A National Treasure Teaches Nose to Tail (or Feather), a Day with Mark Hix (At Bertinets Cookery School)

2016-10-15-14-40-39If you ask anyone who has followed the TV food series ‘Great British Menu” over the years despite the 100’s of great dishes presented to the judging panel consisting of Pru Leith, Oliver Peyton and Matthew Fort, there is probably ONLY ONE dish that everyone remembers, ‘Stargazy Pie’.

This dish was presented in the 2007 series by Mark Hix and went on to win the main course and was joined by another Mark Hix recipe, ‘Perry Jelly with summer fruits and elderberry ice cream’ which won the dessert section of the competition.

These dishes were to form part of a banquet hosted by the British Ambassador to France, ably joined by Richard Corrigan and Sat Bains, both extremely competent and Michelin Star holders!photo-15-10-2016-11-43-54‘Does anyone not eat meet’? started the banter as we took advantage of the Sourdough and Brioche toast prepared by Richard Bertinets’ able team, I was back at the Bertinet Cookery School in Bath for the 5th time, it’s VERY good and the range of different guest Chef’s, convivial nature of the location, and limited number of attendees make for an excellent experience. Mark Hix was our tutor for the day and everyone was bubbling with excitement as to what we were going to cook.

photo-15-10-2016-14-23-26After a demonstration of handling Partridge, removing the legs, taking the crown off, removing the thighbone from the legs and starting a game broth we quickly prepared the ‘Far Breton’, an amazing dessert made with Prunes steeped in spiced Rum, a speciality of Normandy.

I made some of these Prunes over a year ago and they are still in the sealed jar, now I have the basis for a dessert that can be made in minutes and cooked in no time at all, (It was delicious)!

photo-15-10-2016-10-58-41Dessert done, we focussed on the rest of what was going to be a very special lunch for us all. Mark explained his philosophy of using everything in his cooking method, and providing some fascinating facts as to how much produce that could be used to good effect, ends on the scrap heap.

The basis for our Partridge broth was a home made Chicken stock, as you can see above as we prepared the elements of the dish pretty much everything else went in the broth mix, including onion skins (flavour and colour), the Partridge carcass (we were going to roast the crown), the offcuts from the legs, all adding more and more flavour.

photo-15-10-2016-11-43-54Having had the demonstration earlier it was now our turn to prepare the partridge, Mark gave us a quick repeat of the process again and we all set to the task in hand, slicing and cutting within a few minutes we all proudly had our crowns prepared and more flavour in the Broth pot.

photo-15-10-2016-11-18-13Our Roasted Partridge was going to sit on ‘Yorkshire Toast’. You will have to go on the course and hope Mark shows you how to prepare it, think of Bread Sauce fried in breadcrumbs! I now have three of his books and the recipe is not in any of them so I feel kind of honoured to have learnt something that is not mainstream, and tastes seriously good.

photo-15-10-2016-11-18-03No apologies for some of the pictures, all the processes we went through ensured we wasted nothing and continually added flavour as much as possible. Remember the Partridge legs I mentioned earlier, that we removed and took out the thigh bone. They needed poaching for about 15 minutes so they also went into the Broth pot. They were then going into a mixture of Buttermilk and spices before being floured and frying to crisp up.

photo-15-10-2016-11-55-55There is always a break or two during the cookery school sessions, and the ‘Bertinet Girls’ produce some amazing delights to whet the tastebuds. As these beauties came out the oven the room filled with the smell of chocolate and fudge, and as we drank Coffee and Tea they were demolished in minutes!photo-15-10-2016-11-39-06The Partridge legs cooked and dried, then got the Buttermilk treatment with some added spices. The legs are often ignored or wasted, we were going to have them as a tasty snack, dipped in a Membrillo sauce which we made later in the session.

Throughout the day we chatted to each other and asked Mark (and Richard) questions about food, their philosophy and they also volunteered anecdotes about their life experiences, which just made the event even more fascinating. These guys have been in the industry a long time and have so much experience and knowledge to give anyone who is interested, hints and tips about pretty much anything food related.

photo-15-10-2016-11-53-30Our menu for the day was going to be;

  • Buttermilk Fried Partridge Legs, with Membrillo Sauce
  • Partridge Broth with Woodland Mushrooms
  • Roast Partridge on ‘Yorkshire Toast’ with Elderberries
  • Far Breton

Once we were happy with the seasoning of the Broth we prepared a ‘garnish’ which would add more flavour and texture to the dish, Wild Mushroom, Celery and Sea didn’t manage to get a ‘pretty’ picture of the Partridge legs as they were gone in seconds, Richard fried them and presented them ‘chef style’ on a plate. Dipped in the Membrillo sauce they were absolutely delish, washed down with some wine which started to flow for those that wanted as we neared dinner.

photo-15-10-2016-13-33-49As we finished the various courses, the table was prepared for lunch by Richards’ team. He epitomises a ‘convivial’ lunch, long table, wine, and the result is a party like atmosphere despite the fact we had all been on our feet for several hours, listening intently to Marks wisdom as we prepared our gourmet Partridge broth was completed by adding the ‘garnish’ and served by the lovely team that support Richard, Fionn and Co., who work tirelessly making coffee and tea, cakes and helping clear up and making the day go so smoothly. It was just amazing, full of flavour, texture from the Mushrooms and Celery, and supported by lots of fresh homemade Bertinet bread.

photo-15-10-2016-13-59-04Next was the Partridge on ‘Yorkshire Toast’ with Elderberries. At the start of the day we had a debate on whether Game was popular with the students, several found Game Ok, some not so keen and part of the experience was to prove that when cooked properly, it was delightful.  Guess what? It was Bl@@dy delicious both succulent and tender, lovely flavour and enhanced by the Yorkshire Toast and Elderberries, we all complemented the Chefs in the kitchen and patted ourselves on the back, the party was in full swing.

photo-15-10-2016-14-23-26The dessert, was simple but complex at the same time, the Prunes exploded with flavour, the soft brulee like batter melting in the mouth.

So another really successful trip to the Bertinet Cookery School, met and learnt from a legend, Mark Hix, learnt so much again and now looking forward to my next trip, watch the blog for the review early in 2017.

Just to be clear, I paid full price for this course and received no incentives to write this blog. It’s my own reflection of an amazing day with a great bunch of people. I left full, with a massive smile on my face, 2 more of Mark’s books which he kindly signed, and a pack of L’hirondelle live yeast which I learnt to use at the Bread making course I did a while back.

If there is one cookery school in the UK that I would give top marks, Bertinets gets 10/10 (again). Thanks Mark and Richard and the team for a fabulous day.


………………………………Until next time L8ers………………………………………………….



