Last month Sarah, from Wuthering Bites
, and I were invited by Vale House Kitchen to try out a cookery course at the newly opened cookery school. We chose the one day seasonal cooking course and waited somewhat impatiently for the day to arrive. Vale House Kitchen, a country skills style cookery school is situated in a beautiful country house in Timsbury a picturesque village just 8 miles outside of Bath, and for non drivers they offer a shuttle service from Villa Magdala
in Bath, which is a nice touch. To find out more about their story there is a great video here
on their site that tells you their whole story of doing up the house and what they hope people will come to the school for. Before I start telling you more about my day on the course here is a photo of me and one of the Vale House Kitchen residents.
We were a class of 4, the maximum for each course is around 8-10 so you don't feel like you are being left behind at any stage and can easily ask for help before anything burns. Our course leader for the day was Tim Maddams, who after working for the likes of Mark Hix and Marco Pierre White, settled down in Devon working at River Cottage as head chef of the Axminster canteen and regularly featuring in the River Cottage TV series. Tim also runs his own creative food company called Green Sauce which you can find more about on their website
. Tim is a wonderful teacher, really relaxed and so the mood of the day was fun, chatty but we also made a lot of food. I already find cooking relaxing and therapeutic, inherited from my mum she is wonderfully calm and serene in the kitchen, so I knew I was going to enjoy the day.
|our kitchen for the day|
We headed upstairs to the beautifully light kitchen, the kitchen of my dreams essentially. We were greeted with mugs of tea by owner Bod Griffiths and his wife Annie, lovely friendly people, and Tim had made some gluten free drop scones to go with jam left over from one of their jam making courses. The raspberry and vanilla jam was heaven I could have eaten the whole plate, but manners restrained me from scoffing the lot.
Our first order of the day was bread. Now I don't know about you but I rarely even muster the energy to think about making bread. Bristol has some wonderful bakeries and it does seem like a lot of hard work, rather embarrassingly after starting I realised it wasn't at all. Tim had decided our loaf would be a white one with some rye thrown in for good measure, rustic and country style, perfect with lots of butter. Sarah meanwhile had some of the Doves farm gluten free flour and Tim was giving his best advice for a gluten free loaf, as they can be rather tricky to master.
|after a few hours proving ready to be baked|
I was rather pleased when Tim revealed that we would be making the dessert and it would be creme Catalan, something I am rather fond of but have never made. We whisked up the egg yolk (thank you hens), Yeo Valley cream and sugar and as a bonus we lined our earthenware dish with some foraged boysenberries and prepped the pud for the oven.
|Tim advising us on creme Catalan|
Whilst waiting for our dough to rise our next order of the day was a slow cooked courgette sauce to go with some fresh pasta. We watched as Tim showed us how to make a basic pasta dough, and as it's difficult to make in small quantities for one we took some of his dough to roll out and make into shapes. I definitely got mine thin enough but when it comes to folding anything, paper or pasta I am useless, I managed to make some shapes but certainly not as neatly as everyone else.
To go with our home made pasta we made a slow cooked courgette dish which was a complete revelation, I have already added this to my regular mid week rotation. Courgettes are disliked by a lot of people I know, unfairly I feel, but this actually will change people's minds about them. We cooked them slow for quite a while in plenty of olive oil with lots of garlic plus rosemary until they were almost completely broken down, the flavour coming up from the pan was heavenly to a hungry me so it was food torture waiting to put the dish together. Luckily after a grating of parmesan we were ready to eat our lunch, which was just as well as my stomach was making loud lamentations.
|How it was supposed to turn out|
|my version, not too shabby really|
This was so delicious the flavour was so perfect, I made it again the other night with some added bacon and Rich, who is normally a bit unsure of courgettes, went back for seconds. A simple dinner idea that doesn't cost the earth this was possibly my favourite dish on the course, although the creme Catalan gave it some stiff competition. Immediately after lunch we started on our spiced marrow pickle, something I'd never made before and was surprised how simple it was I will go over this in more detail in the next blog post, where I will share Tim's pickle recipe for you to try at home, perfect with mature cheddar.
Our final dishes were all centred around partridge cooked two ways. We removed the legs and with tomatoes, herbs and garlic cooked them slowly for about an hour. Whilst this was cooking we popped in our loaves after their final prove. For the second way of cooking partridge we removed the breasts and seasoned and pan fried them about 1-2 minutes each side. After all that cooking we were rewarded by being allowed to eat our efforts, Bod had been busy in the kitchen downstairs making roasted rosemary new potatoes and squash to go with our partridge.
|Tim's partridge |
|blow torched by my own fair hands|
The meal was excellent, if I do say so myself, yes my presentation is certainly a bit more rough and ready compared to Tim's but he is a professional. Having never been on a cookery course before I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it, it only gave me the bug to want to do some more. Vale House Kitchen offers a relaxed approach which for me really puts you at ease and it does feel like a nice family affair plus you know exactly where your food has come from, we tested Bod and he knows it all, quite the expert you see. Also you will see below that my bread turned out rather well.
|hearty country loaf|
So if you fancy treating your food mad loved one to a course, or just feel like honing your skills, Vale House Kitchen has a great number of courses to sample all you have to do is decide which one you want. Courses start at £135 but you make a lot in your day, I was told on the jam making course they went home with a stock cupboard full of jam. Definitely somewhere I am considering sending my mum as I think it's really her thing and she'd really enjoy making some things she wouldn't normally cook. If you want to find out more about Vale House Kitchen visit their website
. Stay tuned, the next blog will share the marrow pickle recipe that would be perfect for late December (I am refusing to say the word til next month) gifts. To see what Sarah made of the course read her blog post on Wuthering Bites
Wow! Your dishes all look amazing! Sounds like you were a natural! And you suit a hen btw :)ReplyDelete
Beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing.ReplyDelete
Sounds like a great course! That homemade pasta looks delicious.ReplyDelete
Thanks guys I do rather suit a hen! The pasta was super delicious looking forward to making it at home!ReplyDelete