Little Kitchen Cookery School

This is a find for my local readers. I was lucky to win an evening course with The Little Kitchen Cookery School back in May 2015. The school is at 153 Wick Road, Brislington, Bristol BS4 4HH.

I went on one of their increasingly popular Street Food evening courses, which costs £40 and runs from 7.30- 9.30 pm.I did the Moroccan night and this is what we cooked- Turkey and courgette kofta, taboon flatbread, jewelled salad and tahini dressing.

Madeleine and Claire have a passion for cooking and teaching that is really apparent in these small, friendly classes. You feel like you are cooking around a friends house. They also run some great sessions for children. I am seriously tempted by the upcoming Scotch Egg Masterclass

The flatbread is now a regular on our home menu.

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If you fancy learning something new and don’t want to commit to evening classes, book yourself into The Little Kitchen Cookery School and don’t forget to let me know what you cook!

Waitrose Cookery School

Back in October I was very lucky to get an invitation to an exclusive Steve’s Leaves cookery event at Waitrose Cookery School King’s Cross, London.

It was a bit of a trek for me but luckily the course didn’t start until 10.30 am so I could travel up and back in one day. This did mean getting the first National Express coach from Bath at silly o’clock in the morning. I am fairly sure of the 20 of us that attended I was the furthest travelled.

Waitrose have 3 schools, King’s Cross and Finchley Road in London and Salisbury school in Wiltshire. Please, please, please can we have one in Bath or Bristol?

The first thing I want to tell you is that they have the most amazing coffee machine! Fresh and piping hot we were able to grab as much caffeine as we needed throughout the day and after my early start that was a fair amount.

We had two chefs demonstrating and supervising us as we made Compressed Watermelon, Padron Peppers & Almonds as a starter.

Then mains was a Warm Salad of Confit Duck with crispy fried egg and puy lentil dressing. Followed by dessert of Poached Pear and Almond Tart.

We started poaching the pears, using a cartouche. This was the first time I had done it like this. Then we made our starter where I discovered pomegranate molasses. We stopped to eat this and out came the wine, for a glass or two.

Then we went back to work on our main course and finished the tart. With these in the oven we sat down to a very leisurely lunch, with more wine. I wrapped my tart to take home and was one of the first to go at 3 pm. We also had a goody bag with bags of salad and a great cookbook.salad

The chef’s were great and very enthusiastic. I finally learned how to poach eggs properly (and then coat them in breadcrumbs and deep fry). This did lead to one very “waitrose” moment when my hand went up as I announced “We don’t keep a deep fryer, can I use a wok?”

My favourite tip was the best way to dress a salad of great leaves is just a tablespoon each of olive oil and lemon juice, with a good amount of sea salt flakes.

I really was impressed by the way that Waitrose wasn’t pushing it’s own products. Looking at the courses on offer they are good value too. At £50 for a two hour evening course, you are also getting your evening meal and a drink. If you are in London, well you have to eat, why not learn something new too?

Leith’s School of Food and Wine

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.

school

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.

leek 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.

BLT salad

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.

sole cooked

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.

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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

 

MuLondon WordPress Giveaway: Win Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser

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MuLondon's deliciously fragranced, cruelty-free and vegan Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser has been chosen as the winner of the 20th anniversary Viva! Award. MuLondon’s deliciously fragranced, cruelty-free and vegan Organic White Chocolate Truffle Moisturiser has been chosen as…

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2014 summary…..still learning

I just want to sum up some of the highlights of 2014. Sometimes it is easy to only focus on the things I haven’t managed to do yet, but if I look at what I have actually done then I think “WOW!” and hope I can not just motivate myself but others too.

I managed to attend around 8 Bike Rallies and had mainly good weather, the last one being the most eventful when my boots laced themselves together and I went flying onto my nose. Had first hand experience of the new hospital set-up at Southmead, and after a 3 hour wait had brilliant treatment. Result one glued up hooter and now hardly any scarring. I have been using bio-oil and it is really good. Planning on making it to the local rallies again next year and looking forward to seeing all the usual suspects after the winter break.

Two trips to Lundy this year to see little sister. March was a day delay in getting there and December both myself and Mr.M have been permanently sickly with a cold that won’t go away. Was still brilliant to get there and away from the mainland for a bit. So four helicopter flights which I love. It is one of the best ways to travel.

We had 3 successful hatches of chicks and think we have 6 girls versus 5 boys atm. Two are going in the pot very soon, but the 3 Poland bantam cockerels will be allowed to stay if they behave themselves.Next year we hope to get some peafowl eggs to hatch.

Gigs and events

We went to the motoGP at Silverstone for the first time and that was amazing! The roar of the crowd when Rossi goes past is incredible. Makes watching it on tv even better once you have seen it live.

Back in June we saw The Pixies at The Eden Project which was very exciting too. I love Eden at night when all the domes are lit up. We managed a couple of night in Boddinick and explored Fowey and a little of Du Maurier country. We also managed to see Rob Newman in Bath and Sean Hughes in Corsham. Got a quick chat and signed books from both of them. Saw Dame Edna and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue both in Bristol, Tom Rob Smith and Count Arthur Strong at the Bath Literary Festival and Andrew Lawrence at the Komedia.

