WHAT IT’S LIKE
The Foodworks Cookery School is set in a purpose-built barn in the heart of the Cotswolds. Owner Harriet met us with a big smile and ushered us upstairs to the mezzanine, where we had enough time to grab a cuppa, have a chat and enjoy the view over the bright, well-equipped school below.
There’s plenty of space and each student has a set of chef’s tools. The school takes 12 students at a time, just the right number for a buzzy but uncrowded learning environment.
WHAT I LEARNED
Erin Baker, our tutor, is a vegetarian chef with a fascinating range of recipe ideas and knowledge of flavours. Her tips, tricks and titbits peppered our learning throughout the day. Before we got to work on the cooking, we dabbled in a sort of salad dressing playtime. We were like children being shown the dress-up box: Erin presented a basket of oils, vinegars, mustards, herbs, chillies and citrus fruit as she shared her first rule of salads: “The key to making a good one is the dressing. A chef never sends a salad out naked.”
Once we’d learned the ratio for a basic dressing (three parts oil to one part vinegar, or 1 tbsp to 1 tsp), we were let loose on the box to experiment with combinations and seasonings. After mixing and whisking into our ramekins, Erin asked us to taste each other’s dressings, encouraging us to recommend adjustments. “Sometimes just a pinch of salt can bring it all together,” she explained.
So why should you bother making your own salad dressings? “A big bottle of vinegar lasts longer and is cheaper than any bottle of salad dressing you can buy – and the possibilities and flavours are endless.” That’s the general gist of the course: demystifying vegetarian and salad cooking using buildable ideas, bold flavours and uncomplicated ingredients. The day offered an excellent mix of demos from Erin, and hands-on teamwork between pairs of coursegoers to create a total of eight salads and dips.
Once finished, everything was taken outside to enjoy in the glorious kitchen garden over a glass of wine, along with some extra goodies made by Erin. These included a huge spicy peanut noodle salad and gluten-free chickpea flatbreads – all exceptionally good. There were plenty of leftovers to take home, too.
The course is fantastic value. We were able to put Erin’s nuggets of wisdom into practice straightaway and the whole thing felt achievable, relaxing and fun. It was easy to make friends as well, as we were encouraged to work together and soon formed a bond.
It was an inspiring day with plenty of take-home techniques and recipes that
I know I’ll come back to again and again.
WHERE TO STAY
The Painswick – The rolling, folded hills of the Painswick valley are the setting for this 16-bedroom Palladian mansion a 25-minute drive from the cookery school. Some of the rooms are romantically snug, some bright and breezy with
a balcony, but all have the eye of a stylist in their design. The hotel has top-notch food, too: chef Jamie McCallum’s seasonal menu makes local produce sing.
For drinks before and after dinner, there’s a cosy sitting room, complete with fireplace if you’re visiting in winter, and the small cocktail bar makes
a mean espresso martini. Take advantage of the free wellies and maps if you’re up for a walk.
*Rooms from £159 (breakfast extra)