never taken the cookery course plunge? then allow me to give you a gentle push in Ashburton’s direction.
If you are anything like me, you simply don’t eat enough fish. In my case, this is rather weird because I absolutely love it, especially shellfish.
So when I received the invitation to experience the Ashburton Cookery School, at their new location in Halifax, for a fish and seafood course, I jumped at the chance.
I’m no stranger to the cookery school in Halifax. Under its former owners, I won two trophies for my ability to cook awesome Yorkshire Puddings that, ultimately, led to many TV appearances and the start of YorkshirePudd.co.uk. So the return to where it all started was welcome.
The main operations at Ashburton Cookery School centre on residential courses for people seeking a career in the food industry, but in the weeks those courses are not running, they offer half and full day cookery courses to people who want to learn, broaden their horizons, and impress friends at their next dinner party.
So fish, what do I know about it? Well, it swims in the sea, sometimes it’s smelly, and when I see a whole one, it scares me senseless. In other words, I’m nervous about what to do with it; at least, that was the case.
We start the session by preparing the fish we will need, filleting the sole and mackerel, learning the fundamental differences and skills between filleting flat and rounded fish. We also prepare the ingredients that will accompany it. I’m learning a lot, and fish doesn’t seem as alien when you know how to handle it. I’m particularly enjoying the hands on approach. This isn’t a cookery demonstration; this is first degree learning.
Prep complete, we turn our attention to creating a pickling liquor for the mackerel that will become a key ingredient in the escabeche. A mixture of oil, shallots, garlic, bay leaf, carrot, saffron, gloves, peppercorns, white wine, sherry, and vinegar create the perfect bath for the fish to develop it’s flavours. Ideally, this is an overnight process, but we only have a few hours.
Mackerel complete, it’s time to start on the lobster. I am glad I know how to do this now. We split the lobster in half before removing the nasty bits and topping the remaining meat with a Pernod and shallot butter before oven baking. This is the easiest dish of the day and most satisfying. I think it’s the big bold flavours that I like.
Staying on the shellfish theme, next is Scallops and Chorizo, a relatively simple dish that’s easy to get wrong if your timings are off. The skill is, first, preparing the Scallops once they’ve been removed from their shells, and second, having a really hot pan. They take moments to cook, but overcook, and it can be a costly mistake. The accompaniment of chorizo works well, a dish that reminds me of costal holidays in Spain!
For the last course, we create sole veronique with sautéed potatoes and wilted spinach, a dish I’ve been peeling grapes for all day, wondering, why am I doing this? Will it add anything to the dish at all? The answer is I’m converted. It works, albeit peeling grapes is a job you really want to get someone else to do for you. It’s not enjoyable.
The food, however, is and during the day, we sat many times to enjoy the fruits of our labour or, should I say, fish of our labour, accompanied by a bottle of wine and the other members of the course. It makes for an incredible event.
Ashburton Cookery School offers more than just fish courses. They also do courses in bread making, dinner parties, Italian, and their taste of Yorkshire course. Prices start at £60 for a half day course and £165 for a full day course.
If you’ve ever fancied a cookery course, but never taken the plunge, then allow me to give you a gentle push and suggest, today would be a great day to book yourself in a course!
Ashburton Cookery School | Dean Clough Mills | Halifax | HX3 5AX