When it comes to Christmas and birthdays, I’m a pretty easy person to buy for. Anything food related, travel related, art related or music related is a sure bet. So big hugs and thank you to my high school girlfriends, who gifted me the perfect Jetsetting Joyce experience – a foodie shopping and cooking day.
William Angliss run food-related short courses, including a series of Shop and Cook tours covering different cuisines, from Asian to Italian. I chose Lebanon to Morocco because Middle Eastern food is the cuisine that I cook the least, mainly because I know the least about it.
A balmy blue-sky day ushered ten students and the chef/teacher Lucinda Macdougall to Sydney Road. Sydney Road is Melbourne’s melting pot and one of my favourite places in Melbourne. I love its vibrant colours, eclectic smells, the pokey shops selling curious things and the ethnic diversity of its visitors and inhabitants. It’s the home of Melbourne’s Mediterranean community, from Lebanese to Italians to Turkish to French.
First stop was Hawat Pastry, a spick and span shop laden with piles of sticky Middle Eastern sweets and wafting a faint aroma of rosewater. The counter held slabs of baklava with walnuts, cashews, almonds and pistachios, fashioned into a plethora of shapes. In the window was a pile of caramelised pumpkin spiked with nuts and fruit, to be eaten with feta on pita bread. At the back was a large round of sweetened semolina filled with cheese and cream. The damage: $10 for 500g of baklava, innumerable calories (the only way to keep that filo pastry from flying away is to laden it with butter).
A1 Bakery is a must-go for any visit to Sydney Road. Our morning coffee break was accompanied by a selection of A1’s famous pizzas, including their famous zingy za’atar pizza (sesame seed, sumac, oregano, thyme, lemon) to the mysterious kishik, which we discovered was topped with dried yoghurt, crushed wheat, tomato, onion and sesame seeds. A tip is that you can actually buy the dough and take it home to make your own, or freeze for later. At A1 one of our classmates discovered a pile of Persian fairy floss for $5 a bag – this super-trendy dessert garnish sells for significantly more at gourmet food retailers like Simon Johnson. The damage: $1.50 for za’atar pizza, $4.50 kishik pizza, $10 for two packets of Persian fairy floss. More calories.
Next stop Yassino International Food Store for an education in rice (basmati has the highest amount of protein in a rice variety), mograbiah (Israeli couscous), pomegranate molasses (only buy Alwadi brand), hanging yoghurt to make labna and sanklish and faking cinnamon sticks with cassia bark (if the sticks are really hard, it’s cassia). The damage: 500g mograbiah $4.50, $2 mograbiah spices.
Istanbul Halal Meats is one of only three halal butchers in Melbourne and some of our classmates popped in to buy goat while I browsed the sausage selection and wondered at the unfamiliar cuts of meat. While I was there I also spotted a young elegant woman wearing a Louis Vuitton scarf on her head, which was held in place by a badge proclaiming ‘My life. My religion. My choice.’ She didn’t feel comfortable with me taking her picture, but whoever you were – I’m with you.
Final stop – Mediterranean Wholesalers! I got crazy every time I pass those sliding doors – all that salami! Pasta! Cheese! Damage: La Risera carnaroli $3.95, tinned tomatoes 2 x 59c, orechiette (my favourite pasta shape) $3.65, chorizo, two packets of fresh parpadelle and spinach tagliatelle,100g hot pancetta and the crowning glory – 100g San Daniele prosciutto $7.50.
Then it was back to the kitchens of William Angliss to prepare our Middle Eastern meal under the guidance of Lucinda, a chef of 35 years experience. The class divided into several workstations to make roasted chicken with pickled lemon and ras el hanout, rocket salad with oranges, olive and harissa dressing, burghul and pumpkin kibbeh, beetroot salad with feta, pomegranta molasses and walnuts, finished off with some labna (yoghurt) for dessert. What a feast!
- William Angliss Institute of TAFE 555 La Trobe Street, Melbourne +61 3 9206 2111
- Hawat Pastry, 16 Sydney Rd Coburg +61 3 9384 0113
- A1 Bakery, 643 Sydney Road Brunswick +61 3 9386 0440
- Yassino – International Foods 623 Sydney Road Brunswick +9384 3337
- Istanbul Halal Meats, 609 Sydney Rd, Brunswick +61 3 9380 4895
- Mediterranean Wholesalers, 482 Sydney Rd, Brunswick +61 3 9380 4777