There I was with my weekend all planned when I saw a post on Facebook from Freestyle Escape about a cancellation they’d had for their nose to tail cooking class to be held on Sunday from 10 to 3. Freestyle Escape in the hinterland on the Sunshine Coast has a wonderful reputation for great cooking classes and when they said they were offering a free ticket I instantly put my hand up.
I wasn’t first but I congratulated the winner and went on to do other things and then I noticed a message from Freestyle that said something like, “oh what the heck, come on along, Maureen.” (I paraphrased that a lot.)
My vegetarian friends were all “Ewww” or “Gross” but my carnivore friends were all “Yummy” and “Terrific.” I cook meat and I eat meat and I do my best to buy from my butcher who sources humanely produced and slaughtered animals. I’d never watched the butchering process before so I was eager to go.
Armed with my tablet for Facebook and Twitter posting and my camera, I headed for Freestyle. When I tell you “you’re going bush” to get there it’s no exagerration. Windy roads, dirt roads, steep roads are all a part of the journey to get to breathtaking views from the mountain to the ocean.
I was greeted by Martin who introduced me to Peter Wolfe, the chef and qualified butcher who would be presenting the class and Sally Lynch, owner of Taste Trekkers, a cooking school and food travel host who was Peter’s assistant for the day.
Peter and his wife Shauna own Cedar Creek Farm Bush Foods and produce a range of gourmet sauces, jams and chutneys made from Australian fruit, herbs and spices. They also manufacture food products in their commercial kitchen for private businesses.
Martin Duncan is the dessert king of Australia. I didn’t know this until last year when I mentioned on Facebook that I was headed to Brisbane for a photography class. A woman in Seattle said, “Brisbane? You MUST go to Freestyle Tout in Fortitude Valley.” I think I said to myself, “uh huh.”
Then she emailed me and said she’d just arrived home from Brisbane and she was adamant that I visit and then tell her what I thought. Long story short, I went. I fell in love. Look at that photo – the dessert I got was this one and it looked exactly like that. This is no McDonald’s photo – every dessert looks this good. He’s known across Australia for serving only the best and you can’t be around him without smiling because he’s got tremendous energy and charm.
Martin opened Freestyle Escape on the Sunshine Coast where he offers cooking classes, art classes and wonderful holiday accomodation. One of their stand-alone cottages even has an outdoor bathtub!
It was great to meet Sally after following her on Twitter and finally putting a real face to the personality. She’s a hoot and anyone wanting to go on a taste trek anywhere in the world should visit her site. I’d love to go on her upcoming trip to France.
The group of people I was with were a lot of fun. One woman has a business that makes ladies clothing from mens’ shirts (see above – isn’t that cute???). One owns a magazine. One works for the tourism board. One does the school kitchen garden scheme for Stephanie Alexander — so you see I was with some snazzy folks.
Introductions over, I’ll get to the meat of the story. Yes, I know, horrible pun. First we took a trip up the hill to the veggie patch and orchard. Martin shared his love of fresh produce and what he grew in the garden. The view from the top all the way to the ocean is spectacular.
The class started with fetching the pig from the cool room and hanging it from a hook like you see in the movies. I’ve never been up close and personal with a dead animal that I could eat before and I wasn’t sure how I’d react. When Peter told us how the animal had been raised (think happy pigs) and slaughtered, I had no problem making friends with Hector. No, he didn’t have a name but I thought he should so I gave him one.
First the head comes off and then the tail and then the pig is split in two and half goes in the cool room while the other gets butchered. All along the way Peter told us not only how to do things but the why behind it and what tools to use. No commercial bandsaws in this class as he wanted to use tools that we’d have at home.. knives and cleavers.
Once the meat had been cut, the shoulders and other sausage bits went into the mincer. If you’re making sausage the meat has to be cold, so Peter tossed in some ice cubes to both chill the meat and add moisture to the sausage.
Trust me, when I next make sausage, I’m using the ice trick. He has an ancient hand crank sausage stuffer machine and Ben Southall, the guy that won the best job in the world, got the job of threading the sausage casings (intestines) on the machine.
Sally made the best pork and macadamia sate spring rolls and everyone got a chance to roll them. This is Ben and his wife Sophee mastering the art of rolling a spring roll. The recipe is below and they were SO good.
We had pork belly served on bamboo salad rolled in a betel leaf.
