Like the rest of Australia, the last few months have seen us up our cooking game. Now that we can't go out to get our favourite dishes, we've been searching for ways to bring that food into our kitchens.
Celebrity chef Colin Fassnidge, star of Sydney's dining scene and a judge on My Kitchen Rules, understands our dilemma. It's not easy to recreate a recipe from a chef-hatted restaurant with the ingredients and tools at home (and, let's face it, the lack of skill that comes from not studying at culinary school). His newly launched Cooking by Fassnidge online classes bring his expertise right into your kitchen as you cook along to his interactive live stream. Wife Jane is in the background fielding any questions you have (and when we say any, we mean any – Colin even answers questions about his personal life as long as you keep it civil).
We trialled the 'Bad Boyz' chicken class and the results were spectacular – definitely several levels above the mac 'n' cheese we'd been resorting to at the end of a busy workday. More than the dish though, Colin's approachable manner, his willingness to engage with his audience and the inclusive atmosphere of the class were what made it a standout.
His roast pork belly class, scheduled for Friday 15 May, had us licking our chops so we reached out to him to see if we could road test the recipe and share the experience with you. We then passed the recipe onto our resident pork belly roaster Matt (this guy is responsible for the consumption of 20 per cent of Australia's pork belly, it feels like) for his thoughts.
#1 Sourcing the ingredients
Colin gives you the option to have the protein portion of the recipe delivered to your door if you live within a 30 kilometre radius of Pyrmont, Sydney. Since Matt doesn't, he sourced all the ingredients himself.
Matt: 'The ingredients on the list were pretty standard, you could get most things from the supermarket. I bought everything at the local supermarket except the pork. The hardest part was finding a large enough piece of pork belly, although you could probably buy two small pieces.'
#2 Following the instructions
In Colin's online classes, you have access to his professional knowledge; he'll show you the best way to cut up the vegetables, how to score the pork for perfect crackling and how to balance the flavours.
Matt: 'The written instructions weren't that comprehensive but if you know your way around the kitchen, you'll be fine. That's where the benefit of having Colin teach you comes in. If you've never cooked roast pork belly before, it can be intimidating. I think it would really help to have Colin there and to ask questions.'
As Colin says, classes starts off 'nice and light' and then about halfway through, the vibe ramps up as people have 'a few too many reds... it's just a really great get together.' More than simply cooking dinner, the online class taps into our need to stay connected and enjoy social interactions.
Matt: 'For the pork belly, I had to follow the recipe while taking notes and snapping photos at the same time. The previous experience of being in a virtual room with a bunch of other home cooks, with Colin going through it step-by-step, was much more relaxed in my opinion. There was also the benefit of watching each step being done before you.'
#4 Taste testing
As you would expect from a chef-hatted restauranteur, the flavours and textures are on point. Colin's rustic fare and minimal waste philosophy make his dishes accessible for the home chef in both taste and cost.
Matt: 'The recipe was excellent. I would definitely make it again. The cinnamon and star anise gave a really nice, subtle flavour to the vegetables and the pork crackling came out almost perfect – Colin probably has a better oven than mine. For people who have never made roast pork belly before, the class would be a good place to start. If you've done it once, it becomes a lot easier next time.
I also made a gravy out of the leftover apple cider sauce by mixing some cornflour and reducing it, which went really well with the pork belly. The only thing I would change is I'd consider adding extra greens.'
#5 The details
Classes are $68 for the online class only, or $93.33 including protein for two to three (only available within a 30 kilometre radius of Pyrmont). Lessons are suitable for all ages and levels, although you'll want to supervise the little ones around knives and the oven. Expect to be online for around 90 minutes.
Take Colin's advice of 'a glass of red in the hand' to enhance the experience and pour yourself a mataro from Rosenvale Vineyards of Barossa (or a semillon for those who prefer whites). Use TIXOFFER for 30% off the entire range of wines from Rosenvale Vineyards of Barossa.