Happy New Year She Who Lives readers! I can’t believe another year has been and gone. Where does the time go? Hopefully you would have read my New Years resolutions post and if you are still looking for inspiration for your own resolutions, this review may be helpful!
I love trying out new things so when Exeter Cookery School invited me along to their Classic French Bistro Mains course, I jumped at the chance to go. It was great to have the opportunity to participate in a course where I had no idea how to make any of the dishes as I would be learning brand new skills. Bringing one of my best friends along with me, we prepared ourselves for a day of learning, cooking and a lot of eating.
Founders Jim and Lucy Fisher started Exeter Cookery School after returning from France where they ran cookery school CookinFrance for 15 years. The teaching is led by Jim, a former Masterchef semi-finalist who started his career as a chef at Exeter’s White Hart Hotel. He then went on to cook alongside Rick Stein in Padstow, Alistair Little in Notting Hill and Tony Tobin of Ready, Steady, Cook fame.
The school is in a great location on the quayside and set in an old warehouse which is beautifully decorated and kitted out with the latest equipment. After meeting the team, saying hello to Kyle and Becky who were also on the course and tying up our aprons, we got started.
First on the menu was French Onion Soup which we would be eating for our lunch. This was the dish that I was most eager to make as I absolutely love onions, especially when they are caramelised, so I was really keen to learn exactly how to make it. Jim gave us loads of tips on how to chop up onions to make life simple and easy and how to avoid crying! Make sure to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose! After chopping up a whole box of onions, we moved over to the hob where we began caramelising them. This bit takes quite a lot of patience as you have to cook them for a long time for them to turn lovely and soft and sticky. It’s important to keep an eye on them though as Kathryn found out! As Jim said, she definitely had some enthusiastically caramelised onions on her hob!
When it’s all in one pot, wine, stock, herbs and a lot of salt was added to make the most incredible soup I have ever tasted. Nothing was too much for Jim either! I very rarely add salt to my food so my taste buds are not that accustomed to it. After the first pinch of salt, we tasted the soup and that was perfect for me. Jim wanted to add several cheffy pinches more so separated a little bowl for me so I wouldn’t find it too salty!
Next, we learnt how to cook a whole leg of lamb in just 23 minutes! With a blasting hot oven it can indeed be done. Jim showed us how to season the lamb perfectly with plenty of salt, pepper, garlic and rosemary. The result was the juiciest piece of lamb I had ever tasted but a little too rare for me! The flavours were incredible though and got the taste buds tingling.
Lucy put on a gorgeous spread at lunchtime for us, providing red wine, elderflower drinks and even decorating the table with Christmas crackers! It felt so lovely and festive and was a great touch. We’d made some deliciously cheesy croutons which get placed in the middle of the French Onion Soup and the combination was incredible. The thick soup gets soaked up into the cheese and it was honestly the scrummiest soup I have ever tasted. Jim had kindly made Crème Brulee for us the night before which we got to blowtorch ourselves. Again, absolutely delicious – so smooth and creamy!
After lunch, it was time to prepare classic Steak and chips. I’ve never cooked a steak in my life as I don’t like it but it was definitely a skill that I was keen to learn in case I’m entertaining in the future or if my kids have a craving for steak! Jim taught us how to flash fry the steak safely and showed us how long to cook it for depending on how rare you like your meat. We also learnt how to make our own chips, again something I’ve never done but was eager to learn. Chopping up the potatoes and then deep frying them created the most beautiful chips. They were crispy on the outside and really fluffy and soft on the inside. They had just the right amount of salt on them as well and when we sat down again to gobble up our steak and chips, Jim bought out this gorgeous orange mayonnaise which was a great condiment to go alongside the chips.
Throughout the day, we had Duck Confit cooking away which we got to try before we left and even got to take some home with us along with some of the lamb. It was beautifully flavoured and the meat just fell perfectly off the bone.
By the end of the day, I was exhausted and very full but incredibly satisfied. I had such a fun day cooking alongside my friend and learning all these great cooking tips from Jim. You get to take all the recipes home with you so now I will definitely be whipping them out next time I cook for friends and family.
Nothing was too much for Jim, Lucy and the rest of the team. They made us feel incredibly welcome all day and were very patient and generous. I would recommend a visit to Exeter Cookery School as it’s great fun, you learn a lot and hey, it can be your New Year’s resolution!
To view a list of courses and prices, visit www.exetercookeryschool.co.uk