You've probably never noticed, but there's an award-winning cookery school located right behind Oxford Street.
Amongst the hustle and bustle of visitors parading Europe's busiest shopping street sits the tranquil kitchen running daytime and evening cooking courses and specialised classes for all abilities, including absolute beginners - like me.
Located in Little Portland Street, just two minutes walk from Oxford Circus tube station, I arrived at London's most sustainable cookery school to learn how to make dim sum .
What is Cookery School?
Cookery School is the only London cookery school awarded the maximum three stars for sustainability from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.
Teachers use only high quality, sustainable, primarily organic ingredients and equipment that can be found in most home kitchens.
Specialised classes include everything from afternoon tea, bread and gluten free baking, to pastry, fish, vegetarian and pasta.
Laura's dim sum class experience:
I packed my belongings in a little locker alongside seven other novice cooks and put on an apron ready for the five hour lesson.
Having returned from holidaying in Malaysia less than one week prior, I couldn't wait to recreate some of the amazing dumplings I lived on out there.
I'm not hopeless in the kitchen, in fact I am not a bad baker. But when it comes to savouries, I need a bit of guidance.
Our teacher for the day was excellent. He was welcoming, encouraging, fun and most importantly patient.
In a calm and relaxing environment, we were taught basic knife skills before we prepped all of the vegetables.
Even if I don't remember how to fold a wonton pastry perfectly, I will remember how to cut a carrot properly in future. I can't believe how wrong I was doing it all these years.
Similarly, we picked up lots of other useful tips such as how to peel fresh ginger quickly, how to pickle vegetables and how to marinade a hunk of meat (great for a summer barbie).
After a traditional Chinese breakfast of congee (savoury porridge) - sounds horrible but was surprisingly nice - we started making authentic fillings before rolling, folding, steaming and frying our way to a delicious dim sum feast.
Of the seven courses, the barbecue pork steamed buns had to be my favourite.
I am still dreaming of those sticky belly chunks snug between fluffy warm buns and sprinkled with crunchy peanuts... pure bliss.
I also enjoyed the prawn wonton soup and was flabbergasted at just how flavoursome prawn shells were in a stock.
Folding the pastries for the dim sum was probably the most challenging part of the lesson, but it felt rewarding once we mastered the dainty techniques.
After four solid hours of prepping, rolling and cooking, we sat down as a group and tucked into our achievements with a beer (or tea) in hand.
We became familiar with a plethora of Chinese ingredients that once seemed overwhelming and left with a whole new food vocabulary.
Most Saturday mornings I catch up on some sleep and potter around the house.
This particular Saturday however was a morning well spent. It was enlightening, delicious and above all great fun.
What we made:
- Chicken and water chestnut siu mai
- Barbecue pork steamed buns
- Prawn har gau
- Pork jiaozi
- Prawn wonton soup
- Steamed scallops with pickled vegetables
- Steamed sponge with ginger syrup
Upcoming dim sum classes 2018:
Saturday April 7, 9.30am-2.30pm
Sunday June 3, 10am-3pm
Saturday August 18, 9.30am-2.30pm
For more information on upcoming dates visit cookeryschool.co.uk/classes/dim-sum/