Cooking classes


As part of our food tours we are invited to attend classes to learn to make new dishes, and often new ingredients.  Often these are in peoples home who give  us the added advantage of meeting the family, seeing the family home and learn more about how the family lives day to day.

In Turkey we were exposed to four different classes and families  – all very different but equally interesting.

Our first was in Bodum just a few days after leaving Istanbul.  It was in the country where vegetables were grown in hot houses on a farm.  We picked some of these for our lunch before visiting land where olive trees were producing oil, goats to produce cheese and of course grape vines for local wine.  Herbs were picked on our wander through the farm and used in our lunch.  Our host showed us how to provide dishes for our lunch from our fossiking.  Sitting next to me at lunch (the husband of the hostess)  was an artist who has been to Shepperton in Victoria which was close to where I live.  His work was on display through their fascinating home but it reinforced in me how small the world was getting.

We were thrilled to be invited to the home of our guide to again experience some hospitality.  His mum was absolutely charming.  Her English was as bad as our Turkish but she offered genuine hospitality and generosity.   We sampled some of her homemade borek and then proceeded to show us how to make some dolmades from scratch.  Many hands make light work.  We went into prepare these which were our dinner that night on our surprisingly comfortable overnight train journey.

For me one of the most memorable cooking experiences was in a tiny village.  Our hostess showed us how to make pasta from scratch which she rolled out with a family owned rolling pin and sliced very finely.  A tiny piece of meat was stuffed into the pasta and it was then cooked and served with a sweetish cheese sauce flavoured with a spicier chilli topping.  Interesting indeed!

Our final class was again in the home and featured egg plant stuffed with spiced lamb, stuffed zucchini with rice, and vegetables.  As it was Ramadan our hostess/ teacher could not taste any of the dishes to check for seasonings which of course was strange for us.  She was thoroughly delightful and was looking forward to the exact minute when she could break the fast and enjoy some food.

Perhaps the most professional cooking class was a cooking school in Portugal.  Here we were taught by a professional chef in a kitchen set up to teach.  Seafood was on the menu.  Mussels were a focus both stuffed and served simply steamed.  We learnt a scallop dish which we prepared and a hake and potato main with a paprika sauce which I loved and plan to make soon.  It was ironic and perhaps amusing that I was teamed with a American woman who told me she couldn’t help with the cooking as she didn’t cook!  Interesting perhaps as it was a food tour and she wasn’t interested in learning to make different food?  Our dessert was made by the chef and a local specialty which was a baked Santiago cake.  Short pastry is filled with a ground almond and lemon cake.  It was decorated with a sprinkling of icing sugar over a cross of Santiago ( St James).  This was our only cooking class in Portugal but it was the best one we shared.

Off to Greece.  We were fortunate in having a qualified chef as a guide here which made such a difference to our whole tour. Although we had only one cooking class in Greece having a chef who was extremely knowledgeable with dishes to try, restaurants to visit, markets to visit it made it my favourite trip.  Our visit to her family restaurant in Kalamata was a special day.  Our cooking class did feature stuffed tomatoes and peppers and a delicious cheese cake.

Since I have returned home I have been given advice from a friend married to a Greek Cypriot and encouraged to make some of the dishes we enjoyed in Greece.

Next up is a food trip to Russia, Georgia and Armenia.  When I tell friends about a food trip Russia they look a bit bewildered……’Russia and a food trip? Maybe cabbage rolls or beetroot soup ‘ they comment!  I remain upbeat reminding them about the three days we are spending in st Petersburg before the trip and the vodka.  I have to admit it is my second trip to Russia or the USSR as it was then.  But that is another story.  Georgia is becoming a popular destination with wonderful wine and Armenia has such a history.  Roll on!







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