A great way to spend a productive and enjoyable day is at a River Cottage Cookery Class. And you don’t need to know very much about cooking as everything is demo’d before your eyes in easy digestible steps.
Nestled in a beautiful green valley in Devon, near Axminster, the (second) River Cottage is nowhere near a river – the first one apparently was! It is a bit of a schlep from London, but trains go direct from Waterloo, via Basingstoke and various other places.
You get picked up by a tractor and trailer – the glamour of it! – and driven the short and bumpy journey to the school. The course takes place in a well-kitted out and airy converted barn. After a much needed slurp of coffee/tea, the day kicks off with bread making. Previously, even the thought of making bread filled me with terror and brought back funny memories of hitting the rock hard lumps that were my Mum’s failed attempts at rolls around the garden with a badminton racket! Throughout the day we carefully kneaded and nurtured our bread, watched it rise triumphantly, until it came out of the oven looking unbelievably professional, and tasting soft and delicious. A total miracle as far as I was concerned.
We were taught some cheeky tricks and some useful tips – like rinsing out a pan with water before heating milk or cream to stop it burning. I even know how to sharpen a knife, without losing a finger, so that it actually cuts cleanly – heaven.
My panna cotta turned out perfectly set and luxuriantly silky. I know how to fillet a fish, something else that had always looked impossible and filled me with dread – a lot of it is about a sharp knife!
They are sticklers for organic produce and the fish was so fresh it practically winked at me. You are encouraged to wander around the beautiful kitchen garden and see all the wonderful produce growing – and pinch the odd peapod!
The best bit is sitting down to enjoy the fruits of your labour twice in the day, in the beautiful setting of River Cottage with a glass of wine. It all tasted surprisingly good.
It’s not cheap at around £200, but if you’re keen to learn more and enjoy cooking, without feeling inadequate or intimidated, then I would really recommend it. The class was full of all ages and abilities. Book direct at www.rivercottage.net.