Thursday, October 05, 2006

Cooking Lessons

I've never been to a cooking lesson before (whether this is because I am too arrogant to think I can learn from them, or because I am too embarrassed to make a complete fool of myself in public, I'm not sure), but last night I went to a lesson at Eat Drink Talk in Clerkenwell. The class I went to was called Creative Cooking for Men, and was aimed at teaching not too difficult but impressive food, with something of an emphasis on 'manly' food - lots of spices and protein.

The atmosphere on arrival was friendly and not at all formal - everyone was sitting around a large table, chatting and drinking a cocktail (an Orange & Cardamom Mojito). The instructor started of by explaining what we would be cooking; Moroccan spiced squid with fennel salad scallops with chili jam, and stuffed sea bass.

As the chili jam takes some time to cool, we started with that first. The instructor carefully explained the procedure, and also discussed the more unusual ingredients (including where to buy them). Everyone then took a turn pounding the mixture in a mortar and pestle, which was a great way to relieve any tension!

The most difficult thing that we did was the sea bass. This needed to have the backbone removed, but left as a reasonable whole fish, so that we could stuff it.

The final part of the evening was a sort of chocolate workshop. First we tasted 3 chocolates, all about 70% cocoa, Green & Black's, Valrhona and Amedei. I had always thought that Green & Black's was quite nice, but in comparison with the other two it was very harsh tasting. Finally we had an oak smoked sea salt caramel from Paul Young. This was absolutely amazing, tasting of richly buttery caramel, with the sweetness moderated with salt.

Finally, we rolled some chocolate and pistachio truffles (made with the Amedei chocolate that we had tasted earlier). These were perfectly complemented with some wonderful honey and saffron ice cream.

At the end, we could take away a binder of all the recipes we had learned (and we were offered truffles - which I had to decline for fear of making a pig of myself on the way home).

Overall, I had a really fun evening. I have learned a couple of new recipes (I will certainly be making the chili jam again soon), the atmosphere was really friendly and relaxed, with all the students (and instructor) obviously enjoying themselves. The quality of the cooking was superb, and I especially enjoyed finding out about new ingredients (like sea purslane). I would really recommend this, whether you are a confident cook who would like to spend an evening chatting to like-minded people, or a complete novice who would like to learn how to cook a few dishes for a dinner party to impress your friends.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Well, I haven't posted for quite a while, but there are quite a few things I want to mention. First of all is the cassoulet that I made a for some friends, a couple of weeks ago (which Howard was kind enough to mention in his blog), the recipe (although I have adapted it slightly) is originally from The Cooking of Southwest France by Paula Wolfert, but was reprinted in the Guardian, my adaptations to this were to decrease the quantity of beans, to just 500g, and to decrease the quantity of stock to about 1.4l. This resulted in a much lighter dish - although still the filling meal that one would expect from a cassoulet.

I was really pleased with how well this turned out, and the home made confit that was left over from this dish was really useful - I just quickly fried it in some of its fat, took the confit out of the pan, added some boiled new potatoes, to soak up all the really flavourful goose fat, and mixed it all together. So quick, (could only have taken 15 minutes to cook) but a really delicious (if slightly unhealthy) meal.