A taste of Waitrose cookery school

I remember when I first learned to cook. The summer before university, in the kitchen of Mum’s ‘friend of a friend’ – a lovely, (slightly crazy) chef who taught me a fail-proof basic roux recipe and told me about her divorce.

I soon found you don’t learn to cook over night, but I got my appetite for it in a week. Over the years this has waned with the chore of midweek dinners.

But I was excited to get back into a cooking school – this time run by Waitrose in North London; conveners of Heston, Delia and basic food porn.

Picture of prosecco on arrival

A very civilised welcome, naturally

Our chef was Martin and on the menu was thai red curry. I was relieved  – something I genuinely like.

The surroundings were immaculate and we were well looked after. I was sold with the arrival drinks – bubbles or ‘lime and ginger cordial infused with lemon grass and chili’! I honestly can’t stop thinking about this juice….

There was an impressive teaching gallery, equipped with TV screens and surround sound, where Martin walked us through each step of making the curry, along with cucumber relish and jasmine rice.

2014-08-15 22.36.32

The school makes an effort to teach you some ‘skillz’ as well as the recipe, which were very appreciated. Who knew that the best waste-free way to peel a ginger without is by using a spoon and a bit of vigour? And apparently the safest way to use a knife is to bend your non-chopping hand like a ‘claw’, to protect your fingers. I absorbed these insights like a massive nerd.

The best thing I learned was how to make sticky coconut rice which doesn’t stick to the pan. All to do with the timings apparently. You bring it to the  boil, stirring only once, then you cover with a lid on a low heat for 10 minutes and DON’T touch it! Genuinely works.

Pic of people tasting food like birds on a loaf of bread

Closest I’ve been to Saturday Morning Kitchen

2014-08-15 22.35.08The food was incredible. Legendary. Of course recreating it wasn’t so simple. I’ve tried twice since – once during the course where you recreate it step by step with the help if the chefs (who have headsets!!) and again at home. It’s still a work in progress.

Below are the curry and rice recipes, along with my insights. Enjoy x

 

 

 

Thai Red Curry

  • 2 skinless, boneless diced chicken thighs (I prefer breast but actually trying breast as an alternative I realised the thigh is more flavoursome. You can use duck too apparently)
  • 6 Parboiled new potatoes, halved
  • 400 ml can coconut milk (Thai taste recommended)
  • 3 tbsp fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp palm sugar (crystalised)
  • 2 lime wedges
  • 1tbsp vegetable oil

For the paste:

  • 4 Kashmiri red chillis – (I’ve tried with and without and these really do make a difference,  the recipe with a lovely smokey flavour. Hard to source in London, but available online)
  • 1 Banana shallots, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4cm piece of ginger, peeled
  • 1 stalk lemongrass
  • 15 white peppercorns
  • 1 tsp ground fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 pieces of mace
  • 3 tbsp coconut cream

1. To make the paste, blend all the ingredients except the coconut cream together in a food processor or blender until smooth – this will take about 4-5 minutes. If necessary, add a little water. Add the coconut cream and blend again to combine fully.

2. Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan, add the curry paste and fry for at least 5-6 minutes until fragrant

3. Season with the palm sugar and fish sauce and add the coconut milk. Bring to a simmer and add the chicken and potatoes. Turn down the heat and simmer on a low heat for about 7 minutes, until the chicken is tender (be careful not to overcook this at a high heat, it can go rubbery).

Thai coconut rice

  • 150g Waitrose Jasmine Hom Mali rice
  • 150ml coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white sugar
  • Finely grated zest 1 lime

1. Place the coconut milk, lime zest, salt and sugar in a large saucepan together with 225ml cold water. Bring to the boil and add the rice. Stir once to combine the ingredients

2. Bring the mixture to simmering point, stir once more then turn down the heat to its lowest setting. Simmer for 10 minutes until tender then remove from the heat. Cover and allow to stand for a further 10 minutes

 

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The best Chinese take-away in Wandsworth

Lately I’ve been exemplifying the kind of emotionally dependent relationship with my local Chinese restaurant that Sandra Bullock embodies at the start of ‘Two Weeks Notice‘.

Can I have a bite of your number 6 please Sandie?

I know things need to change. They know things need to change. But neither of us wants to stop.

