‘Bao’ To The Bun – A WhistleStop Global Street Food Extravaganza With The Brilliant John Fernandez At The Jericho Kitchen Cookery School

by julianrolfe

The clocks went back last night and I was up at 05:30 on a Sunday morning, to be honest I was not sure what time it was, the excitement of attending another cookery school after such a long time was too much!

My last attempt failed due to, well that ‘C’ word as ‘Junior’ had ‘symptoms’ and as a result self isolation had to take place, but I had managed to secure a place on a later date and that day had finally arrived.

This was my first venture 29 miles up the road to the Jericho Cookery School just outside Oxford, and I was using a new Phone/Camera which did not work quite as expected so please excuse the pictures, normal service will resume on the next post!

The owner Emma and I had something in common, we had both lived in Eastbourne and remembered the famous “Hungry Monk’ in Jevington, the restaurant where the Bannoffee Pie was ‘evolved’ by chef Ian Dowding, click the link to read the real story of how things happened.  Unfortunately the ‘Jevington’ Hungry Monk now closed.

Social distancing was in order, a maximum of 8 hungry and expectant pupils where ready to learn some challenging and tasty Street Food recipes from the brilliant and knowledgeable chef John Fernandez, my nearest ‘neighbours’, a lovely couple who ran a farm, had driven over 2 hours from Exeter in Devon to attend such is the popularity and reputation of the school.

The courses at The Jericho Cookery School are ideally ‘bite sized’ sessions of typically between 2.5 and 3 hours, and the team had been extremely busy before we arrived, making sure every cookery station had the Ingredients laid out, and recipes at the ready so we could all attack our particular menu items straight away.

Two large bowls with Garlic and Ginger were passed up and down (safely) and amazing aromas filled the air as we got to preparing Gyoza’s, Chicken Satay, Bau and much more.

I had been given the task of preparing the Gyoza’s (Jiaozi), a speciality for Chinese New Year, but also a popular street food. I was really pleased as this was something I was keen to master, you can see the filling I made in the first picture, Pork Mince, Prawn, Spring Onion, Garlic, Ginger they were going to be delicious. There is a ‘secret’ ingredient I won’t mention, you will have to book the course to find out!

Yep, they were very delicious indeed, especially when served with the punchy sauce/dip I had also made under Johns’ guidance adding some extra ingredients not on the recipe to ‘lift’ things a bit. We were all shown two methods of creating the folds in the delicate thin water pastry cases which was actually quite therapeutic.

The group worked really well together, chatting, sharing experiences and all producing their elements of the menu time was flying by all too quickly. In the background, the very efficient Jericho team was making sure we had clean tasting spoons, washing up, providing refreshments and making the whole session run extremely smoothly.

Now, Gua Bao, or Bao Buns, fluffy light, slightly sweet, sticky, gooey, tasty, yummy, addictive so many words can be used in the same sentence for these very popular street food, especially in……… Taiwan which has a fascinating history, click the link to find out more!

John had prepared a yeast based dough which needed to rise, and then showed us how to produce the well known smiley shape, and then it was our turn, not bad for a first go I hope?

We ventured to the Far East via India, a delicious Aloo Gobi had been prepared by one couple, delicate florets of Cauliflower and Potatoes had been combined with fragrant spices to make a ‘yummy’ addition to our travels around the world, interesting was the use of the sweet Jaggery to balance the various spices that had been used. You can see how its made both traditional and modern here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IhUdfB2uzgI and you can get it in many supermarkets if you look carefully in the low cost Indian Ingredients section.

Back to the Bao and once shaped and left to rise a bit more they were steamed then left to cool a little before filling with an assortment of deliciousness including a sticky mixed mushroom mixture made with the addition of Hoisin Sauce, Mushroom Soy, Oyster Sauce, Garlic and Ginger. We added slithers of Cucumber and Spring Onion and an addictive Sweet and Crispy Chilli condiment, mmmmmmm, yes please!

I love these kind of courses as you learn so much more than from a recipe book or following say, a YouTube video. Things like technique, texture and smell really need you to be in the room with the chef so you can experience what exactly is happening.

Visits to Mexico and Peru were included in the non-stop journey that Sunday morning, Ceviché as fresh as you could get and Churros with a rich Chocolate Sauce finished things off. We were shown how to skin the fillets of Bass and advised that too long in the ‘curing’ mixture would make a lovely mush!

I was extremely fortunate to visit Mexico last year and had several Ceviché and have to say that, despite the lack of sunshine and blue seas (not available in Oxford), it was banging delish….. The addition of some roasted Sweet Potato really balanced the tart acidity of the Lime cure, something I will definitely be having a go at.

So, the menu of our world tour went something like South Asian Chicken Satays With Peanut Sauce (not that claggy stuff you usually get in take-aways), Bao Buns, Ceviché, Gyoza, Aloo Gobi and ‘Mexican’ Churros with Chocolate Sauce (They are subtly different from the Spanish ones).

It was a fantastic morning, I am already booked on another course at Jericho, with Sumayya Usmani from Pakistan and also plan on booking at least one more before Christmas (this year)!

Please take a look and see if anything takes your fancy, as usual, these are my personal views, no payment or discount for promotion just an honest appraisal of my investment in learning new cookery skills,

Many thanks to Emma and her team, and John Fernandez the guest Chef for putting on a fantastic experience and putting a skip back in my step!