Tag Archives: Alexandria

Pasta class @ Salt Meats Cheese

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There are so many great cooking schools in Sydney, and one of the newer ones is at the Italian food emporium Salt Meats Cheese, and we’re here for an introductory pasta class.  The long table is set up, the pasta machines ready to go, and the eggs and flour await.

Manuela, a native Italian, talks us through the process.  She is absolutely delightful and I could listen to her all day. The authentic “formula” for pasta, she tells us, is very simple:

100g of flour and 1 egg per person.

Yes, that’s it – two ingredients. Though of course, the flour may need to be adjusted for the size of the egg, and humidity will also have an impact. The ones we were using looked like 60 grams. She recommends “00” flour that refers not – as is often incorrectly stated – to protein content but to the fineness of the milling. This, she tells us, results in pasta with a more delicate texture. You can now buy 00 flour in Coles and Woolworths, once upon a time you could only get it at the Italian delis – I buy either Molini or Molisana brand.

We work on marble slabs, which are a great non stick surface. Coincidentally Aldi had marble slabs on sale the week after our class for $14.99, and a friend kindly picked me up one. It will also come in handy to ‘fresage’ my pastry.

To start, weigh out your flour depending on the number of people. Segregate a portion of the flour (say 10% or so) because it is much easier to add more flour if you need it rather than end up with overly dry and tough pasta dough. Create a well with the rest of the flour, and crack your eggs in the centre.  Beat the eggs lightly.  It is at this point, Manuela tells us, that you can make any flavour additions if you want to make a particular type of pasta – pureed spinach, pumpkin, saffron, squid ink – the possibilities are endless.

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Then, using the fork, gradually begin to incorporate the flour into the dough until it comes together and you can knead it with your hands. Gradually incorporate the flour you had set aside if the dough is sticky. Here we all are hard at work!

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Once your dough is nice and smooth, shape it into a ball and leave it to rest for half an hour – this resting step is very important. After resting, you can begin to roll out your dough into sheets and then into strands of pasta – like so!

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Allow the pasta to dry a little before cooking it and adding your desired sauce. We sat and enjoyed a relaxing glass of wine while the Salt Meats Cheese crew cooked the fruits of our labour in a ginormous pasta pot.

If you don’t feel confident about making your own pasta, this class will definitely do the trick.

Salt Meats Cheese, 41 Bourke Rd, Alexandria, Ph (02) 9690 2406
http://www.saltmeatscheese.com.au

The Grounds, Alexandria

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The Grounds has been absolutely thriving since the day it opened its doors – either there were a lot of hungry people in the surrounds of Alexandria, or they just got it right. Clearly they have the formula right – the grounds of the The Grounds are spacious plot with a lovely outdoor area, a cubby house for the kids, roosters and chickens, a luscious flourishing kitchen garden, a buzzing cafe with a welcoming interior, and of course the essential ingredient of an appealing menu.

Be prepared to wait though, especially on weekends – we were told 25 minutes and waited a solid hour. Fortunately the surrounds are so pleasant, and cleverly they do a roaring trade in takeaway coffee while you linger hoping that someone, anyone, will get up and leave so you can have a table. Alternatively, you can now head over to Salt Meats Cheese just next door, where you can easily pass the time doing some shopping for your next fabulous home cooked meal until your buzzer goes off.

You can book on Mondays to Thursdays though for 6 or more. There was a pizza oven being built in one of the outside corners so I suspect the place is just going to get busier.

Finally, we were seated and water was bought to the table and coffee/juice orders promptly taken. I love the old style glass milk bottles and juice glasses they use.

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One of us wanted to try the Croque Monsieur but we were told they had run out – by 10am! So on the menu:

Turkish style eggs with cannellini beans, spinach, pistachios and labneh. Nice amount of spice with good crunch from the pistachios.

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Ocean trout with soft boiled eggs, dill cream fraiche, and pickled cucumber. The cucumber especially beautifully pickled.

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The Grounds Breakfast Board with ham, avocado, tomato, feta, eggs and pesto – a nice simple combination with a lot of appeal – they were churning these out by the dozen.

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The food overall is good (but not outstanding) though the serves could be a little more generous – for instance with almost every dish, you only get one slice of toast – another wouldn’t go astray. Though I’m sure this won’t stop people coming – on our way out the size of the queue had doubled! Staff are run off their feet so they are brisk and efficient rather than particularly friendly – other than the guys manning the door who were charm itself trying to placate hungry crowds (“no one wants to leave today, I’m not sure what it is!”).

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The Grounds, Huntley Street, Alexandria, ph (02) 9699 2225

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Salt Meats Cheese, Alexandria

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Salt Meats Cheese is a treasure trove of (mostly Italian/European) food products – the more you look, the more you’ll find. A large warehouse space next to The Grounds, most of the staff are native Italian, from Liguria in the North – they know their stuff and are enthusiastic about what they have to offer. They also have a cooking school.

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Sauces, cheeses, cured meats, pasta, vinegar, coffee, truffle products, honey, chocolate, stock, olive oil, canned fish, gelato, pulses, brioche, the list goes on and on. There is also a plethora of flavoured salts – the vine ripened tomato smelt just devine. I love wandering around places like this and thinking of all the possibilities that could result at home in the kitchen.

They make fresh mozzarella on the premises and will generously let you have a taste.  At the back there is a prosciutto and jamon bar if you need some nourishment before going on your treasure hunt and stocking your shopping basket.

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The Mozarella Dude in “The Lab”

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Flavoured Salts

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The Prosciutto and Jamon Bar

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The Cheese Room

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Comparing it to the Italian delicatessans in the Inner West I have been frequenting for years, pricing is, overall, very decent, and would certainly be better than your Simon Johnson/Jones the Grocer type stores. If you’re having breakfast at The Grounds its worth a wander, and if you’re not, its worth a wander anyway.

Salt Meats Cheese, 41 Bourke Road, Alexandria, Open 7 Days
http://www.saltmeatscheese.com.au/

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