Sharpen your skills and learn the art of Mexican cooking with Clay Cantina
If you’ve ever travelled to Mexico, chances are that along with a stunning reel of photos you returned with, you also brought back fond memories of the food – and the realisation that there is quite a lot more to the cuisine than what we’re exposed to here in Australia. The authenticity. The flavours. The techniques. It all seems so inimitable – you probably thought you would never experience Mexican like that again unless you travelled back. Recently, a new cooking school called Clay Cantina launched here on the Gold Coast, with the specific intention of teaching you (yes, you) to cook and prepare authentic Mexican cuisine just as it is in the family homes and small-town cantinas across the regions.
Clay Cantina is the brainchild of Kristal Smith. She knows Mexico, she knows food and she knows the Gold Coast – all like the back of her hand. Up until last year, Kristal owned and operated Pop Taco, a Mexican cantina that originally started out serving delicioso eats from a space in Currumbin before hitting the road full time as a roving eatery at events and festivals. Kristal, who was also one of the original founders of Goodness Gracias in Palm Beach (which has now on-sold), fell in love with Mexico at an early age and has travelled and explored the country extensively since. She was always drawn to the deep parts of the culture (particularly the creatives, the artisans and the makers) as well as the food culture – the growers, the producers and the techniques. Despite bowing out of her hospitality ventures, Kristal was determined to pursue a project that would allow her passion for Mexico to continue to flourish. She wanted to be able to share her knowledge and experiences with people, and connect them to Mexico through authentic food – and so Clay Cantina began.
The Clay Cantina cooking classes run out of Dust Temple in Currumbin – the intimate and very interactive sessions are capped at just ten people and you’ll learn truly unique cooking methods, work with traditional ingredients and create flavours that stem from some of Mexico’s most delicious regions. The classes will transport you to a different region each time – all places that Kristal has travelled to time and time again. The ‘clay’ component of Clay Cantina refers to Kristal’s fond use of ‘molcajetes’ – much like a mortar and pestle – which is said to be the key in bringing out the true flavours in the cuisine, from the corn tortillas to the punchy chillies and salsas. With some help from renowned local ceramicist Jo Norton of Thrown by Jo, Kristal has crafted handmade replicas of the traditional molcajetes, which are used in every class and are available to purchase so you can recreate the goodness at home. The Clay Cantina classes go for around 4–5 hours and you’ll essentially create a full meal, from a particular Mexican region, all from scratch. Yes, the methods and techniques showcased and taught by Kristal are unique, but the classes are designed so that you leave with a set of skills that can translate into your own kitchen – and never again will you use store-bought salsas, tortillas, chilli or guac! The best part? You’ll all get to sit down together at the end and enjoy a long-table feast with your creations. So, whether you’re missing the complexities and deep flavours of traditional Mexican food from past travels, were forced to cancel that overseas holiday to Tulum (how very 2020) or you want to explore the fresh and vibrant tastes of Mexico guided by a very well-researched cook with a deep-rooted connection to the country, then the Clay Cantina experience is for you.
With a capacity of just ten, these classes are understandably filling up quick. Next on the calendar is Flavours of Caribbean Mayan Mexico (think vibrant flavours, super-spicy heat and fresh seafood found in the coastal Yucatan region) on August 1. There’s Mexico City Favourites on August 30, which covers everything from sauces and salsas to marinades and tortillas from scratch – plus you’ll learn a family recipe for the best guacamole. On October 3 there’s a Plant-Based Mexican class, and there’s also a special Father’s Day class coming up in September, the details of which will be online shortly.
For all bookings and information, head to the Clay Cantina website.
Image credit: Sabine Bannard
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