Sunday, March 12, 2006

Saturday Morning at Leiths

Leiths School of Food and Wine
21 St Alban’s Grove
LondonW8 5BP

Tel: 020 7229 0177

Leiths is the cookery school where they teach many of the chefs for world class restaurants. They run professional diploma courses as well as courses for enthusiastic amateurs.

Among the latter are their Saturday morning courses where you get to cook a three course meal in one of their kitchens and then eat it for lunch. A couple of times a year the course has a meat-free menu and I attended one of these last Saturday.

The day started in a demo room where we were introduced to the course and told the various safety procedures. Everyone was then divided into groups and told which kitchens we would be working in. There were sixteen people to a kitchen and three (I think) kitchens, so you can see that these courses are pretty popular.

Each kitchen had two tutors and somebody to wash up the mess we made during the day, which was good. Leiths recognise that a lot of people are given these courses as presents or go along because they enjoy cooking and they make sure that it's as enjoyable as possible.

The menu for the day was Parmesan and pear rarebit with hot buttered radishes to start, followed by Open ravioli with warm lemon and rocket pesto and roast vine tomatoes. For dessert we were to make cappucino brulee.

We were talked through the recipes and then paired up to cook the meal. I was interested to see if any of the techniques that would be taught were any different to those I had learnt at Cordon Vert, but they were the same, which was comforting.

Everything went pretty smoothly, except for a brief moment when I accidently (and spectacularly) 'flambeed' the radishes. I'd never even considered cooking radishes before, but trust me, they taste really good having been sauteed in butter and lemon juice.

The main course was quite tasty. I've made a fair bit of pasta and pesto before, but not with rocket, and it was rather nice.

The brulee was devine. It could've been set slightly more, but time constraints meant that it was in the fridge for less time than it should've been. Had it been served to me in a restaurant, it would've been around a seven on Gaz's creme brulee scale - so not bad for my first effort.

It was a really enjoyable morning, topped off with great food. I picked up a few ideas and it was great to cook in a 'professional' kitchen. The staff were helpful and patient. I'd recommend it if you fancy trying something different or you know someone who loves cooking and want to get them a different kind of present for a birthday or similar.

They also do other, midweek, courses where they concentrate on a single skill, pastry or sauces for example. I'm keeping my eye out for convenient dates, as I'm always keen to brush up my skills.

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