Category Archives: cookery courses

Looking for a last minute Christmas present…how about an exotic cookery course?

I sell both supper club and cookery course vouchers but there are certain cookery skills I do not have and sometimes its better to leave things in the hands of others that know how. Which is exactly what I did for my other half. It was his birthday last week.

Maggie & Sean working together

The other half is not an easy man to buy for and the only two things on his Christmas and birthday list this year were a sea safety course and a chain saw. Great! Just what I want to buy.

In an inspired moment after a chance meeting I decided to buy him a half days cookery lesson. Those that know him will laugh, but it wasn’t any old cookery course in fact it was a West Indian pattie making course. Why? you may ask. Having grown up in and around Moss side in Manchester he grew up eating Jamaican Patties (which for those that don’t know are spicy meat or vegetable pasties). The pastry is quite different; yellow in colour but as I have discovered without the secret of how to do it, an authentic pattie is difficult to recreate….and trust me I have tried at his insistence.

So I decided he could learn the skill for himself so I contacted Maggie from Maggies exotic foods and The Melting Pot Cafe. We had a few conversations and we set a date for her to come and spend an afternoon teaching him.

We managed to keep it secret despite his constant questioning “will I be learning a new skill?” yes we said “do I have to take my clothes off”? um, definitely not!

He only guessed what he would be doing when Maggie arrived. He was nervous as hell but Maggie was a wonderful teacher explaining everything to him patiently. They banned me from the kitchen, which was quite nice but also a little disconcerting. I could hear them chatting and it all sounded very relaxed and basically good fun.

At the end of the session Sean proudly presented his cooked patties….they were delicious and very moreish! He now has the skill to make more and I will no longer get hounded to make them…so we are all happy! Seans verdict? The most unexpected, random but fun and useful present…he was a very happy man.

Maggie doesn’t only cook patties so if you would like to book her for an exotic cookery course she can be found at;

Maggies Exotic foods, The Red Lion, 19 High Street, Penygroes, Caernarfon LL54 6PL

Give her a call on: 01286 880650 or 07949 589736

You can also drop her an email via her website

 

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A late middle eastern summer lunch….and a dessert of spiced poached pears & blackcurrant friande.

When supper club fans Antonia and Gail asked me to run a middle eastern/Ottolenghi inspired cookery session for their friend Liz’s birthday, the one thing they couldn’t predict was the weather. As we approached the end of September in Wales it appeared winter was well on its way, it was becoming rather damp and grim, but just when I’d pulled out those chunky jumpers from the back of my wardrobe, it all changed.

We couldn’t have asked for a more glorious day to cook and what better way to celebrate the beautiful middle eastern/mediterranean theme than lunch served on the sun-baked patio.

I rolled up and took over Antonia’s kitchen at about 9.30 unpacking two crates of equipment, fresh local veg and a plethora of exotic spices commonly used by Ottolenghi in his book Plenty. Z’atar, sumac, nigella seeds, cumin, black sesame, white sesame, smoked paprika, star anise, in their packages lay scattered across the table for my four ‘pupils’ to sniff as we discussed their common uses.

As part of the package I provided printed notes/recipes and working around Antonia’s island we shared the making and preparing of four different salads; a butterbean and rosemary hummus (which has now become my hummus of choice) and carrot and beetroot slaw with nigella and sesame seeds, courtesy of Ellie and Rosie at salad club and a Farro and roasted pepper salad and a green couscous from Ottolenghi’s book Plenty, plus his savoury tart tatin. We then made some simple flat bread and a spiced poached pear, blackcurrant friande with amaretto cream all of my own for pudding.

assembling the tatin watched by my 'pupils'!

hands on....removing the charred skin of grilled peppers for the farro salad

Gail enjoying the smell of rosemary, garlic and lemon emanating from the food processor as we made the hummus

Each lady took responsibility for preparing a salad while I tried not to take over, did a lot of washing up and tried to impart some tricks of the trade. I encouraged everyone to taste as we went along commenting on seasoning and flavourings (does it need anything else? Was my frequent question) something that we often forget to do but is very important. The only demo’s I really did were making a caramel for the top of the tatin and its construction and the sponge for the friande.

friandes coming out of the oven

It was a really communal day with a great sense of achievement at the end. Everything worked beautifully; the salads looked fantastic served Ottolenghi style on a big platter, the colours stunning in the lunchtime sun. The breads were beautifully speckled and the tatin sweet and rich. Pudding was sublime!

