Cambodian (or Italian) made easy
Chef Oonagh demystifies international cuisine
By Linda A. Odum firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone who is interested in international cuisine but too nervous to prepare the dishes at home is the perfect candidate for chef Oonagh Williams’s cooking classes.
She takes the fear and mystery out of recipes and ingredients from far-off lands.
“What I try to do for the cooking classes is use ingredients people are familiar with that won’t break the budget and that they will use again,” Williams said. “I try to make it a very relaxing evening with plenty of food. I call it a sanity break. They get to have fun and try it out for themselves.”
Williams’s International Cooking Made Easy classes take place in her Merrimack home. Future classes include:
• Feb. 29 — Italian, with an antipasto platter, chicken Marsala and tiramisu.
• March 14 — St. Patrick’s Day with Irish chicken, soda bread and Kahlua tipsy cake.
• March 28 — Spring Delight with roast lamb, potato and leek soup and lemon cake.
• April 25 — Exotic Fare with Indian raita (yogurt, tomato, cucumber and herb dip served with baked pita bread chips), Cambodian avocado and tomato citrus soup, chicken curry and creamy rice pudding.
• May 23 — Summer Fun with cold peach soup, New England chicken salad with dried cranberries and pecans, and a frozen Amaretto meringue and cream dessert.
Williams begins each class with an appetizer ready to eat when students arrive, to help keep hunger at bay. Then she demonstrates each recipe, which she has made as simple as possible (she explained, “Sometimes I see a recipe that is so complicated that I think if I wouldn’t bother to make it with all of my knowledge and equipment, no one else will either.”).
A native of London, England, Williams has an international outlook. Her parents were born and raised in Ireland, which explains her Gaelic first name. She went to culinary school in England and also spent time training in Zurich, Switzerland. She speaks French, Spanish, German and Dutch.
Williams came to the United States 20 years ago when her husband was transferred here for business. They have lived in Merrimack ever since. At first she was not allowed to work in the U.S. because her husband was the one with the work visa. After waiting out the time required by the immigration folks, she began her catering business, Royal Temptations, approximately 10 years ago.
Besides the international cooking classes, Williams teaches classes through Merrimack High School’s Adult Education program, and free Lithuanian cuisine classes at Nashua Public Library. (The next class is May 1 at 7 p.m.) She will also teach a class in a private home for a group of friends or a special party. Each class includes hands-on activities and the full recipes.
“On top of detailed recipes for everyone and clear demos, I am always saying, ‘See this, taste it, touch, smell’ so that every step of the process people get to see the difference. The smell of fresh nutmeg rather than ready powdered. Rub fresh herbs between their fingers and smell. Feel the consistency of the dough. See how sauces change as they cook. Taste new cheeses, fresh mango, dried fruits they mightn’t know. I could go on and on,” she said.
Williams is a regular on WMUR’s Cooks Corner during the noontime broadcast. She also has her own community television cooking show on Merrimack Channel 22 and MCAM Manchester Channel 23. Her videos are now available on YouTube and her Web site, www.royaltemptations.com, which also has a detailed class schedule and recipes.