As you may have read in previous posts I am a bit of a fan of MasterChef Australia and watched this year as Laura Cassai, from South Australia, was runner up in the Grand Finale.
For someone so young, she has a bucketful of talent and will certainly go a long, long way in the food industry. She’s also super nice.
South Australia’s family-owned pasta company, San Remo, has snapped up Laura as an ambassador – an excellent move on their part. San Remo recently held a cooking demonstration by Laura in the Adelaide Central Market, and I was honoured to be invited along as a guest judge, along with Kara Jung, Editor of The City.
The Market is one of my favourite places in Adelaide. It has a good staging area, kitted out with an induction cook top, and plenty of seating nearby for die-hard foodies, and casual diners and shoppers alike.
Former radio DJ Scott McBain was MC for the cooking demonstration and kept Laura talking throughout, turning a two-hour event into seemingly effortless entertainment. They chatted easily about how she was preparing and cooking the ingredients, as well as where she grew up, her cooking influences and much, much more. For her first dish, Laura made couscous-stuffed zucchini flowers with watercress salad and fried haloumi. What a delight to eat! The fresh zucchini flowers were fried in a light batter and the couscous stuffing was soft, salty and I could certainly taste the zesty orange. Adding the fried haloumi to the fresh watercress salad provided another warm salty element and I loved the dish. Laura reminded the audience that zucchini flowers were in season now, and I made a mental note to pick some up.
As part of the demonstration, a few shoppers were sent out into all four corners of the Market, choosing a range of produce – Laura then had to select from these items to make her two pasta dishes.
The ingredients brought back by the shoppers provided plenty of opportunities for Laura’s culinary creativity to shine.
Her first pasta dish was angel hair pasta with chicken thigh, snow peas, pine nuts and blue cheese. It was a surprisingly simple dish, with rich and involving flavours. The ingredients were all cooked in one pan with the cooked pasta added at the end. And the angel hair pasta only took two minutes to cook! The blue cheese was broken into small pieces and dotted over the top; it melted ever so slightly into the dish. The blue cheese really stood out and I just loved it.
The second pasta dish was pappardelle with prosciutto, asparagus, garlic, chilli, chestnut mushrooms and parmesan cheese. The prosciutto was fried up first, with the garlic, chilli, mushrooms and asparagus all fried in the remaining prosciutto oil. Once the cooked pasta was added and the dish plated up, Laura grated fresh flakes of parmesan on top. Another beautiful pasta dish, combining the saltiness of the prosciutto with lightly fried asparagus, which still had a snap to it.
Out of both pasta dishes the winner was the first – angel hair pasta with chicken thigh, snow peas, pine nuts and blue cheese. Kara and I couldn’t go past the blue cheese!
There was certainly a lively atmosphere in the Market and over the two hours there were shoppers, tourists and office workers making their way through. School children on excursion also managed to sneak a photo with Laura as she cooked!
This was the first time I’d seen Laura at a cooking demonstration (other than on TV) and I was impressed with her inventiveness and the apparent ease of her talents. Her friendly, down-to-earth nature also really shone, and it was a credit to Scott and Laura that the entire demonstration seemed to flow quickly.
But after all of that wonderful cooking, there is one important question left unanswered… who does the dishes?
** I was invited to be a judge. I received some San Remo products as a thank you.
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