Flavours Of The Valley – Cooking School

So last year a very new thing happened to me – I actually won a competition.  I don’t think I have ever won anything of significance (seeing that I can’t actually remember being that lucky).  When I registered for the Good Food and Wine Show last year I also entered a competition to win 2 tickets to a cooking school.  I had forgotten all about it (as you do when you never win anything) and then a phone call came along saying that I was the lucky winner.  WooHoo!  I didn’t really believe it until the tickets arrived.  Yay me!


The cooking school is in the Kangaroo Valley, which is just 2 hours south of Sydney.  Flavours of the Valley is run by Toni and Rob Moran and is set in bushland just outside the small town.  I was fortunate enough to have two tickets so I decided my husband should join me and we would celebrate 18yrs of marriage and learn a few new skills at the same time.


So we started off making pasta.  The flour was already measured out and the tools of the trade (a fork, a pasta machine and a pasta scraper) were all we needed.  I must admit, I have never made my own pasta before but figured it couldn’t be that hard.



I found the kneading a little tricky (not the action itself) but just getting it to a workable state.  But both Paul and I got there in the end.  We then had to let the pasta rest for a while whilst we moved onto the business of cooking the rest of our three course meal.


Because there were ten students in total, each couple had particular tasks to perform which would, in the end, bring a whole meal together.  Paul and I worked on the warm Caponata Salad which formed part of the Antipasti.

Caponata Warm  Salad

Figs with Blue cheese and Procuitto

Cannellini Brushetta with rocket and mozzarella

Stuffed Zucchini Flowers





In terms of skills level, both Paul and I found the salad quite easy and so we happily checked out what other people were doing and asked questions of not only our instructors but also other students.  Everybody seemed willing to learn and willing to share what they were doing with those watching on.


We eventually returned to our resting pasta and started rolling out the pasta sheets (with the aid of a pasta machine).  This took a lot of coordination, although I am sure we would get better at turning the wheel, feeding the pasta sheet and catching the thinning pasta as it is feeds through the machine.   It was certainly a two person job – thankfully Paul and I were learning together and should make for many a fun afternoon when we make our pasta machine purchase for the home.


Making the ravioli was a  little tricky as we learnt the “traditional” way and the “cheats” way.  Both ways are valid and worth practising both.  The results were spectacular.



And now the Cannoli – oh my!!



Also we didn’t get to make too much of this, although both Paul and I had a chance to deep fry the cannoli.  I was pleased to have a go at this as I normally have an aversion to any deep-frying (too much hot oil).  But I am happy to say that it wasn’t such a big deal and I am slowly getting over my misgivings.


Paul and I really enjoyed our time at Flavours of the Valley.  Having never attended a cooking school before it was certainly something I really found helpful.  Probably the best part was having a try at the pasta (it was also the most frustrating…but I will get better).


It was also lovely going with my wonderful husband of 18yrs.  It was a different way of celebrating and something we could bring home and do together.  I can see pasta creation afternoons happening…


So thanks Toni and Rob!!  It was fun and I hope we’ll be back!




A Nigella Encounter

Up until today somewhere in my mind I seemed to be under the illusion that my love affair with Nigella Lawson was a private one between myself, Bells and Nigella herself (although she wasn’t aware of it).  I knew that perhaps a few other people read her books and perhaps some of them even watched a show of hers or two – but really, I was under the impression that it was just me – Nigella was all mine – not to be shared.

Well, that bubble well and truly burst today as I waited in line to catch a glimpse of her at her book signing at David Jones in the city (Sydney).  I discovered yesterday that she was going to be in town today.  Oh so close!  What to do…what to do…  Thankfully I have 2 wonderful bosses who were kind enough not to object to me taking a day off to see the object of my cooking affections.  As my boss Bill said…”What’s not to like about Nigella” – he understood me (although perhaps on a whole different level).

So here I am waiting in line 2 hours before she was due to arrive (I’m pretty sure I looked like this the whole time).

Only 2 hours to go!!!


Can you believe there were other’s in the VERY LONG line that wanted to see her as much as me??  Eeek!  The only thing missing from this very exciting event was my beloved sister Bells wasn’t with me.  I sent her the above photo on my phone titled “Me waiting in line to see Nigella”.  Bells then sent me a photo back of her miserable face titled “Me not waiting in line to see Nigella”.  It was pretty funny and yet so sad she wasn’t with me.  Rest assured I kept her well briefed with every moment including the whole 5 minutes Nigella and I breathed the same air!

Here I am only moments away from my first glimpse.

Almost time!


And then Nigella emerged.  Just as beautiful as you would expect.  She was just like you see her on television.  The only difference was that I was able to say hello and we smiled and greeted each other.  I only had a moment with her, it was so brief, but she was gracious and signed two books (one for me and one for Bells).  I actually wrote her a card with the words I wanted to say to her.  I knew once in front of her I would lose all my words – so I wrote to thanking her for the inspiration she is.  I’m not sure she will ever read it – but she did take the card – so you never know.  I made sure to put this blog web address as well.

I took a few photos on my mobile.  It was such a rush and you had to be ready to submit your books for signing and then discreetly leave – so I apologize for these shaky, blurry photos.

Nigella being Nigella.


Just after my encounter.


Look I know this all sounds a little gushy, and probably a little silly – but seriously it was so exciting for me just to see her.  Nigella plays an important role in my cooking life and her philosophy on how to eat speaks to me.

My birthday is on Friday and this was a fabulous early gift to myself.  Many thanks to you Nigella for coming to Sydney and signing my book.

What a day!