I am a huge fan of learning new things, especially hands on creative things. A few months ago I bought an embroidery kit from John Lewis so I could do some home customising of a few t-shirts (with minor success), and I have lost count of the number of balls of wool I have in my house in the hope that I will eventually teach myself how to knit and finally fashion myself a scarf to see me through Winter (no success as yet). I want to get back into water colour painting (my artistic peak occurred in 2001) and I’d love to take up pottery making (I’m always ready to channel my inner Demi Moore).
So when I was contacted by Obby, a booking website which has collated all of the best, most interesting and exciting arty, crafty, foody classes in London, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to work with them to help spread the word, and even more excitingly, give one of their classes a go for myself!
The idea for Obby was founded by a chap called Tom, who in December 2015 had the idea for an online hub to make it easier and more enjoyable for people to find and book the perfect learning experience in London. 9 months later, like an actual baby, Obby was born… or live, to be more accurate!
Tom and his team had built a marketplace for people to list, discover and book learning experiences in London, from woodworking and floristry to pottery and cooking… and then so much more. Suddenly discovering your next favourite hobby has been made so much easier!
I was invited along to the London Paella School located at the London Cooking Project in Battersea, just around the corner from the park. It started at 6.30 and we were greeted by our teaching host Xavier who presented us with a bucket of cold beers and a selection of canapes, including chorizo, Spanish tortilla and cheese.
The class is small, with 7 in our group (myself the only loner) and four work stations available, consisting of a hob and oven and work space.
Xavier began by teaching us the fundamentals of Paella cooking, and a discussion on the ingredients we were going to be using. This class would teach us specifically how to make a chicken paella, though the same recipe could be used to add in rabbit, too. With an explanation of the ingredients (including a quick talk about the importance of using the best quality olive oil and meat on the bone to create the best and most flavoursome stock) and a quick chat about the process, it was time to start cooking.
I was working alone as a Billy No Mates, but that’s not to say it’s a lonely experience – the close proximity, and the fact that everyone is there because they love food and want to learn more about it, means it’s easy enough to strike up conversations with your fellow amateur chefs. Xavier supervises as you go through the steps provided in the hand-out recipe.
The creation of the stock is probably the most important process as it determines the flavour of your paella. You are encouraged to try it as you go to determine whether you need to add any more seasoning. After that, you add the rice, and one of the hardest parts is trying to resist stirring it – you gotta just let it do its thing!
While it did its thing, we made some canapes for the side – tuna stuffed eggs. Simple enough process, with the hard boiling of three eggs of which you then remove the yolks to mix with mayonnaise and tuna. In the yolk crevice, the tuna mix is spooned and a parsley leaf is placed on top for decorative effect. Very simple, very easy, and pretty tasty if egg and tuna is your thing!
Question: what Instagram filter should you use to make anything served on a paper plate not look like a tragedy at your local Village Hall quiz night?
After about 15 minutes of the rice soaking up the flavours, the paella was almost ready. With just a few finishing touches; a sprig of rosemary and some quarters of lemon, it was ready to be served.
This portion would usually serve up three people, but as I made this all by myself, it was all mine for the taking.
Dinner was served and we all ate together family style. The chicken was gorgeously tender, the rice was chunky and packed with flavour from the saffron and sweet paprika and I actually loved the addition of the stringless beans which added a pop of sweetness. With a generous squeeze of lemon, the whole plate transported my taste buds to Spain. This was the most authentic paella I have probably had in London. And I made it all by myself!
The London Paella School run multiple classes a month around London (including in Hoxton) and have recently launched their cooking holidays to Valencia, the birthplace of paella. They also run singles cooking nights (a very hands on approach to interactive dating!) and offer private classes.
If learning how to make this Spanish crowd pleaser tickles your fancy, book yourself a spot on one of the upcoming classes with Obby, and for a delicious discount, use code GEORGIEPORGIE10 at the check out to get yourself £10 off your first class! And if cooking isn’t your thing but you fancy trying out something a bit different, be sure to give the site a browse to find out what your next hobby is going to be!
I personally fancy giving this one a go… Me? Immature? Never!