Mexican culinary classes at Benito’s Hat, 12 Great Castle Street, London W1W 8LR

Saff's parking hasn't improved!

Last week we were invited down to Benito’s Hat Mexican restaurant to preview their new cooking masterclass. Neither of us have ever cooked any Mexican food, apart from fajitas, and anyone can do that. We were taught by the amazing Pueblan-­born executive chef and partner Felipe Fuentes Cruz how to make flour tortillas and a simple Salsa Verde. Refreshingly, Felipe doesn’t agree with recipes or measurements, he just does what feels right and what he knows tastes good, a lot of his inspiration comes from food his grandmother and family used to cook in Mexico. Owner Ben Fordham, a former lawyer who discovered his love of Mexican food in Texas showed us how to make a wonderful Watermelon Margarita cocktail.

Felipe shows off his Molcajete - a Mexican pestle and mortar

Salsa Verde 'Team Habanero' style...

Felipe and Ben are both so passionate about what they do, we were quite happy sitting back watching Felipe cook and Ben talk whist sipping our Watermelon Margaritas. After a short demo, we were split into groups of four to see what we could do, Ade and I were on separate teams which suited his competitive streak. We made a pretty potent salsa with avocado and a hell of a lot of garlic, it was actually quite nice. Ade’s team just seemed to pile in a whole load of chillies and tequila into theirs which made it almost inedible!

Pond scum or was it dish water? It tasted bad whatever it was called...

The El Del Boy... Too sweet (and red!)

Next up were cocktails, a guy in my team wanted to make a green cocktail to match the salsa, it consisted of kiwi juice, tequila, chillies and Tomatillos (a Mexican staple, like a cross between a gooseberry and a tomato), it was so rank we named it Pond Scum, or something like that anyway.

I was amazed at how easy it was to make the tortillas, it’s just corn flour (Felipe used Masa Harina), water and salt, kneaded, rolled into balls, flattened out in a tortilla press (you can use the bottom of a frying pan at home) and then baked for a few minutes in a dry pan. Easy! Our team snuck in some cheese with chopped tomatoes and onions, much to Felipe’s disapproval, it turned out that they tasted great, so I was told, couldn’t eat them due to my irritating hatred of cheese.

Ben's expression says it all

At least try to look impressed guys...

We watched in anticipation as our creations were judged by the masters, Ben’s face whilst drinking the Pond Scum said it all. Ade’s team made a very fruity and (too) sweet cocktail from mango puree, fresh mango and kiwi, Grenadine and tequila. Ben decided to mix both cocktails together in an attempt to improve them, a blogger who shall remain nameless drank the whole thing! Ew. Special prizes were awarded to the winners, we took home a bottle of Don Agustin Blanco, so we can try and make our own Margaritas. We were given the recipes for all the things we made so we can recreate them at home. Lastly, Ben dished up some tacos, we got to try their famous Carnitas – pulled pork with lime and balsamic vinegar that helped Marina from Metro fall in love with it and rate it so highly back in 2008. The pork was so, so tasty and Ben wouldn’t let go of the recipe, so we’ll just have to go back – we are due a visit soon to the branch at the new swanky concourse at Kings Cross station for a full review. There are so many things on the menu that we want to try, so stay tuned. We also sampled a couple of desserts, Bunuelos a genius combo of crispy tortillas with cinnamon and sugar served with ice cream, a bit like Cinnamon Grahams, but better! I loved the Flan Casero – a Mexican creme caramel.

The culinary classes will take place on a monthly basis, starting on Thursday 26th April at 7pm. Costs just £15, lasts for approximately two hours and will include dinner and drinks. For more information email or call on the number below. Great fun, and a bargain at £15.

Benito’s Hat
12 Great Castle Street,

London W1W 8LR
020 7636 6560

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The real deal... A watermelon Margarita. We didn't make this...