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Review: The Ultimate Afternoon Tea at The Cookery School, Little Portland Street

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The Cookery School, located just up from Oxford Circus offers a wide range of sustainable cooking classes from Gluten Free Cooking, French Breakfast Pastries to The Ultimate Afternoon Tea. All of the classes are run in small groups to help demystifying cooking, removing jargon and bringing back good home cooking skills.

So, we booked ourselves on to the ‘Ultimate Afternoon Tea’ class which is a 3-hour class in which we were taught how to make our own afternoon tea, including a range of quintessentially British cakes, sandwiches, pastries and, of course, scones.

Once we got acquainted with our teacher (Lucy) and class mates the cooking began and there was a lot to get through in 3 hours, particularly as we were sitting down to feast after all the hard work was done.

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First up was the sponge for our Devonshire Cream Cake. As we sipped on our wine Lucy demonstrated how to mix the sponge ingredients together to ensure we didn’t get all the air out of the mixture, which is essential to having a fluffy sponge.

Once in the oven we moved on to our bread rolls for our finger sandwiches. We were shown how to prepare our own dough by Lucy however we used a dough that had been made earlier as it of course needs time to rise. This is when we got our fingers sticky, as a group we learned how to fold the dough to create the bread roll shape.

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Not as easy as you might think, the dough can get very sticky if you don’t work quickly. There was rolling, flattening and folding involved. The rolls were then baked to produces these golden fingers…to be filled later.

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Next, we moved onto the filling for our finger sandwiches. Each given a role from chopping herbs, cutting eggs, slicing cucumber, to preparing the crab mix.

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When preparing the cucumber for that classic sandwich we used the slicer on the grater to get the thin slices required. Once you’ve sliced it, you need to lay out the slices on paper towels to soak up the moisture to avoid soggy sandwiches – we seasoned with salt and pepper before we made the sandwiches. For the egg mayo, it’s getting the mayo to egg ratio perfect and of course seasoning was key.

Another savoury dish we were taught was mini scotch eggs. We seasoned chicken mince with parsley, sage and thyme before frying a small bit of the meat to check it was seasoned well. Some of us then peeled the quails eggs which is very delicate job to ensure you don’t lose any of the egg. Once the two elements were ready, half of us prepared the mince to roll the quails eggs in and then two of us worked to flour, egg wash and breadcrumb them.

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For the sweet stuff, we prepared the lemon curd and strawberry jam. Both were relatively quick to make, the lemon curd once all ingredients are stirred in, it’s a case of occasional stirring followed by constant stirring for the last 5 minutes so that it doesn’t thicken too much. For the jam, the process has to start slowly to gently dissolve the sugar and the fruit softens. Following this you can turn up the heat to reduce the jam until the mixture slips sideways off your spoon.

A sweet short crust pastry was made for our lemon curd filling. This recipe was not as scary as we thought and was simple to make. Rubbing the butter into the flour to make a crumbly mixture, then adding the dry ingredients until the dough is formed. We then moulded the dough to our mini pastry cases before baking till golden.

The final things to make were our scones, plain and cheese and our chocolate ganache for the cake.

Once we made our scones mix, half had cheese and herbs added. We then cut and brushed with egg white before baking. The ganache is super easy, bringing the cream nearly to boiling point and then just adding the chocolate off the heat and letting it melt in, then stirring.

Then it was time to bring everything together. We sliced our bread and filled our sandwiches with all the mixes we made, cucumber, egg mayo and crab mayo. Our scotch eggs were deep fried and then cut in half to show off the inside.

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Voila – it was time to eat. Everything was seasoned perfectly, from the egg mayo in the shiny bread buns to the zesty crab mayo on soft wholemeal bread. The mini scotch eggs were incredible, we could have nearly eaten the whole plate to ourselves.

 Following our savoury came the sweet. The scones were served with the clotted cream and our strawberry jam. The jam was amazing with chunks of strawberry and it had an incredible flavour.

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The lemon curd tarts were absolutely melt in our mouth the pastry crumbled away and the curd was beautifully balanced. The Devonshire cream cake was so soft, creamy and the ganache was heavenly, a great end to our afternoon in the kitchen.

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We couldn’t believe how yummy all the food had been and we had all helped to create this amazing spread for a traditional afternoon tea. The cookery class was so much fun and great activity to do solo, with a friend or a whole group. You can get to learn new skills in a comfortable environment where you can ask questions about every step of the way so that you can bring the skills you’ve learnt to your kitchen at home.

Find out more about The Cookery School and how to book your experience here.