A quick trip to Valencia – Paella (A review of Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice Blend)

20160821_094302-1I need to start this quick blog with an apology! Some time ago (last year), the lovely people at Steenbergs sent me a sample box which included a small jar of Smokey Paella Blend. Partly due to two separate visits to hospital I had completely forgotten about it (the jar is small at 10g of ingredients) and discovered it recently, so here is my experience of making NOT the national dish of Spain, but THE regional dish of Valencia!

So Paella might seem a simple dish to prepare, but it can be done very badly or really well. My usual trip to the internet and trawling the bookshelf revealed some interesting facts, the main one being our view that Paella is the national dish of Spain, in fact this is not true and actually the tasty mix of rice, protein and herbs and spices comes from the Eastern region of Spain, the Albufera Lagoon (not the holiday location in Portugal)!

So, for 2 – 4 people I used the following Ingredients:

  • 2 Chicken Breasts (as good as you can get, chopped into 1 1/2 ” ‘chunks’)
  • 20 (approx.) Raw King Prawns (shells removed)
  • 1/2 Large Onion (finely Chopped)
  • 1 Red Pepper (pith and seeds removed and chopped roughly)
  • 6″ Chorizo (sliced about £1 coin width)
  • A good glug of Olive Oil
  • 1 Clove Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 Glass Wine
  • Zest of 1/2 Lemon
  • 2 Tomatoes (Sliced in Half)
  • 1 Tsp Tomato Puree
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 Cups Rice ( I only had Carnaroli in the cupboard)
  • 6 Cups Chicken Stock (I used a Knorr Stock Pot which was to hand)
  •  2 Tsp Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice Blend

I am not suggesting my version is original by the way, I used what I had to hand in the cupboard, and took guidance from 5 or 6 pages on the Internet, as well as a couple of books I had that showed different versions of Paella.

20160821_104048-1So the 1st stage (for me), was to get some Olive Oil into a pan and start to fry the Chorizo. When you do this, the spices that flavour the Chorizo leach out into the Oil which turns a delicious Red colour. This takes a few minutes, you want the Chorizo a bit crispy to add some texture to the dish.

20160820_184940-1Now add the chopped Pepper and fry for a couple of minutes then the Onion. You can see the Red Chorizo flavour doing its stuff on the Onions above. You want to soften things so allow about 5 – 8 minutes for this stage on a medium heat. The next few stages (in my humble opinion), are where you need to take a lot of care with the timing.

20160820_190401For me, the knack with this dish is to make sure each element is cooked to its best, but nothing is overcooked, we have Chicken, Prawns and Rice which all cook for different times to get right and so some thought needs to go into what we do and when.

The Rice I was using, Carnaroli is an Italian Risotto Rice so if you want to be traditional then Bomba Rice should be used, but the critical factor in my case was the 18 minutes it takes to cook which needs to be factored in with the Chicken and Prawns.

So, in goes the 2 Tsp of Paella mix and the Lemon Zest, spices need cooking out a bit 1st to extract oils and flavours. Next, take your Tomato halves and grate them into the pan, this leaves the skin behind which is not digestible, then the Tomato Puree and give it a good mix.

Turn the heat up and add the wine, you want to reduce and evaporate the alcohol. Now add the Chicken with the heat still up high and cook for a couple of minutes until the outside is browned. The bulk of the cooking will take place when we add the Rice and Stock so it’s just colour and flavour we are adding at this time.

20160820_190829Now add the Rice, stir a bit, then add the Chicken Stock and mix again. Check for seasoning at this point, mine needed some more salt, taste again and check it’s right. DON’T mix anymore from now on. We want to be as original as possible, apparently the finished dish should have ‘holes’ in the surface and a crispy base (I didn’t manage this and suspect I could have used a higher heat), stirring will prevent this from happening and you could end up with mushy Rice.

20160820_191050-1Finally, add the prawns and push them down slightly so they are as covered as much as possible, the heat needs to be reduced to a medium simmer at this point so the Rice can ‘sponge’ up the stock and other flavours, if you remember the Rice only needed 18 minutes to cook so at this point, I needed another 14 minutes for the dish to be ready.

20160820_192406-1When the 14 minutes is up turn off the heat, cover the dish with tea towels and leave for another 5 minutes and get your plates etc. ready. You can see the final results above, I forgot to take a ‘piccy’ of the plated results as it was just too tasty to leave alone!!

You can see the Rice is cooked, but not ‘claggy’, the Chicken was soft and just cooked, the Prawns were amazing, again soft and not rubbery, which happens if you take them too far in the cooking process.

From start to finish this Paella took about 45 minutes, including the chopping, cooking and resting. The results were delicious, there was two much for the two of us in reality, this amount could feed 4.

The Steenbergs Smokey Paella Spice mix did its stuff, I added some Garlic as we both like Garlic, and I though the Lemon Zest would complement the Prawns in a subtle way.

When my little jar is finished, I will certainly be adding it to the next order, it’s a great mix of 2 different Paprikas, Garlic, Onion, Rosemary, Saffron and Black Pepper and comes highly recommended.


…………………………….Until next time……………..L8ers…………….



Korma, I DIDN’T like Korma, until I found page 146!

20160816_161230-1I love food, or should I say I love food that has character, flavour and maybe a story behind it, as it makes things much more interesting. The area of Southern Asia covers a huge expanse, and includes the likes of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal, and its resulting rich and diverse culture and cuisine. There is a mountain of history that defines these distinct areas and that has developed over the years and influenced some of the food that we have become familiar with, including Biryani and ‘Korma’.

20160816_162837-1Onions seem to form the basis of many dishes that come from the region of Southern Asia and the Korma is no different. Now, I really hate Korma or should I say Chicken Korma, I suspect because of the dishes I have tasted are either from a take-away (once), or one someone close to me has made (I suspect from a Jar, Shhh) again once, I did not like either of them!

I discovered on page 146 in Diana Henrys’ ‘A Bird in the Hand’ book an interesting ‘Royal Korma’ recipe, the book has recently taken a spot nestled amongst Yotam Ottolenghi, Sabrina Ghayour, Maria Elia, Sam Clarke and various other chefs who inspire me to cook.

I am not going to provide ingredient details so buy the book as i did, i am just going to describe some of the processes and my results, so you can get an idea of how the Korma might be cooked. The book is a very worthy investment and contains loads of inspirational food to cook based on Chicken.

20160816_172856_001-1Back to the Onions as there are two different ways they need to be dealt with, sliced and given a liberal salting, and chopping finely. Above you can see above a considerable amount of onions sitting in the colander, once salted and left for at least 30 minutes, the amount of water that gets extracted is quite significant in the picture below. The Onions need to be fried (use a deep fat frier on about 160 degree’s) until golden brown, then drained very well and blitzed with some water to create an Onion Puree. The salting process helps remove much of the water but be careful as there will be a lot of spitting when you put the Onions into the Oil.

