Regular readers of my blog will have noticed that things have been a bit quiet here at Zest and Herbs for a little while. Don’t think I’ve decided to give up on it though — quite the opposite in fact. For the last few weeks I’ve been at Ashburton Cookery School in Devon to help move things forward. The school has been running for about ten years and has received much acclaim as one of the top cookery schools in the UK. I’ve met lots of great people and after a three week course that has flown by, I’m quite sad that it has all come to an end.
I toyed with the idea of a professional cookery course a couple of years ago. At first, I decided that it would go far beyond what I felt was important someone writing purely with home cookery in mind. After learning more about the backgrounds of some contemporary food writers who don’t work in professional kitchens, I felt some evidence of ability was a good idea. By taking a cookery course, I was hoping to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge, particularly surrounding the “classical” French cookery that underpins what we find in most restaurants today: things like stocks and sauces, and skills like basic butchery and filleting a fish. Improving my presentation skills to help with what you see on the blog was also a something I wanted help with, and as it was mentioned on their website, this is what drew me strongly to the course at Ashburton Cookery School.
After a short three weeks, I certainly feel like I’ve got out of the course everything I wanted — I’m more confident when it comes to stocks and can now tell a jus from a velouté. Also the difference that precision and attention to detail in every stage of cooking has on the look and taste of the finished dish, right down the way you cut your vegetables, is something I’ll certainly take away. I’ve picked up a few tricks from professional kitchens that will make things easier in my own kitchen and a few things that I wasn’t expecting too, like baking bread, understanding how seasoning works a bit better, the fundamentals of Thai cooking and more about chickens than I realised there was to know! I would have liked a little more hands-on experience with desserts (and less with polenta), but there’s only so much you can do in a day.
Beyond practical knowledge however, I’ve left Devon with a handful of new friends, lots of new ideas and also more confidence. Now when I write a recipe, I have more experience to trust it myself, and there’s a certificate that means hopefully you as a reader can too. I’ve also brought back a couple of extra pounds, but the less said about that the better!
Although I’m looking forward to Christmas and spending time catching up with family and friends, I’ve got lots of plans of things to be writing about over the coming weeks that are decidedly not festive. There are a couple of recipes still drifting around from the autumn, as well as a clutch of book reviews and some more factual-cum-opinion style articles that I hope you’ll enjoy when you don’t even want to contemplate doing something imaginative with leftover turkey. So enter your email address in the sidebar for those updates to your inbox, or follow me via WordPress or Twitter as well and watch this space. And of course, you can still get in touch with me through the comments below (you don’t an account to do so), on Twitter or by email with any questions or feedback or ideas you have about things I should be doing too.