London Experiences – Gourmet Vegan Masterclass with Made in Hackney

I recently attended a Gourmet Vegan Masterclass with renowned plant-based chef Anton Petrov at Made in Hackney in Stoke Newington. The masterclass was held  underneath the ‘Food for All’ health food shop on Cazenove Road (at the Stoke Newington High Street end), just around the corner from Stoke Newington Rail Station.

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Made in Hackney is a charity that works for the underprivileged. All of its ticket sales from their masterclass programmes are used to fund their free and pay-by-donation programme of healthy cooking classes for low income and marginalised community groups. So by attending a masterclass, one can not only enjoy a wonderful day of learning, cooking and tasting delicious food, but also contribute essential funds to continue their work with vulnerable community groups.

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Chef Anton Petrov is a professional plant-based chef with over ten years experience working with acclaimed and prestigious restaurants, such as Michelin Guide-recommended Vanilla Black, The Gate and Tibits. He now runs his own private gourmet catering company, as well as offering private, bespoke classes.

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Upon arrival, we were each given an apron and a clipboard with all the recipes that we were going to cook that day. There were about ten of us in the class that day. There was a brief introduction by Anton on what to expect from the day and some health and safety announcements by two lovely volunteers.

In front of us were displayed some beautifully fresh and seasonal organic greens, vibrant vegetables, herbs and various pots of stocks and sauces gently simmering away.

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All the vegetable peels, scraps and wastes from the class were either reused in the stock or discarded for compost later so that nothing got wasted.

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Anton talked us through some of the key recipes and methodologies. He also gave us quick and clear demonstrations and then proceeded to supervise us as we nervously attempted those steps ourselves. Everyone got involved, splitting each section of the recipe in small groups of two to three.

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There were some serious knife skills on display here by the chef.

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We started by preparing the peaches for poaching, which would eventually go into our dessert. A bunch of us got stuck into preparing the thyme for our pesto, whilst another group took responsibility for blanching all the green vegetables.

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A key part of the class was learning how to make our very own almond milk. Kris and I have stopped drinking dairy and switched to almond milk some time ago. What I didn’t know was how wasteful and harmful mass production of almond milk is for the environment. Getting to learn how to make your own almond milk at home from scratch was a real highlight of the class for me. It is not only environmentally sustainable but also the homemade version tasted much more delicious than its supermarket counterpart. 

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Next step was prepping the celeriac for our ravioli by carefully cutting thin and wide slices that would bend. We then drizzled the slices generously with olive oil and sealed them inside parchment paper, en papillote-style, before roasting the whole package in the oven. When it came out, it smelled and tasted absolutely sensational, even to munch just on its own.

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This was our starter: Celeriac Ravioli | Thyme Pesto, Dressed Broad Bean Salad and Lovage Cream. It was really tasty and reminded me of spring on a plate. The texture of the celeriac was just lovely and the pesto and salad added some vibrant greens.

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After a brief pause to enjoy our starters we were back, preparing the fennel for the salad and the risotto for the main course. Chef Anton showed us some handy tips and tricks on how to smoke tomatoes (or for any vegetable for that matter) in the comfort of your own home, as well as to partially cook risotto in advance and then finishing it up for your guests at dinner parties; this way, you are not slaving away all day in the kitchen whilst your guests are left to entertain themselves. He had already prepared the onion and garlic base in advance and some homemade lemon mayonnaise (made from gram flour) that would go onto the plate.

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So our main was Smoked Tomato Risotto | Lemon Mayonnaise, Radicchio, Fennel and Samphire Salad and Dukkah. It was a really beautiful and intensely colourful display of food. The risotto had the perfect balance of creamy and al-dente grains, with the mild smokiness coming from the tomatoes.

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Finally, it was time for dessert: Poached Peaches in Elderflower | Pistachio Cream, Vanilla Pannacotta. The peaches that were poaching away beautifully whilst we prepared the other courses tasted divine. Unfortunately, the pannacotta hadn’t set properly but even the resulting white mess was tasty.

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I found the whole class hugely informative, detailed and a real learning experience when it comes to making your own gourmet vegan food. There are of course a few things that could be improved to make the experience a bit better. We could have been offered a welcome drink and some nibbles whilst we prepared the food as we didn’t eat until three hours after start of class (something we should have been told in advance so we could have a heavy breakfast). The kitchen itself was quite small so moving around with big pots and pans was tricky. The price at £118 is steep, but if you factor the time and effort that went into creating these classes and the good cause you are contributing to, it puts things into perspective.

Attending this Gourmet Vegan masterclass was definitely a memorable experience for me. I am trying to expand my knowledge of vegan food and cooking in general and this was enormously useful. We discovered some vegan cupboard essentials which frankly should be in every kitchen. Chef Anton was a great chef and teacher, explaining every ingredient and process in minute detail. Having eaten out a lot in restaurants that present perfectly plated food, it was reassuring to learn how to create restaurant quality presentations at home.

You can look up the full Made in Hackney Masterclasses Program here.

Disclaimer: I was invited to review the above masterclass on behalf of Love Pop Ups London and my ticket was complimentary but all photos and opinions are mine.