here is a list of things i love: cooking food; eating mexican food; any food cooked and/or designed by jamie oliver; eating food. now here is a list of things i don't love: west london; rain; tube strikes. and finally, here is a list of places that jamie oliver's cookery school is located in london: white city, shepherd's bush. ahhh, nuts. despite the love lost between me and west london, when the offer to head along to learn how to cook a few new dishes at his lordship's latest cooking school (handily located inside the jamie's italian at white city) came my way - which happened to be a mexican street food class, that happened to fall on the weekend of mexico's independence day, well... it would have been muchos bad vibes to turn that down, simply because of a list of totally annoying things like the weather, and the lack of transport, and the fact i'd have to travel to the opposite end of the city, right?
i'd been to jamie's other cooking school (also *handily* located in west london, ahem) recipease before, so i knew sort of what to expect. his teaching chefs are all really personable, very patient, have a similar sense of humour to the man himself, and - in the past, have all been previous students at fifteen, or in one of his kitchens. so, you're in safe hands in any of these classes. seeing as mum is still in town and gagging for "londony things to do" in her days off, i figured she'd be the perfect sous to my head chef, and so saturday afternoon we headed over to westfield, in comfortable shoes and tied up hair, ready to get our knife skills on under the watchful eye of chef tom watson.
especially watchful, considering we were greeted with a tall glass of bubbly, pre-lesson. tricky. he was quick to let us know to not worry about asking questions or making a mess, as "if you're not making a mess, you're not having fun", and "the only stupid question is the one unasked". too true! we giggled away at his jamie-esque demonstrations of how to chop the ingredients and create the dishes, and waited with bated breath for the use of the word "pukka" (it only ever came in jest, but boy was it worth it!), and the two hours with chef tom really flew by. mainly because: starving.
recipe | chipotle chicken | ingredients
2 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 dried chillies
4 free-range chicken thighs, skin on, bone in olive oil
2 teaspoons smoked chipotle chilli
2 teaspoons caster sugar
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1. peel the garlic and put in a pestle and mortar with the oregano, cumin seeds, dried chilli and a pinch of sea salt, grind to a paste, then rub into the skin side of the chicken. marinade for 20 minutes for more flavour or cook it immediately.
2. heat a splash of oil in a medium-heat pan, add the chicken skin-side down and fry until golden on both sides.
3. mash up the chipotle chilli and add the pan with the passata, caster sugar and white wine vinegar. stir well, turn the chicken over and cover with a lid. cook over a low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick and shiny.
4. in the pan, shred the chicken from the bone with two forks, discard the bones and mix the chicken into the sauce. add some sea salt and black pepper if needed. pukka!
recipe | mini corn tortillas | ingredients
125g masa harina flour
(or two heavy books)
1. put the masa harina flour and ½ a teaspoon of sea salt in a bowl and mix well. slowly pour in 150ml to 200ml of warm water, only using as much as you need to combine the mixture.
2. mix together vigorously with a wooden spoon until you get a firm dough. cover with cling film and rest for 20 minutes.
3. shape the dough into balls that weigh around 25g each. don’t make them too big or they will spill out of the tortilla press – experiment until you get it right.
4. open the press and place a piece of cooking paper onto the base. place the dough into the middle and top with another piece of paper to stop the dough sticking to the press. close the lid and press down until the dough is flattened.
5. heat a lug of olive oil in a medium-heat pan, then fry the tortillas one or two at a time depending on their size until golden brown on each side.
6. remove from the pan and drain on kitchen paper. while still slightly warm, bend the tortilla to achieve a taco shaped cup for your toppings.
recipe | spinach and feta taco filling | ingredients
1 red onion
1⁄2 a fresh red chili
1⁄2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
250g fresh baby spinach
2 sprigs of fresh mint
3 sprigs of fresh tarragon
50g feta cheese
1. heat a dash of oil in a pan, finely dice the red onion and chilli and add to the pan with the cumin seeds and thyme stalks. cook until the onion is soft.
2. add in the tinned tomatoes and the fresh baby spinach then cook until it’s wilted but still bright green.
3. rip the mint and tarragon leaves and add to the pan. grate in the lime zest and squeeze in the juice, stir and add a pinch of sea salt and black pepper if needed.
4. top your homemade tacos with the spinach mix and crumble the feta over the top.
as well as those three incredibly easy to make dishes, we also made a fresh corn salsa and a fresh guacamole, which i won't share with you here because they're literally so simple that you could probably figure them out yourself (guac: avocado, spring onion, red chilli, and lime juice; corn salsa: sweet corn, tomatoes, garlic paste, red chilli and red onion). when it came time to eat, i have literally never made so much of a mess in my whole life. but, every single mouthful was full of flavour, was sweet and smokey, had a tangy bite to it, and i could taste every. single. ingredient.
i cook a lot of "mexican" food. like, part of my diet is guacamole, so it's nice to know a few alternatives to the only way to make it that i know, and also a bonus to have a few new salsa tricks up my sleeve. i can honestly say that the pulled chipotle chicken dish is going to be made again, because it was one of the most delicious things i've ever tried, let alone eaten, and it was just so simple to make that it would be a crime to not integrate it into my recipe arsenal.
i truly cannot fault the two hours we spent in the care of chef tom and the wonderful team over at the cookery school, and i would not hesitate to recommend this class - or any of their other incredibly diverse classes, to anyone wanting to either learn some new tricks, or really start from the bottom. plus: very affordable, in true jamie nature. we not once felt lectured or under scrutiny, and had a laugh the whole way through. yes, we were guests of the cookery school, but this is my honest opinion.