A cooking class with Cameron Cansdell of Bells at Kilcare

If you spend a day, as we did, indulging in a cooking class run by Manfredi at Bells’ head chef Cameron Cansdell you too will wander the rows selecting a range of seasonal produce to take to the kitchen.

The garden mostly supplies varieties not found in the supermarket including nettles, sorrel, turnip greens, fennel and several heirloom varieties of vegetable. There is also a prolific avocado tree, olive trees and various edible shrubs. Even the ornamental roses around the lawn can find their way to the menu.

For the chefs at Manfredi at Bells the working day often starts in the property’s kitchen garden where an assortment of fresh produce is collected and used to devise the menu. If you spend a day, as we did, indulging in a cooking class run by Manfredi at Bells’ head chef Cameron Cansdell you too will wander the rows selecting a range of seasonal produce to take to the kitchen.

The garden mostly supplies varieties not found in the supermarket including nettles, sorrel, turnip greens, fennel and several heirloom varieties of vegetable. There is also a prolific avocado tree, olive trees and various edible shrubs. Even the ornamental roses around the lawn can find their way to the menu.

Once the fresh ingredients have been selected it’s time to head to the kitchen. This is a great opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at the kitchen of a top restaurant and there is a satisfying amount of gleaming stainless steel equipment and mysterious utensils.

Cameron talks the group through the menu, highlighting some of the specialist ingredients. Many of these were much better than anything that makes its way into our pantry so it was an opportunity to sample some top quality products and learn about their provenance. These included neat little honey bugs, similar to Moreton Bay bugs, and the scarlet prawns whose amazing red hue when raw is due the cold deep water that is their habitat. Both of these products are sourced off the coast of Western Australia.

The Vacche Rosse Parmigiano Reggiano was a highlight. It is one of the last parmesan cheeses to be made with the milk of the traditional Reggiana red cows and is suited to longer aging. Its flavour is decadently rich and creamy , tasting of every dollar a chunk will set you back.

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Amedei chocolate was another revelation. A newcomer to the chocolate market from Tuscany and now, arguably, the maker of the world’s best culinary chocolate. Absolutely delicious. The education continued as we got down to work. This is a very hands-on cooking class where you don a monogrammed apron and get chopping, peeling and mixing. Cameron and junior sous chef Kev were constant sources of knowledge, from the best meringue to a novel way to cook seafood. The kitchen was both educational and fun with a cameraderie soon developing around the preparation of this special meal.

The core values of Manfredi at Bells have always been simplicity, sustainability and seasonality and, despite the impressive ingredients and equipment, the recipes we prepared are all possible in your home kitchen. Cameron was always forthcoming with a tip or ingredient swap that would make the dish even more viable at home.

Possibly the most anticipated part of the day was sitting down with the chefs to enjoy the fruits of our combined labour – delicate beef carpaccio served with rocket from the garden and that fabulous Vacche Rosse parmesan, the collected salad greens and basil tossed with the seafood, pan-fried mulloway with a pine nut salsa, and the ultimate ending with that glossy meringue and blood orange caramel.

Delicious Beaujolais and Roero Arneis filled our glasses, bonhomie filled our hearts and we most definitely filled our stomachs with that heavenly lunch. We left Bells inspired to seek out the best of each season in our cooking and to search out the amazing products we had been introduced to. We also left with a swag of gardening and cooking knowledge and some new friends made. Couldn’t ask more of the day really.

Our thanks to Cameron for generously sharing  his hard-earned, specialist knowledge, and for also allowing us to reproduce his mouthwatering recipes for our readers.

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