Alexis Gabriel inspires with Le Parfait preserves masterclass at Made in Hackney
Hidden beneath a health food shop, Made in Hackney has been helping to bring the joy of cooking to local residents since 2011. This clever little community kitchen makes the most of limited space to create a cosy hideaway that’s ideal for a culinary adventure. Courses vary from simple guides to shopping on a budget to more complex affairs like making sourdough at home. We embarked on one of the latter courses: a three-hour preserve-making masterclass with Alexis Gabriel, aka French Guy Cooking, sponsored by Le Parfait.
So many of the capital’s cooking courses fall short. They have an intriguing topic, a great host and an ideal venue, but something is missing. Yummy mummies come together, cook together and leave together. They might be learning, but the incredible communal aspects that food preparation has never penetrate the insular little bubbles. Not here though: everyone was encouraged to mingle and chat as we prepared our preserves. The resulting atmosphere was friendly and communal; as an eclectic pairing of a 23-year-old man and a woman in her late 50s, we reflected warmly on the event’s inclusive nature. We shared stories of family meals, scrumped blackberries, misfiring gadgets and our latest kitchen experiments. Without this event, our paths would never have crossed and these eager conversations never have happened.
The class centred around the preparation of three dishes, starting with a Vegetable and Tofu Fricassée, moving on to a slightly more complex Squash and Chestnut Velouté and concluding with Oranges in a Spiced Syrup with Mint – starter, main and dessert as our guide put it. As a selection it was perfect for newcomers, showcasing some of the interesting ways to approach preserves without ever being too wild or divisive. It was a great introduction to the techniques and basic elements of the craft, perfectly suited to an organisation whose aim is to provide accessible cooking advice for the locals.
A special mention must go to the man himself. Alexis was an excellent guide, speaking with trademark passion and energy. He’s someone who clearly loves food, and his infectious enthusiasm immediately brought the topic to life. It was a far cry from the dry, old pages of a Women’s Institute manual, that’s for sure. At times he faltered a tad, caught between expressing his creativity and an obvious desire not to overwhelm the newcomers among us.
Other than that, there was little to fault. The fact that our pressure cookers malfunctioned repeatedly wasn’t great, but everyone seemed to have had too much fun to really mind. As the dozen or so of us finally left the little culinary grotto, three Le Parfait jars grasped tightly in our hands, there was a buzz. Talk turned to sourdough and cultured butter, to finding artisan charcuterie and re-seasoning cast iron pans. Like our charming host we found ourselves beaming with barely contained glee, eager to get home and get stuck in. What more could you ask from a course like this?
For further information about Made in Hackney and future events visit here
For further information about Alexis Gabriel and French Guy Cooking visit here.
For further information about Le Parfait visit here.