Caterina Giammarresi fills us in about her experiences at the Spring Harvest cooking class held by the Fine Food & Dining Society on Wednesday, 2nd April.
Contrary to what the grey weather would have us believe, spring has arrived in St Andrews! To celebrate, this week’s Fine Food and Dining class—Spring Harvest—featured foods that are now in season. As someone who tries to be particularly conscious of eating seasonally, this class looked incredibly useful, not to mention delicious. I’m not from the United Kingdom, so adjusting my culinary endeavors to incorporate local and seasonal produce has been a bit of a challenge; I’m not used to such a (relatively) limited variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. When I first moved here I had never even heard of some of the available produce, so I hadn’t the slightest idea how to incorporate them into my diet. The first time I saw rhubarb at the grocer’s I thought it was some sort of pink celery! Needless to say, I was quite concerned when I heard it was often used in desserts. Given this, I hoped the class would teach me how to cook with rhubarb—which is in season during Spring—and generally better equip me to make the most of Scotland’s spring harvest.
Much to my delight (and still slight concern), rhubarb made it on the menu in two separate recipes: Rhubarb Curd and Rhubarb Flake Bake. The other featured spring ingredients—spring onion, cucumber, cauliflower, asparagus, lamb, and kale—were each featured in the remaining dishes: Spicy Banana Salsa, Buttered Cucumber, Fried Cauliflower with Salsa Verde, Asparagus Side, Lamb with Pomegranate, and Kale & Chorizo Broth.
The Fine Food & Dining Society’s Vice President, Jacana Bresson, and Publicity Representative, Samantha Evans, led the class with the help of other committee members. Bresson and Evans, once again, made the class an absolute joy with their friendly and inviting personalities. The time constraint and the number of recipes for these cooking classes can sometimes make the recipes difficult to follow, but both instructors were very careful to provide detailed explanations of each step. Additionally, they entertained us with relevant personal culinary experiences and enlightened us with useful tips about which ingredients to use and where to find them.
The first dish we were able to try was the Spicy Banana Salsa, which contained many of the usual ingredients found in Pico de Gallo except for the exchange of banana in place of tomato. I had never had this combination before and was pleasantly surprised by how well the sweet flavour of the banana worked with the strong flavours of the spring onion and peppers. Even after we ran out of the fresh baked tortilla chips, some of the students (myself included) eagerly finishing off the salsa with their spoons.
I was slightly disappointed that neither of the main dishes was vegetarian or had a vegetarian modification. I waited for a while as everyone else ate the Kale & Chorizo Broth and then the Lamb with Pomegranate before something that I could actually eat was served. However, I must say that my wait was highly rewarded with a large serving of the Asparagus Side (made without bacon), closely followed by the Fried Cauliflower with Salsa Verde. This Salsa Verde—as became apparent after reading the ingredients—was nothing like a traditional Mexican Salsa Verde sauce made with tomatillos. Instead, it incorporated mint, basil, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, garlic, capers, and olive oil. It was, by far, my favourite savoury item on the menu; I will definitely be using this sauce in my own cooking!
The Rhubarb Curd and the Rhubarb Flake Bake were the two dishes I had been anticipating the most, and they didn’t disappoint! Much to my surprise, rhubarb actually tastes really nice in sweet dishes. To be fair, the Flake Bake had been doused in two different kinds of sugar prior to baking, but the end result is all that matters…right?
Spring Harvest was an entertaining, delicious, and informative class. I’m very pleased that the Fine Food & Dining Society places importance on teaching students not only how to cook good food, but how to eat it seasonally. I hope to see more classes focused on or incorporating seasonal menus in the future!
The Fine Food & Dining Society hosts cooking classes on a variety of themes most every Wednesday in the St Andrews Episcopal Church. They also host a myriad of other food-related events. See what they’ve got going on via Facebook or their website.
Photo credits: Caterina Giammarresi