You might remember a month or two ago we had an interview with Korean cook, Kiejo Sarsfield. After this, she very kindly invited us to her house to experience one of her cooking lessons! So last weekend we skipped breakfast in preparation of a great day eating delicious home cooked Korean food!
First off, we want to say a big ‘thank you’ to Kiejo for inviting us into her home, showing us how to cook and feeding us – you’re a star! Also, another ‘thank you’ must go to her husband for very kindly being our chauffeur for the day. We fully appreciate you coming out to pick us up on such a dreary Saturday when you could have stayed cosy on the sofa. You both made us feel so welcome and we all had such a great time! It was also such a novelty getting out of London and seeing so much greenery, and visiting a proper house, not just a London flat.
When we arrived, Kiejo had already set up everything ready in preparation for all the cooking. Kiejo was kind enough to have the kettle boiled, with teas and coffees, and some tasty little red bean jelly treats at hand. The first dish of the day was haemul pajeon/ 해물파전 or seafood pancakes. Any lovers of Korean food out there will know that jeon/ 전 (pancakes) are a delicious and crispy fried savoury food that can be combined with a variety of ingredients to make many exciting flavours. They’re often eaten as an appetiser or with drinks. We could easily have eaten these haemul pajeon all day long! We watched as Kiejo ran us through all the steps of how to make the perfect batter and how, for her, it’s a case of seeing how the ingredients come together, not necessarily following a strict recipe and ingredient weights. Kiejo said this as she just pours flour straight into the bowl without measuring – we hope to possess such a knack for cooking one day! While Kiejo demonstrated how to create the pancake batter, we had a lovely time gossiping about food, friends and life in general! There was really never a dull moment with Kiejo. Once the batter was done, it needed to be left for a while, so we started on the next dish.
There’s no way you’ll have gone to a Korean restaurant and not heard of the other dish we made – bibimbap/비빔밥 or literally ‘mixed rice’. Kiejo had prepared the ingredients for a dolsot bibimbap, where the bibimbap is made in a hot stone bowl, and the rice at the bottom of the bowl is left to turn crispy. Kiejo talked about how the toppings of bibimbap should be an array of different colours, and look beautiful. We can confirm that the end dish was indeed beautiful and colourful! Kiejo passed on many great tips to us while she made this dish, such as if using courgettes, you should take out the seeds in the middle, as that part is too spongy and will make the dish too wet, and that you should always taste and season as you go along. As Kiejo was making this dish, her food expertise really came out; she knows exactly which brands and types of ingredients to add, for example the difference between Chinese, Japanese and Korean soy sauce. Kiejo was an excellent teacher always explaining why certain things are done and always telling us what products we should use over others to get the best taste.
Once all the toppings had been prepared for the bibimbap, it was time to turn our attention back to the haemul pajeon batter. We watched in anticipation as Kiejo began to cook. I think by this point, all three of us were salivating at the smells and sizzling sounds of the frying pan. Kiejo also showed us how to make a quick and simple dipping sauce to go along with the haemul pajeon.
Once it was ready, we got our plates out, and began to eat. We cleared our plates in record timing. We can say without a shadow of a doubt, Kiejo’s haemul pajeon blows the restaurants’ version out of the water! So crispy on the outside and packed full of seafood and spring onions in the inside. The onions were so soft, completely different from the texture we normally get and the pancakes were so stretchy, they didn’t crumble and fall apart. Is this what heaven real pancakes feel like? In what seemed like a couple of seconds, we’d finished (sadly), but now it was time to complete the dolsot bibimbap!
Normally a restaurant bibimbap is just assembled quickly in the bibimbap hot bowl, when served we would sit there waiting for the rice to crisp a little. It was a bit of a revelation to see it a dolsot bibimbap create in front of us, where the rice was especially crisped! To get the perfect rice crispiness actually takes a lot longer than you’d think, but it’s really worth the wait. The stone bowl is placed directly on the stove to be heated up and then a layer of rice is placed in and pressed firmly against the sides. Once that has had some time to crisp up, the remaining rice (all rice has been cooked previously) is placed on top and left to heat in the bowl. Once the rice has had enough time, the ingredients were added to the top. Another really useful thing that we learnt was that if you’re adding an egg, you only put in the yolk, and not the whites! Kiejo was full of valuable information and cooking tips that we will definitely keep with us forever. Kiejo also made a marvellous sauce to go on top. We’ve always just assumed that gochujang was added, and that was that, but Kiejo showed us her recipe for the topping sauce, which involved frying mince, gochujang and other ingredients to form an amazing sauce. And not a single ketchup bottle was in sight!
As you can see, the finished dish was beautiful! But not so beautiful that we didn’t quickly mix all the ingredients together and serve. Wow, this was amazing! Even after two large bowls and feeling really full, we could have easily gone for the third round. It was really special being able to eat these dishes in such a lovely surrounding and with such a nice person as Kiejo is. And the crispiness of the rice was AWESOME, restaurant bibimbaps will never feel the same again…
We all had a fabulous time, and urge anyone who’s been thinking about taking cooking lessons to go to one of Kiejo’s Korean cookery lessons. Not only will she be able to teach you how to make some great dishes, but you’ll also find yourself in the company of a knowledgeable and warm personality. Good food and fun chats, what more could you ask for?! If you fancy going along, Kiejo’s next lessons are on the 12th and 19th May and you can contact her Kiejosarsfield@hotmail.co.uk for more information about her classes. In the mean time make sure you check out her blog http://ksarsfield.blogspot.co.uk/