Having being a vegetarian for twenty-one years now, I am a keen fan of spice, texture and flavour with my food and I have the appetite of an ox. Eating a healthy, fresh and home made meal fills me with energy and is far more appealing than any greasy, bland and bloating junk food in my books. My favourite food is easily the humble curry, and as such I am a huge fan of Indian and Thai cookery. The combination of heat and flavour sets my tastebuds on fire and it’s always a dish that I find myself going back for seconds of.
Looking for a cookery experience online I was delighted to have stumbled across Food At 52, a cookery school in Central Street, London, offering an evening of culinary education within an intimate class of diners preparing, cooking and serving a three course authentic Thai meal. I’ve never been on a cookery course before, and aside from learning to cook a pasta bake at the ripe age of sixteen during food tech at school, my culinary skills have been somewhat vocational as I have developed my own taste and style to cook for my two children and I. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect of this evening, and with a love of Masterchef I had the image of military style chefs barking orders over steaming pans and burnt fingers, but thankfully it was anything but that.
Arriving at the cookery school in the early evening, I was pleasantly greeted by John and Jessica, the Food At 52 team which has been running for six years now and has gone from strength to strength since it first started within a home kitchen. I hung my bag and took a seat in a beautifully quirky entrance room on a sumptuous chesterfield sofa with oil lamps, stained glass, mirrors and cookery books scattered across unique handmade furniture and one-off armchairs. As the room gradually filled with several more diners, we were then shown down to the kitchen where we would be preparing and eating our meal.
Washing my hands in the toilet I grinned at the fruit press which was the pull chain, and my eyes wandered across every inch of the immaculate and homely kitchen area. Bottles, jars, herbs and spices were proudly displayed on French dressers, teamed with industrial extractor fans and culinary gadgets; huge mirrors with the menu written on the glass echoed the huge oak dining bench and chopping boards, with twisted candelabras’ dripping wax throwing flickering flames across the side board. If ever passion could be mixed with profession then Food At 52 is testament to it.
The evening was a wonderful accumulation of information, quirky tips, tutorials and knife skills as we were talked through each ingredient, why it was used, what it would bring to the dish, where it was sourced and how it should be prepared. We were shown how to use various equipment, gadgets and how to slice and dice with a humongous chefs knife, before cooking our meal on a stove in pairs, chatting to the other diners, sharing thoughts and sipping a glass of wine or beer of our choice. The atmosphere was infectious and Jessica and John were constantly at hand, answering questions, demonstrating techniques and making the evening flow wonderfully. The smells coming from the pan fried spices and freshly prepared vegetables were drool inducing and a true feast for the senses.
Taking a seat at the table at the end of the evening to consume the fruits of our labour, each mouthful was explosive. The texture, flavour, heat and bite left me umming and ahhing in wonder; eating a three course meal so precisely prepared, from scratch and with the science of balancing ingredients was priceless and something that a mere cookery book could never come close to. My taste buds danced over each mouthful of the green mango Thai salad with a chilli lime dressing to start, followed by a Thai green curry with babycorn and peppercorns main, and a sticky rice with mango and garnish of mint to finish. Not only did I learn an extensive wealth of food knowledge and skills, but I had such a fantastic social experience with like-minded diners and effervescent tutors. The evening flew past and I returned home with the biggest smile on my face, with a contented appetite and the desire to try a million more food courses. I cannot recommend it enough.
And if the evening wasn’t fantastic enough I was pleasantly greeted by all of the ingredients, recipes and information from the entire evening in my emil inbox so that I can recreate the magic at home. How thoughtful!