One of the things about being a home cook rather than being someone classically trained, I've always got something to learn. Okay, that could be said of every cook, experienced or not, but my cookery knowledge seems a little mad. I can make a creme patissiere one handed while scrolling through Instagram at the same time, but on the other hand my fish filleting skills leave a lot to be desired. For everyone of every skill level, there are some great cookery courses and one off classes out there, and on Saturday I grabbed Sherin for our latest 'girl date' and headed over to Jamie Oliver's new cookery school in Shepherds Bush to learn how to make a North Indian Thali: something I had no idea about, and something Sherin eats at home, but has not been confident enough to attempt to make herself (she's my usual cookery class partner in crime, as a total novice!)
A few notes on the school itself: it is located inside a massive space at the back of Jamie's Italian in Westfield White City, and is split into two different classrooms. Both scream Jamie with the style and decor. There is also a serving bar, and space to eat your food once you've cooked it with your classmates. You can browse all of the classes available here (there is a great mix of weeknight evening, weekend couple of hour, or all day classes), but a few I'd love to try include 'Unbeatable Filled Pasta', 'Vietnamese Street Food' and their skills based 'Dipping into Chocolate' class. They also host kids classes, and one off classes with up and coming chefs and food writers. Recently, I was gutted to have missed a Korean feast class by Jordan Bourke (one half of the team behind my most exciting new cookbook acquisition, Our Korean Kitchen).
Out of all of the cookery classes I've attended in London over the past few years (ranging from really intense, skills based classes to chilled evenings with friends) this has to be one of my favourites. The atmosphere was really relaxed and chilled, and our teacher was really chilled and approachable. Our Saturday afternoon class was filled with couples (you share a workstation and work together on the meal, so their evening classes are a great date night idea), pairs of friends, and families looking for something different to do together at the weekend, or to celebrate a special birthday. You're greeted with prosecco, really setting the tone of the class.
If you're a beginner or a bit more experienced, you will get something out of the class (other than a delicious meal at the end which you can then again make at home - they email you the recipes after the class). You get some basic knife skills, and helpful tips about using spices. Everything is explained, and while it was in no way news to me how to tell the difference between ground cumin and ground coriander, my biggest takeaway from the class (aside from a delicious new way to make okra) was that when you've been working with chillies (either chopping fresh or chilli powder) you should wash your hands straight away in cold water, not warm. It closes the pours so the heat doesn't get into your skin, saving you from any chilli hand/ eye contact disasters later on. It makes sense, but I'd never have thought of that by myself!
My second takeaway from the class is that the next time I make Indian food, I'm going to be making some basic chapati to mop up all of the food; it turns out that they're stupidly easy to make, and you don't even need a recipe. Add a little salt (for flavour) to a bowl of chapati flour (or a mixture of plain and wholemeal flour), make a well in the flour in a mixing bowl, and pour a little water into the well. Mix with your fingers, adding water as you for to bring it together into a not too wet and sticky, but not too dry dough. Flour a clean surface and a rolling pin, and roll the mixture out into manageable circles, flattening each piece of dough before rolling. Fry one at a time in a hot, dry frying pan until puffed in the middle and slightly browned on each side.
I have to say, after it had been sufficiently Instagrammed (I think I'm out of the running as I was invited along to review the class, but the cookery school are giving away free classes to students best Instagrams, so it is worth taking the time to snap your meal!), we were both really proud of what we had produced. There were some sticky moments: I'm tempted to buy Sherin a knife skills class for her next birthday as I was in continuous fear for her fingers, and I was almost utterly defeated by my first ever encounter with an induction hob), but it was an excellent class, and everything was utterly delicious.
Classes start at £35 for grown ups (£30 for kids) and there are spaces available on so many different classes right into the New Year. Some of the classes also offer £10 off if you book for two of you, so it would make a great Christmas gift, something for you and one of your loved ones to enjoy in the New Year. You can check out all of the classes here, follow the cookery school on Twitter here, like them on Facebook here, and be prepared to see that okra appear here on the blog sometime soon!