Vietnamese sausage cooked in a banana leaf. If you heat the banana leaf before cutting it becomes flexible and won’t break apart.
There were also sticky trotters, roast pork with feijoa chutney, roast veggies, banana flower salad, strawberry eucalyptus crème with native berry compote and roast feijoas (shown above). Seriously and we didn’t finish cooking the entire menu. It was quite warm and I think we weren’t helping enough so the morcilla (Spanish blood pudding) didn’t get done.
It was a fantastic day and one I could cheerfully repeat.
- 500 grams coarsely minced pork sautèed in macadamia oil
- 1 packet of spring roll wrappers
- Macadamia oil for frying
- 300 grams mixed finely sliced vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, onions, green beans or bean sprouts
- 15 grams fresh ginger
- 15 grams fresh galangal
- 15 grams fresh turmeric
- 15 grams fresh garlic
- 1 small onion
- 2 tbs macadamia oil
- 30 grams macadamia nuts
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp pepper
- Salt to taste
- Soy sauce to taste
- ½ can coconut milk
- Finely blend or grind in a mortar, macadamia oil, ginger, galangal, turmeric, garlic, onion and macadamia nuts.
- Cook over low heat until aromatic and then add spices. Cook for a few minutes until you have a thick paste and then add half a can of coconut cream and half a can of water.
- Reduce until you have a thick sauce and season with soy, salt and more chilli if you prefer very spicy food.
- Add pork and simmer.
- In a separate pan or wok sautè the vegetables and add to the sauce and pork.
- Heat together for 2 minutes and place in the refrigerator to cool. The mixture should be coated with sauce and not soggy and sitting in a puddle.
- When the mixture has cooled, separate the spring roll wrappers. Place the same amount of mixture in each wrapper, roll into a cylinder and seal the ends with a paste of flour and water or use egg white.
- Allow to rest for one hour
- Heat the macadamia oil in a wok to 190C/375F
- Place one in the center of the pan and cook 30 seconds and flip for another 30 seconds and then move to the sides of the wok before adding another.
- Fry until golden brown
- Eat while hot.
My thanks to Martin, Peter and Sally as well as Tom who tended the fire and sat next to me at lunch. I can’t forget what my friend Max Porter (the Prince of Duckness) told me when I announced on Facebook that I was going. “You are in for a treat.” He wasn’t wrong.
Disclaimer: I attended this class courtesy of Freestyle Escape.
lizzie - strayed from the table says
I went there for the first time myself only the other day too Maureen. Looks like you had a wonderful experience at the cooking class, really inventive recipes for using the pig too, by the looks of it. I personally love crispy pig ears and brawn made from the head – it may be a little traditional but I guess that is how I role.
Wow, what a fantastic experience! Those spring rolls look out of this world good. 🙂
Denise Browning@From Brazil To You says
Maureen: What a fun cooking class…and adventure!!!! The desserts shown here are stunning!!! What is the name of that fruit — sliced in half–that is in the first dessert plate? I am curious!!!
Norma Chang says
What a treat!!!!! Looks like you had a beautiful day also with good food, good company and a memorable experience. Hope you will be posting more recipes.
Now this is something I would really enjoy, a class with hands-on experience. Everything you “students” prepared looks so good, too. What a wonderful day!
Eva Taylor says
What an amazing experience, Maureen. I am a believer that we (particularly in North America) have lost touch with our food and therefore cannot respect the food enough; getting to see an actual butchering of an animal and then eat of that butchering is indeed a enriching experience. Having said that, sadly I’m not sure I have the stomach for it.
It also looks like you had a beautiful day. Making sausages is definitely on my bucket list and I’ve bookmarked the recipe. Thanks for sharing your lovely day with us.
Mary Frances says
Wow, what an interesting, refreshing experience. I do think that if people eat meat (I do) it’s good for them to be able to understand (and handle) what goes into the process before the meat gets to the table.
Sounds like a terrific experience. I’m envious! I’d love to do something like that someday. That ice cube trick when making sausage is a real keeper. Lovely recipe and great pictures. Best of all, just a really fun read – thanks so much.
What a great type of class! Very resourceful.
A great food adventure indeed, Maureen. I hope to try those spring rolls one day though I would probably make some substitutions for all that macadamia … not that I don’t like it but I doubt I can find the oil. Brawn … not something I ever enjoyed when my mom made hers, however, Lizzie. 🙂
I don’t know if I’ll spend the money on that much macadamia oil but I’ll definitely make the filling with the nuts. It made a huge impact.