the table set for lunch in Antonia's garden

The lunch guests arrived to whom the ladies showed off their fantastic creations and Antonia laid the table in the garden. They wanted me to stay for lunch and of course I wasn’t about to refuse…if only could have drunk more wine, but just as we finished it was time for me to nip round the corner to pick Aidan up from school and head off home in the car.

dinner guests arriving

I’m hoping the ladies will have learned a few tips for making quick, easy and striking middle eastern feasts. First; be brave about experimenting with strange ingredients or combinations of spices and then don’t hold back with those spices and seasonings and second, most dishes (even if they seem off-putting because they have lots of ingredients) are actually quite straight forward and totally worth the effort. Personally I am taking notes for the future on how to lead a decadent retirement!!


For the poached pears I used:

800g sugar

400ml water

400ml red wine

Cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla pod and a couple of sprigs of thyme

8 pears

Place the sugar, water, wine and spices in a pan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Peel the pears leaving the stalks on and place in the prepared syrup. Cover and simmer gently for 20 to 30 minutes until translucent (or pierced easily by a sharp knife or skewer).

Remove from the syrup and place in a serving dish. Boil the syrup hard until reduced by half and syrupy. Spoon over the pears which can be served hot or cold with cream.

The Friande is a light almondy sponge. For mine I used:

200g icing sugar

50g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

130g ground almonds

6 x egg whites

Zest of 2 lemons

2 tsp vanilla essence

170g salted butter, plus extra for greasing

3 tbsp black currants or other berries.

For the Amaretto cream: 250ml double cream, 20g icing sugar, 20ml Amaretto

Preheat the oven to 200C / gas mark 6.

Grease eight moulds and dust with flour. Melt the butter.

Sift the icing sugar and flour into a bowl and stir in the almonds.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks then gently fold them into the dry ingredients with a metal spoon and a really light hand. Be careful not to over mix as the air will be lost and the sponges will flop!

Add the lemon zest and fold in the melted butter and vanilla essence, still stirring as lightly as possible. Finally, fold in the fruit.

Fill the prepared moulds and place the friandes in the oven for around 20 minutes until light, well risen and firm when pressed on top with a finger.

To make the Amaretto cream:

Whip the cream with the icing sugar until quite firm then fold in the amaretto. Keep in the fridge until ready to serve so it’s almost like serving ice cream.

Pudding!!

Totally sinful, but undeniably blissful!

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Hello i’m back!!…and here’s what’s in store for September and October

Phew!! Its been a whirlwind month at the Green Man festival and it feels somewhat strange being back in my own house and not having to get up at six every morning to cook breakfast lunch and dinner for 50 people every day.

What with the long hours and intermittent internet access I have little time to think about the outside world, living in a self-contained little bubble, where everyone becomes family (albeit a somewhat dysfunctional one at times).   I made a lot of great friends, had a whale of a time but I’m glad to return to the real world.

But now that Autumn is creeping up on us, the kids are going back to school and holiday time is drawing to a close its time to look ahead. With so many exciting things coming up I have no time to feel sad about the end of summer and I really can’t wait for the Autumn and Winter!

Our next scheduled supper club is Saturday 1st October and unfortunately (or fortunately for me) it is already full. But do not fear, there will be plenty of other opportunities to attend.

On Saturday 5th November we are planning a bonfire and fireworks supper club where we will be serving lots of yummy warming food for a cold November, mulled wine, spiced punch, treacle tart and parking topped off with a bonfire and some fireworks to ooh and aah to.

and then Saturday 26th November which will have lots of hearty, wintry dishes

During September look closely and you will also find me at the Ogwen local Produce market (Saturday 10th September and Saturday 8th October) with freshly made jams and chutney’s; I will also be helping out Ellie and Rosie from Salad Club with their food stall at Harvest at Jimmy’s in Oxfordshire (9th – 11th September)  and at Conwy Feast doing a food demo and again with my Jam and Chutney stall (22nd -23rd October) more details to follow.

On 13th September and 22nd November I will be running a seasonal cookery course for  Moelyci Environmental Centre. Contact Naomi in the office for more details.

If none of these dates suit then feel free to call or email to discuss private bookings and bespoke cookery courses.

Look forward to hearing from youor seeing you over the coming months

Denise xxx

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