Ian and I share a love of good food, wine and cooking. He strives constantly to improve his techniques and recipes and it’s something he excels at. So I decided to buy him a one-day course at Bettys Cookery School for Christmas. I had a brilliant experience cooking at River Cottage about 18 months ago and I have wanted to do something similar ever since so I bought one for me too. Of course, it goes without saying that it’s lovely to spend time together too.
There are all manner of courses at Bettys Cookery School from chocolate making techniques, to baking artisan breads and from delicious dinner parties to seasonal suppers. The school runs courses mainly at the weekend, but there are some on weekdays too. The one we did was called “Go With The Grain” and it started at 9am on Sunday. When we arrived the course host welcomed us and offered tea, coffee and pain au chocolat.
We made three dishes throughout the day, (all ingredients provided). Chef tutor Chris Taylor demonstrated each one in turn which we subsequently prepared ourselves.
Our course was fully-booked with 18 people. Each person had their own workspace with their own knives and utensils and a recipe folder.
A lot of the ingredients were pre-weighed, pre-prepared or pre-mixed to save time. For example, chicken thighs we used in one dish had been marinating overnight and some of the spice mixes were all ready to go. I would love someone to do that at home for me to eliminate the more laborious part of cooking prep. We still had to do our own washing up though…
As the title suggests, our course focussed on different grains. The first dish we prepared was ras-el-hanout chicken with Israeli couscous, pomegranate, honey-roasted peppers and rose-scented sour cream. I love couscous but have never used the giant, Israeli type before. It was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate. The pomegranate seeds look like cabouchon rubies among topaz apricots.
We both found it very satisfying bashing the pomegranate seeds out with a rolling pin.
After the first dish was finished, it was time for tea, coffee and Betty’s biscuits. The second dish we prepared was halloumi, feta and courgette fritters, wild lemon rice with green bean and fennel. Here I am grating the courgette into fine ribbons.
Once the whole dish was prepped, it was lunchtime. I knew that lunch was included but I didn’t know whether or not it would be one of our own dishes. It wasn’t. It was pan-fried salmon with sundried tomato and tarragon pesto with artisan breads, followed by meringue. The wine was Swiss, (Bettys was built on the entrepreneurial spirit of a Swiss confectioner), and very, very drinkable.
The wine meant I had to concentrate that little bit more on the final dish of the day which was pakora king prawns with a mixed grain salad, (freekah, red quinoa and spelt), pickled cauliflower and cucumber dip.
After mid-afternoon tea and scones, (we were exceptionally well-fed), chef Chris showed us how to pull everything together to present the finished three recipes.
i love the vibrant pakora prawns.
Throughout the day, we put everything in individual foil trays for ease of transport home. Both Ian and I remarked that we should have hosted a dinner party that evening.
The day was very-well organised with expert tuition and beautiful, fresh ingredients. I would definitely do another course. There’s one called Christmas Cakes and Puddings which will take place in October. That’s something I’d love to do along with perhaps a fish one and the seasonal suppers day too. I’d say you need to feel confident in the kitchen but don’t necessarily have to have a certain level of skill- not for this particular course anyway. There are others however for more advanced cooks and bakers. If you love cooking and want something different to do, then I’d recommend Bettys Cookery School. It certainly was a lovely way to spend a Sunday with my fiancé.
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