The dining room at the Tamarind.
Learning to cook Thai-style.
Take a Thai escape in Queensland and try your hand at traditional Thai cooking or, of course, leave it to the experts.
Tamarind is a major ingredient in Thai cuisine; it is also an indigenous rainforest tree which grows in the Maleny area. Tamarind is also a retreat, situated along a secluded lane, overlooking Gardners Falls and surrounded by rainforest.
Its owner, Paul Blain, has been a chef for 25 years, and is classically trained in French and Italian cuisine, though he now specialises in the delights of Thai cooking. He runs cooking workshops in Thailand twice a year.
While Paul's culinary expertise is a big Tamarind drawcard, you can stay there and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere without going near a kitchen.
Five finely appointed bungalows have a subtle Asian feel, and blend perfectly with the rural environment. They have a contemporary simplicity, with polished floors, wooden furniture and a sprinkling of Asian stone statues in the surrounding gardens. The bungalows are very private, and you are more likely to see frogs, turtles, scrub turkeys, quail and maybe even platypus before you see other people.
The bungalows have a rural view or overlook the rainforest canopy, and from your balcony you can hear the waterfall that borders the property. Running water is common in Asian design and is said to create an energy that puts people at ease.
Each bungalow has a king-size bed, full-length double spa, separate shower, wood-burning fireplace and an entertainment unit of television, stereo, CD and video. Linen, towels and bathrobes are provided, and the kitchenette is equipped with bar fridge, crockery, cutlery and microwave oven.
Breakfast is delivered to you each day, and you may order the makings of a barbecue to enjoy at your bungalow or by the falls. Picnic hampers and cheese platters to take on Sunshine Coast hinterland trips can be made up, and facials and massages in the privacy of your bungalow can also be arranged.
Evening meals will be served in your bungalow, or you can dine in the simple sophistication of the dining room or outdoor pavilion. Tamarind's market garden supplies fresh organic produce for their kitchen.
If you choose to participate in Paul's hands-on classes, you will probably be amazed at his passion, knowledge and understanding of Thai cuisine, its ingredients, techniques and balance of flavours.
Classes are for groups of eight, held in a purpose-built commercial kitchen, with everyone actively involved in the preparation of a banquet menu that is then shared over a glass of wine in the tranquil surroundings.
Weekend packages start with Friday evening supper in your bungalow, then a Saturday cooking class followed by the banquet you have helped create.
For those who are really serious about their cooking, Tamarind can organise a week-long package for six to eight people combining classes with farm tours, leisurely lunches, rainforest walks and cocktails by the waterfall.
THE TAMARIND'S YUM PLA MUEK (CUTTLEFISH SALAD)
100g scored cuttlefish
2 tablespoons sliced red shallots
1 tablespoon coriander leaves
1 tablespoon mint leaves
1 tablespoon garlic chives
1 teaspoon finely sliced lemongrass
1 teaspoon finely sliced kaffir lime leaves
Ingredients for dressing:
20ml lime juice
10ml fish sauce
2 cloves garlic
1 chilli, deseeded
1 coriander root
For the dressing, pound the garlic, coriander root and chilli in a mortar and pestle to a paste. Add lime juice and fish sauce.
Plunge cuttlefish in boiling water for 30 seconds and refresh. Combine with salad herbs. Add dressing and serve immediately.