Above: Patatas bravas. With squid ink allioli (front) and romesco sauce (back).
I jumped at the opportunity as I've tried romesco sauce a number of times, but had no real idea what went into it. As far as I could tell, it was kind of a nutty tomato sauce. Turns out, according to Rachel, except for Chef Jose Pizarro, most folks who serve it here in London probably don't really know what goes into it either. And end up making it too in-your-face spicy or garlicky or something else, when actually the balance of flavours is key.
Rachel started the evening off with a tasting of Mallafre olive oils and olives, which she sells at Arch 76 Druid St at the Maltby Street foodie enclave every Saturday morning. Mallafre infuses their flavoured oils by crushing said addition (say lemon or orange) along with the olives, rather than just steeping it in the oil post-press. We have a bottle of the chilli oil at home, a lovely addition on salads, fish and fried eggs. This evening I was particularly intrigued by the coffee oil, which Rachel reckons will go very well with beef. And a few coffee-pork ribs recipes from back home in Singapore, I plot in my head...
And now to the Romesco sauce. Which turns out to be dry-fried nyora (a dried red/black Spanish pepper), hazelnuts and almonds, roasted tomatoes, singed flat-leaf parsley and garlic. If you like it old school Catalan, you'll want to pungence of raw garlic. Otherwise, roast the garlic first.
Combine the ingredients in a food processor. And there you go! If you want it thick enough so that it can serve as a dipping sauce, add a couple of small slices of dry bread into the processor.
Next up we learn how to make Xato salad, a lovely pescatarian winter salad popular in the seaside towns of Sitges and Villanueva just outside of Barcelona.
Start with some curly endive...
And combine with anchovies, flaked roasted cod, olives and romesco sauce. Amazing. Definitely looking forward to trying this at home. I might experiment with pollock or mackeral as a substitute for the overfished cod and see how that works.
The anchor dish of the evening is an osso buco with romesco sauce. Beautifully tender with just 2 hours of simmering. Be sure to scoop out the marrow when eating!
We also whizz up 3 kinds of allioli for the evening. Plain, curry, and (my new addiction) squid ink, which we use as a dipping sauce for very simply steamed mussels...
... and schmearing on some deep fried potatoes.
We snacked on Cava, wine, olives, bread, nuts, xato salad and mussels along the way, and ended the evening by catting over osso buco and patatas bravas.
What I appreciate most about Rachel's style of cooking and teaching is her constant mindfulness about what is pragmatically achieveable in a beginner-intermediate home kitchen. "Otherwise you'd just leave here tonight and then never try this at home," she says. Throughout the evening, she shared her kitchen tips and shortcuts learned from Catalan matriarchs and professional chefs alike, and a couple of times decided against a few "restaurant" techniques because it would involve equipment one probably didn't already have.
I reckon the biggest risk from taking one of Rachel's classes, is that you will will have no excuse to practice just about all of it for your loved ones afterwards!
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Disclosure: I'm the founder of Edible Experiences and I was a guest at this cooking class, usually priced at £65.