Puff pastry and sustainability at Cookery School

Always smiling chef-instructors Marcela and Ghalid

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited along to an advanced ‘Using Pastry’ class at Three Star Sustainability Champion, Cookery School. A quick jaunt past Oxford Circus tube station and down a few stairs and I arrive, slightly damp from this lovely summer London is experiencing. All is well however, as I am greeted with the scent of fresh gougeres, a bowl of said gougeres (still warm), and a very full glass of white wine. What a start.

My five fellow classmates and I are greeted by the lovely Marcela Moukacher, who assisted our chef instructor throughout the course. Ghalid Assyb, a pastry chef with years of experience at Ottolenghi and in top kitchens in Paris, led the classes’ instruction. Reassuringly, he demonstrated very quickly that he knows his way around the confusing alchemy of puff pastry construction.

Puff pastry is notoriously difficult to make and all too easy to eat, but under the engaging and never stuffy tutelage of Marcela and Ghalid, my classmates were soon rolling out sheets of the stuff like pros. Transformed into tarte tatin, twisted into cheese loaded spirals, and topped with tomatoes and herbs, after two hours of instruction we sat down to enjoy our efforts with yes, more wine. Please note however, that drinking was not encouraged throughout the class. While Marcela and Ghalid created a welcoming and relaxed environment, Cookery School is fundamentally extremely well-run and always professional, and they were careful and correct to remind us of kitchen safety and proper hygiene throughout the evening.

Beyond the puff pastry feast I was lucky to enjoy, what stood out to me most about the course was how seamlessly and naturally our instructors wove sustainability into their teaching. Subtle yet effective reminders about turning off taps and lights were great to see. Even better was how Ghalid encouraged us all to use every last bit of what we made, and advice on how to not waste that leftover scrap of pastry. His tips were not forced or scripted at all, rather, they were genuine words about resourcefulness and adaptability, skills which all good chefs have.

We hosted a talk with internationally-renowned author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Michael Pollan on Monday 27 May. His most recent book, Cooked, is a call to his readers to turn off Masterchef and get into the kitchen, as while dining out in even the most sustainable restaurant can never be a replacement for the benefits of eating at home. Home cooking is a dying skill that has been attributed to hundreds of factors, amongst them stress, time, cost, and intimidation. Whatever your reason, if you’re looking to get back into the kitchen, Cookery School is a fantastic way to start. And having recently been awarded an impressive Three Stars in our Sustainability Rating, you can feel good about it too.

To book a class with Cookery School, visit their website, http://www.cookeryschool.co.uk/. Beyond their Using Pastry class they offer everything from Absolute Beginners courses and master classes on Breads to Meat and Poultry. Cookery School is based at 15b Little Portland Street, London.

Special thanks to Marcela and Ghalid for being such lovely hosts and teachers, and Charlotte for making everything happen.

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