I’ve never really done any kind of cooking classes before. I know lots of people that went off to terribly grand cookery schools at some time or another – some have gone on to become really brilliant home cooks, some not so much. For me I’ve always seen that kind of thing as luxury I can ill afford. I’m also not very good at being told what to do and have therefore always been ‘tricky’ in that kind of school environment – combine that with the high stress environment of a kitchen and it could be a recipe for disaster (excuse the pun)!
But how wrong I was. Last week I went to a class at L’atelier des Chefs; they are a cooking school currently with two sites in London who offer classes of different lengths starting from 30mins (for an extremely affordable £15) to 4 hours for their more specialised Master Classes. I have done a 30min class in the past and couldn’t believe that it a) genuinely took 30mins, and b) you got such fantastic food and quality produce for the price. Last week was particularly relevant as it was a food and wine matching class. The theme for the evening was Thai food with a lineup of 3 fantastic dishes – Thai spiced mussels, barbary duck with Asian greens and a soy and chilli glaze and mango and lime tart tatin for pudding. Each dish was matched with a wine; they were all from Majestic but it would be easy to find a suitable equivalent elsewhere. Thai food is so immensely popular yet is something a lot of people are afraid of cooking themselves at home due to the plethora of complicated ingredients and flavours. Similarly matching wines to these dishes can be a daunting prospect for the same reasons. Brilliantly there was almost nothing in these dishes that would have been difficult to find in a large supermarket making them all possible to reproduce at home.
The thai spiced mussels were matched with a Gruner Veltliner from Austria. Gruner Veltliner is a particularly good grape to match with food as it’s got a relatively full body but retains its elegance with delicate flavours and a lovely mineral streak. This restrained character allows the subtle flavours of the mussels to shine through and complimented the delicate spice and flavours of the sauce.
The barbary duck was matched with a pair of wines and the results were split pretty much 50/50 as to who liked what best. The pair was the Waimea Estate Pinot Gris and Waimea Estate Pinot Noir from New Zealand. Pinot Noir is quite a natural match for duck as it’s a lighter style of red wine with red fruit and soft tannins. The trouble is that this duck is again cooked with delicate Thai spices which can easily be overpowered by a red wine – this is where the Pinot Gris came in. Slightly off dry it complimented the chilli spice in the dish and the fattiness of the duck which had caramelised during cooking; it also gave room for all those gorgeous aromatic flavours to show off. As I said, both went down extremely well but for me the white won by a nose.
Finally the mango and lime tart tatin with passion fruit drizzle – my goodness this was a beautiful pudding; a bit fiddly but by no means complicated and looked just stunning. It was matched with the Brown’s Brothers Orange and Flora muscat. The dessert wasn’t as sweet as I had expected as the lime gave it a real kick – it needed a wine with fruity sweetness to compliment the mango and with high acidity to match the lime and stop it all becoming too sticky; this worked admirably. Shockingly, orange muscat tastes orangey which gave it the desired fruit character – the flora is what gives it body and colour. A lot of people admitted not normally liking dessert wines but this was a real hit and something you wouldn’t often try yourself at home.
I couldn’t recommend L’atelier des Chefs highly enough – the school is set up beautifully with a shop at the front which is lethal for anyone who is as easily tempted as I am by exciting things like kitchen tongs and cook books. Our chef Andre was amazing and extraordinarily calm considering he had a kitchen of 16 people to keep under control. As well as learning 3 delicious recipes there are constant tips throughout the evening from basic knife-skills to how long you should rest meat for after cooking.
We were all emailed our recipes after the class and they have generously allowed me to share one with you…
Barbary duck breast with Asian greens and soya and chilli glaze (Serves 6)
- 6 duck breasts
- 5cl soy sauce
- 20g honey
- 2 red chillies
- 2 limes
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3 sweetheart cabbages
- 3cl groundnut oil
- half a bunch of thai basil
For the meat – Preheat the oven to 180’C. Trim the duck breast to remove any excess fat and sinew. Score the skin. Place into a cold dry pan skin side down and cook till crispy draining away the fat as it renders. Turn the breast remove from the pan and roast in a 180’c oven for 6 minutes. Allow to rest before carving.
For the vegetables – Finely dice the chilli and puree the garlic with a pinch of salt. Zest and juice the lime. Cut the cabbage into quarters, remove the tough core and thinly slice. Colour the cabbage in a a hot pan with some of the duck fat, add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute. Add the honey and the soy and start to reduce to a glaze, constantly basting the cabbage. Finish with the lime juice and half of the zest.
To plate – Carve the duck into 3 pieces and serve on top of the cabbage. Drizzle the glaze on top and garnish with the Thai basil and a sprinkling of lime zest.
With thanks to L’atelier des Chefs for their fantastic recipes and a wonderful evening.