Amongst the wave of supper clubs cropping up in London, the London Cooking Club is one with a difference. Hosted by the fantastic Luiz and Dr G the emphasis is firmly on participation with each attendee bringing a different course of dinner. The whole thing takes place in Luiz and Dr G’s town house in Islington which is beautifully and eclectically decorated and full of every kitchen implement you could ever need to finish off your dish once you get to the house. Each evening is based on a different cook book and having previously attended the Ottolenghi cooking club a few months ago I was quick to put up my hand to return for the Elizabeth David evening of using her book French Provincial Cooking (£5.98 on Amazon).
Rillettes served wtih toasted baguette and cornichons
Although it is now 60 years after David’s first book was published she has been described as a “gastronomic deity” in England. With my Australian upbringing, David’s influence had largely passed me by but I was keen to try out one of her recipes and see if I could master it. I decided to make the first dish of the night, duck and pork rillettes. The problem with David’s recipes is that compared to modern recipes they are quite vague in places. In the recipe for rillettes she references a bouquet of herbs and a ladle of water without giving detail as to exactly which herbs to use or how much water precisely. Other attendees at the cooking club admitted they had similar problems and almost everyone had “cheated” by using another recipe in conjunction with David’s. However, in other ways David is quite direct, rather than just suggesting seasoning the rillettes to taste she firmly instructed: “rillettes are insipid if not seasoned properly.” Yes sir!
The cooking club for the Elizabeth David evening – after about seven courses. Thanks to Benn Glazier for this picture.
Despite some of the reservations of the cooking club attendees, all the recipes turned out brilliantly. The menu started with the rillettes and continued to poached eggs on cream of salted cod, Normandy cream of fish soup, whole baked salmon trout, boeuf bourguignonne, cassoulet, endives served in butter, celeraic and potato purée and pears cooked in red wine. Quite a feast! Each attendee matched their course with a different French wine and we also all brought a French cheese to create the most amazing cheese platter to add to our French provincial feast.
The meat and bouquet garni ready to start cooking
Keep an eye on Luiz’s blog, The London Foodie for when he announces the next set of dates for The London Cooking club as it is really a unique and memorable experience. Attending a cooking club is almost like getting to host the most amazing dinner party but you only have to prepare one course and you get to have it at somebody elses house (thanks Luiz and Dr G!).
After four hours of slow cooking
As for Elizabeth David’s recipe for pork and rabbit rillettes along with a few tweaks, it was a real hit. The rillettes were meaty and moist and could easily be kept in the fridge for a week before serving. Feasting on the rillettes on top of toasted baguette and teamed with cornichons is one of the easiest ways to feel like you are truly in France.
900g rabbit meat with bones removed. Wild rabbit is best
1.8kg pork belly, with bones and rind removed (keep the fat on).
A couple of sprigs of thyme, rosemary, parsley and bay leaves
3 cloves of garlic
Salt and pepper to season
1. Preheat the oven to 140c.
2. Cut the pork belly and rabbit into little strips and place it in an oven proof dish like a Le Creuset stock pot.
3. Add 300ml of water and create a bouquet garni by tying the herbs in a bunch with string. Bury the bouquet garni in the meat along with the garlic cloves and season with salt and pepper.
4. Put a lid on the dish and cook in the preheated oven for 4 hours. By this time the meat should be very soft and swimming in limpid fat. Taste to see if more salt and pepper is needed as remember rilletes are insipid if not properly seasoned.
5. Turn the contents of the pan into a wire sieve placed over a bowl so the fat drips through. When well drained set aside the fat and shred the pork and rabbit using two forks until it is almost like a paste.
6. Pile lightly into glazed earthenware containers and then pour the fat over the top of the rillette completley filling the container.
7. Rillettes should be served at room temperature so if they have been refrigerated they should be removed a couple of hours prior to serving.
Serves 12 as a pre dinner snack.
Details: The London Cooking Club, Islington
Damage: Such a bargain even my mother would approve. There is no cost in attending the London Cooking Club, however you must bring one course of the dinner and wine to accompany it.
Thanks to the talented Benn Glazier for his photograph of the whole Cooking club, all other photographs my own.