There aren’t many things that will get me out of bed at 5.30am apart from an early morning flight or the promise of a luxurious pamper day but I made an exception last Friday when Ms S and I were invited down to the exquisite Lucknam Park Hotel in Wiltshire to celebrate the year’s anniversary of their new cookery school.
Lucknam has held a Michelin Star for over eight years now and former Park Restaurant head chef Hrishikesh Desai heads up the cookery school. Chef Desai (or Kesh as we called him) already has many accolades to his name, having won the prestigious Roux Scholarship in 2009 followed by the coveted National Chef of the Year Award in 2010. He also had the ultimate chefs dream opportunity of designing the Cookery School with renowned architect Stephen Graver. The kitchen accommodates 12 trainees comfortably at three different stations and the equipment and facilities are all state of the art including fantastic Atag induction hobs.
Kesh offers courses in practically every style of cooking from ‘Michelin Star Cooking at Home’ to ‘Breakfast Made Easy’. He is passionate about flavours, as his love of food stems from his childhood travelling around India and chefing in France.
This particular course spoke very loudly to Ms S and I, Ms S being veggie (and as you foodies know Indian food lends itself very well to vegetarian cuisine) and my own penchant for lots of lovely little tasty tapas style dishes. So after arriving for our 8.30am start we got kitted out in our Chef Whites and introduced ourselves to our fellow student chefs for the day over a selection of coffee and pastries. Richard and Jayne were down from Cheshire having booked in on the gourmet stay with a seven-course tasting menu in the Park along with wines to match (yes we were jealous), and good pals Richard and Nigel from the Bath area were looking for tips for great new recipes to try out on their families.
We gathered around the teaching station and were taken through the basic chutney recipes (mint, chutney and tamarind) and watched a chickpea curry being made. The learning was continual – from a demonstration of peoples perceptions of a ‘pinch’ of salt which was fascinating – to showing how spices subtly change flavour given how long they are toasted or crushed for, meaning everyone’s dishes will always taste different to each others. Who knew that naan bread was eaten in certain parts of India and rice favoured in others? Kesh’s knowledge of spicing and flavouring is extensive and he took endless questions from us all on when to add salt, which bit of the chilli to use, what type of tamarind makes the best chutney and just how to cut onions to stop yourself from crying! We also learnt Chef’s mantra, “a hot pan is a happy pan…”!
We moved on to making our own dough for flat bread where Ms S found a new skill in ‘kneading’ although Kesh challenged her to be firmer but less aggressive as she got quite carried away. This basic recipe is so very useful as from it you can make all different types of naan. We added a beaten egg to our mix making the indian equivalent to ‘eggy bread’ and were rewarded with a fabulous mint and coriander marinated kebab (Kaathi) which had been sizzling in chef’s oven and was put straight into the middle of our bread, then rolled up and wolfed down without ceremony!
The dishes then came thick and fast. Bhel Puri was a salad made of puffed rice, bombay mix and tomato with mint chutney and standout favourite the heavenly Pani Puri – little hollow puffs of batter filled with the chick pea curry and tamarind and mint water which popped in the mouth. Ms S and I became a tad cocky with our potato mix for Aloo Tikki and mistook the dish of chopped green chili’s for a measured amount, chucking the whole lot in. Kesh declared it a health and safety hazard and refused to let us eat it – thank goodness! Ms S had the term ‘marinade’ explained to her as she had previously thought it was a physical technique rather than an actual sauce and I learnt that to misread the amount of water needed in dough could be totally disastrous…
We watched in fascination as Kesh demonstrated how to make a perfect envelope fold in a samosa – link below.
By the time we came to sit at the beautifully laid dining table to graze on our days handiwork there was not much space left in stomachs to consume our wares but we had a good go! Warning to others doing the course – pace yourself! Ms S and I both ended up with bright red chilli flushed cheeks and veritable ‘spice babies’ in our bellies! We finished the day very inspired – Jayne and Richard had recently purchased a ‘Tandoor’ oven and were both very enthused to get started on their own Indian odyssey. Ms S was keen to try out her ‘take-home’ dough while Nigel who has a small holding was working out creative ways to feed his large family. I will personally feel much more confident when experimenting with marinades now I understand the order the ingredients should go in (cooked and ground spices last).
We left clutching folders of recipes and plastic tubs full of the days treats to take home to families.
Kesh is patient and informative and not at all scary like some top chefs can appear to be. His stories of his own culinary journey made the day very personal and the size of the group meant that we each had lots of time with him and he could linger on dishes that we had more questions about. This course is great for amateur and advanced cooks alike as recipes include ingredients, sauces and chutneys that can be bought in or made from scratch.
Ms S and I decided we needed to walk off at least a little of the days intake before folding ourselves back in the car so went and visited Lucknam’s extensive stables. We then had a quick tour of the wonderful spa and a sneak preview of the new Well-Being Centre which has the UK’s only SAD therapy room which we have promised to trial in the winter months. Between the cookery school, equestrian centre, gorgeous spa and fabulous Well-Being centre with its Executive Burn-Out course (Ms S volunteered for this), Michelin star restaurant and uber stylish Brasserie – we won’t need much coaxing to return.
For details of Lucknam’s Cookery School courses then visit http://www.lucknampark.co.uk/cookeryschool/courses/.
Up and coming events to note include a new extraordinarily good value Curry Supper Club on Wednesday 16th October and Wednesday 18th December which includes a demonstration from Kesh, two curries and a matched glass of wine or beer for just £25. Book now as maximum attendees are 12.
In celebration of the great Bath Feast the Chefs have also created a ½ day course for just £75 that will feature the best local seasonal produce. The course will be a mix of demonstrations and practical sessions allowing you to create two dishes in full. Enjoy a fun interactive class with a focus on the best of Bath and the surrounding area. Choose from either the morning course 8.30am – 12.30pm or the afternoon course 1.30pm – 4.30pm on Monday 14th October and Monday 21st October.
Gift vouchers are also available for the Cookery School – methinks Christmas presents? There will be more to come from Design Restaurants on the cookery school soon.
‘Street food of India’ was £175 for the day including all food and drink and recipes to take home. The attractive ‘chilli flush’ was free.
Review by Mrs Robinson.
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