I’ve been learning to cook. Not as simple as learning how to boil eggs. But dishes that sound special enough for hosting dinner, and easy enough that I could knock some of them up at home during the week, after a long day at work.
Over 3 weeks back in October last year I signed up to the Kitchen Basics classes at cookery school Food at 52 in Clerkenwell with a hope that I would come out feeling like Nigella. It’s a great approach to a food school as it’s like a homely kitchen but with every bit of equipment you could ever want. The founder John has definitely succeeded in creating a warm, friendly environment for anyone to learn about food.
Each session John demonstrates the recipes step by step in the centre of the large kitchen table whilst everyone works alongside, sometimes individually or in groups. After a sociable evening drinking wine and eating what you’ve just learnt to make, expect to be leaving a little tipsy with a full stomach.
Salmon ﬁllet with poached egg and spinach
The menu for Kitchen Basics week one started with one of my favourite food combos – salmon and eggs.
Now usually when I have a salmon fillet, I tend to either pan fry it or wrap it in foil and stick it in the oven but in class we poached it in some simmering water with some veg and herbs. John also took everyone through poaching eggs and I’m happy to say that mine didn’t turn into a stringy mess and I ended up with one tidy looking egg.
After some hollandaise sauce was whizzed up by John, everything was all served up on top of a bed of wilted spinach with a sprinkle of black pepper.
For a luxury snack as well as teaching us a bit about steaks and what to look for in the supermarket, John fried two fillets up which we ate with a peppercorn and a béarnaise sauce. Medium to rare of course.
Our main dish was beef and stout pie which we had actually started right at the beginning of class to get it into the oven in time to eat. We were advised that for this dish that it’s preferable to have meat with a good amount of marbling as this helps stop it drying out.
For this particular pie, we cooked the pastry top separately then popped it on top just before serving, accompanied by some mash and chantenay carrots.
The final dish for week one was a fruit pastry. After cooking the pastry cases in the oven, we whizzed up some chantilly cream and were given a plateful of fresh berries to decorate our tarts with. At this point class was overrunning quite a bit so I wrapped up my tart in foil and took it home for later.
Minestrone with pesto verde
Chocolate molten fondant
Unfortunately for week two I was struck down with flu but luckily I was able to let a friend attend in my place. The menu looked pretty good but I was disappointed I missed out on learning to make my favourite dessert!
Seared 5 spice duck with stir fried greens
Lemon, lime and ginger mousse
Week three started off with 5 spice duck breast that tasted so good and was really simple to make. Being at a cooking school, we did grind up the 5 different spices fresh but I think for those that don’t have a fully stocked cupboard, you could substitute pre-ground 5 spice and your average person would be none the wiser.
After frying some greens with hoisin and sesame oil and making some egg fried rice, it made a pretty delicious meal, something I’d definitely make again at home during the week.
For our main we made a chicken tagine which involved slow cooking the chicken in a marinade made from onion, garlic and parsley to name a few and also preserved lemon which I think is an acquired taste when eaten on it’s own. It’s quite tart and bitter, but super lemony and is a staple for most Moroccan dishes.
To accompany the tagine we made some couscous as well as some sort of feta and yoghurt mix with a side of lettuce leaf and freshly made flat bread.
The final dish of the Kitchen Basics course was a lemon, lime and ginger mousse. Light and fluffy on top with a crumbly ginger biscuit base. I’m not normally a fan of mousse but I liked the citrusy taste of this particular one as it was quite refreshing.
Food for thought
I think if you’ve been interested in taking a cooking course, you won’t be disappointed with the Food at 52 Kitchen Basics course. It’s a little more expensive than other classes that I’ve done before, but you’ll be taught how to cook quite a few dishes, and you’ll sit down to eat it all afterwards.
It’s a sociable evening and definitely something you can go to by yourself, with people of all ages attending. In my experience, everyone was friendly and easy to talk to. So even if you’re a little bit shy, John and the rest of the team will make you and everyone else feel more than at home, and you’ll leave with a good basic set of kitchen skills and recipes to match.
And because I didn’t feel I reached my peak Nigella, a review of the Kitchen Confidence classes will follow soon!
Food at 52
96 Central St, London Borough of Islington, EC1V 8AJ