It has been a while since my last post, a combination of busy and tired has eaten up much of my spare time so it was really exciting to be joining a class at Richard Bertinets’ Cookery School in Bath, and spending a few hours with Dhruv Baker, who won Masterchef in 2010. The course was booked some time ago, just after I had suffered a seizure and woke up in an Ambulance so I though transport was going to be a problem, but in the end it was very easy and after an hour on the train and a short Taxi, there I was.
I usually arrive on cooking courses as the only ‘bloke’, which can be both enjoyable and frustrating (I really wish more men would have a go at cooking), this time there were 4 of us, equally balanced by 4 lovely ladies. As we arrived we were provided with Richards’ famous Bread, freshly toasted, with Butter and Jam, and Tea and Coffee and we started to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Dhruv and Richards’ team of helpers were finalising the preparation and we were good to go.
The menu we were going to prepare was really interesting, Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire, Chennai Spiced Poussin, Cumin & Chilli Potatoes with Curry Leaf and Coconut Cavalo Nero. As we looked through the menu Dhruv went about explaining the dishes and the order we would use to create each one. The Spiced Butter for the Poussin was going to take the longest so we set about toasting coconut and spices which would be ground into a paste (by hand) later on.
We were given many words of wisdom and encouragement by Dhruv, one of the participants said he could not cook (his wife also present agreed!), but comments like ‘T.V. Chefs like to make things look more complicated’ helped relax everyone as we all settled down to preparing each of the dishes. I won’t go though the detail of each dish, just book a course yourself and learn from a master and have some fun at the same time.
At the beginning of the day we were grouped together in ‘teams’, I was lucky enough to join Claire and Jin, who both had been on previous courses (Claire had been on 16), as we prepared each part of the recipe we laughed and joked as if we had known each other for years. It’s amazing how when individuals are thrown together with a common interest it seems to break down barriers in seconds. The other ‘students’ were from Belgium and there was a real friendship developing (call it a competitive bond if you will), this turned out to raise even more laughter towards the end of the day.
Because of time, there were a couple of ‘hiccups’ which in reality did not cause issue. The Spice Paste is made of hot ingredients, Tomatoes, Red Onions etc. and we could have done with a bit more time to let it cool, add cold Butter and…………It Melts! We ended up stuffing the Poussin with a semi Liquid mix but it worked fine in the end. We served up the starter as the Poussin roasted in the oven, the Sweet Chilli Squid with Samphire was a delight, tender, delicate and the slight saltiness of the Samphire negated the need for seasoning, amazing.Mid morning we had a quick break, Tea and Coffee and some delicious Almond Croissants, and the owner turned up to greet us, Richard Bertinet. Richard started the school about 9 years ago, and takes some of the Bread making courses as well as inviting guest Chef’s to come a teach their specialist skills. Richards Bread is VERY good, and if you are lucky enough to live West of Windsor, you maybe able to find some in your local Waitrose, I get mine in Newbury if I fancy a treat.We prepared all the dishes to the point where we could eat the starter whilst the main was cooking, finish off the Vegetables then serve the main etc. In between copious amounts of Red and White Wine flowed, the generosity and spirit was certainly in abundance, and I was glad it was a train home, and not the car!!
The potato dish seemed to cause a bit of competition, one of our Belgian colleagues was a bit heavy with the Chilli, and the double doors at the back of the school had to be opened to let the ‘hot’ steam out. We then realised during tasting that that team had also forgotten to season, and not quite par boiled long enough. It seems Team Claire, Jules and Jin had won the ‘best potato dish’ competition. Yay.The Poussin were smelling delicious as they rested whilst we finished of the Vegetables and put the desert on to cook. Ah yes, forgot to mention the Chocolate Brownie with Cassia Custard,and hints of Cardamom!All the dishes were very clever, you can find several of them in Dhruvs’ Book Spice: Layers Of Flavour I am very proud to have a signed copy. Dhruv carefully explained the reason behind each component, acidity, saltness, sweetness, etc. and the smells and aroma’s circulating the kitchen were amazing.It was One of our Belgian friends birthday so as the Chocolate Brownies were served complete with candles we all sang Happy Birthday. Richard treated us to some more ‘specials’ as we ate our fill, Prunes Steeped in Rum, perfect served in Coffee or just eaten on their own, and the ‘old’ bottle of Vanilla Vodka, which was so full of Vanilla pods there was not much room for Vodka!So after quite a few hours cooking, much laughter, a few glasses of Wine we had accomplished what one of our Belgians friends had not seemed possible, knocked up a pretty decent (I would probably say cooked a high quality!) 3 course dinner delicately spiced, packed full of flavour and learnt quite a few more cookery skills. Using Lemon as a ‘condiment’ featured quite a lot and worked REALLY well, even on the Potatoes which was quite a suprise.
Just to be clear, I paid full price for this course and have received no incentives etc. in order to write this review, its my own experience and one that I will not forget, a truly wonderful time. There is no doubt I will be returning to Richards School in the future to learn new skills and share a great time with new friends.
Till Next Time………………..l8ers……………………