from Anne in Adelaide, South Australia: A late-enjoyed Christmas present or Learning to Cook

October 4. Last Christmas, our Capetown son and daughter-in-law gave us a present of two tickets to attend a cooking course at Scoffed Cooking School in Adelaide. Scoffed offer a range of themed evening and day-time cooking options for children and adults, for beginner and more advanced cooks.

We planned to select a course in the New Year, but before we could, COVID-19 shut down the cooking school along with everything else. Fast forward 7 months and the business has reopened. We now had two credits to attend a cooking session of our choice. The numbers they allow into the school’s classes have been reduced and Covid-safe rules are strictly applied. (This is although there is only one active case in South Australia … a young man arriving from overseas and already in quarantine. Deaths? Four people died overnight and 479,000 tests in total have been undertaken.)

New Zealand green-lipped mussels ready to finish in the oven – one of the largest mussel species reaching 240mm in length!

Previously, I had chosen a course on how to cook fish, but this was not available. So, instead last night I attended a course on Spanish cooking, more particularly how to cook paella and pintxos (typically, a small snack eaten in bars in Spain and Portugal … like tapas).

When the 13 of us gathered – socially distanced in the professional kitchen – we were first informed about the ‘Covid’ rules for the evening. I have never washed my hands so often! Then there was a demonstration in ‘how to chop with a sharp knife’ … how not to slice the end of your fingers off while slicing the parsley.

Seafood Paella

I have to admit, in all honesty, that I’m not a good cook. I have learnt and adapted over the years and there are moments when I am quite pleased with my cooking. However, in my family there are very good cooks. My sister-in-law, Meri, is a phenomenal cook, a natural, and my daughter, Shannon, in Seattle is another – although she uses almost every utensil in the kitchen in the process. But the result is worth the wash-up.

the three student paella-cooks

Anyway, last night, under instruction, I had a lot of fun cooking up a series of Spanish-themed entrees and a delicious seafood paella. My co-cook of the evening was a younger woman who had had to ditch her Spanish travel plans for 2020. She continues language instruction on Zoom and had decided that acquainting herself with Spanish cooking was the next best thing to do!

(The crux of the evening was to show us how to form a crust in our paellas– the essential mark of a good paella.)

in style …

Between each course, we adjourned to their small cafe carrying our food to enjoy there with an accompanying half glass of wine. So, with the cooking demonstrations and the frequent hand-washing, the whole process took over three hours. We ended the evening by deep frying churros for our dessert – the churros (delicious deep-fried pastry) were dipped in chocolate or / and dulce de leche.

I realise that these are the kinds of evenings we have missed with the shutdown. Everyone at Scoffed Cooking School was so light-hearted, so relaxed, so prepared to have a fun evening. Even though in South Australia we have not been in a ‘hard’ or lengthy lockdown like other countries, I felt as if I had been let out of school. There are still fun things to do and life to be lived!

And of course, there is now time to buy a special paella pan so I can practice at home and burn the pan with equanimity.

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