Hands-on cooking class at L’atelier des Chefs in London
We eat fish regularly. I love how something so tasty is packed full of nutrients, and yet it takes just minutes to cook.
Our usuals are salmon or trout, but we also regularly eat pan-fried sea bass when it’s on special offer at our local fishmongers. Two out of three of my kids are big fans of fish. (Of course, the fussy toddler is not one of them.)
But I’ve never learnt how to fillet fish, or indeed do anything a bit fiddly or twiddly.
But now that I’m on a mission to break out of my meal rut (read my blog post: Do you have mealtime déjà vu) I’m always on the look-out for ways to pick up new cooking skills and meal ideas. Being more creative with fish is firmly on my list.
Fishy cooking class
So with this in mind, I was chuffed to be offered an hour-long course at a hands-on London cooking school L’atelier des Chefs. I chose a fishy class on a French theme, making sea bass with a parsley crust and ratatouille, and also a pud of tarte Tatin with Calvados cream, something I’ve long wanted to have a go at making.
L’atelier des Chefs has two bases in central London (St Pauls and Oxford Circus), and offers a whole range of classes depending on how much time you can spare – from 30 minutes for their Cook, Eat and Run classes, all the way up to a four-hour Masterclass. Whatever class you choose, you always get to tuck in to your accomplishments at the end.
Skinning a fillet of fish
The five of us in my class started by chopping up the veg for the ratatouille and parsley crust, and whipping up the Calvados cream. We then moved on to the main event in my eyes – skinning a fillet of sea bass.
It turns out you need a special knife with an ultra-bendy blade, called a fillet knife. You make a cut at the tail to start separating the skin from the fish, and, pull the tail of the fish pretty tight while you gently slide your knife between the skin and fillet. Ease it along, making sure you angle the blade slightly towards the chopping board.
I’m proud to say that for a first-timer, I think I did a half-decent skinning job.
We’ll just breeze past that patchy bit at the end.
The rest of the class was spent cooking the ratatouille, blending the parsley crust, making individual tarte Tatins and preparing the fish for baking.
What I liked most about this class was the solo tasks, like skinning the fish and filling the tarts. I felt I was gaining new skills.
Other tasks were done as a group. So for example, one of us cooked the ratatouille, while everyone else looked on. Likewise, another person made the caramel for the tarte Tatin, under the chef’s watchful eye.
Sharing the tasks presumably brings the class price and time right down, but I would love to have been able to try out a few more of the cooking jobs myself. However, it was fun to do it as part of a group and I think it would be a great way to get together with a friend while also learning something new.
The tarte tatin was the star of the show with stunning flavours.
I couldn’t speak as I ate mine – it was that good.
It’s an interesting way to jazz up a white fish, with the parsley crust adding tasty flair.
And you can’t go wrong with ratatouille for a veggie fix. I’ll be serving this up to friends. Just need to practise that skinning technique first.
Recipe for sea bass with a parsley crust
6 sea bass fillets
1 garlic clove
quarter of a bunch of flat leaf parsley
50g whole hazelnuts
Sea salt and black pepper to season
Preheat oven to 200˚C. Zest the lemon. Pick the leaves from the parsley.
Pin bone the fish if necessary and trim away any unwanted fat. Skin the fish. Season with salt, pepper and a little lemon zest. Place in a roasting tray and drizzle liberally with olive oil.
Puree the garlic and finely chop the parsley.
Crush the hazelnuts in a pestle and mortar and mix in a bowl along with the breadcrumbs, garlic, chopped parsley and black pepper.
Sprinkle a thin layer of topping over the fish, completely covering it, and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.
Disclaimer: I was given a free cooking class at L’atelier des Chefs in return for a review.