As a lover of epicurean delights I was intrigued by the invitation to attend a food blogger’s event, being held at the Underground Cookery School, which offers fun and informal lessons in contemporary cooking for beginners and adventurous cooks alike. Popular with team building groups, private parties and hen nights, I was curious to experience for myself a taste of these classes.
Just a few minutes walk from bustling Old Street tube, I entered through the school’s doorway and made my way downstairs to be greeted by the sight of animated bloggers, dressed as peas in a pod with #Currysinthekitchen blue aprons, eating finger licking canapés and drinking freshly made carrot and celery juices.
The school was laid out across a spacious, white painted room made up of two distinct areas. The first section consisted of rustic wooden tables, set up in a long row for communal dining, flanked with pillar box red chairs. This was contrasted against exposed ventilation pipes coiling around the ceiling lending an industrial modern feel. The second area was taken up by steel tables arranged around cookers, with mixing bowls, weighing machines and pasta making equipment perched on top of them.
We were greeted by the charismatic and effusive Head Chef Carlos, who separated us into two groups, and was lead away to learn how to make a pear soufflé and chicken curry respectively. Chef Anthony then proceeded to direct my group through the steps in making air light soufflés.
We were asked to separate 17 egg whites into a large mixing bowl, which started off as intrepid cracking of shells and ended with a melee of hands joining in to finish the task. The egg whites were then whisked up in a Kenwood Premier Chef, with caster sugar slowly sifted in, until it reached a snowball-like consistency with stiff peaks. Pear puree was gently folded in by hand, before spooning a healthy dollop of the mix into buttered and sugar dusted ramekins.
We gently tapped the base of the ramekins onto the table, to allow the mix to drop in fully. Using a palette knife, we then scraped a flat surface off the top of it. A handy pointer was to run the tips of our fingers around the inside rim of the ramekin, for the soufflé to rise as the baked topping.
As the soufflés were set aside, we made our way to the enticing smells of cardamom, tumeric, cumin and coriander seeds, which had been blended in tomatoes with a Kenwood hand mixer to form a garam masala sauce. Chef Martyn asked us to work together in pairs and guided us through the skinning of chicken legs and methods for neatly slicing the meat off the bones.
We then fried up onions in chopped ginger, garlic and chillies, before adding generous ladles of the sauce and coconut milk in with the chicken slices, all the while managing a precarious balancing act between capturing the action on our phones and stirring it together. I found cooking together in pairs was a perfect ice breaker, with the group comfortably interacting with one another, the babble of conversations melding with the sizzles emanating from the pans. Once the sauce had thickened up, and we were fully gripped by the delicious smells wafting through our olfactory systems, we poured these into mini Le Creuset cocottes to be baked in the oven for 30 minutes.
Head Chef Carlos called us away from our stations to regroup around a Kenwood kMix blender, and demonstrated how to make a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail and my all time favourite libation. Using the end of a rolling pin, he gently kneaded cut limes and caster sugar with cachaça, a distilled spirit drawn from sugar cane juice. He then whizzed up crushed ice, before combining this with generous servings of tequila, setting off a battery of flashbulbs, camera clicks and phone taps making me turn my head in case I had missed the sight of Elvis arriving in the building. With the pleasing clinks of ice cubes in a glass, we then sampled delectable spoonfuls of the cocktail.
By this stage we were unanimously bursting with anticipation to discover how our curries and soufflés had fared, and trouped to take our seats at the dining table. We reached as one for our cameras, phones and tablets to capture the moment the cocotte lids were lifted to reveal our namesake curries. Accompanied with sweetly fragranced saffron rice, we raised our glasses for a toast and could not hold back any longer to gently savour and then wolfishly polish off every last remnant of it. Licking our lips with a satisfying sigh, we watched as the soufflés emerged, perfectly puffed above their ramekin edges.
Finally the evening drew to a close, our cameras set aside for a well deserved rest as we shared our cooking stories. I left feeling inspired to peruse Currys new instagram page for snaps of the event and to sign up to the Underground Cookery School’s weekly recipe blog.
The Underground Cookery School: 201-203 City Rod, London EC1V 1JN