20160816_183143-1Once completed the aroma is slightly sweet, pungent and just yum, you can see my effort above. I suspect many of the Korma’s in restaurants and in jars have sugar added to provide the sweetness, this recipe has no added sugar (I have just checked two well known sauce brands on the internet and yes, they both have quite a lot of added sugar)!

20160816_183949The other core elements that make this dish ‘sing’ include Black and Green Cardamom, Ground White Pepper, Kashmiri Chilli, Cloves, Cinnamon and Ground Coriander Seeds. To add to the this, a puree of both Almonds and Cashew Nuts are needed along with Saffron, (I used Afghanistan Saffron which comes from a village co-operative encouraged to stop growing drugs, that’s got to be good). The majority of my spices come from Steenbergs in Yorkshire, sorry for keep mentioning them but their products are just brilliant and well worth investing in.

20160816_201121-1I had a ‘debate’ with my partner of 27 of so years on the Chicken cut, and I stood my ground (typical obstinate bloke I her you say). I had a pack of Chicken Thighs which would be perfect, but I was battling against Breast Meat which my partner wanted to go with.

I needed to skin, de-bone and clean up the Thighs which I did, and the final results in both our opinions was well worth it. If you remember at the beginning there were two types of Onion, the 1st stage of cooking needs the finely chopped Onion to be sweated and browned before adding the other ingredients as per the order in the book.

20160816_203617-1I will admit to cheating a bit with the Rice, and used a couple of packets of the ‘quick cook’ variety but with some added ingredients. Golden Raisins which had been steeped in Earl Grey Tea for a least an hour, some cloves, a little broken Cinnamon stick, a few crushed Green Cardamon pods and a light sprinkling of the Saffron Water, finally some chopped Coriander and a few flaked Almonds, the whole lot goes in the Microwave for 2-3 mins (yes a Microwave)!

Before you serve TASTE TASTE TASTE, the dish needs a decent ‘whack’ of  Salt at the end, it lifts the dish so much. When I 1st tasted it, it was between ‘bland’ and ‘Ok”, tasting, adding a little salt and tasting, more Salt and it just went ‘WOWSER!!

20160816_205342-1So, the Korma hating critic was gobsmacked, this was bl@@dy amazing with deep flavours, a slight nuttiness but not too much, sweet but not sweet (the Onion puree I guess), this was just sublime. The Kashmiri and Ginger (I didn’t mention the Ginger so you do need the book to recreate this🙂 providing some heat long with the White Pepper.

Thank-you Diana Henry for the chance to cook what is probably much more authentic than what you would get in Restaurants, as the dish takes some time and patience to prepare. You could do some of the processes the day before, such as the Onion Puree, I am not sure about the Nut Mixture.

If you want to try and cook a Korma, and you don’t (didn’t) like Korma like me, buy the book and give this one a go, you will be pleasantly surprised. This is being added to my Love it list of dishes for repeating again in the future.

……………..Until Next Time…………………L8ers…………..



#CoolKidsCook – Cooking with your Children at The Bertinet Cookery School

2016-08-13 10.59.12The usual disclaimer as this is a review, I paid full price for this course and received no incentives to publish this review, what you read is what you get, now onto the serious stuff!

I suspect it’s difficult being a son to a foodie, especially when you are 9 years old. I think I am a responsible parent, and try and help guide as to good and not so good when eating. I believe cooking is a serious life skill that EVERY child should be positively encouraged to understand and practise, which in the world of iPads and Pokemon and fast food chains can be quite challenging!

With a 10th birthday arriving soon, when our Son Justin said he would like to go on a cookery course with his dad I could have cried with happiness. The challenge was set, find a cookery course, suitable for a soon to be 10 year old that would be interesting and engaging, some challenge indeed.

2016-08-13 12.13.37A bit of research and I had found a likely candidate at the cooking school I use the most (in the U.K.), Richard Bertinet in Bath. It’s a great setup on 2 floors so sometimes 2 different courses can be run at the same time, I had already attended more than 3 courses previously and all had been fantastic so the risk was minimal.

Booking was done online and as this was a gift, I requested the additional card with personal message and voucher as our son’s birthday was in July and the course in August, this arrived in the post a couple of days later.

2016-08-13 12.14.03We took the train to Bath, and Taxi to the School as it’s a very steep walk and we needed our energy for cooking! On arrival we were greeted with massive smiles and a very warm welcome by Fionn who helps manage everything behind the scenes at Bertinets’ and is brilliantly organised, and our tutor for the day Jenny Chandler.

Breakfast is supplied before each class starts, toast (Richards amazing bread makes amazing toast) and jam, fruit juices, tea, coffee and water. Jenny is a ‘house chef’ and has been at the school since it opened in 2005. Her background and vast experience enables her to teach a range of courses which you can find on the Bertinet School Website HERE, the session we were attending, Cool Kids Cook is based on a children’s cookery book Jenny published in May of this year, and aimed at helping children get confident in the kitchen and experiment with different flavours.

2016-08-13 12.18.03There were 2 other children on the course, I think the parents were more nervous than the kids but we all got on really well as we started to understand what was going to happen for the next few hours, it’s a ‘proper’ cooking course but aimed at little ones.

To start Soda Bread was made, using the same basic recipe but adding some subtle changes. This really helped build confidence very quickly and dealing with ‘where can I get Buttermilk” was quickly dealt with and an alternative approach was used which was even new to me, and something I will remember for the future. The three different versions, White, Wholemeal and a Seeded version were soon in the oven cooking away and the little ones faces beaming at what they had already made.

2016-08-13 12.37.06The next item on the agenda was a Chowder, blimey that’s quite advanced for adults let alone children at 10 years of age, this is where the knife skills were introduced.  Jenny carefully explained how to use a knife to SAFELY cut Onions which were needed for the Chowder. Chop, chop, chop and soon the Onions were slowly frying in the pan as explanations about how to cook them correctly, to translucent stage!!

The Chowder continued, ‘Lardons of Bacon’, confidence in using cooking knives was obviously gaining and the 3 kids chopped, prepped, chatted and were having really good fun, Jenny was constantly eagle eyed, making sure that no one risked chopping off a finger and encouraging them to be cautious and think about what they were doing. The rest of the ingredients were completed and added to the pot, each child taking turns to add, stir and smell which was great.

2016-08-13 12.57.49Meatballs were next, three different versions were produced showing how the same basic recipe could be used to make dishes with completely different flavours, at the same time, the method of testing before cooking a whole batch enabled seasoning to be introduced to ensure the end result tasted correct.

This is a really full on course, but the juniors in the room kept going and Jenny engaged with them all the time as a group, and individually giving them little hints and tips, and encouraging their excellent progress and making sure they were all happy, it was really very good.