So it goes on that I, exhausted at the end of the week, make the call and get them to hit me up with a Singapore chicken noodles,  beef in black bean sauce and an egg fried rice.

Yes I know that is two types of carbs and a really bad idea. Yes I know that Sandra is way thinner than me. Yes I also know that the amazing health benefits of Asian food are only really seen on a diet of sushi, tofu and miso soup, not white rice flash fried in oil. But can the world please stop judging me and take a mouthful of the black bean beef?!

I love The Good Earth, not just because the food is excellent, but because it provides the kind of singular comfort that nothing other than a bear hug with an elderly relative can deliver.

It is also well posh (its roots are in Kensington). You can have a takeaway at home and feel really swank over skank.

They have a really fancy restaurant that has gold padded walls, very efficient waiting staff and silent, automatic doors everywhere that lead to secret rooms. Plus they look after you with hot hand towels and after dinner mints.

Image of a clay pot being revealed

The big reveal

Here I am getting the fillet steak clay pot. That is the super attention-seeking meal they cook at your table and everyone in the restaurant gets jealous (see man in white shirt with the hilarious hungry eyes).

Image of fillet steak clay pot at the good earth

Divine

Chocolate mints in orange foil

Chocolate mints. Imported from the eighties. The very best way to end a good meal.

The Good Earth has selected restaurants across London, including a restaurant in Wandsworth Common and takeaway stations in Battersea and Wimbledon.

Favourite fancy London restaurants for Spring

In an attempt to document more of the places I’ve been (and would recommend) I wanted to write about a few restaurants I’ve been to this spring. (As established in earlier posts on eating that this is what I mostly seem to get up to):

1. Roka.

Image of sushi chefs cooking at Roka restaurant

Get your rocks off at Roka

An old friend is getting married and as I’m not able to go to her hen party, I wanted to take her out to celebrate. I had a feeling she would like Roka  as she is a big fan of Japanese and fish and was wanting to try here for her 30th (but Roka weren’t keen to accommodate a big party). Sadly for me (I’m told) I detest fish. I can only manage to eat fish which is deep fried and served in newspaper whilst on a beach – anything else turns me into a total child. So my affliction made it slightly hard to share all of the sushi and sashimi on offer, which Roka is famous for. But we managed. I loved the Japanese grill (and the theatre of being able to watch the chefs in action), and of course, the cocktails…But we ended the night in a proper British pub with a bottle of pinot, as every (alternative) hen night should…I think Roka is a great , but perhaps best enjoyed by people who actually eat sushi…

2. Simpsons on the Strand

Image of two chefs carving roast beeft at Simpsons restaurant

The best roast beef in London

There is something of the Orient Express about Simpsons on the Strand (as you’d expect of the Savoy) – an old fashioned gentility and oak-paneled tradition that provides such a sense of occasion, even I am tempted to shun my Northern roots and say I went there for ‘supper’. I’ve always wanted to go, but you need a reason. So we went there for my friend’s 30th, with her family, which made the experience fittingly grown up. Simpsons has a lovely menu – but the stand-out order is the roast beef, which comes complete with two carving chefs who are generous with insights and (importantly) slices of meet. Its the kind of place you expect to spot a politician. Like Winston Churchill.

3. The Modern Pantry

Image of Modern Pantry menu

Yes I know this menu is impossible to read…

I don’t often go to East London – I’m definitely not cool enough (and practically, I just live too far away). But I do have some trendier friends and a group of us we went for a lovely dinner in Clerkenwell to the Modern Pantry. I’d describe the menu as elegant. Just like my friend whose birthday/engagement celebration it was. So it was a perfect place to raise a glass to her by fairy light.

4.  Paramount

 

View of London from Paramount restaurant

A lovely view of London from an old favourite

There is a lot of buzz about the latest restaurants with ‘sky-high views’ currently…(and I am very excited about my first trip to the Duck and Waffle for a birthday dinner in May, and will inevitably join the throngs and visit the Shard and Sushi Samba  as soon as I can). But the fact is these places are wildly popular and almost impossible to get into. So for an early Mother’s Day treat we went for Sunday lunch at a rather forgotten favourite – the Paramount restaurant at centre point. It was very pleasant – lovely food,  peaceful and private (we even spotted a few celebs) and had great views of London (which I’m sure are just as beautiful, whether you are on the top of a crane, in an office block or at the top of the Heron Tower).