I was very lucky to be invited as a guest to a Christmas event at The Jamie Oliver Cookery School in London Westfield recently. This was set to be a fabulous evening which would include meeting Gennaro Contaldo as well as getting to experience the most amazing gastronomic delights AND cooking our own festive treats.
I think the last time I stepped into a tutored kitchen was back in the 80s with Mrs Swainsbury for Home Economics in Secondary School. I’ve kind of gone it alone since then. Well not entirely alone, there’s always a cook book but sometimes the incentive can lack. Particularly when there’s a fuss pot in the gang!!
The Jamie Oliver Cookery School lies at the back of the huge Jamie’s Italian restaurant in Westfield Shepherd’s Bush.
As we enter the Cookery School we are confronted with the kitchen of all kitchens. In fact it is all going on in this kitchen and we are about to receive the most hospitable welcome.
First some Champagne and the opportunity to meet with Gennaro Contaldo.
The lovely Gennaro chatted to us about the things he likes to cook and eat at Christmas with his family.
Coming from the Amalfi Coast, Gennaro told us that fish is a favourite for him and his family and how the food eaten differs by region in Italy. Christmas Eve is the day of the big feast and it’s easy to imagine a table groaning with food and drink.
Gennaro also talked about leftovers at Christmas time – because we all have them don’t we? This is something that we are all familiar with at a time when we generally over stock. But if we really put our minds to it, there really is no need for waste with a little imagination.
I have always marvelled at the ability of others to be able to put ingredients together that work so well. I am sure I am not the only one to have failed spectacularly in this department! But I have picked up a few good tips this evening.
One of my biggest takeaway’s from this session was Gennaro’s plea ‘don’t just boil your Brussels Sprouts!’. And do you know what – he’s on to something here (well of course he would be – he’s the Expert after all!) BUT the good old Brussel Sprout is really having a moment. Have we noticed? Not only are they turning up on our plates in their various tasty guises but they are finding themselves in Christmas adverts and window displays too.
I think this could be it for the Brussel Sprout. Having spent much of their life as victims, it now appears that we are going to fall in love with them as a nation. It just goes to show that if you wait long enough, you will eventually get your moment and for the Brussel Sprout family that is now.
Antipasti was always going to be a feature here but we certainly wasn’t expecting so much wonderful food to appear before our eyes. Food unsurprisingly was going to be a big feature of this evening.
The colours and selection on these platters were amazing. And I have to say I have never tasted Mozzarella quite like it.
Check out the tomato tins that the platters are balanced on. I can’t wait to use this idea the next time we are going rustic!
Smoked Salmon is always a good example of something that is left over in the fridge at Christmas. So many uses. Not least – gorgeous canapes.
And then it was time to head to the kitchen.
The Jamie Oliver Cookery School
There is nothing like being in a fabulous kitchen with all the gadgets to reignite your cooking passion. Oh how I could have danced around this kitchen. It is my dream to have a kitchen like this one day. And hello – am I the only one that didn’t realise that Hotpoint did cookers?! You certainly do learn something new every day!
And so, with the expert guidance of the Chefs we are about to have a demonstration and then make our very own Brandy Butter and Chocolate Truffles.
Brandy Butter with Mandarin and Rosemary
Interesting combination – right? Let me tell you, it is absolutely divine. It will most certainly be featuring on our Christmas table that’s for sure. And I’ll be soaking up the compliments quicker than the brandy butter can soak up the flavours of the Mandarin and the Rosemary.
We were shown how to cream the butter (properly).
And then the adding of the icing sugar bit by bit. Good job we are all wearing aprons!
And then grating in the Mandarin zest – just the orange part.
And finally the Rosemary.
We were even given a demonstration in how to gift wrap and label the jars and chocolate boxes.
And the truffles. So much attention to detail!
Melting the chocolate and adding the cream.
And then allow the mixture to set in the fridge.
Another perfect treat for the Christmas table and, again we were provided with a cornucopia of delights to add to the Chocolate Truffles. Sea Salt being a fabulous choice – especially with the richness of the chocolate. And then almonds and macadamia to add to the flavours.
Getting stuck in!
And voila! All we had to do now was try and make ours look this good.
Our Turn in the Kitchen
After our expert lesson from the Cookery School tutors, we were left to our own devices. Time to get messy and give those arms a work out.
Me and the other guests getting stuck in!
What a mess we all were after moulding our Truffles into shape. But we got there and I can attest that they were truly delicious.
And I forgot to mention that all the while we are in the cook school, the most amazing Turkey Christmas Dinner Feast was being prepared effortlessly by the Chefs for us. The delicious smells of our treats and that of the roast were simply divine.
And we wasn’t disappointed. More food, again deliciously and lovingly prepared.
This was such a great evening on so many levels and I would thoroughly recommend it. It’s great to have experienced the Cookery School first hand. I’ve seen a few cookery school gifts given this year and I can see why this type of experience makes such a perfect gift.
This really was Christmas #allwrappedup!
And no spoon licking whatsoever!!!
My sincere and grateful thanks go to AO.com, Hotpoint and The Jamie Oliver Cookery School for their fabulous hospitality. I should point out that no review of this event was expected but I know that this will be of interest to others and it’s also a pleasure to be able to write about such a fabulous experience.
May your Christmas be as tasty and warm and don’t forget to embrace those Brussel Sprouts!