If being taught to cook by Jamie Oliver is the dream, then being taught by Jimmy at Recipease cookery school must come a pretty close second. Jimmy, our lively Scottish chef trainer at Jamie’s Recipease branch in Notting Hill, is about as close to the real Jamie as it gets – a cheeky, bonnie Scottish version, just as passionate about making simple food as Jamie.
And that is what I love about Jamie Oliver. He trains his staff to do exactly as he does himself. Not only do they really know their stuff, they’re also completely passionate about their stuff. Jamie desperately wants you to muck in and get your hands dirty, and his cookery schools teach you to do just that.
We went to Recipease Notting Hill last month for the popular Mexican Street Food class, £45 (or £40 each if two friends share a workstation). The price includes a 1.5-hour lesson with basic knife skills (see me, left, wielding sizeable knife) and full supervision, and you get to eat your finished meal at the end of it. You also get a complementary drink and 10% off everything in the Recipease shop, which stocks all kinds of Jamie-branded cookware and fresh food.
The menus at Recipease change seasonally, but currently the Mexican Street Food class teaches you to make soft corn, hand-pressed tortillas with three toppings: sticky smoked chipotle chicken, sautéed spinach with herbs and feta cheese, and a spicy roasted corn salsa. We also made freshly smashed guacamole and a chunky tomato salsa to have on the side.
As with most of Jamie’s cookery shows and recipe books, a lot of the prep work has been done before the lesson begins. We are given exactly the right amounts of corn flour, herbs and onions and all the cooking equipment we need, so all we have to do is prepare and cook accordingly and whiz the meal together.
After a quick safety introduction, we gather around the centre of the big square kitchen worktop as Jimmy demonstrates the first part of the meal. He splits the meal into about three parts and each time sends us off to follow his instructions. We each take an individual workstation and get cracking on our meal as Jimmy flits between the students and makes sure we’re not burning the chicken.
There’s about 10 people in our session and the knowledge levels vary from complete beginner to fairly advanced. The class is ideal for everyone as the steps are so easy to follow and the trainers will give you more or less attention depending on your expertise. We also feel safe in the hands of Jimmy, who’s keeping a watchful eye on hobs, smoke levels and knife action.
There are quite a few steps to follow, but the preparation and cooking for this dish are all pretty simple. The emphasis is on having fun and taking your time, and we end up with a pretty messy but delicious looking set of tortillas each with lashings and lashings of topping. My corn flour mixture easily makes a fourth tortilla, which I top with the leftover spicy chicken chipotle mixture.
The food is as good as the Mexican fare you’d get in any London restaurant – all fresh ingredients and free-range Norfolk chicken. My favourite topping is the extremely fiery chipotle chicken, but the zingy tomato and spinach mixture comes a pretty close second. The three or four tortillas make for a very filling and satisfying lunch and there’s enough salsa mixture and guacamole to feed a second or third person.
We sit and eat our finished products on the shared wooden benches beside the cooking area, where we’re also served fresh drinks. Over the other side of the cooking area there are more tables where people who aren’t taking a lesson can order food while observing the class. I definitely fancy eating at the café-restaurant, whose menu includes things like Jamie’s Huevos Rancheros or American-style pancakes.
Recipease offers a great variety of cookery classes at different prices at its Notting Hill, Clapham and Brighton branches, from “Cooking the perfect steak” to “Boning a chicken” and “Vietnamese street food”. There are also a few classes for kids, including pancake-making and pasta-making. The group of 7-11 year olds in the class after ours are in their element making fresh pancakes!
I’m really impressed with the way Recipease runs, and part of its success is due to the talented and charismatic staff. I’ll definitely go back for more lessons – particularly if Jimmy is doing the teaching!
Recipease Notting Hill, 92-94 Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3QB. To book a lesson, go to http://www.jamieoliver.com/recipease/lessons/.