Earlier this year the Devon Foodie team pledged to expand our culinary horizons and get to work improving our skills in the kitchen. Gone would be the days of cheese on toast; it was decided that 2017 would be the year of the perfectly risen soufflé and of beautifully clear consommés. Well, that’s the theory anyway.. So you can imagine our delight when we heard about Ashburton Cookery School’s ‘Demo and Dine‘ evenings. The events are designed to take you through the process of preparing and cooking several courses, themed around a particular cuisine. The best part? You get to eat everything they make at the end. Result!
Back in January we were lucky enough to be invited to their second ever ‘demo and dine’ and looked forward to an evening of informal learning and French Bistro delights…
Since we live in East Devon, we arrived in Asburton a little too early and found ourselves passing the time in the busy little wine bar, No.14 (tough life, am I right?). Therefore, we were among the first to arrive for the demo and dine evening.
As soon as we stepped inside the cookery schools brand new premises we were greeted by an enticing gift shop filled with kitchenware, recipe books, aprons and other foodie delights. We browsed through the products on display before being offered a glass of fizz – or a locally sourced ginger beer for the designated drivers – and got chatting to the other diners as they started to arrive. The bubbly seemed to be going down pretty well and no sooner than it had been poured, we found ourselves been shown into one of their fully equipped kitchen classrooms.
We knew we were in capable hands because our tutors for the evening were Darrin Hosegrove (Chief Director) and David Gardiner (Chefs Academy Manager). Both chefs took to the floor at the front of the classroom, where two flat screen televisions were fixed to the wall to give the class a clear view of every step they would take that during the session. From the off, both chef’s relaxed approach really put us at ease and they began by taking it in turns explaining the processes behind each of the dishes we would be enjoying that evening.
Darrin kicked off the evening with the starter: Provencal Bouillabaisse with Rouille, Garlic Croutons and Gruyere cheese. He begun with a little background (did you know that this now incredibly popular French meal used to be a peasant supper?) before giving us tips on how to prepare each element of the dish. We got advice on where to source our fish for the richest flavours and tips on preparing seafood broths in advance. So when the aromas from the bouillabaisse started to permeate through the air, we both stared to feel mighty hungry! Luckily, the chefs were on hand with spoons and invited everyone to come up and sample the finished dish.
Darrin made the whole process look so easy that we think we’re going to try and make it ourselves at home!
Up next, David demonstrated what was to be our main course for the evening: Aged West Country Rump Steak with Shallots, Smoked Bacon, Pomme Fondant, Glazed Haricot Vert & a Red Wine Jus. Besides walking us through the dish, he also imparted some handy tips & tricks of the trade:
– Put your bacon into the freezer for ten minutes before use as it makes it easier to chop.
– If a vegetable grows underground (potatoes, carrots, beets, turnips), start it off in cold water and gradually raise the temperature. If it grows above ground (greens, peas, corn) start it off in boiling water.
– When cutting off the ends of asparagus, gently bend the vegetable and it will naturally break off the woody bits
With the demonstration over, the chefs opened the floor to questions and we all got a chance to ask for their advice. Then we gathered together the recipe folders they had provided us with – now scribbled with notes – and hot footed it into the dining room for the grand finale.
For the next hour and a half we sat with our fellow foodies and got to enjoy the food we had just watched been made. Each course was served alongside delicious homemade rolls and unlimited wine and soft drinks.
We started off with a creamy volute with truffle oil, followed by our very own bowl of bouillabaisse. We loved this dish and could easily have eaten it by the bucket!
The Devon Ruby Red Steak was next. We enjoyed this dish too, though unfortunately we both found it was quite chewy, which was a great shame considering the amount of work that had gone into it. The vegetables on the other hand were perfectly cooked and the ambience throughout the dining room more than made up for the extra jaw action.
Overall, we were impressed by our Demo and Dine evening at Ashburton Cookery School. We left wanting to experience a cookery class or two and we had a very enjoyable evening meeting likeminded people. We learned the necessary skills required to cook tasty French bistro food at home and at £45 per person (including the meal) you can’t really go wrong. Definitely give this a go if you want to improve your culinary knowledge without having to get stuck right in straight away.