Have you compiled any New Year's resolutions? This year, instead of my usual 'ditch the Krispy Kremes and get thee to a gym' resolutions, I've decided to set some goals that actually might be achievable and fun. I've always wanted to improve my cookery 'skills' and something that has intrigued me in recent years is the trend for group cookery classes.
Have you noticed the wave of cookery schools popping up around the UK? Leith's Cooking School, Vegetarian Cookery School and L'atelier des Chefs are just some of the names that might have made it onto your radar. And then there's the really rather lovely Waitrose Cookery School, which I had the delight of trying out over the festive season. I'll definitely be booking up again soon...for a start you get to drink a glass of wine while you cook - that's always a good sign.
I booked myself onto the Michelin Star At Christmas course. This was a bit adventurous and a step up from the majority of day and evening classes on offer, which include Classic Italian Cookery, Quick and Simple Suppers and Beginner's Filleting and Cooking Fish. It was however very festive, surprisingly easy to follow and really good fun.
The classes are taught by professionally trained chefs who've had experience in cookery schools, Michelin-starred restaurants, on TV and at culinary colleges. After each detailed demonstration you can attempt to make the recipe yourself under the teacher's guidance, using some very nifty apparatus, including All-Clad saucepans. Through a series of demonstrations and practicals led by head pastry chef James Campbell, head chef James Bennington and chef trainer Jon Jones, I managed to whip up a delicious Shellfish Ravioli, Croustillant of Duck Confit, Chestnut and Cranberry and a Black Forest Gateaux. Delicious all round.
The course is designed for you to roll up your sleeves and have fun, but also learn how to make great meals and pick up tips that you can use everyday in the kitchen. I've included the recipe for Shellfish Ravioli below, which you might like to try. Who knows, if you do decide to take a course by this time next year you just might be in the running for Masterchef 2013...
Recipe for Michelin-style Shellfish Ravioli
For the pasta dough
95g pasta flour
1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk
For the ravioli filling
100g scallop meat
pinch cayenne pepper
1 egg white
100g cooked white crab meat
50g raw king prawns, finely chopping
few drops lemon juice.
2 tbsp butter, melted.
1. First make the pasta dough: blend the four in a food processor, then add the whole egg and egg yolk while the motor is running. Stop blending when the dough comes to a coarse breadcrumb consistency - don't overwork it to a single mass.
2. Remove the coarse crumb from the processor and bring together by hand. Knead for 5 minutes until you have a smooth dough - it should be supple and slightly soft but not at all sticky. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 10 minutes.
3. Prepare the ravioli filling by blending the scallops in a food processor until smooth. Season with a pinch of salt and the cayenne pepper together with the egg white. Blend again to combine.
5. Roll out the pasta dough using a pasta machine until it's wafer thin and silky. Make at least three 'book turns' to ensure the pasta has good strength.
6. Cut out 8 x 10cm discs of pasta. Divide the shellfish mixture into four equal balls. Brush one disc of pasta with a little cold water and place a ball of filling on top. Take a second pasta disc and press on top to seal the edges, ensuring all the air is expelled. Trim with scissors, leaving a 2cm frill. Repeat with the remaining shellfish mixture and pasta discs. Place the ravioli in the fridge for 5 minutes to 'set'.
7. Place the ravioli in salted, simmering water and cook for 5-6 minutes. Drain and serve hot, glazed with a little of the melted butter.
Above: Tah-dah! My attempt at Michelin-style Shellfish Ravioli and a glass of Fief Guerin 2010 Muscadet Cote de Grandlie - Sur Lie (a delicious white). It's shown here with Shellfish Emulsion on top (it's worth taking a course to find out how to make this), but it tastes equally nice with a brush of melted butter to serve.
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Emily Peck, Editor
View all posts by Emily Peck, Editor