Friday, September 05, 2008


I love cooking classes – I love being told what, how and why to do things, to learn new techniques, to be able to ask my innumerable silly questions about techniques, ingredients and their substitutes.i especially love learning about cultures of countries i'm in through ttheir food. and best of all, I love being able to eat the teaching material.

I found mmmmh! through the blogger network and signed up for their Belgian cuisine class. I did try begging to be let into their already full molecular techniques class (read pipettes, calcium chloride, sodium alginate and such), but such were their popularity that they were at capacity and there was already a waiting list. The Belgian food class did sound intriguing however, with their offerings of beer soup and meatballs.

The class was taught by the all knowledgeable Sergio. an architect in his former life, he now helped run mmmmh! and its multi-faceted food linked services. They didn’t just do cooking classes for budding amateurs, they ran corporate events, team building cooking classes, food consultancy services – and of course they had a fabulous kitchen shop with a whole array of covetable equipment and ingredients – lovely bottles of green virgin olive oil, fleur de sel, artisanal pasta jostle for shelf space with wurstoff knives and kitchenaid stand mixers. All rather covetable stuff.

Putting on our aprons, we started the evening off with a few glasses of house wine and nibbles as Sergio explained the format of the evening. We were a small group of 5 – I was glad to find I wasn’t the only first-timer. We’d have to do some of the work, he explained – I’m not cooking for you lot. Across the room, chopping boards had been laid out and we were ushered across to start chopping up a couple of onions, shallots, garlic and various other mise en place.

Over at an island housing various induction hobs, Sergio taught us to make the base of the beer soup – onions and garlic sautéed in butter into which flour was sprinkled for thickening and cooked off. Veal stock and leffé blond was added in almost equal measure to taste. More leffé blond was when Carlo, former lawyer turned chef/instructor/director of mmmmh!, walked into our class and requested for more beer in the soup. The soup was finished with an emulsion of egg yolk and cream and topped with croutons of bread which had been fried in butter. Belgian cuisine clearly isn’t for those on a diet.

Deep fried ham and cheese was next – slices of ham sandwiched between two slices of cheese was coated in breadcrumbs and deep fried. Served with a tomato salad which had been dressed liberally with a vinaigrette of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. The tomatoes were extremely fresh. The cheese we had used was maredsous – a cheese produced by the maredsous abbey, also known for the originators of maredsous beer, now produced by the same people that produce duval. Sergio said using gruyere would probably work if I couldn’t get maredsous in England.

Third on the menu was liege meatballs – formed from a mixed mince of veal and pork into which bay leaves, thyme, onions and fresh breadcrumbs had been added, golfball size spheres were panfried till a crust had evenly formed, and then continued to braise in sirop de liege – a jammy concoction of various fruits and lots of sugar. We ate this with braised caramelized chicory and boiled potatoes.

Because we had been good, Sergio threw in a bonus pudding in the form of dame blanche – vanilla chocolate with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Varlhona chocolate nibs were melted with cream into which a few drops of water was added – Sergio explained that this would stop the sauce from solidifying too quickly when the sauce was poured over the ice-cream. The cream was whipped in an iSi siphon and NO2 chargers – you wouldn’t have expected less from the man that teaches the molecular gastronomy classes.

It was an extremely fun class and I had a brilliant time – and as i sat round the table drinking more wine and eating seconds of ice-cream, i reckoned there were probably less fabulous ways to spend a friday evening. i was in the company of people who were clearly passionate about food as the conversation turned again to global cuisines, source of ingredients and yet more cooking techniques - you know when you’ve got a bunch of foodies together when even when they’ve just been eating, they’re still talking about food.


Anonymous catering equipment said...

Looks like fun and the food looks amazing!

6:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rachel, I love your site and your mouth watering description of the Belgian cooking classes. The fotos are brilliant and real artwork. Well done and keep on discovering the exciting world of cooking. Take care and lots of hugs from Gabriele - your Belgian cooking class-buddy ;o)

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Carlo said...

Hi Rachel, nice description. Very happy to know that you joined the club of the "beer soup lovers"!!

6:11 AM  
Blogger Leigh said...

what a great post. nice to see the beer soup on the menu - very underrated dish. The belgians seem to get most things right when it comes to food and drink!!

9:38 AM  

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