Every traveller has their thing, some like beer and clubs, others go sky diving or bungee jumping, and some buy amazing souvenirs. My must do item which I splurge on – is cooking classes!
- IG: @sansebastianfood
- Twitter: @sansebfood
Name of course: Fish & Seafood Cooking Class
Cost: $237 AUD
The food: See below for a list of the dishes that we made. The school chooses different dishes for each course depending on what ingredients are in season. I am sure that you will see some modified versions of these recipes on the blog soon enough… as soon as I work out a healthy way to cook them up in a hostel!
- The Gilda Pintxos – traditionally only one or two bites. This was one of my favourite things to learn how to make. Simple, healthy and very tasty!
- Txangurro a la Donostiarra – Crab of Donostirra (San Sebastian). This dish combined vegetables, leek. Oil (lots of oil), cognac, bread crumbs and lots of king crab – a speciality of the area.
- Txipirones Pelayo – Squid with onion. This recipe really highlighted how parsley is used to great effect in Basque cooking. Both the smell and the flavour highlighted the squid. The school also taught me how to gut, clean and remove the ink sack of a squid during this dish – an invaluable skill.
- Merluza en Salsa Verde con Almejas – Hake with clams in Salsa Verde. Salsa Verde in Basque cooking is very different from Mexican or Spanish, it simply means – green sauce, and is usually created from parsley. The main flavour in this dish was the ingredients themselves, making it one of my favourites!
- Pantxineta – Cognac custard filled pastry, a traditional and easy to make Basque desert. The chef had pre-made the pastry for us, and also said that if we were making it at home that we should just buy some pre-made puff pastry “it should be simple and easy – if you aren’t good at pastry then it wont be simple and easy… or taste good”
Why cook in San Sebastian? San Sebastian is the Basque region of Spain and has it’s own unique style of cooking. In San Sebastian they pride themselves on buying only local produce, or produced that comes from the Basque region. Therefore all of the food is super fresh and seasonal.
A major part of Basque cooking is ham; it is basically considered a vegetable. If you have a salad – add ham. Have a sandwich – add ham. Have a steak – add ham. Have eggs – add ham. There is pretty much nothing they wouldn’t add ham to.
The key to Basque cooking is 5 simple ingredients: Good olive oil, parsley, garlic, salt and fresh local produce. They don’t add anything else – simple and dam tasty!
Pro’s: The food. The chefs. Honestly, I can’t find enough positive things to say about this experience. I had such a great time. The biggest pro for me was learning how to use simple good ingredients to create something so packed with flavour that your taste buds are convinced that there must be something else in there.
Con’s: They lost my booking when I booked through Viator. I would suggest if you are planning on doing this course booking directly with the school.
My only other con was that as a single it can be a little awkward as lot of the other people in my group were couples or friends. So when it came to doing things in groups or pairs everyone was already matched up. Maybe a juggling of couples would help elevate this so that people travelling on their own aren’t put off from doing the course.
Summary: Our day started with a tour of the local markets to see where all of the local produce came from. It was also a chance for our guide to give us some background into Basque cooking and how it is different from Spanish or French. In doing so we also got a little history lesson about the region as food is so tied up in the Basque way of life.
After gawking at all of the fresh meat and seafood we were taken back to the school and given our chefs apron (a great souvenir to take home – and practical). Our chefs gave us a quick run down on the menu for the day as well as a few safety features.
The rest of the session was spent cooking and eating. They had organised the day in such a way that we were only ever cooking for about 20-30 minutes at a time before taking a quick snack break. Either to eat the dishes that we had made or another Pintxos they had prepared for us. They also matched the dishes with wine, which was free-flowing.
At the end we all sat down to eat the final main dish and the desert together, by this point everyone had bonded and the wine was doing a good job of forging friendships. I left feeling full, satisfied… and a little tipsy!