earlier this month Mel (The Adventures of Miss Piggy) and I were invited to a paella cooking class at Extra Virgin Fine Foods, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Crows Nest. What a buzz, I was so excited to be asked!
It was a wet and dreary day, perfect weather for a hearty paella! On arrival we were met by owner Mauricio Moreno, who aside from his impressive product knowledge, has a really infectious passion for Spanish food.
After an interesting chat about traditional Spanish food, we were donning aprons and heading into the kitchen. This is not usually an area that diners venture into so I felt quite privileged to be invited inside. A restaurant kitchen is where all the delicious creativity happens!
Chef Vincent Giardin let Mel and I alter our paella slightly, by not including chorizo and only using vegetable stock. One of the key ingredients for paella is the sofrito paste which you can buy through the Extra Virgin Fine Foods online store (a pre-made paste saves a lot of time when making paella).
The class was interactive so it was great to help out. We got to fry, stir and sizzle! Mel entrusted me with the cooking (was that such a good idea?!) so she was able to take some great kitchen shots.
Although paella is more popularly known as a seafood based dish, at home I would experiment with a vegetarian version. Chef Vincent kindly offered me some great vego cooking tips which I look forward to trying.
If you’re relatively new to cooking like me, you are probably wondering what the difference is between risotto and paella. Aside from the different rices (arborio for risotto and calasparra or bomba for paella), with a risotto you need to continuously stir the dish. At each stage with a paella you ‘push’ the ingredients to mix them together, then you leave it to cook.
Spending time in a commercial kitchen gave me an appreciation for the small space kitchen staff work in and how prepared, tidy and organised they need to be. As a diner I had never really considered this so I was grateful for the eye-opener.
During the two hour class, we helped make seafood paellas, cheesy potato croquettes and a potato and zucchini bake.
The restaurant has a variety of imported food and wines on display, which are all available through the online store. I fell in love with a 70s style tin of Spanish sweet paprika that I just couldn’t leave without!
I really enjoyed this class.. and you can too! The fun and informative two hour class is $95 and this includes a glass of sangria. Visit the website for upcoming class dates.