When I was offered a choice of courses at Divertimenti’s Cookery School there was one that instantly stood out to me; their ‘Fuss Free Fish’ class. I love all things fish and seafood-related but I don’t buy it nearly enough to cook at home, so I signed up in the hope of (casting my net so-to-speak) outside of my usual culinary repertoire.
Upon arrival I was joined by nine like-minded people who had all raced from work to join the evening class, spending the next three hours perfecting fish dishes that were claimed to be ‘ simple, wholesome and full of flavour to rejuvenate your week night dining’.
It was an enticing claim and one that I could tell had drawn each of the nine expectant faces there, all sat on chairs and peering expectantly over the cooking area. We were all asked about which types of fish we liked and as it came to my turn and I had started a process of alphabetizing fish varieties (intensified by the elaborate types given by other members of the group). The lady next to me confessed to loving all fish but wanted to extend her culinary skills. Perfect-that’s what I really wanted to say. We immediately bonded. Next up; we were to watch a demonstration and ask questions before we started to cook ourselves.
Cooking ourselves? I wasn’t quite sure how the course was devised but now I knew I spent the next 20 minutes watching our tutor Ursula Ferrigno, cooking sea bass whilst furiously scribbling notes for preparing the dishes for the evening. Her infectious laughter and love for cooking, peppered with anecdotes inspired from her Italian upbringing was a brilliant preparation for what lay ahead.
I soon ended up around a wooden table in a group with two rather glamorous ladies and immediately bonded over our love of Brixton Market and the obligatory glass of wine over cooking. We had Ursula and her lovely assistant Charlotte, who runs her own catering company, helping where needed and we finished the evening sitting around the table eating our fare and chatting about what recipes we were going to cook at home. There was even talk about doing another class-I have got my eye on the knife skill class and I have a feeling I will be seeing a few familiar faces there too.
What we cooked:
Top 4 things I learn’t from the course:
Book yourself a place on Divertiment’s Cookery School, and have a look at more delicious fish recipes and our six best cookery courses at hotels.
By Sarah Keady, Red's living editor.
See her full blog here.
Having taken on the role of Kitchen Manager late last year it has become my job to ensure that all of the ingredients are here at the Divertimenti kitchens for the start of each class. I take great pride in the quality of all of the produce that is supplied to us everyday and really want to be able to tell our students about the traceability of our goods as well as being able to fulfil the requests of all of our teachers and their amazing recipes. Everyday I speak to our various suppliers but I have yet to put faces to these voices so have decided that it is about time to get out and about in London and meet these fantastic people. First on my list is our butcher – HG Walters. I have been constantly impressed by the quality of our meat and the wide variety of produce that they have been able to supply us with and as for their sausages well they have to be some of the best in London.
Armed with a map, camera and list of questions off Gloria and I set riding the tube to Barons Court. How silly we were to think we would need a map as, as you leave the station you really cant miss the traditional blue awnings and the inviting looking glass fronted shop.
Immediately we were greeted by Adam and Claire whose father established the business some 35 years ago but still to this day takes a very large role in the day to day goings on. Adams knowledge is vast from the different cuts of meat to the farms where everything comes from as well as just about every customers first name. Both Adam and Claire worked with us through the whole counter explaining the benefits of the different types of chicken they sell, where the onglet is on the cow oppose to the bavette, the argument on veal and finally the secret to those highly sought after sausages. Claire invited us down stairs where we donned the traditional white butchers jackets and in to the fridges we roamed. There is so much to take in I didn’t know where to look from ½ lambs ageing that from their label we could tell had just been running around the fields 5 days previously, buckets of offal and then piles of bones all set for stock. Absolutely nothing is wasted and from watching the boys work you can see how much skill is needed to take the meat off from the bones so cleanly. Onto another cool room, Claire explained how important the humidity was in ageing the beef and we could clearly see the different stages that each of these carcasses were at. Up the secret side stair case we then travelled to discover that not only is HG Walters a butcher but they have a kitchen on site which is constantly on the go making stocks, scotch eggs and shepherds pies which are all for sale downstairs.
