My Day At Exeter Cookery School

Although I am a passionate cook, and even run a blog about cooking, I have never really been "taught" to cook.  My mum always did home cooking so I picked up a lot from her, but I have always liked the idea of a professional cooking class.  I've watched hours and hours of cookery shows, but it just isn't the same!

When the opportunity came up to attend a cookery class at Exeter Cookery School I couldn't refuse! The pop up classes are held in the swish, state-of-the-art kitchens at Sapphire Spaces in Topsham, and promises foodies the chance to relax, have fun and create some seasonal taste sensations.

The school is the brainchild of Jim and Lucy Fisher who originally moved to France in 2000 to set up a cookery school. Despite the locals' bemusement at the idea of an Englishman teaching anyone to cook, not least in France, CookinFrance became a huge success taking students from all over the world - including France. Fifteen years later, Jim and Lucy are back in Devon and raring to go with the successor to CookinFrance: Exeter Cookery School.  Jim is a former Masterchef semi-finalist who started his cooking career cheffing in the kitchens of Exeter's White Hart Hotel (where he and Lucy met and were engaged). He then went on to cook alongside Rick Stein in Padstow, Alistair Little in Notting Hill, and with Tony Tobin of Ready Steady Cook fame. Along with Lucy and former chief wine-buyer for Sainsbury's, Julia Jenkins, he ran a company cooking dinner parties in client's homes before moving to France. During his time in France, Jim collected a mass of knowledge and recipes from some of the best chefs in the area and enjoys putting them to use at Exeter Cookery School.

I arrived on the Saturday morning and was presented with an apron, recipe pack and introduced to all my fellow foodies.

The venue itself was amazing, Sapphire kitchens has some top of the range kitchen spaces, and I was very excited to play with all the buttons and knobs! We started off with a coffee and chat, which set the scene for the relaxing nature of the day.  The menus were given to us for the day and my mouth was immediately watering, especially when I found out that we got to sample all of our yummy food.  Couronne aux herbes (twisted herb bread) with baked Mont d'Or cheese, followed by braised beef cheeks with clotted cream mash, braised savoy cabbage with bacon and apple, Heritage vegetables and beef sauce and finished off with pear and frangipane tart with ginger ice cream.  We started off by making the bread dough, as the Couronne aux herbes was to be our lunch- with some delicious charcuterie from Darts Farm.  We were given a demonstration from the professional how to do it, then we were able to get hands on in pairs, and create our on version with any of the ingredients on offer.

We then moved on to preparing what turned out to be the most delicious beef I have ever tasted! I've never tried braised beef cheeks before, so was keen to try out something new. We learnt some knifing techniques to trim the fate but leave the collagen, and were shown how to make the best possible stock. It was slow cooked for hours and literally melted in my mouth!

We learnt some basic sweet pastry skills to create a delicious pear and frangipane tart, but most exciting of all for me was making our own icecream.  We made a batch of ginger but were asked to experiment with out own flavours, and me and my foodie partner for the day made pink peppercorn! Now this may not sound that nice, but I can assure you that it was delicious.  The pepper seems to make the icecream even richer, with a slight kick aftertaste.

I picked up some great cheffy tips, like how to properly flour your work surface and how to make a custard that doesn't split or curdle! We also covered knife skills, flavour enhancement, meat butchery as well as creating perfect pastry.  The day as a whole was great fun, and I loved sitting down to lunch with everyone and trying out the amazing creations, although I am a little bitter that ALL of our bread got eaten because I wanted to take some home, but I'll ake it as a comliment!

Each course has a different menu, with the December one focusing on festive favourites. There are so many different course available, focusing on all different topics with course lengths ranging from half a day to 5 days- each packed with cheffy tips, tricks and techniques honed in busy restaurant kitchens, but adapted to use in your home and designed to make cooking for family and friends easy and stress-free.

Exeter Cookery School is soon set to open its doors in a Grade II Listed building, an 1830's warehouse on Exeter's historic Quayside meaning they will have their own location to offer even more courses!  It is currently in the process of extensive renovations, and I can't wait to see it for myself!

I would really recommend any foodie with any level of cooking knowledge to attend one of their courses, such a great fun and productive atmosphere.  It would be great to attend as a group or even on your own with strangers, as I did.  The course I attended was a full day course priced at £149, including lunch. See their Exeter Cookery School for more details.

L x