THINGS I LEARNED LAST NIGHT – at the Sydney Seafood School

I'm not the only one who expects a good meal here.

I’m not the only one who expects a good meal here.

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day and it will taste so bad he’ll never eat raw fish again. Teach a man to cook fish and you give him a lifetime of showing off at dinner parties.

After he’s sourced the ingredients.

I’ve got enough stuff, so when another birthday rolled around it was very smart of my daughter to give me a voucher for a class at the Sydney Seafood School.

I’ve written before about this excellent institution at the Sydney Fish Market, but I can’t praise it highly enough. It’s open to anybody who cares to spend an evening or an afternoon learning to cook two or three fabulous dishes. For locals and visitors it’s time and money very well spent.

The guest teachers last night were Daniel Puskas and James Parry of Sixpenny restaurant, which happens to be close to where we live. Award-winning Daniel and James have impressive pedigrees as chefs at Oscillate Wildly, Sepia, Rockpool and, in James’ case, experience at the famous Noma in Copenhagen.

Sixpenny specialises in local produce, much of it grown at Parry’s family farm in Bowral. The use of sweet potato leaves, wild spinach ‘It grows as a weed on the farm’ and lardo (pig fat) with the seafood was a revelation.

Organisation at the Sydney Seafood School is superb.

About fifty of us sat in the small lecture theatre and for an hour or so we watched, listened and added personal notes to the recipe sheets supplied. A few of us recorded the experience on our smartphones.

The demonstration over, the doors at the side of the hall opened onto the kitchen. All that top of the range equipment looked slightly intimidating, but once I had my black apron strapped I felt ready for the challenge.

In groups of five we worked feverishly at the kitchen benches attempting to reproduce the dishes. My team was patient with the dummy who screwed up (sorry all, my hand slipped on the vinegar), and grateful for the assistance of those who seemed more competent.

Then we filed through into the restaurant area to put our creations to the taste test, with an accompanying glass of wine.

Here’s what we’d come up with:

Yabbies, Cucumber, Buttermilk and Lemon Flavoured Herbs.IMG_6055
It’s not an obvious choice to put buttermilk into a seafood salad, but it works. I’m not sure where to find buttermilk, though the notes say we can make our own by heating ordinary milk with a little lemon juice, then skimming off the fat and keeping the whey.

Yabbies (freshwater crayfish for non-Australians) taste fine, though they are hard work for a bit of prawn. I loved the mixed Lebanese and pickled cucumber salad however. I’ll certainly make that again.

Mullet Wrapped in Lardo with Sweet Potato Leaves and Trout Roe Vinaigrette.IMG_6060
This was the star turn for me, particularly given the humble ingredients. The lardo (thinly sliced pig fat) added a smoky flavour to a simple, relatively cheap fish, while the sweet potato leaves (I never knew you could eat them) tasted somewhere between spinach and, well, sweet potato. The trout roe vinaigrette with chives, tarragon, olive oil, rice bran oil and white balsamic was wonderful.

I’ve managed to get lardo (thanks, AC Butchery in Leichhardt) but still haven’t found sweet potato leaves or trout roe. If anyone knows where to find them in Sydney, let me know.

Steamed Bass Groper, Wild Spinach and TomatoIMG_6061

Wild spinach, also known as fat hen or lambs’ quarters is really nothing like spinach. James tells us it grows everywhere, as a weed, but I’m not sure I’d recognise it again. English spinach would be a fair substitute.

Classes at the Sydney Seafood School cost from $80.

So for half the price of a dinner in a top restaurant we’d eaten one of the better meals of our lives, and we should be able to reproduce at least an approximation of it any time we choose.

I’ve bought more mullet and lardo and will be trying to impress Mevrouw T tonight.

Thanks Daniel and James – I look forward to visiting Sixpenny. And thanks Tim, Raj, Kate and Steve for pooling your ignorance and sharing your skills, enthusiasm and company.


Filed under Travel-Australia

10 responses to “THINGS I LEARNED LAST NIGHT – at the Sydney Seafood School

  1. Rob

    Well – your pictures have me drooling! Great to see humble mullet on the menu.
    You can find buttermilk in the dairy section of supermarkets these days (the big chains anyway; to my shame I still shop there).

    • Yes, mullet was $3.99 a kilo and I got enough lardo to wrap it for $1.15. Very good value. If this works, salmon farmers should be worried!

      I’ll look for the buttermilk – thanks.

  2. They all look delicious, the last dish is something I would definitely enjoy and what a fantastic birthday gift, I used to enjoy heading to the Sydney Fish Markets on my lunch break and having fresh fish for lunch.

  3. Euan and I dined at Sixpenny last year for a special occasion. The flavours were absolutely fantastic and service the best I’ve ever experienced. Highly recommended!

  4. Thanks for the kind words Richard – glad you enjoyed yourself … I think Daniel and James are really inspirational – love their passion. You can get trout or salmon roe from most fishmongers (and they’re interchangeable).

    • Thank you too, Roberta, for another great class.

      Yes, I’ve sourced salmon roe now – and successfully made the mullet dish.

      (For those who don’t know, Roberta is the manager of the Sydney Seafood School.)

  5. Richard did you end up finding any sweet potato leaves?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s