I was lucky enough to get invited to try a class at The Cook School, based in Kilmarnock south of Glasgow. I decided to pick a class that I thought would be a challenge – game cookery has always frightened me because I never know whether it’s actually cooked or not, so I decided that was the class for me.
The day started with tea and scones in the dining room where you got to meet your fellow chefs for the day. Our class was being taken by Gary MacLean with Heather Hood helping out.
Gary and Heather
I don’t know that you could have two nicer chefs as instructors (I haven’t met the other chefs of The Cook School though!). If you had any questions, problem or needed a hand, one of them was always close by to come to the rescue. It made the whole day relaxing and enjoyable rather than stressful as some people who are new to the kitchen may worry about.
We then moved into the cooking area – everyone had a station fitted out with a newfandangled induction stove and cooktop (absolute bliss to cook on) with all your ingredients ready to go. Each recipe was demonstrated by Gary before you were let loose to have a go yourself.
Gary demonstrated bread making (foccacia) and a vegetable tagine, and then we made the tagine.
Vegetable tagine (uncooked)
The tagine was a combination of sturdy root vegetables like squash, celeriac, carrot and pumpkin and was then slow cooked in the tagine at 140 degrees for as long as you could. The vegetables held together during the cooking process really well and really developed their flavour.
Saddle of roe deer with walnut dressing and beetroot salad
This was my favourite dish to make – it was really easy but looks very flash, and would be a great dinner party dish to serve up as it is really quick. The walnut dressing was great, even though I added too much vinegar to mine!
Apple tart tatin on the induction stove
I’ve made focaccia myself at home before but it didn’t rise as much as this one – Heather’s tip of the day was to add more sugar which gives it some extra rise. This was light and soft and a really nice accompaniment to the main dish of the roast pheasant.
Roast pheasant resting from the oven (sorry for the somewhat gruesome photo!)
The roast pheasant was a real challenge – especially learning how to truss it. I’ve never bothered trussing poultry before when I roast it but I always will now – the legs can stop the breast meat from drying out when they are trussed. Also, I never realised how easy poultry is to carve when you take out the wishbone!
I don’t have a photo of the apple tart tatin and sadly I’ve eaten mine already – I will make another one and post a picture though as I think it was my second favourite thing of the day!
Roast pheasant with vegetable tagine
Gary showed us a range of game animals pre-processing to see what kinds of animals they get in, I haven’t posted the pictures here in case anyone is a bit queasy about that kind of thing – but leave me a comment if you do want to see them and I’ll add them in a separate post! The course made me a lot more confident about cooking game and I will be definitely be trying a different kind of meat when we have people over next. Scotland is a real treasure-trove of delicious meats and it’s a shame to stick with the supermarket standards. If you’re not sure where to get your meat from, The Cook School Shop
can sort you out. They sell cooking supplies as well as game meats, cheeses and sauces.
The cooking stations
The Cook School was a great experience and it was lovely to meet the chefs as well as the people enjoying the class. I really enjoyed sitting in the dining room at the end of the day and getting to sample the foods we’d made, as well as have a nice glass of wine. We got to take home our leftovers from the day, including our whole tart tatin which was lovely for dessert the following night, as well as a goodie bag with the recipes, folder and our apron home. The Chook School Shop has a great supply of hard to get items – including my long-lusted for panko bread crumbs.
I had a brilliant day at The Cook School and would recommend the class to any level of cook – if you have an interest in game meats, this is the class for you. If you’re interested in the Market Kitchen class, Leila recently visited for that one, you can read her post over at Leil’Appetit
to see the tasty things she made.
Thanks to Taste Communications for arranging my visit and to Gary and Heather for being so lovely and helpful.
The Cook School is at 7 Moorfield North Industrial Park, Crosshouse, Kilmarnock, KA2 0FE