So a few months ago I won an awesome competition at Scarlett’s Blogger’s Festival – the opportunity to work with Mode Media and create my dream blog post. After much deliberation I decided it would be pretty darn awesome to head to a proper cookery class, to learn a few tricks of the trade and tell you all about them. So, here we go!
The last time I remember having a cooking class was a good 11 years ago, popping ready chopped ingredients onto a pre-rolled pizza base, tomato sauce liberally smeared on my apron and probably with flour in my hair. But as Joe and I tugged aprons over our heads and sipped on Prosecco at Jamie Oliver’s Recipease in Notting Hill, it definitely felt like more of a grown up, fancy affair. Though, let’s be honest, we all know I still got ingredients in my hair – you can take the girl out of her kitchen…
Nestled on the corner near Notting Hill Gate station, Recipease was a two-storey high restaurant and cooking school, with beautiful modern decor and glass walls – effortless glamour and a touch of personality, with cosy little corners with maps on the walls, and clinks of glass at the large cocktail bar. As we took down cocktail orders – a mojito-like rum meddler for Joe, and a tangy strawberry and basil crush for me – a group of us crowded around a square of open worktops, fit with cookers and pots and pans full of ingredients, and a bustling chef behind.
The concept was simple – the chef would give us a demonstration of a few of the steps, then we would use a worktop in pairs and do the same, before heading back to find out the next parts of the recipe. Meanwhile, over the course of the evening the chef would give us tips and tricks for us to use at home and make cooking even easier. So, after a little introduction, our chef got started with the chicken.
The recipe for everything we made is here, but I thought it would be fun to give you a little run through some of it, with the little tips our chef treated us with as he worked. The chef we had was really friendly, adding a bit of humour to the whole mix.
To begin our chef let us smell, touch and even taste some of the different ingredients that would be going to in the mix, including a fiery chipotle sauce for the chicken and the masa harina (a mexican flour) for the tortillas – which felt a bit like sand – before chucking the ready marinated chicken thigh skin down into a cold pan. According to our chef, you don’t need any oil for this part as the fat from the skin will wet the pan enough – and if you pop the chicken in a cold pan and quickly heat it up without touching it for 5 minutes, you’ll get a delicious, charred skin on top.
So off we popped to our workspaces to get the chicken ready – cooking on 5 minutes skin side down, around 10 seconds on the other, and then quickly pouring in the chipotle and passata sauce before popping on the lid and leaving the chicken for the majority of the lesson.
Next were the toppings – a delicious roasted corn salsa, tomato salsa, a spinach and feta mix, and my absolute favourite…guacamole. The first port of call? Chopping the ingredients, the professional way (read that with a booming cinematic voice)
In order to stop your knife wobbling whilst chopping, and in order to chop finely and quickly, rest your index finger vertically on one side of the blade, and the thumb pressing on the other side. Then chop with your hand going in a backwards, circular motion, and the tip of the blade must rest on the board at the beginning. See above to get the idea – though always rest your palm on the top of the blade, not your fingers!
First we started with the delicious, zesty tomato salsa – big chunks of tomato with raw red onion, finely chopped chilli and the piece de resistance for any salsa, garlic! Then straight after we got to the guacamole, using a ready ripe avocado (if the pip falls off easily, it’s ready), more red onion and chilli, fresh coriander and a squeeze of lime (always roll citrus fruits on the work surface to get more juice!) The beauty of these is that you can add as much of anything as you like – nothing here is precise, instead you can chop and add ingredients in whichever way you fancy. Myself? I love a chunky guacamole.
Next was the roasted corn salsa – I’m not usually a big corn fan, but this is unbelievably tasty. We added the pale jewels of sweetcorn to a readily hot pan until golden and crispy, before taking the pan off the heat and chucking in the remaining of the red onion, chilli, lime juice and corriander – simple! We then poured the mix into a bowl and then chucked in a cup of passata sauce and handful of spinach into the now empty pan. Once the spinach had wilted, we popped in a hefty amount of feta cheese, and mixed until it melted into a delicious goo.
The crispy tortillas were a cinch, simply mixing some masa harina (which you can find in most supermarkets) with water, and popping small balls into the tortilla press – something I never knew I desperately needed…
The tortillas were then popped into a shallow pool of super hot oil, leaving it until the tortilla was hard before flipping on to the other side. The amount we were given should have only made 6 tortillas – but for some reason myself and Joe had more than ten, not that we were complaining.
By now the chicken was ready, and it was as simple as taking it off the heat and easily pulling the chicken away from the bone with two forks. The chicken pulled away with ease, the spicy aromas making our tummys rumble within seconds.
But before we could eat, it was time to assemble. Again, it was up to us to pop the food on our board as we liked – so Joe and I topped our multiple tortillas with the chipotle chicken, roasted corn and spinach and feta salsa, letting them mix together into a taste sensation (no exaggeration!), and resting the salsa and guacamole on the side.
One of mine and Joe’s favourite restaurants is a little mexican nestled in the Brighton Laines, but guys, I feel this was just as good – if not better.
The pulled chicken itself was delicious, but mixed with all the extra salsas too? It was like a party in our mouths. So much so, that we’re thinking of making it ourselves New Year’s Eve!
We had an amazing evening, so a big thank you to everyone at Recipease, and also Mode for giving us the opportunity to try something new and blog about it! This recipe will be going straight in our repertoire, and now all the tips and tricks I’ve learnt will help me improve with my food blogging too.
Unfortunately, the Recipease in Notting Hill shut down on Christmas eve, but there will hopefully be another opening in Shepherd’s Bush early on next year, so definitely keep a look out! It was a really special affair, with friendly staff, fancy interior, and the most delicious food. Until then, I couldn’t recommend going to a cooking class more – not only is it great to try/learn something new, but it’s a really great idea for a birthday, or hen do, or even an exciting, fancy date night.