Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Vegetarian Lebanese Cooking Class with Chef, Adam Guthrie

When Lebanese families come together to share and enjoy a meal or even when you walk into a Lebanese restaurant, the word 'sahteyn' if often said.   Loosely translated it means 'twice your health'.  Sahteyn was an appropriate way to start tonight's vegetarian cooking class with chef, Adam Guthrie from 'I Feel Good'. The business was founded when Adam and his artist wife, Ruth (Roo) saw an opportunity to help people achieve the skills needed to live a healthy life.

"We are all about providing you with the tools and resources necessary to help you on your journey to creating and maintaining a healthier, happier, more conscious and meaningful life."

Adam and Roo (and their two young daughters) have been living a vegetarian lifestyle for many years and Adam's recipes and cooking style reflects his philosophies on life.  There are no animal products used in Adam's recipes so whilst the classes are called 'vegetarian' they are also suitable for vegans.

Loubiab' Zeith - Green Beans Cooked in Tomato with onions, garlic & lemon juice
This was my seventh class with Adam and the main reason I keep returning is for inspiration in my cooking.    I always leave with new found culinary skills and recipes, vowing to take this knowledge and feed my family & friends!

Adam demonstrating how to prepare fresh herbs - the secret is in the motion of the knife AND not over chopping.
Anyone walking into the kitchen at Kiama's Pavillion may have thought that they were in a busy restaurant kitchen on a Friday night with 12 guest cooks chopping, stirring and mixing 10 different Lebananese dishes.   If you expect to sit back and watch Adam demonstrate his cooking skills then this is not the class for you!   This is a 'hands-on' experience and through 'ownership' of the final feast that everyone sits down to at the end of the evening, guest cooks feel delighted with their achievements.

As I's a hands-on (or hands-in) kind of class.   Here one of the guys prepares the falafel.
The evening commenced at 6pm with greetings at the door of the Kiama Pavillion, recently built and overlooking the ocean.   As we are only 3 days into spring, guests didn't get to enjoy much of the beautiful view before night fell however in Summer, it's wonderful to sit down to dinner after the class with the doors open enjoying the sea breeze.

As always, Adam's classes attract a wide variety of people:  men & women, young & not so young, some come with their partners or a family member, others come alone.  All guests, however, come in the quest of learning how to cook delicious, healthy food for themselves, their family and friends.  If you were strangers at the beginning of the night, by the time you sit down to dinner you're all talking as if you've been friends for years.   Cooking and eating together tends to have that effect.

So with introductions was down to the business of cooking!

Our Menu
Vegetarian Lebanese 


Baba Ghanoush



Tahini Sauce

Aubergine, tomato and chickpea casserole

Loubiab' Zeith
Green Beans Cooked in Tomato

Batata Bil Kizbara
Potato with Coriander

Rice cooked with lentils


First we needed to prepare our dessert - Baklava.   We gathered around the table to watch Adam demonstrate the art of working with Filo pastry.   Filo is one of my favourite pastries however having tackled this paper thin and sometimes tricky pastry many times, it was good to learn some techniques from a professional.

Preparing the sugar syrup for the baklava
After demonstrating, the job of preparing the baklava was given to guest cook, Debbie, and the result was delicious. Some baklavas are prepared using honey however this one was made using a sugar syrup flavoured with rose and orange blossom water. The sweetness was complimented by the spicy taste of cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, topped with a mix of finely chopped walnuts, pistachios and almonds. Yum!

Concentrating - guest cook Debbie prepares the baklava...
Working with paper-thin filo can be tricky!
Brushing each layer of filo with melted 'butter' (actually, Nuttelex)
...and this is the result.     A sweet to die for!

Adam believes that the food we eat should be as fresh and natural as possible.  That means he uses organically grown food with the least possible processing.   Adam uses Sydney grocers Doorstep Organics at home and for his cooking classes.   Doorstep organics, as the name implies, delivers beautiful fresh organic produce throughout Sydney, as far north as the Central Coast and down to Berry.   Whilst the prices are a little more than you'd pay at your local supermarket, you do get what you pay for - fresh, pesticide free fruit and veg that hasn't been stored for months.  
Check out 'Doorstep Organics'

Where possible Adam always tries to use fresh, Australian produce.
Back to the kitchen...guests pair up and are given a specific course to cook, the recipe and ingredients at a 'station' situated around the benches of the kitchen.  

A rather unconventional way of roasting aubergine - just put it straight on the flame of a gas burner.
The aubergine is turned until the skin blackens and the flesh in soft.  The aubergine is then placed into a plastic bag to sweat and then the skin is removed.    This became the major ingredient in the baba ghanoush - the smokey flavour was amazing!

Adam demonstrates how to dice an onion - the trick is keeping the bottom of the onion in tact. Great to be able to finally produce those perfect little pieces of onion - I (almost) felt like a real chef.

The lima beans above are transformed into these delicious falafel beans flavoured with cumin, garlic and coriander and topped with a beautiful tahini sauce.
The main ingredient of Adam's delicious hummus - I can honestly say that nothing I've tasted from stores or restaurants have come close to the delicious flavour and texture of Adam's recipe - it's to die for.   I could easily make a meal of it with a piece of Lebanese bread.  
Preparing the ingredients for Musakka -
Aubergine, tomato and chickpea casserole
This was my favourite dish of the night. 
Guest cook Su gets a helping hand from the chef.
The secret ingredient for the Mussaka - Molasses. This thick, black liquid adds a rich taste and colour to dishes.
Cooking onions and chickpeas for the mussaka.
Browned aubergine for the mussaka - fried in a little olive oil the eggplant turns a lovely caramel colour.
How to chop herbs, keeping them crisp and green without losing their beautiful texture and flavour.

