A Perfect Friday or A Cooking Class At Leith’s

For my birthday, my husband bought me a gift voucher for a cooking class at Leith’s called “Flavours of the Pacific Rim”. I had already been to a knife skills course there before and really enjoyed it so was really excited to go back. I don’t work Fridays and the idea of no work, A in nursery and a cooking course was basically my idea of heaven and I wasn’t disappointed!

Leith’s was founded in 1974 by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave, it offers professional (Lorraine Pascale is an alumni for example) and non-professional courses and a lot more (they have a shop, organise corporate events etc). If When I am rich, I will definitely be hiring one of their chefs to come to my house! They are based in West London and so off to Shepherd’s Bush I went on a rainy August Friday morning.

The school is at the end of a very pretty street, I was nosing into the houses as I went along

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The class was from 10 til 2.30PM and I have to say I was exhausted and elated by the end. Anyway back to the beginning! They provide tea, coffee and freshly cooked pastries, whilst you are waiting for the class to start

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All sorts of people go to these classes the first lady I met was house-sitting in Brixton (she lives in France most of the time) and then I was paired up with an American and a Anglo-American couple, I was really lucky, my group was really fun, we had a seriously good laugh, Tom, who I was paired with was super enthusiastic, I thought he was going to jump into the oil to eat a wonton at some point!

I won’t go into all the details of each recipe but point out the tips (I have provided photos of them all). After a safety briefing, we went off to start making dessert in the nice big room that was at the perfect temperature (I thought it might be stuffy). Our main teacher for the day, Jess was really great. She was very clear, hands on, miraculously seem to manage to spend time with all of us (we were 10) and had amazing eyelashes!

Everything is prepared for you, all ingredients weighed out etc

The menu we were about to make was as follows:

  • Deep Fried Wontons with Nam Prik dipping sauce and miso dipping sauce
  • Pan fried duck breasts with plum and teriyaki sauce
  • Sesame soba noodle salad
  • Mango and passion fruit pavlova

We started by making the pavlova as it takes 1h30mins to cook, here is the recipe:

img_0469The key tips I retained from this part are:

  • use  metal instruments and make sure they are grease free
  • older egg whites work betterimg_0374
  • start by beating the eggs slowly and remember to incorporate all the mixture and go round the sides or there won’t be an even consistency (Jess’s eagle eyes spotted I was making this mistake)
  • You can use some of the mixture to stick the baking sheet down in the corners
  • Always add icing sugar to the cream or it can taste a bit too savoury

Nope we didn’t do the over the head test but apparently mine was a really good consistency! I took to a party the next day and it was a great success.

Here is one the others made (I decided to not eat mine or the day but had some of theirs!)

And here’s a video of the cream whipping action:

We were then take through the wonton recipe including a little chopping demo:

The wontons were DELICIOUS! Fiddly but seriously delicious, so more-ish.

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The top tips for these amazing babies are:

  • You have to remove a  lot of the layers from the lemongrass and discard the top 3rd, what’s left should be pliable, soft and thin. I had clearly not been discarding enough! You can use the rest to add flavor to sauces etc but you cant eat it.
  • Expel as much air as possible to avoid exploding wontons! and make sure there are no holes
  • Wrapping them isn’t easy, use water to stick the edges together and aim for a “moneybag” shape.

We checked the first one but it was still raw inside so we turned the oil down so the inside would cook but the outside wouldn’t burn. The next ones were perfect and delicious!

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The main tips for the super easy sauces was to peal the ginger and roll the limes before juicing, both super efficient!

Finally, we made the duck, its sauce and the soba noodle salad (which was a doddle).

Here is the duck recipe and the beautiful meat:

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The duck was all about the rendering…I had never rendered any meat but it is so easy and worth it! You basically just get rid of the fat by really slowly heating the duck to get rid of as much fat as possible, you need to start with a cold pan and then wait about 8 mins on a low heat. I turned mine up a bit too high so it was slightly burnt…

We then put it in the oven and made the soba noodle salad , which could not have been simpler and prepared the delicious teriyaki, plum and red wine sauce:

And here it is all coming together:

I had such a great time, I’m really considering doing their Cooking with Confidence evening course and will definitely do some more day classes. They are super professional, friendly, organised and make it all seem so easy. If you like cooking, you can’t go wrong with Leiths!

Linking up with Honest Mum’s Brilliant Blog posts because it really was a brilliant day!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

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Laughing, laughing at me and laughing with me

Last Sunday I went to see Wolf of Wall Street and got told off by Mister B for laughing too loud in the cinema, I actually nearly fell off my chair onto the floor. I felt like this film was totally in sync with my humour, in my opinion it was hilarious. I have no time for the whole “does it condone this type of behavior” debate, it happened, stuff like that happens (I work in the City and hardly witness anything like this but I KNOW crazy stuff happens) and will always happen. To be honest I envy the fun they had, I left the cinema wanting to go and get drunk on champagne and dance all night. There are some classic lines in that movie. My favourite scenes include the one where he is arguing with his wife in the morning and taking the piss out of her for having to deal with gardeners, house chores etc and how it must be sooo hard. not very feminist of me but so true…give me a mansion and unlimited credit card and the CHOICE not to work any day. Second favourite (a bit more feminist of me) is when they are in the nursery and she tells him how she will be wondering around the house sans  underwear and he can’t touch her, that’s power right there: apparently “used to be fun”, this is what a friend of mine told me because I’m sticking to the 4Cs,  well the one that he is thinking of is the drinking one. He was taking the piss about how I was one of those boring January people…still we’re going out anyway and I’ll make him laugh sober!

1 meter, just one little meter is apparently a lot bigger than I thought. My main point of reference is the circumference of my chest, which back in 2003 measured 1 meter. I know this because my housemates (ahhhh the good old days of house sharing at uni, no money yet so much fun! what ever ever went wrong…) at the time, took all sorts of measurements and tried to keep track throughout the year, I am sure there are plenty of apps for that kind of thing these days. We were all shocked at my “one meter” and so when I ordered a bargain mirror in the sale, I did not think it would be that big when it was delivered Saturday morning. Apparently circumference and diameter are not the same thing….so this beauty is now on gumtree:

Indeed it really is too big:

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Saturday evening was an improvement, much more about laughing with me that at me and my issues with meters/centimeters/geometry…

I went to a great girls dinner round the corner, we were 6 girls in total(I only knew the hostess) and she spoilt us with Ottolenghi food from start to finish, fresh his shop up the road, she even created menus. I nearly cracked and had some champagne but I was good and only drank boring old juice.

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I had a girl crush on one the girls at the dinner, she was so funny and had an amazing attitude to life. She was single until recently when she went on a match.com mission and eventually after nearly 40 dates found a great man. He’s taking her to the Waterside Inn and Coworth park this weekend, indeed not bad !!!

I love strong, funny, successful, smart women, hopefully we’ll meet up again. Out of 6 of us, I was the only one married, 1 is dating and the others all single, why they have not found any nice men is beyond me.  Oh wait, they’re not on match.com doh!