The Prince of Flesh
Vince runs cooking classes at the premises of Mondo Butchers on Beaufort Street. The classes run for about 3 hours and are usually held on a Monday night (sometimes a Sunday afternoon). You can get information about the different classes from the Mondo website and by joining their mailing list http://www.mondo.net.au/data/classes.html
Each class involves EATING, EATING and more EATING. Depending on the theme, the class involves learning how to cook dishes using the specified meat as the key ingredient and showcasing it in its most delicious form.
A few weeks ago on Monday 14 March I took my second Mondo cooking class run which revolved around charcuterie featuring terrines, sausages, brawn, rillettes, pate and pickles – foods which can be prepared and stored for weeks in the fridge.
This class was hands on where you could help with the preparation of the brawn and rillettes by hacking apart meat and also try your hand at making sausages.
As a lot of meat dishes require slow cooking to let the flavours develop and for the meat to fall off the bone, Vince had spent the day preparing the meat for the brawn and rillettes, and also cooked a terrine of veal and pork. The night started with Vince carving up a piece of the terrine for us to eat with some home-made pickled vegetables so that we had something to fill up our stomachs before we got to work cooking the other dishes. The terrine was made with minced veal and pork, minced pork fat, onions, pistachios, capers and wrapped in bacon. The terrine was delicious and provided a hearty start to the night.
After eating the terrine we were led into the backrooms of Mondo Butchers to the kitchen where a huge pot filled with cured pork and beef pieces had been simmering away since midday, the heat turned off at about 5pm and the meat left to sit in its juices. Every bit of the animal is used here – the head, shanks, tails, breasts, tongue, trotters…all the cheaper cuts that are full of connective tissue and fat needed to create the gelatine as it cooks in water which will be used to bind the brawn. Vince took out all the pieces of meat from the pot and placed them on large trays for people to remove the meat from the bones and chop into small pieces. All the chopped meat was then put into one tray and flavoured with capers, chopped gherkins and vinegar, and Vince ladled over the top dark juices from the bottom of the pot that the meat had been cooking in as it was full of natural gelatine. The mixture was thoroughly mixed together and then divided into takeaway containers and refrigerated. The preparation of rillettes for refrigeration was happening concurrently with people using forks to mash the meat a bit at a time into little strings of meat.
The class then moved to a much cooler room for sausage making (to inhibit the growth of any bacteria). Pork and lamb sausages were prepared with Vince running through and demonstrating each step of the process and giving tips on what makes a good sausage. It was all hands on. Vince complained about the sterile state of society today where people often wear gloves when cooking. Sometimes this only gives the appearance of being clean as gloves can be reused to the extent that they are more dangerous than properly washed and sanitized bare hands. Just because you use gloves doesn’t mean you are clean. You often see people see people handling food wearing gloves and then using the gloved hand to handle money and other things. If you were wearing gloves and your hand touched some grease you wouldn’t even know it. It is far better to practice proper hand hygiene and use clean hands when cooking. More importantly, you need to cook with your hands and get them into the meat so that you can feel what you are doing - the different textures and changes in the processes. Using his hands Vince ploughed at the sausage mixes until they had developed protein and the meat started binding together. To make the sausages you don’t need an expensive fancy machine. Vince showed us how to make sausages using a special $10 funnel, you slide the castings onto the funnels and then use your fingers to push the meat through. It was great to see sausages been made in such an inexpensive manner, there is no excuse for people not to make sausages at home now.
Time was running out so the pate was made in another room by Vince’s staff and we were given some to try spread on a piece of toast. The Pate Crostini Tuscan style was full of flavour and delicious, we were informed that double the amount of butter was used in the making of the pate than specified in the recipe. When seconds were offered I made sure that I was quick enough to get a second piece.
The night ended with everyone retreating to the backyard to eat the sausages we had made.
All the recipes were provided to everyone in a little booklet and we each received some brawn, rillettes and pickled vegetables to take home and enjoy for the rest of the week.
Home-made pickled vegetables are a treat. They are easy to make and can be stored for a long time so people should forget about the store bought variety. Plus, you get your choice of vegetables when you make it yourself, during the class Vince complained that he never got enough pickled cauliflower.
Vince Brawn take #1
I enjoyed the rillettes the most. When I tried the brawn I found it to be a bit on the salty side but still ok to eat when coupled with bread or in a salad, the saltiness wasn’t too prevalent.
Two weeks later I received a call from Mondo Butchers and was told that the brawn we had prepared during our cooking class was too salty and Vince had prepared another batch of brawn for the class that I could come and collect. Cooking is fallible, you will not get a perfect result every time and I thought it was a really nice gesture for Vince to acknowledge that something had gone wrong in the process and sort to rectify it by making new brawn for everyone. Vince Brawn take #2 was lovely, it had a much more balanced flavour.
Vince Brawn take #2
If there is anyone who is contemplating whether or not to take a cooking class, I highly recommend the classes run by Vince.
My first Mondo cooking class - Lamb Extravaganza