It was a sunny Saturday morning. Louise and I found ourselves speeding through the leafy countryside of Buckinghamshire on the way to the Chalfonts, towards the end of the Metropolitan Line. We were to be the willing guinea pigs for Kie-jo Sarsfield’s Korean Cookery classes.
The taxi was waiting for us at the station, and five minutes later we were welcomed at Kie-jo’s front door. From the kitchen, the very welcome burbling of a coffee percolator could be heard: I was feeling rough from the Yoon Band’s gig the night before. Even more encouraging, the table had been set for lunch.
We tucked into the coffee. Waiting on the kitchen table were some carefully prepared recipes and instructions for what we were about to prepare (and eat). Kie-jo took up her position behind the counter and we started to make kimchi.
All the hard work had been done in advance. Kie-jo had put in an immense amount of preparation so we wouldn’t have to hang around and shred carrots, chop scallions or mince the ginger. And some of the work inevitably had to be done in advance (“here’s some I prepared earlier…”): you can’t wait around for the kimchi to be properly salted, any more than you have time to wait for meat to marinade. Kie-jo had done that the day before.
Everything was to hand in her well-organised kitchen. It was just like watching a TV cookery programme, only much better, because you could stop the celebrity chef mid-flow and ask her questions. You could pick up the jar of tiny salted shrimps and look at the label. You could open the bottle of Korean anchovy sauce (right) and smell it, so that you could understand how you could substitute the more common Thai fish sauce if you couldn’t get the Korean stuff. Try doing that to Nigella by pressing the red button on your interactive digital TV and see how far you get.
I tried taking some photos, but Kie-jo was moving too fast. The kimchi was stuffed in a jiffy (above). Louise had a go as well. Plastic gloves are recommended for doing this: those who have handled chopped chilis and then rubbed their eyes will need no explanation of why this is the case.
There was some stuffing left over – good enough to eat on its own – so we made some “raw” kimchi for eating immediately, while the rest of the cabbage was put away to ferment for a few days. We were given our own half-cabbage ready-stuffed to ferment at home. Yum.
A few other salads and kimchis were prepared: one with mooli, plus a light carrot and mooli salad with wasabi dressing, and cucumber with sesame. Then on to the bulgogi.
Kie-jo’s method with belly-of-pork bulgogi was practical and very tasty. It avoided the need to mess around with table-top griddles. 25-30 minutes in the oven, then finish it off in a frying pan to brown it off.
The rice was already steamed in the rice-cooker, and it was lunchtime. The morning had passed far too quickly. It was time to consume the results of our labours (or, to be more strictly accurate, Kie-jo’s).
You know how, at a dinner party, guests like to congregate in the kitchen first, chatting to the host(ess) in the room which is the heart of a good home? Kie-jo’s cookery class was just like that. We had a couple of hours of chat, food education and general conversation about things Korean, and then we sat down to a slap-up feed. What better way to spend three hours?
Assuming we, her guinea pigs, did not put her off the idea, Kie-jo Sarsfield is offering Korean cookery classes at her home. She also provides English cookery classes to people in the Korean community and others. She is bilingual English and Korean. Prices are £30 per head with a class size of 5 people. Given that you get to eat what is prepared, you get a kimchi doggy bag, and Kie-jo does a huge amount of preparation in advance (and does the washing-up afterwards) that seems like an extremely good deal to me. Take along your own wine if you want a real party. Contact details are in the business card to the left.
Next time, I’m going to ask her to teach us how to make seafood pancake and kimchi chigae. Kie-jo’s kimchi and belly of pork bulgogi recipes will be posted on this site shortly.
OK, here’s the first: