Jenius Social – Mexican Tapas Cooking class

Posted on Saturday, 23rd September 2017

Jenius Social is a dynamic events space situated at a walking distance from Holloway Road and Highbury & Islington. The founder, Jennifer Yong, came up with the concept by fusing two of her favourite things: food and socialising. Reading this, we knew this would be our kind of place.

Jenius Social - Cookery School

Jenius Social

Andrew Clements, head chef at Jenius Social, lead the class. An original graduate of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen restaurant, he was charismatic and knowledgeable. The conversation flowed easily throughout the evening, from learning about his career to date, to picking up a few knife skills in between recipes.

Jenius Social - London Food Blog - Andrew & knife skills

Jenius Social – Andrew & knife skills

The menu for the class was straightforward, with a focus on fresh ingredients that can be bought from your local supermarket, or enhanced using imported ingredients from specialist retailers, and recipes that can replicated easily at home.

We started off by making Pico de Gallo: a fresh salsa that is virtually found in all Mexican restaurants. Made from tomatoes, chilli, red onion, coriander, lime & salt – it is simple to make and brings freshness to your dish.

Andrew demonstrated that one of the fundamental aspects of Mexican cuisine was combining a variety of core components, sauces and side dishes to build different dishes. Pico de Gallo is a great example of this, being a versatile base for other salsas/dips. By adding sweetcorn, we gave a bit of sweet crunch and created a new variation to our salsa.

Jenius Social - London Food Blog - Sweet corn salsa

Jenius Social – Sweet corn salsa

By adding avocado, we added an element of creaminess and turned it into a chunky guacamole dip.

We left some of the avocado aside to make a plain chunky guacamole, just adding: lime, salt & pepper, using a fork to coarsely mash. This showed us how Mexican cuisine sometimes employs simplicity to best highlight the flavour and freshness of ingredients.

Next, we moved on to the preparation of the chicken fajitas, mushroom quesadillas and ceviche mixto.

Chicken fajita is a standard Tex-Mex dish made with chicken pieces, bell peppers and seasoning (red onion can also be added) wrapped in a plain flour or corn tortilla. It is easy and quick to make for a weeknight meal. Andrew advised us that we don’t need to purchase ready-made fajita seasoning mix. Instead, we can create our own using: ground cumin, ground coriander, smoked paprika, garlic powder and salt. We cooked the chicken pieces and peppers separately in this instance, to save some time, but generally you can add the chicken into a hot pain with oil, and add the peppers when the chicken is cooked halfway through. You can add Pico De Gallo or Guacamole or the sweetcorn salsa (or all of the above!) when wrapping the chicken in the tortilla.

Mushroom quesadillas: again another winning quick meal. Today we sautéed mushrooms with spinach in a pan. Added the mixture between two tortillas with cheese (seasoned with our homemade fajita mix), and cooked until the cheese melted. The quesadillas can be cooked in the oven or a hot pan. They can then be sliced like a mini pizza, topped with any of our salsas or dips for extra tastiness! Plus: mushrooms and spinach are two of our five a day, right?

Jenius Social - London Food Blog - Mushroom quesadillas

Jenius Social – Mushroom quesadillas

Last but not least, Andrew showed us how to put together a small portion of ceviche. He explained how ceviche is often seen as a Peruvian dish, but is actually found throughout Central and Latin America as well as the Caribbean. Using fresh, good quality, raw pieces of fish, he added lime juice- covering the fish completely. You can see the colour of the fish changing slowly, in this instance from a bright pink to an opaque light pink colour. The fish texture also firms up slightly as if it had been cooked over heat. Cooking time in lime varies and it mostly depends on how big the fish pieces are and the type of fish used. For our portion, it took about ten minutes. Again, Pico de gallo was added along with fresh coriander, chili, salt and olive oil. The result was a fresh and zingy dish, which can be eaten as a starter, or with tortilla chips.

Jenius Social - London Food Blog - Ceviche prep

Jenius Social – Ceviche prep

After our hard work was done, we moved over to the front room of the venue. A large square table had been laid out to greet us, with all of our dishes presented beautifully for us to enjoy.

Jenius Social - London Food Blog - Dinner

Jenius Social – Table setting

All in all this was an enjoyable evening, preparing dishes that can generally be replicated easily at home. Having an enthusiastic, friendly chef, leading the class added to the fun of the evening. The atmosphere was so relaxed that you really had the chance to get to know the other people you were cooking with, and we met another a lovely couple on this particular night – details of which I cannot share on this blog as we discovered their relationship was secret! Shhhh

We look forward to returning to Jenius Social for future classes.

Note: A guest post by O&M – husband and wife brought together through their mutual and growing appreciation of food and travel. Their conversations revolve mostly around food and their trips abroad include walking itineraries to as many food venues as they can fit in. In their spare time they are slowly eating their way through London and the World before their metabolism takes notice.


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