I arrived a little early for the cookery class I’d been invited to. I’ve been to quite a few classes, including a wonderful day at Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons. It’s always a little unnerving being one of the first to arrive. I wonder what the other people will be like and since this is the fourth in a series of six lessons, they all already know each other.
I needn’t have worried, the door to a substantial new house was opened by a smiling Donna Thacker who took me downstairs to an enormous, modern, but above all, domestic kitchen. The group gradually trickled in, several in pairs but one or two on their own and greeted each other friendlily, everyone chatting happily, catching up on the previous week.
It’s a disperate group, mums who want food that the children will eat and is still interesting for the adults, the older man stuck in a rut of a couple of dishes and the professional woman who wants to just cook easy, interesting food. Everyone settles on high stools around the central Island and Donna begins. It then occurs to me that this is a variation on a demonstration. Anyone can help with chopping, stirring even jointing the brace of pheasant, but essentially this is watching the dishes being made. As each utensil comes out there’s chat and banter – how to sharpen knives, easiest way to crush garlic – blade of a knife versus crusher and the merits of a slow cooker.
Donna, with years of background in catering for large parties and weddings, eight of which was spent in France, encourages the discussions. it’s a very open and relaxed environment. The chat moves on to last weeks lemon chicken, which to my surprise, everyone had cooked at some point for their families the previous week. Surprised because it meant that there was genuine commitment about the classes. Putting what they’d learnt into practice and that the dishes were interesting enough for both the committed and new cook to want to try again.
This is no easy run through of a couple of dishes and despite the chat, Donna asks for attention from time to time, pointing out that there’s a lot to get through. With four dishes to complete in three hours there’s a bombardment of information. We were all given copies of the recipes as we arrived and can follow and ask questions as she goes. There were also requests for dishes to be included in the next weeks, which is why mushroom risotto was on the menu for this session.
After the cooking had finished, we all moved to the large table, taking glasses of wine with us, for a taster of Braised Pheasants In Madeira, Potato Boulangere, Sausage And bean Casserole and Mushroom Risotto. Everyone talking about the easy and hard bits of making each one and when they planned to make them again, a friendly, fabulous meal. At £180 for six weeks (£30 a week) it felt like a bit of a bargain.
This is a great and friendly way to improve your cooking and if Donna’s classes aren’t available to you, check out some local to where you are.
Seriously Good Food School Of Cooking And Eating
Donna’s Sausage And Bean Casserole
- 8 sausages
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 peppers (red, orange or yellow) cut into thick slices
- 1 clove of garlic crushed
- 1 can of butterbeans
- 1 glass of red wine
- 1 jar of passata or 1 can of tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon toamto puree
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 1 bayleaf
- salt and pepper
- Fry the sausages until brown and set aside
- Fry the onion and pepper until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute
- Add the sausages and rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes or until thickened
- Serve with mashed potatoes, parsnips or rice