2016-08-13 13.08.26The school is very very well laid out with lots of room, each person having their own cooking station and stool to rest their weary feet if needed, and enough knives, bowls etc to go round so no one was left out.

The course started at 10:00 and we stopped at about 12:00 for a break and a quick light nibble before continuing. The behind the scenes team led by Fionn did a fantastic of keeping the tops clean and making sure that everything we needed was to hand, as well as keeping Tea and Coffee on tap for those that needed it (me)!

2016-08-13 13.24.53I have to say that I think the adults enjoyed the cookery as much as the 3 children, it was quite hard work for all of us, concentrating on Jenny’s instruction and helping from time to time where needed.

In all, the children made Starter, Main Course and Dessert (Crumbles of various types) and learned lots of different skills and techniques along the way. They also made an impromptu ‘Pan Con Tomate’, our Justin is not keen on Tomato and this Spanish favourite was a way to subtly encourage him to try. It was delicious and went we finally got home, he made his Mum some with the Soda Bread he had also baked earlier!

At the end of the day we all sat down and tried the Soda Bread, which was very good. Then, each child went up to garnish the Chowder served for their Dad (there were no mums present and the Dad’s Chowder had smoked Fish in, which the little ones were not so keen on), followed by the Meat Balls with 2 different Tomato Sauces, Cous-Cous and finally the Crumbles.

The session started at 10:00 and we left about 15:15, the teaching was brilliant, the kids left with big smiles, lots of confidence and wanting to cook more when they got home. I would recommend this course as a fantastic way to help any child who has the slightest interested in cookery, learn new tricks by a lovely kind and patient chef Jenny, who was inspired by her own daughter to write the book in the 1st place.

If you cannot manage the course, the book is very good, easy to read, and when supervised by a parent would be a great way to help children learn cooking skills and be a bit more adventurous in the kitchen.

So, a fantastic day was had by Justin and his Dad, huge thanks to Jenny, Fionn and Richard for making it possible and producing such a fantastic experience for the younger generation, and to the other attendees for making the group work so well together.


……………………..Until next time……………L8ers……………………..


2016-08-01 19.42.54

Beef Short Rib Rendang with Pandan Rice – A trip to Malayasia

2016-08-01 14.55.02I will admit from the start that whilst this dish tasted amazing it needed at least another hours cooking, so allow a good 6 hours for this beautiful dish, voted 1st in the CNN tastiest dishes in the world in 2011! The colour should be much deeper than mine, but it still tasted really good and worthy of a few words and pictures. I will have another go later in the year and make sure I have allowed more time!!

Having just got my driving back after a seizure 12 months ago, the freedom to be able to drive to my favourite oriental super market and farm shop was to much of a temptation to ignore.  The Local See Woo was my 1st stop, where I filled my basket with essentials such as fresh Lemongrass, fresh Turmeric, birds eye Chillis, Galangal and Pandan leaf and Limes.

Casey Fields farm shop was next, a couple of Beef Short Ribs seemed to be in order (along with the usual shop) and I was starting to think what to cook. My herb and Spice cupboard is well stocked with essentials from my favourite supplier Steenbergs so all was in hand to get in the kitchen and start cooking.

2016-08-01 15.30.10With the weather cooling slightly something warm and fragrant was in order, so looking at various cookery books, Beef Rendang seemed an ideal candidate. I found numerous versions on the web too, and went for the one on which is easy to find HERE. You need to make up as spice paste with Shallots, Lemongrass, Garlic, Ginger, Galangal and Chillis which I did in a food processor for speed. The other recipes also added Turmeric, so as I had some fresh that went in too!

2016-08-01 15.18.24The Beef Short Ribs are BIG! I took the time to put some colour on them first, giving them a burst of heat on each side before starting on the rest of the process. I think next time I cook this dish I will try Ox Cheek which is a great cut of meat for slow braising and has slightly less fat content, and is easier to handle🙂

2016-08-01 15.30.19There are quite a few ingredients in this dish and the Star Anise, Cardamon, Cloves are fried in a little oil to release their flavour, before adding a single ‘bashed’ Lemongrass shoot. Then the spice mix is added and fried for a few minutes, finally add the Beef, Coconut Milk, Tamarind some water, Palm Sugar and Kerisik.
2016-08-01 15.47.27 Kerisik is ground Coconut that has been fried until golden brown and can be made using desiccated Coconut if you cannot find fresh, again there are lots of references on the web, you can see my 1st attempt below.2016-08-01 15.51.55Kaffir Lime leaves are also added, I could not find mine so used some lime zest instead. The whole lot now cooks and cooks and cooks, this is a low and slow dish.  There are several stages to the process which I had somehow missed (they are in the Rendang Wiki link above), the 1st stage is easy as you can see above. After approximately 3 1/2 hours, the mixture had reduced and I saw the Oil on the surface and this is where I went wrong, as I removed it, rather than letting the dish carry on cooking allowing for more evaporation, colourisation, and the flavours penetrating the meat.

2016-08-01 19.32.04You can still see lots of moisture above, the dish should be much dryer but I now know for next time. I also think that using the food processor was a bad idea, as pounding in a pestle and mortar would have produced a better textured spice paste, but cooking is about learning so some more things to remember and lessons learnt.

2016-08-01 18.02.44Panadan or Screwpine leaves are indigenous to the far east and I was going to use them too flavour the rice. I have done this before but felt more kick was needed, so made a ‘tea’ using the Pandan Leaves and putting them in simmering water for a good 5 minutes, before turning off the heat and letting stand for a good 30 minutes did the trick. I used Jasmine Rice and boiled for 10 minutes in the ‘tea’ before draining and adding some fresh Coriander.

2016-08-01 19.42.54So there you have it, it almost worked if only I had left the dish cooking for longer until the meat was darker and the moisture evaporated completely. My attempt would not have won the  CNN best dish award but it was still very tasty and the meat tender, the Rice with Pandan was a great addition.


………………………Until next time……………..L8ers………………..


Fish & Crustaceans – Another Amazing Week in Gramont

File 25-06-2016, 09 47 18The stunning Lot-et-Garonne region sits in the South West of France and is home to the Gascony Cookery School based in Gramont, run by David and Vikki Chance, and Bernard Corbière. The school runs from ‘Le Petit Feuillant’ chambre d’hote, the French equivalent of a Bed and Breakfast and ‘Le Petit Feuillant’ Auberge, the excellent traditional restaurant run by Bernard.

