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.
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.
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.
Closest I’ve been to Saturday Morning Kitchen
The 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