One of my favourite hobbies is cookery. I love the whole process from choosing a dish, to making, to sharing with friends and family. I tend to cook more improvisationally, going on instinct, than by following recipes, but I’ve got better at the latter as well. In this season of my life, with career moves freeing up my schedule a little and with trying to make healthier choices (much easier to do when you’re home for more than a couple of waking hours a day, it turns out), it’s been lovely to try out new recipes of my own devising, as well as hitting the cookbooks and cookery shows for inspiration. Ina Garten is my homegirl.
I’ve definitely come a long way from my freshman year of university, when my parents dropped me off at my self-catering flat with a 24 pack of tinned tomatoes, a couple of kilos of pasta and some baked beans. That first year at uni was a big learning curve, on how to cook, how to shop, and how to budget. My first term after rent, travel and from to uni, and books, I remember I had about £20 a week for food and socialising. And clothes. In the other three years I worked part-time during termtime, full-time during the holidays so I had a little more generous a budget, but in my first two semesters I wanted to really embrace the university experience during the termtime….so the budget (saved from babysitting and holiday jobs) was *tight*. There was a lot of pasta. Sometimes with tomato puree & salad cream, a truly heinous combo which I don’t think I could stomach now!
As the year ticked on, my flatmates and I got better and better at budgeting and finding bargains. We revelled in the blue-and-white stripes of the Tesco Value range. We took to shopping later in the day to scoop up markdowns (the joy of finding a fresh pizza knocked down to 45 pence late on an evening!). Many days we were vegetarians in all else but name, as meat was too dear to eat often. However, necessity proved to be the mother of invention, and as the year wore on our cookery skills definitely improved as we learned how to stretch ingredients, fill out dishes with cheaper fare such as carrots and lentils, and generally cook and eat like grown ups.
Now my budget is a little more flexible, for which I am eternally grateful. Nevertheless, the love of budgeting and learning about cookery has never left me, so I always relish the chance to learn from clever cooks and chefs, whether by reading, watching, or in person. Last week I was invited to a masterclass on Japanese cookery with the lovely Yuki Gomi, hosted by the brand Yutaka, who make all sorts of wonderful Japanese ingredients and foods, from miso to wasabi to mirin and beyond.
Ten food bloggers met at the Central Cookery School, ready to learn from Yuki and to make ourselves a Japanese feast for dinner. I was paired with the gorgeous Lucy of Lucy Loves to Eat who is such a delight (as well as a cracking cook), so I had a whale of a time cooking and giggling the evening away. We worked on four dishes – a beautiful, fresh salmon ceviche; gorgeous croquettes with mushrooms, onions and sweet potato; Hoto Udon noodles, rich and bursting with savoury, umami flavours; and green beans tossed in a nutty toasted sesame glaze.
All the dishes were absolutely delicious, and the meal was wonderful – after cooking for two hours it was divine to sit down to sample our wares, enjoy a glass or two of sparkling sake, and catch up with some of the other bloggers (such fun coversations about food, blogging and life around the table). Below, please enjoy a selection of pictures from a very fun cooking adventure!
Warning, hunger pangs may ensue….
|The lovely Yuki preparing to teach us some super recipes.|
|Adore a nice bit of mise en place.|
|Lucy, my lovely partner in cookery crime! Such a talented foodie.|
|Adored making these croquettes, so some step-by-step pictures felt in order! Gorgeous colours in the mix.|
|Rolling in panko crumbs – so crispy and the perfect foil to the yeilding veggie mixture of the croquette proper.|
|I am always up for a goofy pose – popping the croquettes into the oven to finish.|
|Plated up alongside a tangy Japanese BBQ dipping sauce – so good!|
|SO much salmon. So delicious, marinaded with lime, chilli and chives. Dangerously moreish.|
|Dinner of champions!|
Thank you so much to Yuki for such an informative and delightful evening. I truly learned a huge amount about the cooking and food of Japan, and left eager to try some of the recipes at home (we were gifted a copy of Yuki’s beautiful cookbook – I cannot wait to delve into it!). Thank you also to Yutaka for hosting us and for a wonderful goodybag full of ingredients to sample in our own kitchens. Thanks to all involved, I had a wonderful time!
Disclaimer, as ever: I was hosted for this evening and the cookery class and food goodies were gifted to me. All opinions, and recollections of recipes involving saald cream (good heavens!), are entirely my own.