Catalan Cooking – Learning to cook, Spanish Style:
I’ve been meaning to try one of Rachel McCormack’s cookery classes ever since a mini version at the last Barcelona Supper Club. I love Spanish food and have great fun messing around making my own version of Tapas. But, Rachel is a real expert and has spent a lot of time learning how to make authentic Spanish dishes. She runs regular cookery classes as well as one off events like the calçotadas she has been holding all around London. Last night I finally had the chance to try one of her classes and went along to Spring at Catalan Cooking. Thereby killing another two birds because I had to find Maltby Street which is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. The railway arches along Maltby Street have become home to some of the suppliers squeezed out of Borough Market by rent increases, and the venue is a real foodie destination on a Saturday. I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been because I just knew I’d get lost!
I really don’t have any sense of direction and walking to Maltby Street in the pouring rain I think I took the scenic route. I’d left myself extra time on the basis that I DO get lost. So I was the first to arrive. The Catalan Cookery classes are small groups, a maximum of 8 people, and somehow that, combined with Rachel’s incredible enthusiasm for what she is doing gives you a great sense of learning from a friend.
Rachel runs some of her cookery classes there in Beas of Bloomsbury’s professional kitchen. So we had the benefit of a super charged oven that will cook a potato in 20 minutes. And the fun of pretending to be (very slow) professional cooks for an evening. Not really though, because Rachel describes herself as ‘a home cook’ (though I don’t think anyone else would do) her ethos seems to be very much about learning the basics of things you can continue to make at home and to adapt to your own taste.
We did make and eat a lot of food. And drank a lot of Cava.
The menu included this rather pretty ‘garden of Joan Roca’ using a thickened beetroot gazpacho. Joan Roca is a famous Spanish chef who developed this dish for a Spanish TV show for home cooks. As Rachel pointed out, a great way to encourage your children to eat vegetables – get them to ‘grow’ their own vegetable patch;)
This was a rather less pretty garden…based on asparagus and romesco sauce. Our asparagus trees really didn’t want to stand up…but I have to say, I preferred the combination of romesco and asparagus to the strong beetroot gazpacho.
We also made cod doughnuts – lovely fluffy light things. I ate far too many. If you want to try them for yourself, Rachel makes them and sells them on Maltby Street on Saturdays.
And, we made what Rachel described as the ‘Spanish equivalent of surf and turf’ with beef and chorizo meatballs, squid and peas in a sofrito. This was probably the most complicated of the dishes we cooked and involved learning how to prepare squid which caused some amusement as we cut the tentacles off ‘just below the eyes’ and fished inside the beast to pull out the innards.
Finally a really pretty Coca di Fruita. A kind of fruit pizza with a lightly leavened bread and oil base.
I staggered home and managed to turn in the wrong direction and walk AWAY from tower bridge…so I just caught the last tube!
If you’d like to try one of Rachel’s Catalan Cookery Classes, you can find more information from her site. She’s running a singles cookery class at the end of May – and I’m sure you’d have as much fun as I did and MAYBE meet the man or woman of your dreams too!