I wake up one Saturday morning, still a touch fluey and look into the bathroom mirror.
"Arrggggh!" I let our a strangled cry. The pizza we had the night before in a bathrobe in front of the TV which seemed good idea at the time, was not. It shows on my face which is blotchy and pale. And why am I anguished? Because Mr NQN and I are off to attend a Masterclass at Pullman's Bacar restaurant where we will learn how to make four restaurant quality courses. The catch? Sydney Weekender are filming! Eeek we may very well be on film (even shy Mr NQN). As Australia is currently Masterchef mad, one NQN viewer and their friends will get the chance to attend a Masterclass of their own at Bacar (not affiliated with the show).
The schedule for the class is:
11:00am: Participants arrive, champagne on arrival
11:30am: Chef gives a guided tour of the kitchen
11:45am: Participants are broken into 4 teams, 1 team for each course
Chef then briefs all teams on the preparation of their course
12:00pm: Teams are given approx 90mins to prepare their mise en place
The chef and assistant are present at all times and to guide and instruct
1:00pm: Class finishes up and participants are seated at the chefs table
Restaurant manager talks about the matching wines for the lunch
1:15pm The team who prepared the 1st course then go back into the kitchen and plate their prepared dish for the rest of the participants. Once the dish is served all participants then dine together.
Once everyone has finished their meal, the participants who prepared the mise en place for the second course then enter the kitchen to serve their dish. The process is the same for all remaining courses.
3:00pm: Chef sits with guests and enjoys answering any questions before the lunch concludes.
Bill Magno the Head Chef splits us up into four groups to each prepare one of the courses. Despite the fact that I love making desserts, chocolate fondant is a dessert that I haven't had a lot of success with. But mother and daughter team Heather & Fran are assigned that much to my relief and I'm paired up with Ian to make the scallop dish which is the second course out of the four. Everyone in the class is friendly and welcoming and help each other out.
We start of by cutting the endive in half lengthways and carameliseing them with butter and sugar with the cut side down so that it gets a nice browned caramelised flavour. Once they brown on the bottom we'll add some orange juice and cook them even further until they're soft with the bitterness balanced with the orange juice and caramel.
"_Can I give you a hint on peeling the carrots?" Kiki says with perhaps a disapproving look ;)
We then peel and trim the Dutch carrots which will be glazed and the larger carrots which will be used in a carrot puree. Kiki the sous chef shows us the easiest way to peel carrots if you are right handed. You rest the carrot on the chopping board and twist it around with the left hand while peeling it with the peeler in the right hand. do the reverse if you are left handed.
Carrots for the carrot puree
Jamon, how I do love thee...
Our next task is a very important task, to separate the jamon serrano. Each slice of jamon is separated with some acetate. Some pieces are thinner than others and actually too thin to place on the plate. So naturally we eat the pieces that are too thin ;)
That's one slice of jamon for me and one for the chopping board...
Whipping the base for the dessert
Chopping the cavalo nero for the main
While Heather braves the piping bag for the chocolate fondant
Removing the adductor muscle from the scallops
Everyone else is at various stages of preparation and the first dish is a mud crab and corn soup, the second is our scallop and jamon dish, the third is a roast "best end" of lamb and the dessert is the chocolate fondant and ice cream. We are meant to judge each other's but since Sydney Weekender are here today things are done sightly differently and we sit down to our delicious four course lunch, excited that we've had a hand in making these beautifully plated meals.
Mel crafts fondant potatoes
Trimming the lamb before pan frying it
Bill demonstrates pan frying the lamb
Crab, corn and ocean trout roe in martini
Fiona and Sarah leave the table to prepare the first course and shortly after they carry their dishes to the table.
Mud-crab martini, sweet-corn veloute, double cream
The Mud crab martini is served in two parts, the creamy sweet corn veloute served in a beaker and the sweet corn, mud crab and ocean trout roe served in a martini glass. It's smooth and rich and I particularly like the spoonfuls that I get with the pieces of mud crab and ocean trout roe.
Prepping the scallop dish
Pan seared scallops, serrano ham, endive candy, roasted dutch carrots
Our dish! I have to say that even objectively, and even with the ingestion of a lot of jamon serrano it was a gorgeous dish. And although I don't like endive as I don't really like bitter foods, the sweet endive is just gorgeous and the whole dish ties together so well. And it looks so pretty too!
Roasted best end of lamb, tuscan cabbage, confit tomatoes, fondant potatoes
The lamb smells heavenly and I like the accompaniments of the finely shredded Tuscan cabbage that resembles seaweed. There are confit of tomatoes that are like delicate whisper thin version of sun dried tomato and there are fondant potatoes made using an apple corer and cooked in butter. The lamb is delicious and I enjoy nibbling on the bone.
We do a quick vox pop and I answer some questions asked by the vibrant Mel Symonds. I can't remember a word I said to be honest as I was so nervous and I'm sure it will end up on the cutting room floor.
Hot chocolate fondant, mascarpone ice cream, pistachio brittle
We finish off with the chocolate fondant. It's nice and gooey inside with an ever so slightly tart mascarpone ice cream which reminds me of a yogurt ice cream in its texture and flavour. It sits on a bed of finely crumbled pistachio brittle.
The wines that accompanied lunch
And I did promise you a giveaway didn't I? Thanks to the lovely people at Pullman Hotel at Olympic Park, we have a double pass to one of these Masterclasses which are held at the end of each month and this double pass is valid until the end of 2010.* All you have to do is tell me a dish that you've always wanted to learn how to make! *Simply add your answer as a comment to the story. The competition ends at Midnight AEST 17th August, 2010. You can enter this once daily.
**And if you do want another Masterchef experience, the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth is holding a Masterclass with Gary Mehigan which includes a three course lunch and a dessert making demo by Gary himself.
Best of luck!
NQN and Mr NQN attended the Masterclass as a guest of Bacar Restaurant at the Pullman Hotel.
Cnr Olympic Boulevard & Herb Elliot Ave, Sydney Olympic Park, Homebush Bay, NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 8762 1700