When I migrated my website in November, my postings about food have gone quiet. But does this mean that food has been less of a priority? No. Have I changed my eating habits? No. I still prefer to cook at home as much as possible, with healthy clean eating my favourite. And I still bake treats, a lot, especially as a way to use my fruit and vegetable box up (I *love* my Abel & Cole weekly delivery, but occassionally I get carrot overload and those carrots make fantastic carrot cake!).
For some reason I have been quiet on the food front. Perhaps it is because my house is (still) in a state of chaos from our works. So sitting down in the kitchen to document my kitchen experiments has not been exactly comfortable. Or perhaps it is because I have found myself repeating recipes, going for the old favourites, so less inspired to share.
But I have been cooking. In fact, every Monday night – a night that I always took off from training and exercise – I have been embarking on cooking marathons, prepping my food for the week. And I’ve been eating enjoying many a Saturday lunch, at some great London restaurants. A few friends encouraged me to pick up with writing about food again – so I will. And I will start with this past weekend – my attendance at the Fishworks Cookery School in Richmond London.
For Christmas I gave my best friend two vouchers for the Fishworks Cookery School. We have spent many a weekend in Suffolk, down by the boats in Aldeburgh, walking by and talking about how we wish we could cook skate wings with blackened butter like they serve in restaurants, how we wish we knew how to fillet fish. It seemed like a perfect present – plus it was a chance (if she would take me!) to spend a day together, learning, enjoying good fresh food, and walking away with new skills and ideas.
I have to hand it to Fishworks – the class size was small (just three of us!), we had the dedicated attention of Chef Amor (such a nice man!), and the service was fantastic with complete explanations of the wines we were offered, willingness to let us practice each and every item that was cooked, take away containers of the extra taramosalata and mackerel pate. From 10am until 5pm we enjoyed ourselves in the cookery room, learning, eating, testing, filleting, frying, tasting, drinking and enjoying the day.
View of prawns cooking from the cooking studio, overlooking the main restaurant
What I learned
First, I learned what to look for when buying fish. I am completely unfamiliar with how to buy fish. Eat fish – definitely. But buying? When I grew up we did not buy fish – it came straight from the boat to the table, because my dad was a fisherman. I was also unfamiliar with the flat fishes that we have in the UK – dover sole, lemon sole, ray wing, turbot…
Slime (good), Colour (good), Blood (good), Translucent bones (Good), Firmness (Good), Eye (Convex and clear – although sometimes clear is not the right indicator if eyes are concave but clear that is not a good sign), Smell (bad)… I know that when it comes to dover sole, the skin always comes off (it is like sandpaper and de-scaling does not work). I learned that the best prawns are the one flash frozen with their feelers still attached. I now know how to look at fish in a fishmongers. Perfect.
I also learned a lot about how to cook. From preparing and freezing parsely garlic butter (good in the freezer for up to three months, super handy to have available for cooking), to a basic recipe for mussels to which you can add and play with… And that you should not soak a mussel (any shellfish really) for more than 10 minutes before cooking – or it will die before cooking which is not good…
Not many moule remain in this photo – so good!
From how to make taramasalata and mackerel pate, to how to devein a prawn and tell the difference between the vein and the roe. And how to use the prawn heads to add colour to a dish (the sauce turns a lovely red from the juice from the prawn heads!)
The many uses of parsely garlic butter, this time on prawns
From how to remove a scallop from its shell (use a spoon not a knife) to how to de-scale, de-gut and fillet a fish.
One word: delicious
Who knew that skate was an endangered fish, unsustainable. Most restaurants serve ray wing now – Fishworks does because it has signed the sustainable fishing charter. And oh boy, the blackened butter with the wing. To die for.
No doctoring on this photo – I think the shine is from the butter / white wine vinegar combo
And we ventured into cooking with spices. Oily fish such as mackerel can take spices – we toasted cumin and coriander seeds, added garlic and cayenne pepper and olive oil, and made the nicest chermoula marinade. Brilliant.
Mackerel, highly underrated. Please don’t eat too much there will be more for me!
We made fish soup. An amazing fennel salad. Whole roasted sole. Sea bass baked in salt. And more.
And we ate it all. With wine.
A lovely albarino. A great pinot grigio blush. A prosecco I did not have but was assured it was nice. And a Xarel-Lo made especially for Fishworks that worked really well with the fish. I’d go back to buy a few bottles of their house Xarel-Lo.
My overall verdict?
The course was fantastic. And thank goodness this was a day of fish and not much else – or I would need to go on a diet!