I had received an email in November 2015, “we are happy to announce that the Gascony Cookery School’s new Fish and Crustacean Course……..”, with only 8 places and two filled I booked straight away. The school is very familiar to me, having attended a course in 2014 and remembering a fantastic time, It was difficult to count down the months until the day came to depart.20160621_111855There is a SERIOUS amount of cooking on this course and it is excellent value for money, preparing and eating local French traditional cuisine, three courses, with local cheese and copious quantities of wine to wash things down twice a day, and don’t forget the breakfast, you don’t go hungry.

A trip to a local market to buy produce for the meals cooked is part of the experience, armed with a shopping list, basket and some euro’s you wander to select the various fresh vegetables and herbs which you use later in the week. A surprise trip to a fantastic vineyard, with an impromptu picnic with stunning scenery finishes off the week, so the experience envelops and immerses you in French country life.20160621_152005There were 8 of us on the course, here we have left to right Julia (From Tasmania!), Elena and her mum Judith, David (the chef/host) and John, in the kitchen were two friends from St. Petersburg (Russia), the attendees come from all over the world, in this case everyone but Elena had attended at least one previous course, some more than one which demonstrates how good the Gascony Cookery School really is. This was a session on gutting, de-scaling and filleting fish, we were all very comfortable and confident by the end of the week.20160622_123937We had a comprehensive agenda starting most days with breakfast at 8:30, and cooking starting at 9:00. The times are really important, there was a lot to get through and we could not afford to get behind as we would not have anything to eat.

Everyone mucks in and helps with clearing down as each dish is finished and the next started. Examples on the menu included Mussell Soup with infused Saffron, Lobster a l’americaine, Scallop Quenelles in Chicken Consommé (yes, we made a Consommé from scratch), Rillettes Of Trout, Bouillabaisse………etc. For desserts our efforts included Millefeuille aux Pommes, Pièce Montée (aka Croquembouche), Almond & Orange Cake (which was so so good) we made about 18 different dishes in total, so you learn ‘A LOT’ of techniques and processes!20160620_131400-1 (1)So would I recommend this school, hell yeah it’s awesome. My second visit was just like the 1st which is difficult to describe as you HAVE to experience it for yourself. Just to be clear, I paid full price and have received no incentives for this review, it’s me, what I think and as good as a description of the experience I can give.20160622_081928The scenery is stunning, the weather was good enough to eat outside several times peaking at 41 deg on one day. It’s a trip for people who want to learn, definitely not one for lazing around so it takes your mind away from the thought of work and within a day, I could not tell you what day it was. The hosts David, Vikki and Bernard make you so welcome it really is like being part of an extended family!20160620_162012A course like this needs excellent ingredients, seafood HAS to be fresh and ours was no exception. The planning that goes into ensuring the right products are available is not easy, especially when the school location is in the middle of nowhere!

We had the most amazing Lobster (alive) and Crab (also alive), the rest of the fish was the same (but not alive!!) with bright eyes and beautiful red gills so the resultant dishes were just sublime. There was no ‘sharing’ of ingredients, it was a Lobster each, a Sea Bass each, a Red Mullet each so we all got the chance to learn and practise the gutting, de-scaling, and filleting several times gaining more and more confidence each time.20160622_125022-1It was not just about preparing Fish and Crustaceans, the stunning Crab Tart required a very delicate ‘Pâte Brisée’, a REALLY short pastry which had to be chilled for a couple of days and was an absolute challenge to get into the tart tin, it was well worth it, the results were outstanding. 20160621_215945Just as difficult, I think even more so was the ‘Pâte Sablée’, a sweet version for the Walnut and Honey tart we made, it was very crumbly and needed a lot of work to line the tart tin properly but the the end result made it well worth it. Add to that making proper multi layered stocks and prepping veg it’s full on at the Gascony Cookery School but really good fun.

If you like cooking and fancy doing something a bit different point you browser at as I did, I will be returning in the future as they also do an advanced week which I have not done yet, and a shorter charcuterie course too.

It’s a fantastic experience, you will learn loads and make new friends with a common interest so give it a go, you will not be disappointed with amazing hosts David, Vikki and Bernard.


………………………..Until next time, L8ers……………………………………




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Flour, Yeast, Water, Salt & Some Asparagus!

File 24-04-2016, 10 42 32It was finally here! The date of a ‘Bread Baking’ course I had booked many months ago, getting in a class with Richard Bertinet seems to require at least 6 months planning, which in many ways says that this guy is in demand, and he could be very good!

Some people might call me a bit of a food snob, but I don’t think I am. I just want to eat food that does not contain anything I don’t recognise as food. When you look on the labels of sandwiches in shops, it’s like a list from a chemistry set, yuch!  This was one of the reasons for booking this course, I like bread but whenever I eat it I generally feel cr@p afterwards, so wanted to see If I could start to find a method to make my own using 4 basic ingredients.

The course was full, ladies and gents as far as Cambridge had traveled to Bath to learn from a French Master Baker, author of several books including Dough his 1st book, which is now available in 9 languages and has sold over 200,000 copies (200,001 if you include my autographed copy)!

The day was awesome, learning the history of bread making and baking, handcrafting a variety of different breads from a single starting mix.

File 24-04-2016, 10 40 56This is not a course for the fainthearted, it’s hard work but we were continually refreshed by his team of excellent helpers, on hand to make Tea/Coffee and provide nibbles during the break, which was were well received.

This is the 3rd course I have taken at Richards’ cookery school, it met all expectations and the knowledge and skills that everyone gained surpassed the cost in bounds, like the previous courses what you learn with experts in their craft does NOT appear in books, it has to been seen, heard, felt and smelt!

File 24-04-2016, 10 43 32If you want to learn the techniques of a master and fancy bread then book this course, it’s a must do for anyone keen on understanding and practising how to produce awesome loaves, time after time. I am looking forward to my next time at Richards’ cookery school, with my nine year old at a class for youngsters.

AND Now!!!!!! (Drum Roll) Asparagus Done Differently!!20160423_200050-1I wasn’t going to blog this dish, I was battling with it, as maybe it was too simple. After the taste test it had to be done, it was delicious and involves a few techniques and VERY good timing.

This weeks organic veg box delivery included a bunch of Asparagus, I’ve had this vegetable before, but the missus and junior opp had not so maybe a chance to introduce a new taste into the repertoire. Also in the box was Purple Sprouting Broccoli which I also wanted to incorporate into the dish.

20160423_193413The ingredients are for two hungry adults (and a spare spear or two for junior opp to try!). Thinking of presentation, having a triangular pattern on the plate seemed a nice idea, so 3 bundles of 3 asparagus spears, tightly wrapped in Pancetta started this feast off.

Previously I had roasted 6 (organic) tomatoes, quartered and seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground pepper at 100 deg for about 2 hours, and left to cool. These would get 10-15 minutes with the Asparagus seasoned with pepper only.

