I can’t cook. You know this. My husband REALLY knows this. We survive on a motley collection of oddly put together meals and occasional moments where I feel inspired and spend hours on BBC Good Food, only to end up burning something.
But you know, we’re still here, nutritionally sound (80% cake is ok right?), no need to send the food police in just yet. So when an email from the Underground Cookery School popped up in my inbox inviting me to learn to create a simply swell 3-course meal, I was excited. And Husband was thrilled to think he may be on the receiving end of decent meals for a change.
Underground Cookery school are located only a few minutes walk from Old Street station. They’re underground (duh) and have a surprising large space lurking under that doorway, all the better to host host groups, at workstations dotted around the room and a big ol’ scrubbed pine table to enjoy the fruits of your labours afterwards.
Just about as soon I arrive, a glass of prosecco is pressed into my hand (not complaining) topped up throughout the evening and the group get chatting to each other, nibbling on the fantastic canape spread put out for us. Options are Crostini with prawn, cream cheese and smoked salmon, which is creamily fabulous, the most succulent chicken skewers I have ever had and my favourite of all, Arancini with a liquid Goat’s cheese centre. So many places get Arancini so horribly wrong and you end up eating quite literally a ball of dry risotto but this is soft, creamy heaven.
Still clutching my prosecco, it’s time to earn our keep. We’re split into two teams and my team start with the best course of all – dessert! Flourless chocolate cake. Quite cunningly, I manage to avoid being of any use at all and instead watch my team fluff up egg whites to a most glorious fluffy consistency. We learn that it’s important to beat the whites first because the fat in yolks means that the whites don’t peak, so beat your whites first, get a fluff on and that’s especially necessary when you’re making a flourless cake and there isn’t that substance to cling on to.
Others are melting chocolate, greasing the tin and combining the other ingredients while I’m sipping prosecco. Frankly, a brilliant division of labour.
Next up, we’re tasked with de-boning a rump of lamb. Thanks to my stint at the Ginger Pig, I’m feeling a bit of confidence at this one, so I get stuck in. A boning knife has no give in it as you need it to be especially strong as you come against bone. We get a lot of clear instruction and guidance and it’s nowhere near as scary as it sounds.
No time to rest for we are off to the next station – this time to take a fillet out of Seabass. While I don’t often buy a whole hunk of meat, I do often buy whole fish and end up relying on YouTube to help me cut it. But with some instruction in how best to hold it and how to angle your blade, I’ve got 2 perfect fillets. This one is a bit trickier than the lamb, which is obvious really, fish being so much more delicate than the meat.
We have a little bit of time while the other team are finishing up, so we’re taught how to make a vinaigrette, this isn’t something I’d have thought I really needed to learn to do, but just a few simple tips show us just how light and fresh a vinaigrette can be.
We don’t do any of the actual cooking, which is a bit of a shame as I was hoping to come home, being a bonafide whizz at these three courses, but that would probably take a great deal longer than just the work of one evening!
So we sit down to be treated by the professionals to a 3 course meal fit for a king.
The seabass and asparagus is utterly heavenly and frankly would be plenty for a main, so it’s with some trepidation that we await our lamb main course, but if anything, it’s even more heavenly. The lamb is so tender, it positively falls apart at the hint of a knife and this is when it becomes clear to me that we’re eating food cooked by Matt Kemp, of such prized restaurants as the River Cafe, Pont de la Tour and the Ivy. Not that it should be such a surprise, but you usually associate a cooking school with eating your own cobbled together (i.e.. slightly dodgy) efforts.
I’ve had a really great evening with all the team, who have been charm personified, but the real acid test is – Will I come back here, of my own accord, with my friends (or perhaps workmates) in tow? The answer is a resounding yes.
I think I’d prefer the more in-depth classes that they run as all day sessions where I could really turn my hand to learning a few skills (Thus impressing Husband), but for an evening out, this is right up there.
In the interests of full disclosure, I was a guest of the Underground Cookery School, however in no way did that entice me to say nice things about them. I genuinely had a great time learning some tricks of the trade and thoroughly enjoyed the fabulous dishes they rustled up.
And as you’ve probably guessed, what with the photos of being of a far greater standard than my usual efforts, photos are courtesy of Underground Cookery School