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24 February 2014

the underground cookery school // london

after the amasian time i had learning to cook at the school of wok last year, i was extra super excited to be invited along to a night of debauchery cookery with good pal the café cat last monday night, at the underground cookery school in shoreditch. hunting high and low for the secret entrance to the school was probably the least fun part of the night, but meeting sally with a hug out the front of the door we'd both walked past a handful of times already was pretty funny. honest. maybe i'm not selling it all that well, but trust me, we had fun.

we followed the bare-walled corridor that led into the secret underground cookery lair, and met the rest of the gang, already with prosecco in hand (fun fact: i never saw the bottom of my glass). we jumped straight into de-bearding mussels for the starter of moules mariniere - but mostly i watched the others de-beard the mussels, instead opting to drink the prosecco and eat the snacks canapés on offer. as one of the few signature 'lifestyle bloggers' amongst the real foodies there, i was less impressed by the method or presentation of the chicken skewers and chilli lime dip or vege balls arancini, and more bothered about how actually delicious they tasted, but, whatever. they were.

post de-bearding and onto my second glass of wine, we were introduced to the clever-clogs behind the school, chef matt kemp. he delivered (with much enthusiasm) the plan for the evening ahead with promise of a 'fun and informal' cooking lesson, more wine, and hopefully some new skills to take home to our own kitchens. at the very least i could confirm i now knew how to de-beard a mussel.

we kicked off the lesson with some integral information basic knife skills; how to chop an onion without crying. seriously, why is that technique not taught in childhood? so you know how when you cut an onion down the middle from top to bottom, and one end had like, a hairy nipple attached to it? don't cut that off. that's the bit that makes you cry! instead, hold that at the top, and cut toward it in straight lines, then dice the onion away from the nipple. such genius information to keep to yourself!

next was preparing the dessert; apple tarte tartin. as a rule: no. i don't eat baked fruit. especially apples. but i sucked it up and mucked in with the peeling and slicing of the granny smiths, while the others in my group got busy burning making the caramel and cutting the pastry bases. soon enough though, chef matt's team had taken over the reins and we were moved onto the main course bench where we were taught something i will never in my life try and do again; de-bone a whole chicken.

it was traumatic. i'd sooner not recount the disaster that was me with a boning knife trying to decipher the  right part of the joint to cut through, so let's just pretend that magically a whole bird soon became one lovely piece of white meat ready for injecting with a cream cheese, leek and bacon concoction, wrapping in cabbage leaves, and poaching ready for eating. having never made a ballotine chicken, i am pretty sure that as soon as i walked away from my bench, someone in matt's team undid everything i'd done, and did it again properly because the one i made never showed up again.

we chit-chatted with the rest of the bloggers there for only a short time before we were ushered to the long, wooden table to the side of the room for our dinner. there was more wine, there was our starter of moules mariniere in a brothy garlic sauce, and there were fresh and crusty rolls. it was a delicious precursor the rest of the dishes, that i am sure i had no hand in preparing. the chicken was so, so perfectly poached; moist (oh, stop), flavoursome, and on a bed of the creamiest mash you've ever had. the last mouthful ware barely swallowed before my wine was topped up (again, ahem), and the sexiest tarte tartin was placed in front of me. maybe it was the wine. maybe it was creamy vanilla bean ice cream on top. maybe it was intricate details in the plating. i don't know, but before i had a chance to stop and think about the apple content of the dish, i was devouring the flaky pastry, the sweet caramel and the tangy, baked apples within.

wanna know something? it was bloody delicious.

i am officially a baked fruit convert! it might mean i'll always need to drink a bottle of prosecco before eating anything like that going forward, but i'm ok with that, i assure you. we polished off our plates, wrapped up our tipsy (and probably really loud) chats, grabbed our goody bags and headed off. i had a wonderful escort home in the form of tom from daydream in blue, who i discovered lives pretty close to me - as do a handful of the other lady bloggers i met that night. so, yay for new and local pals!

i had an awesome time at the underground cookery school, and must thank wholeheartedly matt kemp and his brilliant team for their hospitality; in particular the wonderfully northern annaliese who did a spectacular job of inviting some incredible new-to-me bloggers for me to get to know.

thanks guys, it was ace!

if you're after somewhere neat to team build, or host a hen do, or maybe just... get over a baked fruit phobia, the underground cookery school is the place to make those things happen. you can find them at www.undergroundcookeryschool.com or @cookinglesson or... you know, the old fashion way... 0207 251 6298

Add your comment

  1. The whole evening sounds interesting and delicious! Also, I think I'm slowly getting used to the new layout! xx

  2. Oh my gosh. This sounds so fun! Also delicious. Yum!

    Becca | Ladyface Blog

  3. Fantastic! I've been invited to try out a local cookery school in April and Im so nervous because I'm shockingly awful at cooking ... this has got me excited about it though!

  4. Awesome, it definitely sounds like something I would love to do as well! :D And I bet it was delicious!

  5. This looks like a lot of fun...I love food :))) x

  6. nobody loves food more that me, doll face! x

  7. oh my, don't think 'delicious' is a good enough word for what it was!

  8. I don't actually think you need to be any *good* at cooking - they teach you what you need to know! you'll have a blast, I promise! x

  9. so so so delicious! gimme dat apple pie! x

  10. This sounds great, I could do with something like this to learn a few simple basics.

    Thanks for sharing the onion tip - I hate chopping onions so hopefully this will make it a little less traumatic! x

    Leanne - A Slice of My Life

  11. Great write up - was lovely to meet you! I feel the same about baked fruit but didn't actually try the tart. Perhaps I'd have been a convert too... xx


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