Saturday, 29 May 2010
I'm currently reading yet another fabulous book by food and travel writer Michael Booth, this time about culinary travels in Japan ("Sushi and Beyond - What the Japanese Know About Cooking" ). In between the laughs, it only serves to reinforce how much the cooking of Japanese food is still shrouded in mystery for many of us - and the fact that Japanese restaurants tend to specialise, to the point of mastery, in only one type of food (go here for your udon noodles, and somewhere else for your perfect ramen, sushi or tempura) makes the thought of polishing one's kitchen chopsticks seem a daunting task.
This only makes Reiko Hashimoto-Lambert's Hashi Japanese Cookery Courses all the more satisfying. In her straightforward, down to earth style, Reiko has been teaching Japanese cooking in England for over 10 years, and did so before that in Tokyo. She has appeared as a guest on Saturday Kitchen, and is currently writing a cookbook (has anyone else noticed the dearth of accessible, decent Japanese cook books, beyond Wagamama's Westernised account)?
I recently attended a class at Hashi, which was an amalgam of Hashi's Beginners and Advanced classes. The session was a well balanced mix of demonstration and hands on practice, and class sizes are small enough (there were 7 people in mine) to get some much needed personal attention and a good view of the stove top.
Reiko guided us through the making of a mouthwatering beef tataki with creamy sesame sauce - so delicious, but deceptively easy, this would definitely impress the dinner party guests.
We then rolled up our sleeves to make some pork and seafood gyoza, artfully mastering the delicate folding of the gyoza wrappers. Mine went from ugly duckling to beautiful swan surprisingly quickly, but there's definitely a trick to them that requires expert guidance and hands on practice to avoid the elephant man effect.
Reiko's signature dish, scallops with creamy spicy sauce on sushi rice followed next (a more advanced dish, but still most definitely achievable in the home kitchen) and then some gorgeous cold soba noodles with spicy aubergine. Oh, how I love a good bit of aubergine.
All was, of course, eaten on beautiful Japanese plates and bowls - because a chipped white plate (a la Chez Greedy Diva) just won't do for the Japanese.
Reiko's Saturday classes run from 11am - 3pm and cost £120. She is also running an evening canape class for £70, and her 4 class courses - some for beginners, and others becoming more gourmet right up to "Master Chef" level - are £240. You'll pick up lots of tips and tit-bits along the way which will help demystify Japanese cooking, and over the full set of courses you would be well on your way to having a full repertoire of dishes under your sushi belt to replicate at home. Above all, the class has inspired me to be more adventurous in the kitchen, putting Japanese cooking more squarely in my comfort zone. Bring out the dashi, baby.
While Japanese ingredients can be difficult to source, I heartily recommend the new and improved Japan Centre on Lower Regent Street (they even sell fresh wasabi root). Reiko also supplies a long list of suppliers to her course participants.
Hashi, Japanese Cookery Courses, 60 Home Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW19 7HN (Tel: 020 8944 118) www.hashicooking.co.uk
I attended the Hashi cookery class as a guest of Hashi, as organised by The London Foodie, along with other guests The Wine Sleuth, Gourmet Chick, Tamarind and Thyme, Kavey Eats and Gastro Geek.