Friday, January 11, 2008

A Cracker of a Christmas

In late November 2007 my lovely mum shouted me to a Ruth Pretty cooking class. Ruth’s Christmas themed classes are so popular that she runs several of them during her spring cooking class series.

Going to a class at Springfield is a treat to the senses in every way. The country setting is picturesque, the cooking demonstration is educational as well as entertaining; and the food and wine is always memorable. And of course there’s the opportunity to spend some money in Ruth’s Kitchen Shop.

On arrival we were welcomed with a beverage (freshly brewed coffee, an assortment of teas or a cold orange juice) and a bite. This time Ruth showcased a pretty little cupcake stand (available for sale in her shop) and served us fruity cupcakes topped with an almond paste star.

Ruth’s commercial kitchen doubles as her classroom and everyone sits on stools behind stainless steel benches. There’s a mirror hanging from the ceiling which means that everyone gets to see what Ruth or her assistant is preparing.

The class proper started around 10am and all the way through Ruth shared her clever tips along with many amusing anecdotes. Where a special ingredient was called for Ruth would pass around the item for class participants to smell or sometimes taste. We sampled horseradish sauce (Royalty Brand) and locally grown macadamia nuts; and sniffed vanilla bean paste.

Morning tea was time to get some fresh air and stretch our legs while enjoying a slice of Ruth’s award winning Christmas cake and her famous tomato chill jam with Philadelphia cream cheese on a rice cracker which I wrote about here. And if that wasn’t enough there were also juicy tangelos and a bowl of giant strawberries on offer.

For our entrée Ruth we had smoked salmon and herbed cream fraiche mille fuilles and duck liver parfait between crispy gingerbread rounds. While Ruth supplied the recipe “catering style” her suggestion for a fuss free Christmas was to serve these passarounds “deconstructed”. I didn’t even venture to taste the duck liver parfait as I’m not a fan of game or offal. The only thing like that I’ll eat is mum’s homemade chicken liver pate and even then I have to NOT think about what’s in it.

Usually after the appetizers are served participants are asked to leave the kitchen and enjoy a wander around the garden while the staff set up for lunch. This time Ruth advised that because of another function at the house we would have to stay close to the kitchen. After a short while Ruth informed us that there had been a tragedy at the house but since the place was already set up for their function we may as well take advantage of it and so we dutifully followed Ruth to her house.

Those who didn’t already realise there was a bit of a scam going on could have taken a hint from the fact that on a gorgeous day all the curtains were drawn. The Laurent Perrier flowed freely and we enjoyed some whitebait fritters as passarounds. Finally the scam was revealed and we were led outside to the verandah where a very long table was set out for our lunch.

My lunch companion - I can always be counted on to find a furry friend.

Our entrée was Karitane Crayfish served over microgreens with oranges and avocado and a citrus dressing. If I could get myself over the ickyness of dealing with the crayfish I’d definitely make this dish myself although as Ruth suggested it would be equally as nice with scallops or prawns.

The main course was a Standing Rib of Beef served with a caper vinaigrette. The vegetables were a melange of steamed greens (asparagus, celery and beans), parsnips and shallots which were served with a cashew and thyme sauce, and new season Jersey Benne potatoes. Finally there was a little garlic studded Yorkshire pudding.

In keeping with the Christmas Cracker theme dessert was a filled filo pastry concoction shaped like a Christmas cracker served with a cherry compote and garnished with candied orange peel. It was a lovely combination of creamy filling, buttery pastry and tart fruit.

At the end of the class Ruth always gives participants a gift to take home. Sometimes it’s a dozen free range eggs or some locally grown garlic. This time it was a jar of Quince Jelly which I shall look forward to eating with some blue cheese – perhaps I’ll even make some crispy gingerbread to go with it.

Check out Ruth Pretty's websitefor more information and for some great recipes.

1 comment:

Brilynn said...

Sounds like a wonderful day in a gorgeous setting!