Through out our visit I was constantly astounded by the way that almost everyone was greeted on a first name basis and what an amazing business that has developed whilst keeping it very much within the family. It is now with great pleasure that I have been telling the rest of our staff about our butcher, encouraging them along with the students to shop there and don’t forget you can also pick up your fruit, vegetables, cheese and a selection of cupboard ingredients whilst you are there.
By Samantha Harvey
In 1963, Divertimenti setup shop just off Marylebone High Street on Marylebone Lane. This year it celebrates 50 years of being a Marylebone resident (now on the High Street itself) and having grown into one of London’s most popular cookshops with its range of kitchenware and cookware, as well as a cookery school offering a diverse selection of cooking courses for foods from around the world.
There is no question about it – Indian food can seem an overwhelming challenge for even the most experienced of culinary enthusiasts. Fortunately my guidance at Divertimenti’s half day Indian Vegetarian Masterclass came in the form of award winning food writer Monisha Bharadwaj as I attempted to get to grips with Indian cooking.
Along with a class of seven others we were guided by Monisha through our recipes. Together with my teammate for the day, we set to work on our cauliflower rassa, a dish from the Maharashtra region of India. Each hands on step was explained by Monisha as we learnt about the background to the dishes and the spices being used. Elsewhere members of the group were working on other dishes, a few of which included a mushroom korma, baingan massala (an aubergine and tomato curry) and palak paneer (spinach with cottage cheese). Although assigned our own dishes to work on, we were all able to follow each other’s recipes as they took shape, sharing in the cooking whilst Monisha offered guidance.
As well as the practical help, Monisha shared with us a wealth of knowledge about the culture of the Indian coastal region from which our dishes originated and the how the diversity of foods and styles of cooking across India differ so extensively.
The reward for our work? The opportunity to eat the delicious creation of a meal along with some wine whilst getting to know new friends and talking – mainly about food…
Visit the Divertimenti 50 website to find out more about its 50 years in Marylebone.By Marylebone London
Gloria Ford, Divertimenti’s Cookery School Manager, has won Best Young Rising Star at The British Cookery School Awards 2012 (13.11.12).
The awards were held at the prestigious Vintners’ Hall in London and were attended by the top cookery schools in the United Kingdom.
The judging panel, which included BBC Radio 2 food & drink presenter Nigel Barden, selected Gloria over five other finalists.
As Nigel presented the award he lauded Gloria’s commitment to the school both as its manager and as a tutor. From ensuring back office operations run smoothly to being at the front of house and making students feel at ease, Gloria’s involvement in every aspect of the running of the school exudes an enthusiasm that can only come from someone with a genuine passionate for what they do.
Divertimenti’s Sam Harvey was also nominated for an award - Best Unsung Hero. Although she didn’t win, being chosen as a finalist was an achievement in itself and as Gloria’s right hand woman we are proud to have such an accomplished duo at the heart of our cookery school.
Last night’s Chefs Table with Alyn Williams at Divertimenti (25.10.12) was a unique dining experience with a Michelin Star Chef at the top of his game. His Autumnal menu gave us some bespoke dishes that showed how to get the very best out of UK seasonal produce. Fantastic food and great craic in a relaxed atmosphere. Would thoroughly recommend to anyone, foodie or otherwise. Brilliant way to spend an evening!
P.S Alyns assistant chef and the Divertimenti hosting also get top marks!
As the programme promised, the weather was perfect for this class: “cold and wet” just like the Galician climate.
Waiting for the class to begin and interacting with my fellow students I was struck by the variety of ages, backgrounds and cooking experiences present in the group. With everyone present and with Rachel having gone through the evening’s schedule we embarked on a culinary journey that was to cumulate in a fiery finale.
We started by dipping an octopus three times in boiling water, following the Galician custom, while sharing our knowledge of Spanish food and listening to Rachel’s fascinating experiences from her 7 years living in northern Spain. Having prepared the potatoes and spices to accompany the octopus our attention turned to the Galician favourite that is Caldo Gallego – a stew that Galicians have fought off the winter chill with for centuries.