What a fantastic class Maureen, I will have to keep in mind, you cooked some amazing dishes and I loved all your images! I will be pinning your spring rolls, although I am tempted to even make them tonight 😉
I have everything on my grocery list!
LOL!! The sausage making looks like a hoot 😉
okay it was a bit weird to watch it come out and roll through his fingers and there wasn’t one “condom” comment but I know we were all thinking it.
Suzanne Perazzini says
I am definitely a meat eater and would have enjoyed that array of dishes. The desserts looked pretty gorgeous too.
Coffee and Crumpets says
Definitely a meat eaters trek then? Looks like the food was great. Did you have trouble eating the meat after seeing it hanging there and then being chopped up? I could never eat the chicken my grand parents would slaughter a few hours before dinner.
Honestly, the meat hung pig shaped for about 10 minutes and then it was all chopped up and the head and tail were removed to the cool rool, so no, it didn’t seem like we were eating a friend.
Kitchen Belleicious says
from one foodie to another- that looks like the best weekend EVER!
You are so right!
Claire @ Claire K Creations says
What a day Maureen! I have been hanging out to go here for ages and I really should just book! I think I’ll pencil in the November class (boy that’s ages away!).
Those spring rolls look amazing!
It’s not ages away.. book! If I’m rich by then I’ll come with you 🙂
Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says
That’s great that you were able to come along! I was fortunate enough to attend one of Martin’s classes and his welcoming attitude was one part of why we all had such a great time! 🙂
Isn’t he great? Meeting him makes you feel that you’ve been friends for a long time. He really goes out of his way to make everyone feel welcome and valued.
Nami | Just One Cookbook says
I’ve never attended a cooking class before and this one sounds like so much fun! It was fun following your story. I want to see how chefs cook in front of me (not from TV etc)!
not only do you learn a lot from the chef but interacting with other food lovers is great, especially for someone who’s always working alone.
Wow that looks amazing – the setting alone, never mind the food. I can almost hear the crunch of the spring rolls from here!
The crunch, the taste and the crumbs all over my shelf. ALL were good. 🙂
Wow, this looks like an incredible experience! I would love to take a class like this one. The spring rolls and the Vietnamese sausage rolls look yum!
The spring rolls were to die for. I went out and bought the supplies to make my own tomorrow.
What an amazing cooking class and experience! The views are just breathtaking. You are one lucky lady to live in such a beautiful place. The food looks delicious too (added benefit, right!?).
It was ALL about the food, Julia. 🙂
What an amazing day you had Maureen!! It looks fun, fun, and fun all the way!! I would love to be a part of such a fun class and for a free ticket, I would put both my hands up, and feet too!! The venue looks gorgeous, and all that sun is making me green. The rolls look YUMMMMM!!! Bookmarking.
Christina @ The Hungry Australian says
What an incredible foodie experience, Maureen. It looks like so much fun and you learned so many practical skills, too. Thanks for sharing this with us.
Choc Chip Uru says
I saw all your Facebook posts about this and couldn’t wait to read about it – what an incredible experience 🙂
Choc Chip Uru
It wouldn’t have been for you, my sweet Uru, but it’s okay, I did it for you. You MUST (seriously, MUST) attend a dessert class with Martin Duncan. YOU are his ideal student. You would be swooning for a month. If he has one in the future, you can stay with me and I’ll drive you over.
Kimby | a little lunch says
Maureen, I’m certain my neighbors could hear me laughing uproariously at your statement about “going bush” (only in the movies here) and naming Hector — well, Hector! Truly an entertaining and educational post. Thank you VERY much! Your review was superb and your photos were, too.
Thanks Kim, in Australia there is a definite difference between bush and outback. I used to think it was the same thing when I lived in the states but no, very different places. Bush can be 5 minutes from town but you’re in the middle of nowhere. Outback is where you can drive for 2 days without seeing another soul. 🙂
Bam's Kitchen says
Maureen, this was a fantastic opportunity and thanks for sharing your experience. I know that when I lived in the US, I could not have had the stomach to watch the slaughtering process but now that I live in Asia, lots of things are butchered upon ordering… live pigs, swimming fish and the list goes on. I think that we have a better understanding of the food, where it came from and from what part of the animal it is, instead of from a piece of packaged meat under the cellophane in the refrigerator section of the grocery store. The spring rolls are just beautiful and love the spice and flavor combinations. I want to give recipe a try. Take care, BAM
I’m making these spring rolls today. All the ingredients are ready. Now to make sure I don’t tear the wrappers 🙂
This class looks absolutely amazing and fun!
