Learning new cookery skills

I love food… everything about it.  I love to eat it, I love to look at it, and I NOW love to cook it.

I say ‘now’ because until recently I was a pretty bad cook. I used to grab whatever was called for (if I even bothered looking at a recipe), hack a few things into smaller chunks and then spend 80% of my time in front of the cooker moving whatever was in the pan around in circles until it looked vaguely warm enough to eat. The end result: something uninspiring, usually coldish, and nine times out of ten, tasteless.

That was until I booked myself on a five day course in Devon to learn the basics. The course was aptly named: ‘Foundations in cookery’ and was run by Ashburton Cookery School. I took myself off with the aim of having a bit of fun, maybe meeting some nice new people and perhaps even taking home a few tips and tricks.  What I found when I arrived was far beyond my expectations: an extremely professionally run operation where tutors are former (and existing) chefs and the kitchens are state of the art. Each person has their own work station and you quickly learn how important discipline is in the kitchen… from dealing with knives to keeping your area clean to working with others.

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Seasonal herb salad with edible flowers

During the week I counted some 25 recipes that we tackled, mostly in pairs. That’s around five a day (and we mostly ate what we made)! I learnt numerous invaluable skills such as basic knife handling, ideal cooking times for vegetables (and the different ways you can cook them), sauce bases, stocks, preparing and cooking meat and fish, as well as how to make different types of pastry.

I wouldn’t say that I am now an amazing cook, but I have the confidence to look at a recipe and actually know what the words mean. I can experiment a bit knowing that certain flavours go together, all the while tasting and seasoning and tasting again so I can achieve the perfect result. In essence, the whole experience has got me back into the kitchen and it has helped me to improve my timings… I now understand that around 80% of my time should probably focus on preparation and, if I’ve got that right, the rest should be much easier.

Simply put, the team at Ashburton have de-mystified the art of cooking and have taught me an invaluable skill that I can continue to use and practice in the weeks, months and years to come. SCH

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