Researching Hollandaise both in the cookery books on the shelf, and on the internet, produced lots of options. I thought I would gamble and try an ‘all in one’ method, 2 egg yolks, 125grm butter 1/4 lemon juice is needed for 2 people along with 2 tbs of water, just chuck it all into a saucepan and get your whisk ready.

So TIMING…..  The Hollandaise will take 12-15 minutes from scratch, the Asparagus about the same at 180 deg (fan oven) depending on thickness, the Broccoli about 2 mins in a pot of boiling lightly salted water.

To add some texture and another flavour punch you can also pre-prepare some crispy crumb. Take a couple of handfuls of PANKO breadcrumbs, in a frying pan with butter and Oil. Grate in a clove of garlic and keep stirring until the crumb is brown and crispy.

Add some picked fresh Thyme leaves (about 2 tsp) leaving the woody stalks behind. Put into a bowl to cool and grate in (small Microban works well) some Parmesan cheese, about 50 grms in my case. This is the seasoning for the crumb texture.

20160423_201834_001-1Earlier in the afternoon I had made some Dough with my son, and although it had not worked out quite as planned, we got it into the oven and baked some bread, this was to go with the Asparagus, it’s a French passion, bread is part of the meal not a course to start things off!! (it was delicious ;-))

If you have a Split oven, put your plates in to warm, along with the crumb mixture. Put your main oven onto 180 deg (fan). Bring a pan of water to the boil, add some salt and keep ready for the Broccoli.

Here we go…. Oven is hot at 180 Deg, in goes the Asparagus, Hollandaise ingredients on a low heat to melt the butter, whisk, whisk and keep whisking. When the butter has melted, turn the heat up a bit (not too hot, I never went above 3.5 on a scale of 1-9 on my hob) and keep whisking. After 10 minutes (quickly) check Asparagus, keep whisking the Hollandaise. If you see steam coming off the Hollandaise mixture at any time, turn down slightly, keep whisking.

When the Hollandaise starts to thicken, turn the water up to boil and add the Purple Sprouting Broccoli, keep whisking the Hollandaise.

You get the message I hope. The Hollandaise turned out perfectly, but you have to focus, and KEEP whisking all the time, I did almost solid for about 12 minutes.  When the lovely silky sauce starts to thicken you can start to taste and season. Its needs some salt, keep tasting and adding small amounts until it seems right (and keep whisking!). The consistency was in between single and double cream.


I put the Asparagus Spears in a triangle, the Purple Sprouting Broccoli was drizzled with Olive Oil, mixed through and placed in the centre and the roast tomatoes around the outside. Add the Hollandaise liberally and then sprinkle the punchy crumb on top.

It was superb, the crumb adds a real punch, the tomatoes are sweet and acidic which cut through the rich Hollandaise sauce.

Have a go at this one, you won’t be disappointed.

…………………..Until next time, L8ers…………………

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بهارات‎ (Bahārāt) and Squash!! More Middle Eastern Delight’s to Amaze You!

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This dish started life many months ago when I got hold of the cookery book ‘Persiana’, by Sabrina Ghayour (voted best new cookbook 2014). Thumbing through the pages there were lots of delicious looking recipes but one took my eye, Butternut Squash with Pistachio, Pesto, Feta and Pomegranate! It was apparently a firm favourite amongst the supper club attendees, so must be not too bad at all!

I have been trying to get this dish on the table but numerous times failed due to things like “I don’t fancy that” (not me but someone else!), “have you got time” (again not me!), “in hospital” (that WAS me)!

At last the stars must have been aligned, or Saturn congruent with a passing comet for a nano second and it finally happened, and what a spectacular event it was too! You need to read the WHOLE post as there are several processes needed to complete the dish, each with their own list of ingredients.

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My version does differ from Sabrinas, not that I did not think it wasn’t an excellent recipe (who am I to judge anyway), but I craved some protein, meat in fact, Lamb, I (we) both love Lamb.

So off to research some ideas and I decided to make a Bahārāt from scratch. Bahārāt is Arabic for ‘Spices’, and can be a heady mixture to take any dish to mars and beyond,  and for this recipe (for 2 people), you will need the following;

  1. 1/2 Tsp Allspice
  2. 2 Tsp Black Peppercorns
  3. 1/2 Teaspoon Cardamon Seeds (after outer green pods removed)
  4. 4″ Cassia Bark (like Cinnamon but less sweet)
  5. 1 1/2 Tsp Whole Cloves
  6. 2 Tsp Coriander Seeds
  7. 1 1/2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  8. 1 Tsp Nutmeg (Fresh Grated if possible)
  9. 3 Tsp Aleppo Chilli
  10. 1 Tsp Rose Petals (The cooking variety!)
  11. 1/2 Tsp Ground Iranian Lime

Most of the spices are cupboard items (I always recommend Steenbergs wherever possible as the quality is SO good, and nothing like shop bought brands, which often are more expensive and have less flavour and character), the Iranian Lime and Rose Petals came from Ottolenghi’s, Aleppo Chilli from The Spicery.

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All the whole spices need dry roasting until they fill the kitchen with heady aromas. Be careful not to use too much heat and burn the spices as they will become very bitter and unpleasant. Then add the dried spices and whizz up in a blender to a powder, but don’t go as far as dust, we want some texture and character. You can see my result in the picture above.

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The Bahārāt is used to marinade 500 grms lamb shoulder, I left mine for about 2 hours using 5 heaped Tsp of the Bahārāt mixture which will leave you some left for another day.

2016-03-19 15.59.29After marinating, the Lamb is browned in a frying pan in some olive oil, and put into a dish with 250 mls of HOT Vegetable Stock mixed with 2 tsp of tomato puree then into a 130 deg (centigrade) fan oven for 2 1/2 – 3 hours! I covered mine with tinfoil for the first couple of hours, and removed the foil allowing the stock to reduce for the last hour or so. You will need to keep and eye on it and stir from time to time to make sure things don’t dry out.

A quick interlude whilst the Lamb is doing its stuff. I was rushed into hospital a few weeks back, diagnosed with Type I Diabetes and now doing what many thousands of people have to do, inject Insulin daily and sample my blood 4 times a day!

I had a 1 day course booked at Bertinet’s Cookery School in Bath some time ago, with Ghalid Assyb (he partnered with Yotam Ottolenghi to open the 1st of the Ottolengi eateries in London), bl@@dy Macaroon’s as well, so two weeks after release from those lovely people dressed in white and green with a limited/no sugar diet, I was whisking, mixing and piping all sorts of sweet delights full of sugar.2016-02-27 15.02.22The 1 day session was awesome, we all learnt loads and despite my fears of piping and making a complete fool of myself, the end results were really very good (according to wife and family who can consume more sugar in a day than I can in a month)! Some of the end product are pictured above, I managed a couple all day!