It was a hoot and I’d do it again tomorrow 🙂
Oh yes please….a whole pig?!…..just let me ask the bank for a loan so I can buy a cool room!!!! I am making my own sausages today too. They are a South African style called Boerewors. I started yesterday mixing all the meats for a total of 3.5 kilos (beef, lamb, pork neck and speck) with the spices and vinegar etc to allow to marinate a little and will be putting it all into the casings today making three huge coiled snakes ready for saturday on the braai (bbq). Thanks for letting us know about this place!
The pig cost $200 and could feed 40 hungry or 60 not so hungry according to Chef Wolfe 🙂
Kristi Rimkus says
What an incredible experience. The scenery is amazing. I like that you were able to learn about the process of humanely raising animals and slaughtering the animals. It reinforced my commitment to working with my local butcher to ensure I’m buying products from a company with the same commitment. I’m so glad you had a good time.
Kiran @ KiranTarun.com says
Oh my gosh!! What an interesting and fun cooking experience!
It certainly was, Kiran! I loved it.
Alicia@ eco friendly homemaking says
Oh this looks like it was so much fun!!
Looks like an interesting day and you took some great photo’s! I’ve done sausage making classes in the past – they are such fun.
I’d never done a class like this before, Amanda but I had a ball!
Julia | JuliasAlbum.com says
The photos of the chocolate dessert, the sausages, and the pork belly makes me so hungry!
I try not to look again or I’d weigh a ton 🙂
WOW! Lucky you! I am so envious. I would have loved to have been there with you. When I was a kid, we use to buy the whole pig and I would help butcher it, but we never did the exotic things with the meat that it looks like y’all did. What a fabulous class and fun weekend!
I’d never been close to a dead animal we could eat before. I thought I might have trouble eating it but once the head was off and in the cool room I was fine.
So much fun!! I’ve been to one class with Sally and she IS a hoot. 🙂 I love the bush setting and the delicious food made. I’d never done butchering until I moved to the farm, but now I’m an old hand. 🙂 I hadn’t heard of the ice trick though, so I’m totally going to try it. 🙂
I’ve never been to a class with Sally and I SO want to. I was with her for only 6 hours and it felt like 6 minutes 🙂
How great Maureen. good on you. it’s always nice to know that they get there animals from a source that has cared for the animals and taken steps to make sure they havent suffered. Looks like you made some delicious things. Id love to do this. so good to meet other people with the same interests
It was a terrific experience, Tania, and one I’d do again!
Glamorous Glutton says
What a fabulous place. I’d love to spend a day like that. I agree with using nose to tail but in all honesty I’m not that familiar with cooking brawn or pigs ears. I think you can only buy them from quite trendy butchers here, although I assume I could order them. Great recipe. GG
Karen (Back Road Journal) says
What an incredible sounding experience…you must have had a wonderful time.
Sara @bellyrumbles says
What a great day and class. Love the sound of those spring rolls. I have booked marked them to give them a go.
Christine Kardash says
Everything you say about Martin and Freestyle Escape is true! As a colleague in the Hinterland we feel so thrilled he has come into our lives. The Hinterland has some amazing food experiences available and we try to match them with great accommodation experiences as well. If people have never been here before do come and check us all out!
Thanks for coming by, Christine. I’ve not heard of Montville Cabins but I love Montville. I’ll have to check out your website. 🙂
Wow what a fantastic experience Maureen – thank you for sharing it with us. Freestyle Escape is a foodie nirvana isn’t it? Martin has done something amazing there. I have always wanted to meet Sally from Tastetrekkers too – the whole day looks delicious and fascinating – good on you. xxxx
Freestyle (both of them) are purely delightful. You must meet Sally. She’s witty, clever and well, downright wonderful. You know, one of those women we’re taught to hate. 🙂
Christine (Food Wine Travel) says
Freestyle Escape is in such a beautiful location – I visited a few years ago and loved it. What a fabulous post you’ve done on them. And I love the recipe for the Pork & Macadamia spring rolls – looking forward to trying that one.
Thanks Christine, that’s very kind of you. I hope they thought so too. I had the best time!