Competitions

This year I have had a great comping time. Wins total over £7k and some of my friends are catching the bug. I have also met some like minded compers who live locally. The highlight of the year was cooking with Jamie Oliver, followed a couple of weeks later by cooking with Omar Allibhoy.

Shar & Jamie omar

I am going to persevere with more effort and recipe competitions in 2015 and will be sure to let you know if I win any. My motivation for the competitions is the money can’t buy experiences. It does take a lot of time and is not for everyone but I love the excitement and fun.

I also want to spend more time with this blog, now I am slowly getting my head around it. I am still finding my way around but hope to go self hosted next year and post more often, the next aim being twice a month. This is very much work in progress!

The lovely Mr.M gave me the best Christmas present ever! For those of you who haven’t seen him yet, meet Clive. My restored 1979 mini 1000 and I wish you all a wonderful and prosperous 2015 xxx

clive

Be lucky, be safe and above all be happy!

Cornish Pasties Masterclass ….. proper job!

At the request of Mr M. this post is to teach you how to make an authentic Cornish pasty. This is how the Cornish still do it today and although pasties can be made in many ways, this is the one you can confidently call a Cornish Pasty.

I will start with the pastry:

You can use short crust or puff pastry. The easiest is frozen, shop bought puff pastry. I can get 4 pasties from one block, but you can split it into 3 or 2 if you prefer.

Flour the worktop, cut the block into 4 and roll out each section into an elongated diamond shape. I start with a square and then when it is wide enough (between 6 and 8 inches) start rolling one way to get the shape around 10 inches long.

Filling:

Beef Skirt  You can get this from any butchers. You need skirt as it has the fat marbled through the meat and this is what makes your pasty juicy. If you can only get lean meat then you need to add some blobs of butter to help keep it moist. Do not precook the meat. Cut it into smallish chunks.

Onion 

Swede The Cornish seem to call everything that is not a potato TURNIP. The veg for a proper pasty is a swede.

Potato The onion, swede and potato all need to be cut into small pieces but do not dice them. They should be small slices or chips of vegetable, as shown in the photo.

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Salt and Pepper add to taste just before you seal up the pasties.

 

To assemble the pasty add meat first and then some of each of the veg to the centre on the pastry.The main trick here is not to over fill the pasty! Add seasoning then fold over and seal the edge. This does not have to be pretty, just press the pastry together to from a good seal. If you have managed to do all this without any little rips in the top of the pastry then make a small slit with a knife to let a little steam escape when cooking. If you have a rip or two then there is no need for this.

Place on to a baking sheet and glaze if you like with milk and bake for around an hour (or up to 90 mins) in the oven at Gas mark 4 (180 c/ 350 f)

 

I have deliberately not given any quantities for this recipe as it really doesn’t matter. You use what you have got, in whatever ratio you like. If you have any meat leftover then you can use it up in a stew or freeze for the next pasties.

 

Just remember to keep it Cornish, never precook the meat. Stick to beef skirt, swede, potato and onion and never commit the sin of adding carrots.

 

Variations: Just don’t call them Cornish!

Once you have made these you can add or change the ingredients…

Try swapping the meat for a tasty cheddar cheese.

Crumble some Stilton cheese into the filling for a beef and stilton pasty.

I like to leave out the potato altogether as I love swede.

Elizabethan Dark Chocolate Truffles #ChocoGrange

I am fascinated by wartime cooking, recipes and rations and how we wasted nothing in the kitchen.  A very basic truffle was made using mashed potato and cocoa. This is my updated version. Elizabethan Dark Chocolate Truffles take their name from the era when we first could get potatoes and chocolate in England.

You will need:

4 heaped tablespoons of mashed potato this is approx 200g – 250g of peeled raw potato. I cooked it without salt but leftover mash would work fine too.

1 tablespoon of dark rum I used Kraken as it is a lovely dark and spicy rum.

2 heaped tablespoons of caster sugar

2 heaped tablespoons of cocoa powder the best you can get

large bar of dark chocolate again the best you can get

sea salt flakes I used smoked sea salt flakes but either will do

Method:

To get the potato really smooth I pressed it through a sieve. If you have a potato ricer then brilliant!

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Add the sugar, rum and sieved cocoa powder to the mashed potato and mix together. You should end up with a stiff paste which looks like this.

 

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Roll the paste into small balls with the palms of your hands. Don’t make them too large as they are very rich…. I made 28 from this mixture. As you finish each ball, roll them in a small dish of sieved cocoa and place on a tray.

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 Melt the dark chocolate in a bowl then dip each truffle into the melted chocolate. I then placed each truffle onto another tray covered with greaseproof paper. When they are all coated with chocolate sprinkle a little sea salt onto the top and leave to chill in the fridge.

