So now it is the end of December and I have not blogged for a year. Shame on me!
Back in July I was really lucky to win a competition that was run by The Food Standards Agency and Chicken Tonight. My prize was a weeks course at Leiths which I did earlier this month. So I travelled to London on a packed train (thank you Bath Christmas markets) and stayed in a guest house 10 mins walk from the school.
The course I attended was Key Cooking Skills – Part 1 and according to the brochure is ” is ideal for those who are new to cooking or have limited experience and want learn the fundamental skills for cooking success.”
My official cooking education consists of 2 years at secondary school, when we still called it “cookery” and 4 part day sessions at at various events, which I will tell you about in another post. Everything else I have learned through either watching my Mum or trying myself. I do cook a lot at home and really wanted to improve my skills in the kitchen. This course really helped me to cook the things I already do, but so much better.
My first impression of the school was how many students there were. There were 2 week long courses running with 40 students on each. That’s a lot of people to check in and send to the right place! Leiths have got this very well organised and we were all ready to learn by 9.30 am. We had half the day, all 40 of us in the demonstration room and the other half working on the kitchens, where we were then split into groups of 8 per chef. Lunch was either the food that had been demo’d or what we had cooked ourselves.
This is how the week panned out:
Monday morning demo we were shown how the make proper stocks, soup, cooking with eggs (custard, scrambled and omelettes), rich shortcrust pastry and lining a flan case, baking blind then filling to make a quiche.
Monday afternoon kitchen we made our own pastry case and cooked it blind, then learned knife skills and practised by making crudites and hummus to dip them in. We also chopped our leeks ready for the flan.
Tuesday morning kitchen we sweated our leeks using a cartouche, then finished off our Leek and Gruyere tart.
We then made an orange and passion fruit jelly and more knife skills with segmenting oranges.
Next we made a BLT salad with soft boiled eggs and eat it for our lunch.
Tuesday afternoon demo was roasts and accompaniments, vegetables, sauces,timings and carving.
Wednesday we did fish and this was the best day for me. The morning demo was prep and cooking whole fish and flat fish. We learned how to cook whole mackerel with gooseberry sauce, fillet and cook lemon sole and steam sea bass with garlic and ginger. Then we had a demo on breadmaking.
Wednesday afternoon we were back in the kitchen and made our own rosemary focaccia, filleted and cooked a lemon sole with a lime and parsley crust and crushed new potatoes. This was followed by our jellies and oranges from Tuesday.
Thursday morning kitchen so we roasted pork, with apple sauce, roast potatoes and green beans. Our apple sauce went pink as the class before us had made a blackberry sauce and that had stained the wooden spoons! We learned how to cook, then chill the beans and refresh for serving. For dessert we made a peach and raspberry crumble with thick vanilla custard.
Thursday demo was tricky to stay awake as we were all stuffed from a massive lunch. We covered using egg whites in meringues, pavlova and chocolate mousse. Then we were shown scones and cookies. Finally pasta sauces.
Friday morning demo was a buffet, including a rare beef,beetroot and horseradish salad, smoked chicken and noodle salad, green bean and cherry tomato salad, grilled goats cheese and warm lentil salad, sweet dill slaw, herbed couscous and a roast salmon with orange and ginger. Deserts were Chocolate roulade and Treacle tart.
Friday afternoon, with lots of exchanging of e-mails and numbers, we made chocolate brownies and a fab rare thai beef salad. We were presented with our course certificates and a Leiths spatula.
We had our own Leiths How To Cook book, which we were encourage to scribble notes in throughout the week and got to keep our Leiths apron.
I learned so many things on this course and I made the beef stock for our Christmas dinner gravy and the gooseberry sauce to go with our goose. I have also made focaccia bread at home, the chocolate brownies and been practising my knife skills. I am confident I can handle any fish and cook it perfectly. I was also really pleased we were cooking on gas and the ovens/hobs were the same as mine at home. We used lots of ginger which is something I will be trying to continue and I am warning you now Leiths, I will be back!
I loved the whole experience and would recommend this for anyone with an interest in food/cooking. It would make a wonderful present for a big birthday or anniversary. I would like to thank Sheila Benjamin at Food Standards Agency for organising everything and everyone at Leiths Cookery School