Friday, May 26, 2017

Shaun Presland at Millfield Hall

This week has an inadvertent Japanese theme that I am really excited to share. My experience cooking Japanese food to date includes a grand total of two dishes: miso soup and sushi rolls. So I was really excited to learn that Shaun Presland, Executive Chef at Sake Restaurant in The Rocks, would be presenting a cooking class at Millfield Hall; an adorable old-school community hall turned weekender / cooking school near Cessnock in the Hunter Valley.

Sweet Millfield Hall || The next door neighbour heads over for a hello.

Who else can boast a stage within their open plan lounge / dining / kitchen?
Seans daughter gets in some cuddles before the class gets into full swing
Kate Grant and husband Ewen Craig bought Millfield Hall over ten years ago as a means to escape crazy Sydney on weekends. Earlier this year they decided to combine their love of food, wine and entertaining by hosting monthly cooking classes, the most recent featuring Sydney chef Shaun Presland.

Shaun Preslands immersion in Japanese culture began fresh out of University at a 350-year-old traditional wooden inn located in rural Japan. Since then he has trained under some of the best Japanese food chefs before managing the kitchen at Sushi-e in Sydney and then being invited by world-renowned Nobu Matsuhisa to work at  Nobu Atlantis in the Bahamas. Back in Sydney hes maintained his loyal following at Sake Restaurant.

While the children played Wii in the lounge room, six fellow food-lovers assembled around the kitchen island to listen intently to the affable and knowledgeable head chef, Sean, speak of all things Japanese.
By way of an easy introduction we began working on prawn dumplings. The really interesting thing about this recipe was using a garlic mayonnaise to bind the minced green prawns. After being formed into little bite-sized balls they are tossed in finely sliced gyoza wrappers before being steamed. I fell for the simplicity of this dish so much that I cooked up a batch the following day for Dean to try, except that I reserved half the dumplings to deep-fry. The kids loved eating ‘crunchy spiders’ as they called them.

Seasoning the prawn mixture || Gyoza wrappers

Finely slicing the gyoza || The freshly prepared  prawn dumplings ready for steaming
Sean was so wonderful at improvising with each recipe. In the case of the prawn dumplings he decided to spread some of the prawn mixture  between slices of eggplant that we later coated in potato flour and deep-fried. A modern and delicious take on prawn toast.

A new take on prawn toast  prawn dumpling mix wedged between slices of eggplant and deepfried
Next up was Tuna Tataki with Sesame Soy Dressing. By way of more improvisation, Sean showed how you could sear the outside of the tuna using a stove-top flame. It was also a revelation to taste the tuna after a heavy–handed coating in ground salt and pepper before being seared. After searing Sean submerged the pieces of tuna in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process, which also rinsed off much of the coating which on tasting left a roasted salt and mild smoky pepper tang. What really made this dish though was the dressing. Everyone went weak at the knees over it.

Shaun gets liberal with the tuna seasoning || Improvising with the searing

The tuna cools off || Shaun sharing some expert sashimi tips

The finished tuna tataki w sesame soy dressing
I also learnt that I would never make it as a sashimi chef being left-handed. All sashimi knives are sharpened on one side only and, like scissors, it’s the side preferred by right-handers. Getting custom-made left-handed sashimi knives is very, very expensive.

I think we could have happily ended the cooking demo there, but there was more to come. Including several dressings (miso dressing two ways and a chilli soy dressing) for our dumplings and eggplant. Another impromptu course was added by dicing some of the salmon to make up little sushi ‘tacos’. Simply topped with diced tomato and seaweed, and encased in deep-fried gyoza.

We get some knife lessons in thinly shaving daikon (katsuramuki). A little scary w Shauns super sharp knives.

Everyones favourite job  pin boning! || Searing salmon on the bbq
The main was Ocean Trout with Sweet Pea Puree. While sounding decidedly un-Japanese, the flavours of Japan imparted its influence in the accompaniments that included oriental mushrooms cooked in soy & kombu butter and the all-important rice.

Sean was resolute about preparing rice for cooking. He implored us all to rinse our rice at least a half a dozen times before cooking. The routine is simply a matter of adding the rice to the cooker container, adding the same volume in  tap water, stirring 30 times in one direction then tipping out the water. Repeat this step at least six times or until the water runs clear. At Sake they cook the rice with a block of charcoal to filter any more impurities. His final tip was to cook rice one part rice to one part water, then remove 5% of the water and replace with a splash of sake to ‘freshen up the rice’.

Kate happily obliges when there is a call for sake to be added to the rice. Weve a nice selection to choose from w lunch.

Shaun whips up a couple of miso dressings  a chilli and a lime.

After a cooking demo that turned out to be entirely fascinating and hands-on, we all enjoyed the spoils of our toil with a sit-down lunch on the verandah over looking the countryside. Our fellow classmates Nicki and Peter had very generously brought with them a sublime collection of wines to enjoy with each course and Kate made sure we had enough sake on hand to keep the “Kanpai!” coming.

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