This summer my husband and I are plotting a mini-break with a difference. We want to get away from it all for at least five days and go somewhere near the sea, to relax, unwind and learn some new skills. After working so hard all year, we wanted to stay in a lovely, comfortable country house, with beautiful architecture, antique furniture, soft, fluffy towels, a big dining room table, piles of books and squashy cushions.
We also wanted to book ourselves onto a really personal, residential cookery course where we can learn from someone very kind, patient and experienced who will not mind teaching a group who are not going to be entering Masterchef in the near future. Many cookery courses on the Internet seem so “high powered”, or run by intimidating chefs with Michelin stars, and one-day courses are often just not sufficient to cover a wide enough range of recipes and methods.
Through word of mouth, we heard from a friend of a friend who had enrolled on a cookery course a while ago at Bordeaux Quays in Bristol, and she was singing the praises of cookery teacher Kate Benson. Kate has 25 years of cookery, catering, teaching and food writing under her belt, as well as a qualification from Leith’s School of Food and Wine in London. She has set up a Walled Garden Cookery School, near Newquay in Cornwall, at Tresillian House.
Within minutes we were onto the website and found just what we were looking for. We are going to learn to make terrines, fish pies, good roasts, fresh salads, hearty puddings and generally dishes that can be produced seasonally with minimum fuss and maximum flavours for all our friends and our families. We are going to return armed with information, inspiration and a folder full of recipes, dinner parties plotted and kitchen garden ideas drafted.
The great attraction for us is that we are really keen foodie gardeners, and there is a very beautiful potager within the 22 acre grounds at Tresillian run by Head Gardener, John Harris. Part of the course is going to be learning about sowing, planting, harvesting and preparing fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs. They are all going to be brought into the kitchen, and then Kate is going to show us how to make the very best use of them. I am taking a notebook with me to write down all the hints and tips that I can garner from John about keeping the slugs, snails, caterpillers and aphids off of my produce, as all his growing is done organically, the old-fashioned way.
Also included will be trips to meet local fishermen, a butcher, a pasty maker, a chocolatier and a forager. Now that Cornish pasties are protected by law I know I am going to really enjoy seeing how they are made. I have also heard that beach foraging is all the rage now, so I am going to be all eyes and ears if we do that. Every Cornish holiday I have ever been on has been a foraging heaven for me, as the climate is very mild in winter, moist in spring and sunny in summer, perfect conditions for edible leaves and flowers on every walk.
The peace and quiet of being surrounded by orchards, a lake and lawns to relax on after a day’s cookery, with a glass of wine, homemade nibbles and other foodies to chat to, sounds really appealing to me. We are also going to go out for dinner and try out some local pubs and restaurants nearby. I think Cornwall is gastronomically one of the most interesting regions of the United Kingdom to visit, and we are really looking forward to seeing, sampling and learning from everyone we meet along the way.
Kate is organising a number of dates for the courses, ranging from 3-5 days, spread over the summer culinary repertoire and then going over into Autumn, which we may well book ourselves into as well. We are already thinking about mushrooms, pumpkins, squashes, roaring log fires, chestnut roasting, jam making and apple tarts as we look at all the photos on the website. There are Christmas courses as well, with wreaths, roast geese, cakes, mulled wine and canapés. You just cannot keep a foodie down: there is always too much to look forward to in the next season. We will let The Foodie Bugle readers know how we get on!
For further information:
Website of Kate Benson’s Cookery Classes: www.walledgardencookeryschool.com
Website of Tresillian House: www.tresillian-house.co.uk
Kate Benson’s Mobile number: 0754 060 5736
Future Course Dates for 2011
12-17 June 2011
1-4 July 2011
5-8 July 2011
9-14 October 2011
11-14 November 2011
15-18 November 2011