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The centre of these truffles is really light and fluffy, with the rum giving a very faint flavour. If you want to avoid the alcohol then you can use vanilla or almond essence (not a tablespoon full though, try a teaspoon!). You can also experiment with different types of chocolate coatings.

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Grange Hotels have asked for secret chocolate recipes for their Demarquette Chocolate Afternoon Tea menu. The winner will be treated to a special Afternoon Tea for two with an overnight stay at the five-star Grange Tower Bridge Hotel, and the winner’s recipe will be featured across the Grange Hotels Group for one month. Recipes will be judged on the following criteria: originality and creativity of recipe and its name plus the combination of ingredients used. This is my recipe for the competition. #ChocoGrange

WIN a Baafta for the best Welsh Lamb dish… Midweek Masterpiece

My second entry for the Baafta Competition, for details see welsh lamb is Irish Stew with a Rice Crust. This is for the Midweek Masterpiece category which should be ‘ The best everyday use of Welsh Lamb. Dishes should appear home-made, traditional and tasty.’

To make Irish Stew with a Rice Crust you will need:

400g diced welsh lamb

1 onion

1 pint vegetable stock

300g potatoes (peeled weight)

1 tablespoon tomato puree

salt & pepper

For the crust:

200g cooked weight cold boiled rice

1/2 pint of milk

25g melted butter

2 eggs (separated)

200g SR flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

 

Method:

You start by thinly slicing the onion and put this in a saucepan with the stock. Bring to the boil and cook for 10 mins.

While this is cooking thinly slice the potatoes, then add to the onions with the diced lamb and tomato puree. Cook for another 10 mins then season to taste and leave to cool. It should look something like this:

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To make the crust:

Mix the cooked rice with the milk and blend as smoothly as you can. You can use a food processor or just press hard with a wooden spoon. Don’t worry if it seems to be lumpy.

Beat in the melted butter, then the egg yolks. Next add all the dry ingredients (flour,salt, baking powder) and beat well to get a thick batter.

Whisk the egg whites until stiff, then fold into the batter mix. Pour on top of the meat and it should look like this:

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Bake in the oven for between an hour and one hour 10 mins. Starting at gas mark 6 (400F/200C) for the first 20 mins then reduce heat to gas mark 4 (350F/180C) for the remaining time.

This recipe will serve 4 very hungry adults or 6 less greedy ones. I would serve it with lots of green vegetables.

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This is a real winter warmer meal. The crust is a cross between a cobbler and a dumpling and the lamb will melt in your mouth. We think it’s delicious, let me know if you try it!

WIN a Baafta for the best Welsh Lamb dish … Welsh Whizzardry

Continuing my buy British theme I have found a great competition on the Welsh Lamb website. You can find all the info here Welsh Lamb

The competition has 4 categories Sunday Boast, Midweek Masterpiece, Welsh Whizzardry and Cosmopolitan Creation.

My entry for Welsh Whizzardry is One Pot Lamb Chops. The brief is ‘the best fast Welsh Lamb recipe, dishes should appear simple, fresh and easy to make’

One Pot Lamb Chops take under 5 mins to prepare and around 90 mins to cook so throw them together when you get in from work.

4 – 6 Welsh Lamb chops

1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 heaped tablespoons of cranberry sauce

Method:

Place the chops flat down in the base of a casserole dish. Add the 3 sauce ingredients then put the casserole lid on or cover with foil. Cook in a low oven around gas 3-4, 325-350 F, 170-180 C for at least 90 mins.

The joy of this dish is that timing is not crucial and you get a lovely gravy, so you don’t have that to make. The lemon juice does a great job at cutting through the fat too. If you cook for longer then you may need to add a splash of boiling water to the juices to get enough gravy. The meat will slowly soak everything up get darker the longer it cooks.

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I would serve with seasonal vegetables and either mashed swede or potatoes.

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You could also substitute the cranberry sauce for redcurrant jelly or mint jelly. This is so easy! Let me know if you have a go.

Thorntons Bake Off

Thorntons, the lovely chocolate people have just launched a range of cake mixes. You can read about them on the Thorntons Blog and they have been running a promotion on their Facebook page. I applied to get a free kit and enter their Bake Off competition. This will be judged by Thorntons with the prize being the whole range of their baking kits.

thorntons cake mix

The kit is super easy, you add to the cake mix 3 eggs, vegetable oil and milk then whisk for a minute. There are some little chocolate chunks to melt in the microwave and then you stir in this melted chocolate. It is quite a runny batter mix but rises really well when cooking.

There is no filling or icing in the kit so you need to sort that out yourself. Whipped cream would be the quickest. I am not a cake mix cook as I do prefer to bake from scratch but I have to say for speed, beginners or less confident cooks these do have their place in the larder. The resulting sponge is moist and very light. I made mine in an angel ring tin and decorated with marbled dark and white chocolate.

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If you haven’t tried marbling before then you just drop alternate teaspoons of melted chocolate and then spread out with the spoons. When the cake is more or less covered use a cocktail stick to drag the colours. Simple!