Cooking at Leiths School of Food & Wine

Starting a cookery course at Leiths School of Food & Wine was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long time. The brilliant six-week course taught me a ton of useful skills, such as how to season meat, create the perfect caramel, debone a guinea fowl/chicken and make pasta from scratch…

I also learnt how to make a variety of recipes, from Moroccan Lamb Tagine, Asian Steamed Sea Bass, Tagliatelle con Vongole and Seared Rib Eye Steak with Chimichurri sauce, to Blackberry Clafoutis, Chocolate Polenta Cake and Apple Tarts with Calvados Cream (I was particularly proud of these!)…

Although my cooking repertoire (and waistband) has expanded, my favourite thing about the course were the interesting tips and facts I picked up along the way, so here are a few of my favourites:

  • It’s not always essential to use chickpeas when making hummus, butter or cannellini beans work just as well
  • If you’ve cooked vegetables, but don’t intend to eat them straight away, blanch them in cold water as it will stop the cooking process so they don’t turn brown
  • When cooking with chilli, the heat is in the membrane, so scrape it out with a teaspoon if you don’t like your meals too hot
  • A Bouquet Garni is easily made by tying a stick of celery, oregano, sage and a bay leaf together with string. It can be made using other herbs and is the perfect way to season stews, stock and roasted/braised meats
  • If buying live shellfish, such as clams or mussels, don’t leave them in water in the fridge as they’ll drown and probably give you food poisoning… Instead, drain the water and use them as soon as you can
  • Not many people make pasta from scratch, but if you do, don’t add salt to the mixture, as it will draw out the moisture. Leave the salt until you come to cook the pasta – you can add as much as you want to your pan of water, as the pasta will only take on as much as it wants
  • When buying steak, make sure it’s firm and springy to touch, with a dark colour. This shows the meat has been hung for longer, which will give it more flavour. The best place to buy steak is your local butcher, as many supermarkets use a trick to make the meat look darker
  • A great way to season steak is to rub a clove of garlic over the skin before frying/searing or griddling
  • Generally speaking, it’s always best to cook with unsalted butter as you can then dictate how much seasoning the dish has
  • Remember vinegar, lime juice and lemon juice is acidic, so will cook vegetables/herbs/salads when added. To avoid this, add them just before serving where possible so nothing turns brown

Now I just have to work out how on EARTH I will be able to afford another course, but I’m determined to go back – if for no other reason, each week’s left overs have made me very popular with The Boyfriend and my colleagues at work. I also have to work out where to hang my Leiths certificate, which I’m particularly proud of (I just wish they’d added a gold star as surely I was the best in class?!).

3 responses to “Cooking at Leiths School of Food & Wine

  1. Sounds the perfect course and much better than all of these TV cooking programmes! With regards chilli, the other thing to note is that there are many varieties with different levels of ‘heat’. The Scoville scale is a measurement of the spicy heat (or piquance) of a chili pepper. …. “Grantham’s Infinity chilli named hottest in world”!

  2. Some excellent tips, particularly on the vegetables and steak. I cooked some Ray wings at home for the first time today, delicious!

  3. Wonderful post! Youve made some very astute observations and I am thankful for the the effort you have put into your writing. Its clear that you know what you are talking about. I am looking forward to reading more of your sites content.

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