I'm not always the most coordinated person in the kitchen - I had a close call last month which involved the tip of my nail, a small amount of blood and a lot of cursing. So when a charming man asked if I would go with him for training in knife skills, of course I said yes.
Clapham is pretty close to my neck of the woods in South London and has one of the two Recipease Kitchen and Food shops run by Jamie Oliver in the UK. The other is in my home town of Brighton, which I took as a geographical hint to book myself in.
We arrived - literally - under a dark cloud. The heavens opened on the journey over and having made the rather fatal decision to go on a motorbike we were both completely soaked by the time we got there. But still smiling. Thankfully the store was warm and inviting, with Mr Oliver's tasteful kitchen nicknacks and recipe books scattered around deli-style foods for sale.
Our teacher was very patient as she showed our small group the basics about selecting knives and sharpening, then how to chop, slice and dice the various ingredients for the Thai prawn and mango salads which we later ate. I love that I can now correctly slice an onion - it's all about perfecting the strange hand claw that chefs use to safely slide their knuckles along the chopping surface. I'm not speedy yet, but soon...
My top tip for home cooks: use a teaspoon to scrape the papery skin from ginger, retaining all the juices that sit close to the surface, and also to remove the seeds from fresh chillies. I'm afraid the complexities of the claw cannot be shared here, you will have to discover that one for yourself.
48-50 St Johns Road