Saturday, 7 May 2016

Zafran - Spanish Cooking Master Class

Those of you who know me would be familiar with my foodie adventures and be well aware that I'm not a great cook.  My Instagram feed is full of restaurant meals and the very, very rare photo of a home cooked meal.

So when I get the opportunity to participate in master classes and learn something new in a kitchen, I jump at the chance.  Chope Hong Kong had partnered with the Aqua Restaurant group and Zafran Spanish restaurant to have new Chef Pere run a small group of bloggers through his famous "Black Paella".  Interestingly, the last time I'd had a masterclass, it was at Mondo Organics in Brisbane and a Spanish feast fit for a king (see post here).  

Seemingly, I am destined to improve my Spanish cuisine repertoire, which is certainly ironic living in the heart of Hong Kong.

I'd always thought that Zafran was a nightclub in the few times I wandered down Wyndham Street, but was surprised to find a funky looking basement restaurant as I descended the stairs to the Masterclass.  We were met by Zafran's new chef, hot off the boat from his native Barcelona, who seemed a little nervous to be fronted by so many food bloggers and cameras.

The open kitchen area was set up with six workstations with the ingredients that we'd need to prepare the paella.  I'd always thought that a paella was a complicated dish that required hours and hours of preparation, but Chef Pere was about to show what a master could do with a bunch of amateur cooks and one terrible cook (me).

We were first asked to show off our knife skills by slicing and dicing up some onion and capsicum (red pepper).  While I'm not the greatest of cooks, I am a little proud of my knife skills - or dare I say it 'mad knife skills'.  In no time, I'd accurately sliced up my gear and after a cursory look and some praise from Chef Pere, I was feeling pretty good about the class to that point.

Things started to get a little slimy after the relatively easy onion and pepper.  It was time to prepare the squid, which was really slimy to the touch, and the prawn, which was pretty easy for an Aussie.

It was clear that we'd been given the easy and fun things to prepare when Chef Pere showed us his pre-prepared stock, squid ink and saffron aioli.  I guess it was to be expected though, a good stock takes hours to prepare, a fact which Chef Pere confirmed.

I was amazed how quickly everything came together, shortly after we'd helped brunoise the onion and pepper, the rice was added to a couple of deep pans, as well as a liberal helping of stock.  It was left to simmer while we moved on to another fun activity.

My competitive juices started to flow when we were told that we'd be entering a croquettes cook-off.  We were given some pre-prepared croquette fillings and were shown how to work the ingredients then prepare the croquettes.  The idea that we'd each prepare around 15, then have chef and the team from Chope and Aqua would taste then announce a winner.

It was dirty and messy work, not to mention a heap of fun.  Before I knew it, I'd smashed out sixteen perfectly shaped prawn croquettes (first of course) and then took the next step of dipping the croquettes in egg then breadcrumbs, ready for deep frying.  It was an excellent distraction while the paella cooked and before we knew it we were sitting down and munching on all of the croquettes.

I'm sad to report that my prawn croquettes were not the best tasting (although I still maintain the looked the best!).  I was most impressed with the Jamon croquettes, which to be fair were the most traditional of the lot.

Fun over, it was the serious part of the day where we were able to view the fruits of our efforts preparing and helping to cook the black paella.  I was super impressed with the final presentation and when we were able to taste the finished product, felt just a little pride that I'd contributed to such a fantastic dish.

I wouldn't have been a blogger event if there weren't heaps of photos, so there was a mad rush to get the shots of the paella from a ready made and camera friendly display.

Before I knew it, the day had slipped away and it was time for me to head home and get ready for dinner.  I was really appreciative to have been given the opportunity to jump onto the other side of the kitchen to where the action happens.  It's not a common occurrence, so I really treasure the opportunities.

While it's a lot of fun, it does remind me that my passion sits more with eating food than cooking. It'll probably be another couple of years before I cook something like a paella again!

** I was a guest of Chope and Zafran for this event

The Zafran kitchen was handed over to a set of Bloggers for the day!
Chef Pere explaining the rules of the day!
Cameras everywhere!
Our red prawns were sliced up for this prawn tartare - it was delicious
And so pretty
The black paella with heaps of seafood and a saffron aioli 
Tasty and visually appealing
My prawn croquettes were uniform in size and pretty tasty!


  1. It looks so professional cooking. I love it.

  2. I want to join that class too. Food looks so delicious!


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