I would recommend any of the Bertinet courses, I am taking my nine year old on a children’s one in July, and I am booked on a 1 day Bread in April and have a day with Mark Hix, the well known restaurateur in October! I am not a share holder and don’t get freebies, they are just good so I am happy to say so.

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So we are back with the next process and a Pesto, no Pine Nuts in sight, or Basil! This one is made with Coriander, Parsley and Mints leaves, this is a variation from Sabrinas which uses Dill instead of Mint ( I am not a Dill fan and thought the Mint and Lamb would match nicely).

For 2 people I used 50 grms Pistachio nuts, about 30 grms of Gran Padano cheese which are whizzed up with some Olive Oil to slacken, then add the ‘leaves’ of a bunch of Parsley and Coriander (I left the stalks behind). The Mint was added in stages, so as to not overpower the Pesto, you just want a hint as its very strong. You will need to add some more Olive Oil to get the consistency loose enough.

2016-03-19 17.01.42I am not sure how the Lime managed to get into the picture earlier, you need to add Lemon Juice to taste, a good squeeze or two and for salt, I used some Hebridean ‘Smoked’ Sea Salt, it is a really good product and brings another dimension to the Pesto, test the flavour and adjust as necessary to your liking. You can see what mine looked like above.

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We are nearly done prep wise, You need a nice Butternut Squash, to be honest I suspect any will do but the nice ‘hole’ where the seeds normally reside was to be my ‘bowl’ for the spiced Lamb. Cut to about 1c.m. thick, brush both sides with Olive Oil and season with Salt (unsmoked!) and Pepper, and into a 165 centigrade (fan) oven for about 45-50 mins, turning over halfway through the cooking. You need to time this process in line with the Lamb cooking so they both complete at the same time (roughly).

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Here we go, another variation on a fantastic recipe, sorry Sabrina. So I wanted another textural component and a flavour “whack”, sorry seems better than a hit under the circumstances, cook this and you will see why.

We are going to coat some more Pistachios with Ras Al Hanut, and Salt using Olive Oil. Warm the pan, add some Olive Oil, you want heat but not enough to burn so if you are not confident, just try a couple of nuts until you get it right. Add the Nuts, warm a bit add the Salt (Maldon Sea Salt rubbed between fingers), then the Ras Al Hanut, shake the pan, leave for 15 seconds and add some more Ras Al Hanut. We are talking a couple of decent pinches, no spoons involved, that’s it. This is a finishing touch and adds a great texture and flavour element to the final dish.

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I said you would need to read the whole post to get the complete recipe, forgot the Feta and Pomegranate, its an integral and important part of the finished delight.

The picture above should give you enough detail, if not, leave me a message and I will answer any questions as soon as I can.

Take a warm plate, lay the squash, fill the hole in the Squash with the Spiced Lamb. Dot ‘blobs’ of the Pesto with a teaspoon around the plate and on the Squash, lay pieces of broken Feta into the Pesto. Scatter the plate with Pomegranate seeds, then the spiced Pistachios and a ‘few’ Rose Leaves, which will warm and give a floral hint.

This dish is delicious (the boss said so), I think so too, its amazing. The original is probably also amazing but I have not tried that version yet, I had the craving for some protein and ’embelished’ the dish a little bit changing Dill to Mint, adding the spiced nuts and the home made Bahārāt with exotic spices.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Until next time…………………………….L8ers…………………………


Hacker, Spell and Zen Buddism, all in a Curry and my take on Katsu

20160110_162239Having not been able to drive for 6 months a letter from the DVLA just before Christmas bought a big smile to my face, with Doctors exchanging letters I could get back behind the wheel as long as I met the conditions, which I did. So with the busy season out of the way a trip to our local specialist asian shop near Reading meant I could experiment with some more unusual ingredients, herbs and spices.

唐辛子 or Seven Spice Powder is a Japanese Spice Mix that is quite unusual, containing Roasted Orange Peel, Black and White Sesame Seeds, Ground (“Japanese pepper”) and several other spices to make a fragrant addition to a variety of dishes.

Trying to find this ‘special’ mix in the asian supermarket was proving to be a problem but a quick google bought up a picture of the bottle and it was staring me in the face from the shelf!!20160110_163938I had a helper for this exercise in oriental cooking, our son Justin, who is 9 years old. When I was at Junior School, I joined a cookery club which is probably where my interest in cooking started, we don’t have that pleasure at the moment but when I asked if he wanted to help me, his eyes lit up and we had some fantastic time in the kitchen.

There are many recipes for Katsu Curry on the internet, and Simon Rimmer cooked it on Sunday Brunch this weekend which was a real coincidence. My version is a combination of the Hairy Bikers version in their Asian Adventure book, and Simons’ although I replaced the Chicken which is traditional, with King Prawns.20160110_165054You need to dry roast the ‘hard’ spices first, Cumin Seeds, Coriander Seeds, Fenugreek Seeds, Fennel Seeds, Green Cardamom (which I de-podded 1st, removing the green outer skin). Once you can smell the aromas wafting from the pan, transfer to a pestle & mortar and grind to a smooth powder. As we were adding ingredients to the pan, my little helper was inquisitive as to where all the spices came from, so we added a bit of geography to the cooking as well as sniffing each of them and trying to describe the smell! You will also need some Garam Masala and fresh Turmeric if you can get it, powdered if not.20160110_171927Once the dry ingredients were done (put a tea spoon of it to one side, you will need it later), we started on the Onion, Carrot, Galangal, Red Chilli’s and Garlic which are all gently fried in a little oil until browned and then the Spice Mix and some Tomato Concentrate added, cooking for a couple of minutes.

Then, Coconut Milk and Chicken Stock were added, simmering slowly for about 20-25 minutes. I had some home made Chicken Stock which I made a few months back and froze in 1 pint bags, much better than anything shop bought with minimal salt and no added nasties. Its worth spending some time making your own stocks and freezing them, healthy and minimal salt which is good for everyone.

Simon Rimmer went for Honey in his recipe as the sweetening agent, Si and Dave just say sugar. I have some Jaggery in the cupboard which is unrefined Indian Palm Sugar, toffee like and in blocks which you can grate into all sorts so although not geographically appropriate I used about a tea spoon.20160110_172300My little helper kept the questions coming as he helped prepare the ‘Katsu” Curry, once the sauce had been simmering for 20-25 minutes it needs processing or blending with a ‘Stick’, I have a trusty Swiss ‘Bamix’ which has interchangeable blades and must be over 15 years old now, it was a very worthwhile investment.20160110_193401-1Once you have blended the Sauce, pass it through a sieve as there will still be some fibrous material from the Galangal which will need to be removed, you should end up with a silky smooth delicious fragrant sauce which you can put to one side until you need it.

Now to the Prawns.

