Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Experimental Cookery 2016 #2: Nick Nairn's Cook School

For my birthday last year, LC got me a voucher for a course at the aforementioned cook school, which was valid for a year. Unfortunately, in the months since then I've found that the vast majority of the courses conflicted with other things that I had on, and so there was a lot of waiting for something that looked intriguing and that didn't conflict. And so, finally, on Saturday I attended my course.

It was a three-hour course run by Nick and Tony Singh. The menu was Peanut Butter Chicken and Passion Fruit Souffle with Coconut, Lime, and Chilli Sorbet.

It was an interesting experience, and not quite what I had expected. The session was split between demonstrations and actual cooking - demo, cook, demo, cook (and then eat). Which was pretty much as expected. What was less expected, though, was that I enjoyed the demonstrations considerably more than the actual cooking.

The course was very well presented - Nick and Tony work extremely well together, and they both have a very good, and very informal, presentation style. And it was very interesting to see them at work, and especially when things didn't go quite according to plan (at which point the key lesson was that there's always a way to salvage the situation). My one, tiny, issue was that at a couple of points both presenters were working on something at the same time, and it was a bit tricky keeping track of both at once. But other than that, it was a lot of fun.

However, I didn't enjoy the actual cooking nearly as much as I had expected. Partly, this was due to numbers - the plan was for people to work away in pairs, which was great except that there were 25 of us, and I was left as the odd man out. That's not a big deal, since I'm quite happy to just work away by myself, except for the bits where they said that one of us would do X while the other would do Y. But never mind - I just multi-tasked (because, yes, I can do that). Still, it wasn't ideal being the only one on his own.

The other issue is that it's surprisingly awful cooking in someone else's kitchen. That's actually tied to something they made quite a big deal of - they called it "mise en place", which is basically about having everything in its place. Which is never quite the case with a foreign kitchen, no matter how well arranged. So there was a frisson of panic as we got sent off for the first cookery step and I couldn't find anything.

(My other slight disappointment was that we actually only cooked the Peanut Butter Chicken, which was easy and I could have done anyway, and only watched the Souffle being made - that being the thing I've never tried before. That's fine, and I think I've got a decent idea of how it's done, but I think I would have preferred it the other way around. Still, no big deal.)

Still, it was a fun day. I learned a few things, and I was also reassured to have confirmation that a lot of what I was doing was indeed the right thing.

Would I go again? Well... perhaps. I think if I were to go again, I would go for one of the full-day sessions - the 3-hour format was fine, but perhaps a little cramped. And, in particular, if I were to go again then I wouldn't go alone - better to take a partner with you, and that way you're guaranteed not to be stuck on your own!

And that was the big excitement of the weekend.

#20: "The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes", by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (contains "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes", a book from The List)

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