Last month Fred and I tried something new – a cookery class at one of Belfast’s best restaurants James Street South. Here we’ve reviewed our experience of their Cookery School. Spoiler alert: it’s amazing!
Taking a cookery class was something new for me but not for Fred who has already completed a two year college cookery course – there are many feathers in his cap! The class was his birthday present from Alfie last year. I bought it when I was still pregnant thinking that it would be nice for us to sneak away from our newborn for a few hours and do something unrelated to body fluids. That was easier in theory than in practice! Between babies, moving house and renovating our Forever Home we only managed to get round to it now 10 months later, however it was definitely a case of better late than never! It was hugely enjoyable and I think both of us, even Fred the semi-professional, learnt loads.
On arrival we were greeted with a beautifully set table – itself a lesson in the power of clean pressed linen and good lighting. Our chef Niall McKenna, who is also the owner and the Irish News resident food columnist, introduced himself and ran through our menu for the day, there were 5 dishes to cook and four hours to do it in, we were assured it was possible! Thankfully Niall was not the terrifying kitchen demon that too many nights watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hotel Hell had taught me to expect, instead he was up for a laugh, very patient and exceedingly generous with his knowledge; he was rattling off tips and recipes faster than I could write them down and I think so of the best things I learnt weren’t even on the course! For example the best place to buy your chocolate, Olive Oil and Tomato Passatt is Lidl, avoid meat from Tesco and Asda like it has the plague (because it very well might!) and you can make a pesto with just about anything green.
Each student had their own station with ingredients and equipment laid out ready for every recipe, there are no sinks at the stations because you don’t have to do the washing up! Rejoice! Niall guided us through a few pasta sauces and we learnt that the most important thing when making a sauce is to slow down and simmer to reduce, that is (according to them that know) the best way to maximise favor. This style of cooking suits me fine as sauce simmering is the perfect opportunity for wine sipping… and there was plenty of wine sipping! James Street South make wonderful hosts, Niall kept our plates full of delicious food (he stepped in at all the right moments to save us from ourselves) and our glasses brimmed full of wine!
The most enjoyable part for me was the pasta lesson, mostly because with a thrillingly unexpected flash of culinary flair Niall announced that we could all make Dill pasta! Until last month I had assumed such endeavours were the preserve of talented types like Niall and Nigella but I was mistaken! It was gloriously straightforward but more importantly it was delicious!
Everything we cooked was absolutely delicious and very easy to replicate in a normal domestic kitchen. Fred and I have made the crab and cream pasta sauce a few times and implemented some of Niall’s other ‘extra’ tips, for example always bake never boil your rice and use Sauvignon Blanc for cooking, never Chardonnay. It’s impressive how much information was packed into such a relaxed few hours, I would LOVE to go back and take another class.
Thank you James Street South Cookery School for making this gorb slightly more gourmet!