A few weeks ago I went on the most amazing trip with Joico Haircare to the Raymond Blanc Cookery School. It’s at Le Manoir in Oxfordshire, Raymond Blanc’s incredibly luxurious (and expensive!) hotel and restaurant. Oh, how I wish that I’d written this when it was all fresh in my mind – but L.A. and essay-writing got in the way, so here I am some time later trying to re-live every delicious little moment of the experience!
And an experience it was. I don’t want to sound like a twonk, but I really did find my cookery day to be quite life-changing. I’m a keen cook – I cook every single day, give or take the odd travel day or “too knackered” moment of weakness – but the Cookery School experience just made me so much more keen! I realised that I had been stuck in a bit of a rut, recipe-wise, just churning out the same thing over and over again. Not that my dishes weren’t lovely and healthy – they were just getting a bit repetitive! I also realised that I had a couple of cooking “phobias” that were restricting my culinary prowess: 1) I was scared of separating eggs and avoided ANY recipe that required whites or yolks! 2) I was scared of fish. Yes – scared of fish. I just didn’t know what to do with it! Tuna steak? Fine. Smoked Salmon? Fine. Seafood such as prawns and scallops? Fine. Mackerel, Herring, Cod, Brill, Dover Sole, and all of the other fish in the sea? Clueless!
Here are my little Mackerel fillets cooking away (I was partnered up with the lovely Alex from Hello! Magazine, so can’t take all the credit unfortunately!)
Here’s the finished dish – with sliced fennel, rocket and a lime and soy dressing! Amazing!
Obviously I have to have a picture of myself posing with said dish:
Our chef instructor for the day (Mark Peregrine) didn’t show us how to cook every type of fish, just Mackerel, but his words of wisdom and quick little tips and tricks meant that I came away feeling pretty confident about preparing any of them! I realised that food is just that – it’s not scary or difficult, not at the level we need to be at just to prepare a tasty meal at home. So you try to poach some eggs and they go wrong? What’s the worst that can happen? You’ve wasted 50p, or you’ve got watery/hard/gross-looking eggs to eat. It’s not the end of the world!
I’d like to point out, though, that my (our) poached eggs were perfect; you can see them below with fresh asparagus and spinach.
I went on the “Nutrition” day course, which involves cooking healthy food with great flavours and outlines the principles of eating for excellent health. Mark Peregrine worked alongside nutritionist Natalia Traxel to demonstrate some brilliant dishes and explain why they were healthy. I did learn some very interesting nutritional facts which I’ll be sharing with you in my usual dribs and drabs! I’ll also post up some of the recipes that I tried – an incredible chocolate mousse and a fresh, light Mackerel salad.
I could go on and on about this Cookery School – I think that it’s the bee’s knees. Not only does it boost your confidence in the kitchen, the nutrition course helps you to understand the basic building blocks in our diet and why we need them. It also busts some of the annoying myths that float about these days – myths like all carbs being bad for you and avocados being terrible because they’re high in fat. What would be amazing would be if something like this course was available to every single person once they reached sixteen or eighteen – simple, easy-to-assimilate information and some basic (ish) cookery skills that mean you can feed yourself (and your family) properly for life.
You can see the various Cookery School courses that are available on the website: www.manoir.com
They don’t come cheap (I think the nutrition course is £400 for the day!) but they are worth every single penny. I think that this would be an excellent thing to put down on your wedding list if you were getting married – get a load of people to club together and treat you! You have to work together in pairs, though, so if you’re prone to bickering…
Thank you so much to Joico for taking me on this trip – it really has re-fuelled my passion for cooking and inspired me to try loads of new things! (I know I cheated with the bread by buying a machine – but surely that’s better than not making bread at all?!)
(Me and my cooking buddy Alex, looking pleased as punch! We made the best Creme Caramel of all, but the most rubbish chicken dish. Swings and roundabouts, people, swings and roundabouts..)