1st June 2016 6pm
So this is one of my mini reviews, where I get to tell you about somewhere I visited for a taster rather than a full experience.
I was invited to Edinburgh New Town Cookery School who are just launching their summer programme of courses and have also begun a partnership selling some wonderful Spanish extra virgin olive oils. Luckily for everyone, I wasn’t actually doing any cooking. The first part of our time with the cookery school was to find out more about the olive oils and the second part was to watch a demonstration and more importantly taste some of the food the cookery school teaches it’s students how to make.
So firstly, the olive oils which are introduced to us by Fiona, the Principal of the school. The cookery school have been working with a Spanish food exporter based in the Extremadura region of Spain. The main range is called Texturas and features differing strengths of extra virgin olive oils (including an organic one). Each are beautifully packaged and gift sets are also available for your foodie friends – or just to spoil yourself. We got to try each of the four in this range and I was surprised to find I actually liked the mildest most. Usually I find myself drawn to more intense flavours, as others were that evening, but not this time. It was surprising just how different each of these oils were. We also got to try the award winning Oleosetin unfiltered extra virgin olive oil and this was my winner, so the award was justified! So much so that I bought a bottle at the end of the evening. Prices are quite reasonable for quality extra virgin olive oil and range from £7 for the Oleosetin 250ml bottle up to £15 for the Texturas 1 litre tins.
We eagerly moved onto the demonstration, led by Jess, who has been at the cookery school since it began. Edinburgh New Town Cookery School offers a range of cookery programmes covering cuisines around the world and catering for varying abilities, including children and teen classes. The most popular course they offer is Curries from Around the World but they also offer courses in cuisines from countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Spain, France plus specialist patisserie courses. The courses usually have a demonstration and then students go upstairs to the kitchen to cook their own lunch. There is more cooking throughout the afternoon and students get to take home their food. The demonstration set up is clever as there is a reflective surface above the work surface so you can also see from above what is happening with the food. Although these courses can be quite intensive, both Fiona and Jess assure us that there is a convivial atmosphere and none of that Gordon Ramsay shouty stuff. Also, your ingredients are already weighed out for you. Now if only I could get that at home!
Jess then took us on a whistle stop tour of cuisines. Firstly, she started on an empanada, which is a Galician Flat Pie. This is a delightful pie with a pork and chorizo filling. Whilst she set that off to cook in the oven, she then created a romesco sauce, which can be used for a multitude of different things but today was going to serve as a dip for some crudités. This had a pepper and tomato base and had a good, chunky texture that stuck well to the crudités.
Jess then went on to create a Thai red curry paste from scratch. One of my work colleagues is from Thailand so I ran the recipe by her the next day. Whilst there were a few differences to what she would do (no paprika, she’d use fresh rather than powdered turmeric and would also pound to make a paste rather than a food processor so wouldn’t need the oil) she said it was decent enough and maybe westernised a bit for convenience. This paste was then used to make a Panaeng style curry with prawns, which is actually very easy to make once you have done the work with the curry paste.
Jess then started on the Vietnamese Grass Beef and Noodle salad (Bun Bo Xao). This had a long list of ingredients but was not too complicated to pull together either and was quite impressive piled up when complete. This was actually my favourite dish as I could wrap up some of the stir fry into a little gem lettuce leaf as a tasty little parcel. The empanada was also released from the oven and looked spectacular when cut. All the food was then lined up for us to taste and they were all excellent. Nothing was too spicy, which was a surprise, but it all packed plenty of flavour. Any student would feel a great sense of accomplishment by completing these dishes and would be welcomed by friends at a dinner party.
Finally there was a chocolate and raspberry tart to sample. Whilst we didn’t see this prepared, I was still happy to sample the results. Again, delicious, with the raspberries cutting though the rich chocolate.
I enjoyed seeing what Edinburgh New Town Cookery School had to offer. It certainly got me thinking about getting back into the kitchen to try out some new recipes. The short courses the school offers are not cheap but not wildly expensive either when you consider the food and training you get. If you are looking to have a small but excellent repertoire to show off at dinner parties, it is probably money well spent. The professional courses are quite a bit more expensive and would likely require some saving for the average person. More information can be found on their website (at the top of this post).
Thanks to Svetlana and Edinburgh New Town Cookery School for inviting me to this event.