Alfred Prasad at Jeremy Pang's School of Wok: cook school review

Alfred Prasad at Jeremy Pang's School of Wok

by Izzy Burton 24 February 2016
Jeremy Pang's School of Wok is already one of the most popular cook schools in London, but with Alfred Prasad as a guest host things get even more exciting. Izzy Burton looks back over her first cook school experience.

Izzy studied Classics at Glasgow University, and nearly gave up writing altogether after reading Terence, who observed that 'nothing has been said that has not been said before' over 2,000 years ago. She persevered, however, and started writing about food, combining a lifetime love of eating and tricolons.

Izzy studied Classics at Glasgow University, and nearly gave up writing altogether after reading Terence, who observed that 'nothing has been said that has not been said before' over 2,000 years ago. She persevered, however, and started writing about food, combining a lifetime love of eating and tricolons.

I have to confess that I was a little nervous before arriving at the School of Wok for my first ever cook school. Editing recipes from the safety of my desk I feel more of an armchair general when it comes to complex cooking, and while I spend most of my time at home pottering about my kitchen I could count on the fingers of one hand (or no hands, for that matter) the number of times I have removed the ink sac from a cuttlefish or created an impressive ice dome in which to serve my salad.

The school sits on a busy street seconds away from Covent Garden and this location, coupled with the airy, open shop front, helped to banish my feeble apprehension. The air of inclusivity continued inside as we were greeted by Jeremy Pang and his friendly School of Wok staff (who deserve credit for keeping everything running like a well-oiled machined across the evening), given a drink and introduced to Alfred Prasad who would be co-hosting the evening’s lesson. We students were a motley crew, with a few foodie types and regulars dotted amongst groups of friends, couples and colleagues. I began to relax – while in reality tickets to Jeremy Pang’s cook schools are like gold dust, it felt like anyone from the Friday night crowds outside could walk in ready to learn and be made to feel welcome. Now all I had to worry about was not looking too terrible compared to my colleague, a former chef himself (and therefore a terrible choice of companion for the evening).

Pleating dumplings
Jeremy Pang demonstrating a simple method of pleating dumplings
Our dumpling efforts might've varied dramatically in appearance but they all tasted delicious

It being an evening class, the order of events was well balanced to ensure we remained focused (and the welcome drinks didn't go to our heads too much). After a quick introduction to precision cuts we diced and julienned ginger and chilli to make a kachumber salad before learning the dark arts of dumpling making. With the whole group at work folding momos – a fibre optic engineer from east London proved startlingly adept at this for a first timer – we had soon produced an enormous pile of them, half of which were removed and swiftly returned, deep fried, by cook school staff. It felt gratifying tucking into something we'd just made ourselves, and while I dripped hot oil down my sleeve several times in my haste to eat them fresh off the plate this hasn't put me off and I'll definitely be adding dumplings to my culinary repertoire.

After this quick break we were put to work again, cooking off sago for our desserts and layering it with chia seeds, coconut milk and rose-soaked water chestnuts before gathering round to watch Alfred demonstrate the main course. A friendly and approachable man, it had been easy up until that point to forget Alfred's illustrious career as a Michelin-starred chef. To have a chef at his level guide you through every stage of a recipe, giving insight into the historical context of the ingredients in Indian cooking and answering all our questions along the way, felt like a real privilege – not to mention a godsend for all future dinner parties.

Soaked chia seeds
Soaked chia seeds ready for the desserts
Alfred Prasad
Alfred Prasad adds onion, ginger, chilli, turmeric, curry leaves, tomatoes and samphire one by one to layer the flavours of his fish moilee

The recipe we were preparing was Fish moilee, made with fat, juicy sea bass fillets. To show us two different preparations of the dish Alfred prepared his moilee as a stew, cooking the fillets in the coconut milk sauce, while we were instructed to pan-fry the fillets separately which results in a slightly swankier looking dish – ideal for entertaining. In pairs we scuttled off to our stations to try it for ourselves, and with Eliot on sea bass duty ('this fish is going to be shit-hot', he promised) I was in charge of putting together the sauce. It was, actually, incredibly easy, with the dazzling, complex flavour of the finished dish belying how few ingredients went into making it.

After plating up our curry and coming to the realisation that I have the artistic vision of a hungry four year old we all trooped upstairs to eat. In addition to the sea bass moilee, rice and the remaining dumplings (this time steamed, which tasted even more glorious than fried) Jeremy, Alfred and the School of Wok team had also prepared the kachumber salad and a fantastic side dish of lightly charred green beans with chilli, almond and fresh coconut. I ate my way through a shameful amount of food and, while I generally avoided them lest they slow down my gorging, there were plenty of bottles of wine circling the table too. As I perched on my stool contemplating whether to eat another dumpling or curl up and fall asleep under the table I considered what excellent value the evening had been. For just £115 per person we had not only tackled new techniques and been taught a full menu of impressive dishes under the watchful eye of two great chefs but, to top it off, we ended the night eating our way through all five courses of it. Given the average cost of a meal of this size and quality in London anyway it's worth bearing in mind – the next time you fancy a blow out, consider putting in a little of the work yourself.