An evening at cooking school thanks to Le Creuset South Africa.
I have been in love with Le Creuset cookware for a long time. I remember my Grandmother and I looking at a small set of pans for me when I was going to leave home to go to University – she insisted that I buy decent stuff that would last me forever – a very wise lady. In the end I went to University in Plymouth, staying at my mums place to save cash and so I never started my Le Creuset collection.
Now, settling down a little for the first time in South Africa, supplying my own kitchen with cookware has become a major undertaking. So I was utterly joyous when I walked through my new local mall (Cavendish) and found the Le Creuset store!
I came across the Le Creuset South Africa fan group on facebook and decided to join to keep up to date with special offers and new releases so I could start my collection. The group is really great, constantly updated with lots of competitions and creating great links with fellow foodies. It was on here that I saw their competition to win an evening at Silwood cooking school! I love to cook, but have never had any formal training and so immediately I was caught up with the idea of finally having someone teach me how to chop properly, let alone cook the three course menu that the competition offered. I messaged in straight away, describing my love of cooking and its place in my life as stress-relief, blog subject and connection to my work in Environmental sciences and voila, I won a place!
My awesome foodie friend Hazel also won a place, so after spending an entire day not really working due to over excitement, we headed to Silwood. It was great to meet the lovely marketing representative (Gill), the store manager from Cavendish and our fellow Le Creuset and general food fans! Greeted with a glass of champagne, the evening was off to a great start.
We chatted away with our station mates – Tandy and Melody (thanks for the great conversation ladies!) and began making the pastry for our dessert dish – apple and almond tart. I was pleased to learn how easy it is to make pastry in a food processor (I was doubly pleased to learn that Silwood uses the same food processor as me!), so we made our pastry in record time and put it in the oven to blind bake whilst we made the almond filling and prepared the apples. After filling the baked tart case and returning it to the oven, our focus turned to (more wine) and a cream of watercress soup!
I asked our chef (Gary) about how Silwood make their stock and got some great hints and tips on making the most of the delicious whole free range chickens we buy – slow simmer for 8 hours!
Beyond the time consuming making of the stock, this soup recipe was fantastically simple and easy. I’ve never used watercress in soup before and it only needs cooking very briefly to maintain its colour which it beautifully imparts to the final blended soup.
Tasting and checking for seasoning (resulting in the immediate desire to own a Le Creuset salt pig!) finished our first dish.
The last dish in our three course menu was a Fish Duglere. I was particularly interested in this as I rarely cook fish (oceanographer with a sustainability induced complex), so it will be nice to do justice to a great piece when I can justify buying it! For this dish we used a great cast iron dish from Le Creuset – this is one of the major reasons I really need a Le Creuset collection for my kitchen, being able to swap dishes between the hob and oven is genius! The recipe involved cooking the fish fillet in wine and fish stock with tomatoes and parsley before finishing off the sauce on the hob with the addition of cream. The sauce was rich with the cream perfectly offsetting the acidity of the wine, lemon and tomatoes used, I cannot wait to make this again for a dinner party. It was at this point I gained a real admiration for professional chefs. I always fancy myself as a fairly decent cook, but these guys are at another level. The tomato concasse (de-skinned, de-seeded and precision chopped tomatoes) took Gary an hour to prepare for us all and that’s with all his practice! I don’t think I could ever be that good, but I will definitely try this dish at home, although may be my version of the tomatoes may add a little more “rustic” edge!
After drinking our way through the plentiful wine, we wrapped up our dishes to take home. Just before leaving we were presented with a large orange Le Creuset bag. If you could have seen me I imagine I’d have looked like all my christmas’ had come at once.
Finally, my own Le Creuset dishes! I cannot thank Gill and Le Creuset SA enough for the fabulous evening, made perfect by our gifts of a cassis stoneware baking set and red silicone spatula and trivet. I will thoroughly enjoy cooking with these and part of my next student bursary will definitely be set aside for an investment in cast iron cookware!