Monday, September 26, 2005

Cordon Vert Cookery School

Vegetarian Society Cordon Vert Cookery School
Parkdale, Altrincham

I spent the weekend doing two one day workshops at the Vegetarian Society's Cordon Vert Cookery School near Manchester. The workshops were the "Italian Cookery" and "Around the World."

Saturday was the Italian Cookery day. I'm sure it will come as no surprise to learn that this course concentrates on recipes and food that originates in Italy, and the recipes for the day included pasta, stuffed peppers, risotto and the like.

There were nine of us on the course, and all except one were vegetarians. The tutors welcome non veggies as they are always keen to show that vegetarian food can be exciting and tasty.

The day began with demos of pasta making and foccachia bread making followed by a run through of the recipes that we would be cooking. Everybody made some pasta dough and we were then split into three groups of three and the recipes divided amongst us. The group I was in made spaghetti, stuffed peppers, biscotti, pesto and baked fennel in creamy white wine sauce.
We also tried our hand at making tortellini.

Once all of the groups had finished their cooking, it was time to eat. The menu started with rosemary focaccia accompanied by peppers stuffed with olive paste, garlic, cherry tomatoes and capers. This was then followed by spaghetti with pesto, spinach and ricotta tortellini in a rich tomato sauce and squash and sage tortellini in a vodka lemon cream and chive sauce. After this came Il Secondo which was the baked fennel in cream and a lemon herb risotto cake accompanied by a chickpea salad. For dessert we had a chocolate amaretti flan. This was then all washed down with coffee and the biscotti.

The meal, although I do say so myself - having had quite a large hand in cooking it - was lovely. The flavours of the different dishes all complemented each other and whoever designed the menu for this course should be congratulated.

The course itself was good fun and the tutors were very good, keeping an eye on everyone and helping out where and when they were needed.

On Sunday it was the "All Around the World" course. This consisted of recipes from such places as Greece, Morocco, Russia and South Africa.

Once again the course began with demos of various techniques - pastry making, rolling vine leaves etc before we were split into teams and given various recipes to cook. Today, there were also nine on the course, but only two of us had done the course yesterday.

The format was very similar, but the recipes were more fiddly and took more thought and preparation than the ones on the Italian course yesterday.

After a few hours in the kitchen we sat down to eat what we had prepared. For starters we had Thai mushroom soup with crispy wontons. Two groups had prepared different batches of the soup and it is always interesting to taste the difference between the dishes that different people have made when following the same recipe. The soups were no exception. One was quite spicy, the other less so and had a more earthy flavour.

The main course consisted of a real mixture of dishes. Dolmada, Bobitie - roasted vegetables in an egg custard from South Africa, Russian Piroshki with a carrot filling, Paneer Seekh Kebabs, Flautas and a range of salsas and dips. The weird thing was, they all sort of complemented each other despite being from different international cuisines. For dessert we had baked fruit cake custard pudding - rather like a bread pudding made with fruit cake and an orange infused custard, and Caribbean coffee, ginger and rum trifle. Yummm!

Everyone said that they thoroughly enjoyed the two days and I for one can't wait to go back to do some more. I'm currently about a third of the way through my Cordon Vert Diploma courses, so have a way to go yet but I'm enjoying every minute. Next up is the Far Eastern course in January. As you may imagine, being a curry lover, I am really looking forward to that one.

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