Centre stage vegetables with A Bit on the Side’s Ed Smith…

Described as a class full of inspiring side dishes, this demonstration at Divertimenti from Rocket & Squash’s Ed Smith was a welcome breath of fresh, light, flavourful, vegetarian air. Three hours, seven dishes and a lot of chat resulted in a slew of new ideas for both dressing up the supporting acts on your plate and also turning them into dishes worthy enough of being crowned the main event. Familiar, accessible & non-threatening ingredients like cauliflower, carrots & new potatoes sat comfortably alongside arguable wild-cards like seaweed, carrot tops & green tomatoes.

Ed, a former lawyer-turned-blogger-turned-writer-turned-chef, was friendly, easy going and totally at home juggling multiple pans; it felt less like we were in a Brompton Road basement kitchen and more sat round his table at home, dog underfoot & vino in hand. FYI I have no idea if Ed has a dog but he seemed like a nice guy and we all know – cat lovers look away now – that the best people in life have dogs.

The first dish of the night was one that could easily pass as a centrepiece statement rather than being relegated to the ‘sides’ bench. Chunky cauliflower florets were roasted in a mixture of rapeseed oil and cumin salt before being tumbled onto a platter with crispy roasted chickpeas, blanched spring greens and dollops of lemony, sumac sprinkled tahini. The blend of so-hip-they-hurt Middle Eastern flavours paired beautifully with the textures & colours of this minimum-fuss, maximum-flavour dish.IMG_7080Next, two gorgeously simple ways to dress up the kitchen knockout that is the Jersey Royal. One of our loveliest & most seasonal vegetables, usually Elvis-approved amounts of butter and a twist of black pepper are enough to elevate this humble little spud but here, Ed showed us the savoury moreishness of dulse seaweed melted into butter and a traditional-with-a-twist pesto made with ferny carrot top fronds. Vibrant yet delicate and eye-wideningly delicious, these brought the idea of how a Jersey Royal should be served into the modern age of cooking.IMG_7082

IMG_7081A traditional American wedge salad usually arrives drowning in blue cheese dressing and creaking under a mountain of bacon bits; Ed’s lighter & more summery version came with a dill-heavy buttermilk dressing that was joyfully fragrant and worth making double of because life’s too short for skimpy amounts of dressing, translucent radish slices and umami-packed soy seeds & popped quinoa. It may sound like a lot of elements but each took only moments to prepare, making the overall end result well worth the effort.IMG_7089Grilled green tiger tomatoes were sprinkled with white pepper and chilli leaving them fresh, juicy & sharp… IMG_7084…a fennel & tarragon salad delivered a beautifully clean, subtle aniseed tang and carrots were given a new lease of life, one that was silky with brown butter, full of chopped hazelnuts & fresh parsley and pan-to-plate ready in minutes.IMG_7085Great tips such as ‘cauliflower always needs a good 45 minutes to roast properly not the 20 minutes designated by cookbooks on a space-page budget’ and a desire to use the entirety of each vegetable & avoid excess waste were two of the nicest qualities of the evening, along with the fact that everything made could be used on so many more blank canvasses than those we saw painted tonight. Nothing was overly complicated, everything was delicious and it was inspiring, in our increasingly plant based culinary landscape, to see vegetables take their moment in the spotlight.

 

A two Michelin starred evening with the finest of French fare…

It’s not often you get the chance to have your dinner cooked for you by a two Michelin starred chef so when the opportunity arose for a seat at Claude Bosi’s table during ‘An Evening With…’ at the Divertimenti Cookery School on Brompton Road, it was something I’d have climbed over my own sister to be a part of…

…luckily it didn’t come to that. I still have a sibling who’s on speaking terms with me and when I arrived to find there would be only 6 other people there with me, it became even more of a charming & personal interaction with this hugely talented & passionate chef.

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Chef Bosi, a classically trained alumnus of several of France’s finest restaurants including L’Arpege and Restaurant Alain Ducasse, is perhaps best known in the UK as the culinary genius behind Hibiscus, a Michelin star appointed restaurant based first in Ludlow and then London, and his inventive & respectful takes on French cuisine have won him fans both here and across the seas.

Five courses – each paired with wines – were prepared in front of us by Bosi and his two sous chefs in a kitchen that was unbelievably calm, organised & confident, traits of working that he instills in his kitchens. Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

Comte & Cheddar Gougeres were our starting point for the evening’s feasting; rustic nuggets of perfectly cooked, soft centred, crispy edged cheesey goodness, each one lightly hand dusted with freeze dried cheese powder. There are times when you want party food to look aspirational and times when you simply want it to look comfortably welcoming and these plum sized, choux pastry dollops were the ultimate in homely-meets-chic appetizers, marrying beautifully with a glass of cold, crisp champagne.

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Flavouring your world Japanese for an evening…

If there’s one thing I love, it’s eating food.

Ok well, it’s actually eating food and cooking food, my bad.

And learning about food…ok, so if there’s three things that I love, it’s learning about and cooking and eating food.

Divertimenti is a cook shop in the beautiful beating heart of South Kensington, an area of London whose museums and galleries and restaurants make up some of the prettiest streets in the capital. As well as being the sort of store that makes you want to buy things you never even knew you needed until you saw them – FYI that is the entire range of cookie cutters – its basement is also home to some of the hardest working staff in London’s cooking schools and it was here that I recently found myself swept away to the Far East courtesy of a Japanese canapes workshop and the very talented Reiko Hashimoto.

Kyoto born Reiko has been teaching Japanese cooking to students in London for over a decade following time spent travelling the world with the airline industry and living in the global melting pot that is Hong Kong. Setting up her own cookery school ‘Hashi’ thirteen years ago has allowed her to inspire both novice & experienced food lovers and her first book was released in 2011 with a sibling on its way. Normally based in Wimbledon, it was absolutely delightful to spend a few hours in the company of her and four fellow food enthusiasts as we learnt a little about the ingredients, the dishes & the cooking techniques of Japan in Reiko’s first Divertimenti class.

My favourite food of the night was this incredibly warm, comforting & moreish take on the traditional Italian ‘arancini’ using miso and mozzarella. Cooking everything – rice, mushrooms, leeks & sauces – together in the same pot made it reassuringly simple and I can’t tell you how delicious the savoury, earthy flavour of the miso was when paired with the freshness of the leeks and the nuttiness of the rice.

Panko breadcrumbs should be in every home cupboard; try them once and lament at how many years you spent using the pale imitation churned out by other brands. Bigger & flakier & sturdier than their counterparts, these are breadcrumbs that give you a gorgeous crunchy texture on anything you coat them in and deep fry and, word to the wise here, you will want to coat & fry everything you can get your hands on once you start…you have been warned.

A crispy, golden crumb exterior that gives way to soft & yielding umami flavoured rice with a nugget of molten mozzarella at its core…that my friends, is how you take a classic and flip it to reveal something pretty delicious underneath. Read More