One of the things I was most looking forward to when we visited France back in 2018 was the food, but even so, it was an absolute revelation.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d been expecting cheese and cream and beautifully rich reduced ragouts, but it was so much more than that. We were there in spring, so it was also vegetables, les légumes, simply prepared, and leftovers taken to a different level.
Since that trip, I’ve experimented quite a bit with French-style food – not so much the fancy-pants sauces, but more home-style, bistro-style cooking.
It’s why I jumped at the opportunity to book Grant and I into a French cooking class at Spicers Tamarind Resort. Cooking class with lunch afterwards – the perfect date day for us!
Located just outside Maleny on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, the setting is tropically beautiful, and the class is pleasantly small.
Our teacher for the day was Alan Dawes, a private chef here on the Sunny Coast, and someone who has trained in Michelin-starred restaurants in France and worked for Marco Pierre White, and in hatted restaurants here in Australia. If there was anyone better suited to lead us in this class, I’m not sure who it would be! As an aside, I bought his cookbook…#asyoudo
Different to (most) other classes Grant and I had been to, this was truly hands-on, with Grant and I cooking the exact dishes we’d be eating at lunch; and Alan talking us through the processes and building blocks and reminding us to taste, taste, taste.
Each dish was easy to put together and tasted great! The key to each was in the preparation, the building blocks and the seasoning.
Once everyone was done, Alan poured the wine and we enjoyed the fruits of our labour.
What we cooked…
On the menu for lunch (as cooked by us) was:
- Vichyssoise (chilled potato and leek soup)
- Spinach with a warm bacon dressing
- Lentil salad with goats cheese
- Slow-cooked salmon with French herb salsa
- Raspberry and cream parfait
My favourite dish of the day was the lentil salad. As some of the other participants were staying at the hotel we volunteered to bring home the leftovers – half of which Sarah demolished that afternoon as a tummy liner before heading out on the town, and the other half of which she took home to Hervey Bay. It might not be the most photogenic dish going around, but it’s well worth making. Have it on its own, or pair it with salmon, or some other protein.
Naturally, if you’re vegetarian, swap the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
Lentil Salad with goat’s cheese
What you need
- 1 cup of brown puy or French-style lentils
- 3 cup chicken stock
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 1 large carrot, very finely diced
- 1 stick celery, very finely diced
- 3 tbsp chopped parsley
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil – enough to create a good dressing
- Lemon juice to taste
- 1 cup of fresh goats cheese, crumbled
What you do with it
Give the lentils a good wash and add to a medium saucepan. Pour in the chicken stock, add the bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until soft, but still holding their shape. Once cooked, drain and set aside to cool.
In the meantime, sauté the carrot, celery, garlic in a good glug of olive oil. You want the veg to be cooked, but not coloured.
Once the lentils have cooled down completely it’s time to build the salad. In a large bowl mix the lentils and all the vegetables and herbs together. Stir the Dijon into ¼ cup of olive oil and mix through.
Taste and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice as required.
Crumble over the goat’s cheese and serve.