With Rachel emphasising the uncomplicated nature of all the day’s dishes it was time to turn our attention to the Rollo de Ternera, a recipe that was to open our minds to combining flavours we wouldn’t usually select. Following this we then placed our hands on our dough to make Empanadas de Atún and it soon became apparent that the class’s expertise were not as technical as Rachel’s. However as beginners, Rachel was quick to point out that this class was just as much an opportunity to explore our preference in regards to tastes and flavours.
Finally it was time for the fire with the Queimada providing a delicious ending to the evening, warming us up as we made our way home with new ideas and tastes to explore, accompanied with a spell to protect the house.
By Felipe Sanchez
I was privileged enough to be able to attend a Chefs Table with Rowley Leigh (12.07.12), hosted by Divertimenti at South Kensington in July. It was an event totally unforgettable by all in attendance.
The evening took place around the magnificent La Cornue island in the basement of the shop. The setup means we were all given the pleasure of being seated extremely close to the action and therefore had the opportunity to chat to this incredibly friendly chef. The atmosphere was relaxed and quite intimate and by the end of the night a considerable amount of banter was going on between guests and Chef.
Upon arrival we were served a glass of Prosecco and once we were all seated, the real star of the night began, the food.
All the dishes were simple but exquisite. Our dinner began with a peach and tomato salad, a traditional Tuscan starter to a summer lunch. The ingredients were an unusual combination for me and something different to anything I had ever tried before. The chargrilled bread that was served alongside completed the dish magically. Following the salad we enjoyed spaghetti cacio e pepe which was a mix of black peppercorns, pecorino romano and spaghetti. It was fascinating to see Rowley’s cooking technique for this dish and it was hard to believe that 3 simple ingredients could taste so good. Our third course was a steamed saddle of lamb with mint. The lamb was cooked to perfection and the smell and taste were just mouthwatering. By now I was beginning to see a pattern in the food with basic ingredients being cooked with a slight twist and coming together to produce an exquisite dish. Dessert was a cherry clafoutis soufflé. By this time I was quite full and well nourished but it did not stop me from indulging, an opportunity to good to be missed!
Throughout the evening we had the pleasure of being served wine to match each course, the Sancerre was my personal favourite. The waiters were extremely friendly, quick to clear plates, refill wine glasses and were even busy assisting Rowley when required.
Rowley Leigh managed to entertain throughout the night and was more than happy to answer any questions any of us had, whether it was about food or not. It was amazing to hear his kitchen tales from over the years as well as his opinion of where the hospitality industry is headed. I can definitely say I feel very privileged to have met Rowley Leigh and to be able to say that I dined with him. I will never forget this evening and will be recommending it to everyone, it was completely extraordinary.
Simply put - the whole experience was truly amazing!
By Melanie Harvey
Divertimenti’s most recent Food is GREAT Britain event (Brompton Road 08.08.12) was just as much a celebration of Britain’s multiculturalism as it was of its cuisine.
The British love for Indian food is well known and when it comes to the finest Indian cuisine available on these isles you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who does it better than Alfred Prasad the Executive Chef of Tamarind in Mayfair.
Tamarind was the first Indian restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin-star - making Alfred the youngest Indian chef at the time to receive such an accolade. It has held this award for the past 12 years.
With such credentials Alfred was the ideal choice to represent the multicultural side of British cuisine to the international journalists and film crews in attendance.
Having served canapés of Smoked Aubergine Pulp with Burnt Red Chilli on Cucumber & Grated Paneer and Spiced Mixed Peppers on Toast accompanied with a glass of Chapel Down wine Alfred then displayed his culinary prowess first hand on our La Cornue demonstration island.
The menu consisted of Papdi Channa Chaat for a starter, followed by a main of Prawn Masala served with Coconut Milk Rice, Fine Beans & Potato and concluded with Pistachio Kulfi, Rhubarb ‘Falooda’ and Saffron Sago.
Alfred was then interviewed by Chinese and Japanese journalists where he shared his views on just what it is about Indian cuisine that makes it so popular with the British public.
