On Tuesday evening, my friend Laura and I ventured over to jamie oliver's recipease in Clapham, a shop / cafe / cooking school where various lessons are taught by professional chefs in a state-of-the-art kitchen. Laura had signed us up for a knife skills course where we would learn how to properly fillet and debone a fish, then cook it two ways and EAT IT! This was a brilliant evening. We were given a complimentary glass of wine upon arrival as the chefs prepared the kitchen for the 10 of us. Jen, our instructor, led us through a little tutorial on how to pick the freshest fish, what to look for and what to be wary of, and then how to fillet a couple of different types of fish. She demonstrated a sardine and a bream, and then went away and prepared a seabass and a lemon sole, while the rest of us got to work on our own bream.
Other than the pretty gruesome act of gutting the fish, it was a pretty simple and straightforward task, provided you have amazing £70 filleting knives like they did at Recipease. I then discovered that they do wedding registries!! Hello NEW KNIVES!
I named my fish Sally. I'm not sure why, but she just looked like a Sally. I think because she was staring at me. It wasn't pretty. But she tasted fantastic.
We prepared each fillet in a different way - one was poached for about 3 minutes (perfection) in some boiling water with a couple of lemon slices, some peppercorns, and fennel seeds. The other was pan-fried with some olive oil (butter for everyone else) and lemon juice. again, about 3 minutes. I have a tendency to overcook my fish because I get paranoid about it being undercooked - but the simple act of having a hot enough pan and leaving it well alone for a couple of minutes makes all the difference.
After our fish fillets were finished, we got to sit down and tuck in, along with a freshly prepared fennel and tomato salad and another glass of wine. It was brilliant! As we sat eating our delicious meal, Jen came around and brought us some of the other fish she had prepared herself and told us about her favorite local restaurants. I now have a nice list to work my way through :)
Even with all the flak Jamie Oliver seems to be getting lately as a result of his food revolution in the States, he's doing a really great thing with stores like Recipease and setting up similar shops stateside. By getting people interested in cooking, bringing a sense of ease and fun to it, making tricky tasks pretty straightforward, he's opened up a whole world for the amateur cook. For everyone!
Here's a little iPhone-quality photo with my two fish fillets all plated up.
The pan-fried one on the left is skin-side up and has a nice drizzle of olive oil on top (because if you've ever watched a Jamie TV program, you know that everything needs an extra drizzle of olive oil) - the poached one on the right is skin-side down but was such a nice delicate flavor. I'll definitely be attempting these two styles again at home, possibly on Saturday night as a treat before Phil and I head off across the pond for a couple of weeks.