A cookery school run by chef David Gilliat, whose skill and charm makes for a memorable day.
The upside: Expert tuition, kitchen inspiration and a fun day out.
The downside: Not viewing the directions video: this culinary gem is down a long country lane.
The flipside: Spending time with this charismatic chef whose passion for food is seriously infectious!
Tips: A great gift to inject some fishy enthusiasm into a novice or experienced cook.
I was delighted when David invited me attend his ‘Fabulous Fish’ course, one of the six he runs. I love going to cookery days: however accomplished a cook you are, you can always pick up new tips. Many of us lack the skill to prepare fish, so don’t cook this healthy food at home. This is where David comes in. He is keen to share his skills and show guests how to cook more imaginatively at home. Research shows that even with all the cookery shows on TV most of us stick to around ten repetitive dishes.
You can’t help being charmed by David’s welcoming persona, and his enthusiasm for his craft is admirable. Class sizes are small enough for everyone’s skill level to be catered for and he gets an equal mix of men and women. We had coffee while David ran through the programme’ then it was on with the aprons and into the kitchen. With six dishes to get through between 10am and 3pm you can see why. We were all provided with recipe folders and pens to note down snippets of wisdom as they were offered.
The first two recipes were Thai fish cakes and crispy fried calamari that could be served as starters or finger food. David showed us how to prep all the ingredients. We whacked lemon grass to extract its fragrant oil, ground garlic under our knives with salt to make a paste and learnt all manner of tricks to show off at home. This hands-on approach allows you to get the feel of ingredients so you can replicate the dishes when you’re home alone. The Thai fish cakes were spiked with fresh ginger, chilli and lemongrass and as a bonus we learnt how to shape them into very professional quenelles – not as easy as it looks! We used ready prepared calamari and if I have any criticism of the day it’s that it would have been useful for more novice cooks to see how to prepare fresh calamari from scratch. David went off piste and instead of breadcrumbs we opted for a tempura batter, which he made in seconds: very impressive.
Next up we made a simple yet incredibly tasty fricassee with salmon, calamari and cod. Pan-fried leek with a white wine and stock reduction gives an intense flavour to this dish, which is simply finished with double cream and chives.
Pea and fresh mint risotto was on the menu for lunch and we each made our own, under David’s guidance. David poached some natural-dyed smoked haddock to serve with it. We sat down for a convivial lunch with a glass of chilled white Faustino wine (they sponsor the food academy, along with Magimix) and were all rather self-congratulatory with the fruits of our labour.
After lunch we were back into the kitchen to marinade salmon fillets in sweet chilli sauce and coconut milk. Then followed a demonstration on how to fillet fish (it’s all about the knife here). We went home with a goody bag of dishes for dinner, increased knowledge, new skills and an added confidence.