About a year ago Jamie Oliver opened his shop-cum-cafe-cum-cookery-school, Recipease, in Brighton. The shop in the front sells Jme products and ingredients, bakery goods, wines and takeaway meals that you can cook yourself at home. Originally you could also pop in and make more-or-less the same meals yourself using ingredients and recipes laid out at little cooking stations, but I guess that wasn’t really very successful because about 6 months ago they replaced the cooking stations with tables and started serving breakfast and lunch instead. I liked the idea of the little cooking stations, but I have to admit that I never ever went and cooked something so there’s no surprises that they packed that in.
The main attraction of Recipease (in my humble opinion) is the cooking classes that they offer on a range of skills, from tutorials in specific dishes through to how to cook the perfect steak right through to more advanced skills such as filleting fish or deboning chicken. Like a roving reporter who diligently covers all angles and gets all facts before running her story, I thought I ought to dabble in both food and classes before reporting back to you. Here is the low-down on breakfast and the “easy to learn” lessons.
Recently Sven and I popped into Recipease for a late breakfast and I was really pleasantly surprised by what a good breakfast experience it was. Chilled dinner jazz on the stereo, big shared tables, copies of cookbooks and magazines scattered around and attentive but unintrusive staff make you feel very at ease and leisurely. Considering there are very few tables and we were eating on a Saturday morning, we felt zero pressure to eat up and get out. Also, the coffee is damned fine. It’s proper coffee-lovers-coffee: strong and rich, and they can’t half froth milk (look how pretty).
The menu is simple, with twists on your favourite breakfast classics. Our only disappointment was that the ‘best beans breakfast’ (slow cooked baked beans with fresh cherry tomatoes, crispy warm pancetta, fresh parsley and a kick of chilli) was sold out and of course as soon as we saw it, we wanted it. I don’t know about you, but I have a rule (not hard and fast or anything) against ordering the same thing as my dining companions. I hate doing it and avoid it as much as possible. Unfortunately, that often results in real food envy on my part as I’m always the one backing down on the dish I really want (it is my rule afterall). Well, when the beans weren’t available we both wanted the berry pancakes, which had strawberries, raspberries and blueberries in the batter, drenched in maple syrup. Sven won out.
So, I ended up with the scrambled eggs with pancetta. Not the most original thing ever, but the creamy buttery eggs, with doorstop toast and crispy pancetta hit the spot. It’s an oldie but a goodie and I certainly wasn’t complaining.
There is also a selection of pastries available for a more continental breakfast. I tried an almond croissant (yes, on top of my scrambled eggs. It was all in the name of research, okay? I did it for you, Jeez) and holy moly it was mighty fine. I actually forgot to ask where they get them from, so perhaps I’ll try to find out and put an update on the bottom, but seriously… it’s worth a visit for a coffee and croissant alone.
Like I said above, Recipease offers a range of classes. The ones that interest me are definitely the more advanced ones, such as knife skills, but you could learn how to cook Thai green curry or Bouillabaisse, learn about seasonal veggies, or even get a crash course in sauces and gravies. I decided to take the knife skills class in fish filleting. I love fish, but I rarely cook it at home because I don’t really know what to do with it. I certainly don’t know how to go about filleting a whole fish.
Alex (the very nice man who took our class) started by giving us an introduction to fish and some home truths about fishing techniques and how long it can take to get from catch to supermarket. Let me just say, you really want to find a local fishmonger who has a direct line to freshly caught fish. You really really want to. In Brighton we’re (obviously) lucky enough to be right by the sea and have access to the freshest fish possible and yet out of ease we go to the supermarket and buy fish that (even in Waitrose) could have been caught up to two weeks ago. Isn’t that crazy? If you’re in Brighton, try going to Sea Haze on the sea front (http://www.brightonfishingmuseum.org.uk/quarter_seahaze.html) where Neil Messenger will sell you fish caught by his brother in their family boat. How’s that for provenance? Lecture over… sorry!
Alex also gave us some tips on what to look for when you’re shopping for fish, some of which are obvious and some less so. For example, really fresh whole fish should be stiff not floppy… rigamortis innit. After our introduction, Alex gave us a quick tour of the anatomy of a fish, showing us how to tell us where the bones were and the differences between different types of fish. He then demonstrated how to gut and fillet a whole sea bream and gave us two quick and easy methods of cooking the fillets. And here’s how his turned out:
We were then set loose on our very own fish. Following Alex’s clear instructions (and under his attentive eye) we all gutted, beheaded, filleted and pin-boned our little fishies. It really isn’t as hard as I had feared. The secret is (as ever) a sharp knife and smooth movements. You do also need to get over any squeamishness you may have about guts, blood and fishiness. I was really pleased with how my fillets came out actually. I had anticipated a horrible mess and they actually looked like fillets. Yay.
I pan-fried one of my fillets with a fennel and chilli crust and poached my other fillet and served them with a fennel and sunblushed tomato salad and this is how mine came out:
Doesn’t look too different from the seasoned professional, I thought. I was pretty pleased with that, considering it was my first time. The lovely thing about a class at Recipease is at the end of it you all sit down with a glass of wine and tuck in to the dishes you have just whipped up. The classes take about 2 hours and cost around £35, which I think it actually pretty reasonable. It’s a great evening and you come home well fed, equiped with a new skill and some instructions in case you forget everything you learned as soon as you step out of the door. I seriously recommend it. I’m going back to learn to debone a chicken asap.
72 Western Road