If you go to a well known high street store, you will pay £1.59 for 150 grms of Panko Breadcrumbs, find a decent asian supermarket and you pay about £4.35 for 1KG!! We are going to coat the King Prawns in seasoned flour and Panko but NO egg this time! I used about 3 heaped tablespoons of plain flour, added the teaspoon of prepared spice mix from earlier and 2 teaspoons of Shichi-mi tōgarashi or Seven Spice Powder, which is available in good Asian Supermarkets or mail order. The ‘glue’ is milk, which unlike egg does not shrink when cooked and tighten the prawns making for a much better end result.

Dust the Prawns in the Flour, using a slotted spoon, immerse fully in the Milk and remove quickly then into the Panko crumbs and thoroughly coat. Once done, the Prawns only need a minute in a deep fat fryer, drain on kitchen paper and keep warm. I had some quick cook Rice in the cupboard, which had a big handful of Coriander Leaf folder through and some fresh Lime Zest grated in and mixed. I served the Curry Sauce on the side with a couple of Lime Wedges.


This is a delicious dish to prepare and could be done in stages, i.e sauce on a Saturday and finish serve the following day. It was great fun to prepare with the little one helping and learning on the way. All the ingredients are easily available and you can substitute Chicken for Prawns if you want too.

If you are wondering about the title of this post, google Katsu and see what you get!

Until next time…………….L8ers………………..


La Cuisine Bertinet with Dhruv Baker (MasterChef 2010 Winner)

P1030441It has been a while since my last post, a combination of busy and tired has eaten up much of my spare time so it was really exciting to be joining a class at Richard Bertinets’ Cookery School in Bath, and spending a few hours with Dhruv Baker, who won Masterchef in 2010.  The course was booked some time ago, just after I had suffered a seizure and woke up in an Ambulance so I though transport was going to be a problem, but in the end it was very easy and after an hour on the train and a short Taxi, there I was.

P1030434I usually arrive on cooking courses as the only ‘bloke’, which can be both enjoyable and frustrating (I really wish more men would have a go at cooking), this time there were 4 of us, equally balanced by 4 lovely ladies. As we arrived we were provided with Richards’ famous Bread, freshly toasted, with Butter and Jam, and Tea and Coffee and we started to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Dhruv and Richards’ team of helpers were finalising the preparation and we were good to go.

P1030435The menu we were going to prepare was really interesting, Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire, Chennai Spiced Poussin, Cumin & Chilli Potatoes with Curry Leaf and Coconut Cavalo Nero. As we looked through the menu Dhruv went about explaining the dishes and the order we would use to create each one. The Spiced Butter for the Poussin was going to take the longest so we set about toasting coconut and spices which would be ground into a paste (by hand) later on.

P1030436We were given many words of wisdom and encouragement by Dhruv, one of the participants said he could not cook (his wife also present agreed!), but comments like ‘T.V. Chefs like to make things look more complicated’ helped relax everyone as we all settled down to preparing each of the dishes. I won’t go though the detail of each dish, just book a course yourself and learn from a master and have some fun at the same time.

P1030442At the beginning of the day we were grouped together in ‘teams’, I was lucky enough to join Claire and Jin, who both had been on previous courses (Claire had been on 16), as we prepared each part of the recipe we laughed and joked as if we had known each other for years. It’s amazing how when individuals are thrown together with a common interest it seems to break down barriers in seconds. The other ‘students’ were from Belgium and there was a real friendship developing (call it a competitive bond if you will), this turned out to raise even more laughter towards the end of the day.

P1030440Because of time, there were a couple of ‘hiccups’ which in reality did not cause issue. The Spice Paste is made of hot ingredients, Tomatoes, Red Onions etc. and we could have done with a bit more time to let it cool, add cold Butter and…………It Melts! We ended up stuffing the Poussin with a semi Liquid mix but it worked fine in the end. We served up the starter as the Poussin roasted in the oven, the Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire was a delight, tender, delicate and the slight saltiness of the Samphire negated the need for seasoning, amazing.File 26-10-2015, 11 35 01Mid morning we had a quick break, Tea and Coffee and some delicious Almond Croissants, and the owner turned up to greet us, Richard Bertinet. Richard started the school about 9 years ago, and takes some of the Bread making courses as well as  inviting guest Chef’s to come a teach their specialist skills. Richards Bread is VERY good, and if you are lucky enough to live West of Windsor, you maybe able to find some in your local Waitrose, I get mine in Newbury if I fancy a treat.File 26-10-2015, 11 34 07We prepared all the dishes to the point where we could eat the starter whilst the main was cooking, finish off the Vegetables then serve the main etc. In between copious amounts of Red and White Wine flowed, the generosity and spirit was certainly in abundance, and I was glad it was a train home, and not the car!!

The potato dish seemed to cause a bit of competition, one of our Belgian colleagues was a bit heavy with the Chilli, and the double doors at the back of the school had to be opened to let the ‘hot’ steam out. We then realised during tasting that that team had also forgotten to season, and not quite par boiled long enough. It seems Team Claire, Jules and Jin had won the ‘best potato dish’ competition. Yay.P1030446The Poussin were smelling delicious as they rested whilst we finished of the Vegetables and put the desert on to cook. Ah yes, forgot to mention the Chocolate Brownie with Cassia Custard,and hints of Cardamom!P1030448All the dishes were very clever, you can find several of them in Dhruvs’ Book Spice: Layers Of Flavour I am very proud to have a signed copy. Dhruv carefully explained the reason behind each component, acidity, saltness, sweetness, etc. and the smells and aroma’s circulating the kitchen were amazing.P1030450It was One of our Belgian friends birthday so as the Chocolate Brownies were served complete with candles we all sang Happy Birthday. Richard treated us to some more ‘specials’ as we ate our fill, Prunes Steeped in Rum, perfect served in Coffee or just eaten on their own, and the ‘old’ bottle of Vanilla Vodka, which was so full of Vanilla pods there was not much room for Vodka!File 26-10-2015, 11 35 24So after quite a few hours cooking, much laughter, a few glasses of Wine we had accomplished what one of our Belgians friends had not seemed possible, knocked up a pretty decent (I would probably say cooked a high quality!) 3 course dinner delicately spiced, packed full of flavour and learnt quite a few more cookery skills. Using Lemon as a ‘condiment’ featured quite a lot and worked REALLY well, even on the Potatoes which was quite a suprise.

Richards Cookery School website can be found HERE and Dhruvs’ Gastro Pub The Jolly Gardeners HERE,

Just to be clear, I paid full price for this course and have received no incentives etc. in order to write this review, its my own experience and one that I will not forget, a truly wonderful time. There is no doubt I will be returning to Richards School in the future to learn new skills and share a great time with new friends.

Till Next Time………………..l8ers……………………