If you read my blog regularly, you will know that many a tear has been cried into my shortcrust pastry tarts in the past. I just can’t seem to master the shortcrust. It is my nemesis! And my mum can’t understand why I can’t master it, since she finds it so easy. Which I, in turn, find highly annoying! She has offered to teach me herself but I think even more tears would be shed if I took her up on her offer. As much as I adore my mum, we are both very territorial when it comes to the kitchen!
So for the past few weeks I have been looking for a good pastry class in London. One where I can learn shortcrust, puff and choux. One where I can get my hands dirty, and one that didn’t cost the earth! Now, you might be surprised to learn that this wasn’t easy. I genuinely thought I would type a few requirements into Google and a myriad of suitable classes would pop up and I could take my pick. How wrong I was. There were classes on weekdays, there were week long courses, there were courses for £500! But nothing on a weekend or evening for £100 or less.
I asked on Twitter if anyone could help and lots of lovely people went out of their way to search for me but they were equally surprised that they couldn’t find what I needed. Leiths did message me about their pastry courses but they weren’t until later in the year and me, being the impatient person I am, wanted to do it as soon as possible. Then on Monday afternoon, the lovelywww.thefeelgoodfoodbook.blogspot.co.uk tweeted me to say that Cookery School at Little Portland Street in London had some space left for their evening class the next day!
I had a look on their website – www.cookeryschool.co.uk – and their evening class promised to teach you how to master choux, shortcrust, pate sucree and puff pastries, and in the process, you will learn how to make apple pie, vegetable quiche, traditional Cornish pasties, cheese straws, palmiers and profiteroles. All of this for £100 plus the school was a 10 minute walk from my office! Result!
I booked onto it straight away and 24 hours later I was sitting on a stool with my fellow pastry novices and a complimentary glass of organic wine in my hand.
The cooking school is quite small, but for me, perfect. I don’t want to go to a huge kitchen with a large group of people. I’ve been to cookery classes like that before, and I learnt nothing.
Our class comprised of 6 people..Eva, Antra, Camille, Jason, William and myself. Once everyone had arrived, our teacher for the evening, Ghalip, talked us through the evening ahead. He covered health & safety first, then he went straight into explaining and showing us how to make choux pastry, whilst we crowded around to watch.
Each of us took turns to mix the choux pastry so we knew how it should feel and look when we’re doing it at home for ourselves.
Ghalip encouraged us to ask questions throughout. He wanted us to make the most out of having a pastry expert in front of us. When the choux mix was ready, Ghalip showed us how best to spoon it onto the baking tray then popped them the oven.
Next, we were divided into pairs and shown to our stations to start on the puff pastry. This is one pastry I have never tried before because I have always thought it was too hard to make for myself. There were ready-prepared bowls of pre-measured flour laid out for each of us. We took these and a block of cold butter straight from the fridge and Ghalip demonstrated how to make the dough and then how to roll it, incorporating the block of butter. (I will post this seperately).
We rolled and turned the puff pastry twice then we popped our pastry dough into individual plastic bags which were placed in the fridge.
Next we we were given the choice of making either quiche, apple tart or Cornish pasties. I decided to opt for quiche, since this is where I have been going so wrong in the past.
Again, I will post each pastry recipe separately but needless to say, Ghalid made it look so easy and was always to hand if you needed help or advice..
The shortcrust pastry cases were blind baked whilst we watched the Cornish pasties and the apple pies being finished off. Then when the shortcrust pastry cases were ready, we layered them with caramelised onions, sautéed mushrooms and topped with the milk/cream/egg mixture, then popped them in the oven.
With everything in the oven, Ghalid showed us how to make cheese straws…
The choux buns that had come out of the oven earlier were now completely chilled and ready to be filled with cream and dusted with icing sugar…
By now, our tummies were rumbling with the mouth-watering smells that were filling the kitchen. I think the smell of pastry hot from the oven has to be one of the most enticing smells in the world. Luckily we didn’t need to wait long to see the fruits of our labour…
And within seconds we were tucking in with great abandon…a cheese straw here, a profiterole there, back to savoury with another cheese straw, then a sweet, sugary palmier…back to the cheese straws and another profiterole, and then one last cheese straw…
(Can you see the teeth marks??)
I must admit, my tummy was aching as I sat on the tube on my way home. But I was so happy, I didn’t care! Warming my knees was a cake box containing my still-warm, delicious-looking mushroom quiche (plus a profiterole, a couple of palmiers and a couple more cheese straws!) and on top of the cake box, was my puff pastry that I’d rolled at the beginning of the night. That is now in my fridge, ready to be used this weekend. (I ate the quiche for dinner the next day, and it was every bit as delicious as it looked.)
I thoroughly enjoyed this class. I have been to quite a few cookery classes in my time, and I’d almost given up on them altogether. I have spent a lot of money in the past, being told how to do things I learnt when I was a child watching my mother cook, and not learning anything new. So this was a lovely surprise.
Ghalid made everything look and sound so simple, I’m not sure what I’ve been doing wrong in the past, but I do feel a lot more confident now and I’m really looking forward to testing out his techniques over the next few weeks. He made us feel at ease, never made anyone feel stupid for asking what might have been an obvious question, and his explanations were easy to understand. And most importantly, he made it fun.
With the class being small, it also meant that you got a lot of hands-on experience. Again, in past cookery classes, there have been so many people in them that only a few were allowed to actually touch the food and so you end up being a bystander, casually watching from the sidelines. That is not me. I like to get stuck in. I believe you need to feel the food you’re making. And with just six of us in the class, we were able, not only to get experience of what we were making ourselves, but we were learning what the others were making too. Even though I didn’t personally make the Cornish pasties, I would still feel confident that I’d know how to make them in the future.
It was also lovely to meet like-minded people. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person who loves food as much as I do, and its so gratifying to meet people who love to eat and cook as much as I do!
We all left the Cookery School with full tummies, smiles on our faces and recipe cards in our bags. I will definitely be coming back here again. Next time, I think I’d like to go to their bread class. I know that Antra and Eva are booked onto other classes of theirs so clearly they are doing something right!
For a full range of their upcoming classes click here –http://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/classes
They also run 6-week and 3-day courses at three different levels which you can see here – http://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/courses
15 b Little Portland Street
T: 0207 631 4590