Divertimenti marked the start of its Cookery School summer term (Marylebone High Street 17.05.12) with an open evening hosted by Alex Mackay.
The tremendous turnout were rewarded with an incredible array of mouth-watering canapés which included Casey’s Barbeque Glazed Chicken Breast with Corn & Chilli Relish, Mackerel with Chickpea Brandade, Courgettes & Basil, and Roast Aubergine with Glazed Tofu, Fried Broccoli & Chilli to name but a few.
Alex then turned up the heat with an animated and entertaining demonstration showcasing further recipes from his latest book ‘Everybody Everyday’ (Bloomsbury Publishing) – a collection of dishes which focus on transforming those everyday meals that have become the default setting in your culinary repertoire into something inspirational via a few simple ingredient substitutions.
Bringing his book to life Alex served up a number of dishes including Pasta Pilaf Midnight Macaroni Cheese, Salmon with Mushy Peas & Chunky Sunblush Tomato Ketchup, and Hot Popcorn with Pesto & Tapenade. His charm and infectious enthusiasm resonated throughout the demonstration and certainly invigorated his captivated audience to approach their tried and tested meals with a new ardour.
If you wish to experience Alex first hand there are still places left on his sustainable fish demonstration class at Divertimenti Marylebone High Street on 26 June. Call 020 7486 8020 for more details.
I attended the Knife Skills class yesterday at Divertimenti and I would just like to feedback to the Cookery school that I thought this class was excellent. I already filled out a feedback form but I would really like to commend Mary on a wonderful and most enjoyable evening in Divertmenti. She is an excellent tutor and has great patience, and a lovely warm manner as well as a great sense of humour. As a previous instructor myself, I know it is not easy to tutor for that length of time non-stop and Mary did a fantastic job. I thoroughly enjoyed the class and feel I really benefited from learning the basic knife skills. In addition, the food was wonderful and it just topped off a very enjoyable, productive evening.
I would be very grateful if you could feed this back to Mary and Elaine who was also an excellent support. I will be highly recommending this class to all my friends and family.
Thank you Sarah
From Tacos to Taqueria with chef Sofia Larrinua-Craxton was my first Divertimenti Cookery School class and a most enjoyable one. Sofia soon put the class at ease and we all worked together like a little family making some wonderful Tacos and Salsas. Sofia was very down to earth, answering all our questions with two very helpful and friendly assistants. A fun filled and enjoyable evening was had by all.
By Tracy Guerrero
Our sushi class started with an introduction to cooking rice (the Japanese way), while I have always known it would be a lengthy process it was interesting to learn that sterilising the rice with vinegar (Sushi-zu) kept it pure alongside the fish and using caster sugar, sake & kombu (dried kelp) ensured it was sticky enough to mould together.
Whilst the rice was cooking Atsuko showed us how to make egg rolls (sushi tamago) – a classic! It was very similar to making an omelette and her top tip for cracking eggs was to knock two eggs together leaving one with a cracked shell and the other intact, a simpler way to ensure a swift opening of an egg. Using a square frying pan she impressively showed us how to roll the egg using chopsticks and this method was repeated 4 times before the roll was secured together in a bamboo mat. Definitely something worth trying at home once you get the knack of it.
Atsuko then demonstrated how to prepare a variety of fillings for the sushi, my personal favourite being the deep fried soft shell crab, but the rib eye beef steak proved to be the most popular with the class as we all got to make our very own temaki (rib-eye steak with Japanese rice, peppery watercress & creamy wasabi sauce wrapped in nori).
We were all then set the challenge of making hosomaki and uramaki (California rolls). At first I had my reservations about how successful I would be at making sushi but Atsuko executed her methods thoroughly and when it came to rolling I immediately knew it was something I could complete in my own time at home. We displayed our creations on a bamboo leaf (taking a few snaps of our work) before sitting down with a glass of wine and discussing the class with Atsuko.
I’d love to do another class at Divertimenti as we were given plenty of time to learn and make our own dishes. I will definitely take away all the tips I’ve picked up and will enjoy making sushi for friends & family at home.
By Gabriella Sanchez