The kitchen was full of delicious aromas coming from every direction - and lots of laughter.
...a sprinkle of rock salt
Mussaka - looking good!
The soaked bourghal ready to be added to the Tabbouleh
Tabouleh - this beautiful Lebanese salad looks as good as it tastes.
Potatoes are cut into small cubes and fried for the Batata Bil Kizbara or Potato with Coriander.   Add some paprika, fresh garlic and coriander - I was lucky to even get to taste this one, it was so popular.
Beautiful crushed pistachios for the baklava.
Another successful and fun culinary experience filled with cooking, laughter, learning (and eating).

Strangers only a few hours before...friends sit down to enjoy the fruits of their labour!

 ... I wonder what part of the world Adam will take us to next time?

Friday, March 12, 2010

I Feel Good Vegetarian Cooking Class - Thai

The highlight of this week was attending Adam Guthrie from I Feel Good's Thai Vegetarian Cooking class.

This is my fourth class with Adam and they never cease to inspire and enlighten when it comes to healthy and delicious vegetarian cooking.

Adam and his wife Ruth are the founders of I Feel Good.

"We are all about providing you with the tools and resources necessary to help you on your journey to creating and maintaining a healthier, happier, more conscious and meaningful life."

The best way to describe Adam's hands-on cooking class is 'a feast for all senses'. Adam, a professional chef, guides you through an evening of chopping, stirring and mixing, peppered with demonstrations and practical hints complimented by the best ingredient of all - laughter.

There is an emphasis on using the freshest ingredients and cooking techniques that ensure the finished product retains as many vitamins and minerals as possible.

Adam's knowledge of where to source the best ingredients is an added bonus. One that I'll definitely try is Doorstep Organics - a company that delivers throughout Sydney, as far north as the Central Coast and right down to Berry. Whilst you often pay more for organic produce, the old adage 'you get what you pay for' rings true. How many times do you buy vegetables from one of the larger supermarket chains only to find they have deteriorated within a couple of days? Do we always know where produce comes from, when it was harvested, what chemicals were used to aid growth? Far better to get produce fresh from the market that has been certified organic.

Tonight's class was all about Thai. Last year Adam travelled to Thailand where he did a one-on-one cooking class with Thai vegan chef and restauranteur, May Kaidee. If you've cooked Thai before, you'll know that shrimp paste and fish sauce feature heavily in most recipes. Adam brings back from Thailand the secret to getting that authentic Thai taste without using animal products.

Throughout the night Adam shared his philosophy on cooking. He believes that if you prepare your food with love, it tastes so much better! I don't think this is a myth. It makes sense that if you're passionate about what you cook, if you care about how your food looks, how it tastes, how it smells, it's texture and sometimes even how it sounds, then the end result will be better than if you quickly prepare something without much thought.

Below Adam demonstrates how to cook with love!

I know that after a long day at work it's often difficult to be passionate about cooking. It becomes just another chore. The key to cooking with love, even after the busiest day, is to follow a recipe that's quick and simple. Adam's Thai recipes are just that - most of the preparation is in the cutting - the cooking part is fast - the end result is delicious.

Here one of the guest cooks prepares fresh Thai chilli paste for the curries.

Tonight's menu:

Red or Green Thai Curry (we got to choose)

Massaman Curry

Pad Thai

Green Papaya Salad

Black Sticky Rice with Coconut Milk

Lemongrass tea

The art of cutting chopping slicing - Adam guides a guest cook through different techniques - and there's definitely an art to it. We learnt about the anatomy of a good knife - what to look for and why. Using a knife correctly is not as easy as it looks.

Busy guest cooks preparing food 'with love'.

Preparing tofu - a light dusting of rice flour gives tofu that crunchy outer coating when fried.

Kiama's new Pavillion, located on the headland surrounded by Norfolk Pines and views of the ocean, is the perfect venue for Adam's cooking classes. The large commercial kitchen easily accommodates 10 guest cooks with room to spare.

Thai red curry - medley of vegetables flavoured with Thai Red Chilli paste, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lemongrass and thai basil.

There was much banter and laughter throughout the evening. Some guest cooks arrived by themselves, some with their partners and others with friends. By the end of the evening as we sat down to a sumptuous feast, strangers had become friends with a love of cooking being the common bond. There was much discussion about what we'd learned, techniques, what we enjoyed...

Ruth, Adam's wife, had prepared a beautiful, candle-lit table and with the backdrop of the ocean and a gentle breeze blowing through the balcony doors, we laughed, discussed and ate our way through the rest of the evening. Life is good!

Shortly Adam will depart for a 2-week visit to India where undoubtedly he'll learn new culinary techniques and recipes, returning home to share his knowledge with us.

In 2010 Adam will be holding Indian, Moroccan, Mexican, Vegetarian Pies, Japanese, Lebanese, Vietnamese, BBQ and Christmas cooking classes.

For more information about classes and recipes visit I Feel Good
Happy cooking!

Ann McLeod

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