London Cooking Club and how to make rillettes

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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).

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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!
 
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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.
 
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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!).
 
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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.
 
Ingredients
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
 
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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.
 
Essentials
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.
9/10
 
Thanks to the talented Benn Glazier for his photograph of the whole Cooking club, all other photographs my own.
 
Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of two other supper clubs The Underground Restaurant or of The Old Hat club.

18 comments

  1. Correct me if am wrong but….. isn’t this just a communal dinner party where everyone brings a course and wine ??????

    Sure it is a great way for friends to spread the burden and allows individual expression. My friends and I do this a lot…. and it is great fun.

    The only difference seems to be that this club uses a “social network” to attract guests as opposed to just calling friends.

    Good concept.

  2. Another rave review for Luiz’s cooking club. Lovely write up. Also growing up in Australia is perhaps my excuse why I have never tried to cook from an Elizabeth David recipe – but sounds worth it for the entertainment value.

  3. Wow what a lovely write-up, thank you so much Cara! So pleased you enjoyed your evening and your rillettes were fantastic!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  4. Ooooh, that looks quite straightforward – might give it a try. Rillettes, here I come!

  5. I’ve been meaning to give Richard Bertinet’s Rilettes a try, after seeing this I certainly will!

  6. @ Gregory – you are not wrong in saying that the cooking club is a communal dinner party where everyone participates with the cooking and wine, and yes I do use my blog and facebook to “attract” guests.

    I do however make sure to have at least 5 new members at every event together with other 5 regulars (sometimes friends) so that we get an interesting mix of people. Most people (even the regulars) will be meeting for the first time when they attend these events. So this is slightly different from a dinner party among old friends, but a place to meet new people and experience some very good cooking over a few bottles of wine (we’ve had sometimes up to 12 courses). Hope to see you at one of these events soon!

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  7. I’ve had rilettes on the “to do” list for so long now! That looks marvellous and surprisingly easy!

  8. The cooking club sounds like such fun. I wish I had some foodie friends here in my neck of the woods.
    *kisses* HH

  9. Luiz: thanks for the insight… good to see a evolving mix of people and a “controlled” menu.

  10. Strangely I’ve only had rillettes once before and it was RABBIT in Luxembourg and I didn’t like it so much hehe. But I would totally give it another go! OH WAIT as I type that i just realised I lied.. I had it in London too, duck rillette and yes that was delicious 🙂

  11. Have never been to a supper club before but this looks really lovely..GULP! not too sure about my cooking skills though….

  12. Gregory – I see your point but as Luiz said the fact that it is open to all on the internet and a genuine mix of people plus the structured way the night is organised makes it a dinner party with a difference/ or a supper club with a difference!

    Greedy Diva – My excuse exactly.

    London Foodie – Thanks for organising such a great supper club.

    Lorraine – It takes time but otherwise is very easy

    Heavenly Housewife – maybe you will have to come to London for cooking club

    Catty – these ones had rabbit in them as well. Love a bit of bunny!

    Chopstix – if you are worried about the cooking part there are plenty of other ones you can go to where all you have to do is eat and drink

  13. Great idea the Cooking Club. Would love to participate but I guess distance is an … issue!? 😉
    Should try to organise something similar down here in my hood, shouldn’t I?

  14. What an excellent idea to put together a Cooking Club. Really like the idea and am excited to give the rilettes a go, sounds awesome 🙂

  15. @ Gregory – yes I commented before, it would be great to see you in one of our events soon. Let me know if you would like to attend any of the 2011 evenings.

  16. @ Gregory – oops, i meant to say… “as” I commented before…

  17. Riccardo – yes lets have cooking clubs all over the country and the world!

    Anna – Maybe it could work in Australia as a concept?

    Benn – Great photos, thanks again.

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