Sunday 29 May 2016

Smashed avocado & goats cheese toasts

Smashed avocado and goats cheese toasts

Sunday 15 May 2016

Launch of the London Paella School in Battersea

Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be invited along to the pre-launch of the London Paella School which is based in Battersea, the promise of a cookery demonstration, tapa, paella and wine was too good an offer to refuse.

London Paella School
The school aims to bring Spain’s rich culinary culture and social tradition to London through weekly cooking lessons, a monthly Sunday lunch club and corporate team building sessions at the London Cooking Project, Battersea.  A group of leading chefs from Valencia and Colombia have come together to provide students with a basic knowledge of paella and give them the tools they need to advance their skills in order to create more elaborate recipes in an environment of fellowship and teamwork.  The school has chosen the London Cooking Project as its venue for all activities.

Having arrived at the school we were warmly welcomed by Emma who works for the London Cooking Project who gave us a rundown of what the school and project are all about.  We couldn't help but be distracted however by Marlon and Javi (executive chefs) who were busy beavering away over two very large paella pans that were on the go, one vegetarian and the other paella, prepared the traditional Valencia way with rabbit and chicken.  The smells coming from the pans were enough to get our tastebuds going!

We were soon chatting with Xavi (founder) and Lana (general manager) over a glass of wine; the passion they have for the school and paella was evident, I have never met two people so enthusiastic!
Plates of tapa circulated the room including empanadas, croquetas and Spanish tortillas, all cooked to perfection and oh so delicious! It was as if we were being teased with the promise of the paella to come, which when it did, boy was it worth the wait!

Marlon, Javi, Lana and Xavi 
Chef Javi checks the paella, waiting for the critical moment
 to add the rice.
Adding the rice in a cross shape is the perfect quantity for this pan.
 Getting the rice-to-liquid ratio is critical to
make the perfect paella - not too dry and not too loose.
The finished dish! 

 Meat and vegetarian versions of the paella

Being a greedy so and so I tried both paella's, the vegetarian version included asparagus, artichokes and peppers and it was seriously packed with flavour, who needs meat!  The Valencian paella was made with rabbit and chicken, a completely different flavour to the vegetarian paella but again, the flavours were intense, I have never tasted paella like this, if this is traditional Spanish cuisine, then I am a convert.
And don't get me started on the socarrat (that's the crispy bits from the base of the paella), wow, the concentrated flavour in a crispy bite was to die for.

Whilst watching Marlon and Javi cooking the paella earlier I noticed them putting their ear to the pan, on speaking to Marlon he explained that by listening to the paella they can hear when it is cooked, it starts to make a different noise, who knew!

We had a great evening, met some truly wonderful and passionate people, and of course got to eat some pretty amazing food.  Sign me up now for a cooking class, I think I am hooked!

The classes will start from 16th May at a very reasonable cost and the Sunday lunch club will take place monthly from today, full details can be found on their website - London Paella School
Me and the chefs!

I grabbed a few minutes with the team and asked them a few questions.

  • What are the essential ingredients for a good paella?

It depends what kind of paella you're planning to cook, but the Valenciana version originally has chicken, rabbit, snails, runner beans, butter beans and rosemary and of course time and care from the Chef cooking.

  • For those new to cooking paella should they invest in a proper paella pan or is a frying pan suitable to cook it in?

Well that's a good question, I always recommend you get a proper paella pan, they are not expensive and they last all your life as with any cooking pan if you take care of it.  Try buying a small one to learn and then get a bigger one to cook for your friends and family.  Chefs tip - if you buy a paella pan and it states for 6 people on the label, divide it by 2 and you will have an idea to get the perfect paella at home.  Example if you want to get one to cook for 5 portions, buy a pan for 10 people, the same quantity of ingredients are used but the bigger pan will make for a completely different end result.

  • Paella is a very traditional dish with recipes varying from region to region, given this, is it frowned upon in paella circles to add twists to traditional recipes?

As we say in Spain, the best paella is the one made by mum.  Original paella has its origins in Valencia, but every region in Spain then developed their own recipes.  Even in Valencia you can find 6 different varieties of Paella Valenciana, changing or adding a few ingredients, depending on what vegetables can be sourced from the specific region.  Check the differences at wiki

  • Are there any ingredients that are a complete no no to put into paella?

Definitely chorizo, we NEVER add this to paella.  Try to cook them as a starter while you are cooking paella for your friends but don't add them to the paella!

  • Whilst this is a new venture, how would you like to see the London Paella School develop over time?

We would like to see the different divisions of the company well developed and in the future we may expand to other cities around the world.

  • Will we see the London Paella School at food markets and pop ups in the future?

We will occasionally be at markets however we want to focus on large scale events using a arroceria where you cook the more traditional and primitive forms of paella over a wood fire.

  • If you could cook paella for anyone in the world both past and present, who would you cook for and why and which recipe would you make?

A creamy lobster for Cleopatra!  I would also like to cook for Mr Kahn, the new Mayor of London so we could talk about how this city can give people the opportunities to start up new businesses.

Marks Mexican Ham and Eggs

Marks Mexican Ham and Eggs

Monday 2 May 2016

Tuna Fishcakes

Tuna Fishcakes

  • 2 medium potatoes
  • 1 jar line caught tuna
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Tablespoon chopped capers
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon plain flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
Peel and chop the potatoes in half and boil in a saucepan of salted water for around 10-15 minutes until soft.  Drain the potatoes and mash them in the pan with the back of a fork then set aside to cool.  Once the mash has cooled season with salt and pepper, add the lemon zest, parsley, capers and the drained tuna.  Mix together thoroughly breaking up the tuna as you mix, add the flour and beaten egg and combine together.  Divide the mixture into four portions and shape each one in your hand to form the Fishcakes and then place on a lightly flour dusted plate and refrigerate for at least and hour.

Put a good glug of olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat, cook the fish cakes for around 3-4 minutes each side until you have a nice crispy crust, then plate up and enjoy.

This is a nice light dinner, perfect for when the days are getting warmer.  I served this with salad and dressed the fish cakes with a sundried tomato mayonnaise.