What’s Coming Up At Sophie’s Cookery School
The big C-word is in the air again. Whispered, in a slightly guilty way, shouted down with cries of “Too soon, too soon!”. But there’s no avoiding it sooner or later. Christmas is hurtling full throttle towards us, and before it arrives, the impossible search for the perfect present looms.
Sophie’s Cookery School can rumba to the rescue, at least in some instances. A gift voucher for a cookery class is a top-notch solution for any one who is hard to please, or keen to cook, or even has no visible culinary skills but enjoys their food anyway.
That, you see, is part of what makes our cookery classes so enjoyable. Expert or beginner, or somewhere in between, all are welcome, all are supported and encouraged to take part and learn and above all to have fun, whilst building confidence.
Our range of classes includes a fabulous blend of old favourites, and newcomers. By far and away our most popular class, Lemongrass, Lime and Chilli, gets regular outings throughout our schedule. Its purpose is to familiarise our students with some of South-East Asia’s remarkable, aromatic ingredients – from tamarind and kafir lime leaves, to galangal and pandan, and like nearly all our classes, it finishes with us all sitting down together to eat the fragrant dishes we’ve created.
The only classes where we miss out on this ritual are our trio of sweet baking classes. Old-timer Easy Patisserie also makes frequent appearances on our schedule. It is a sugary indulgence of a class, where we delve into the decadence of eclairs, and millefeuilles and crème patissiere, and cream. By the time we reach the last half hour everyone is already on a sugar high as they contemplate their fine handiwork. This season we’re adding the new Easy Patisserie Showstoppers, led by Rachel Grenville-Hunt (you can find out more about her on her website www.rachelsapron.co.uk), another sugar and cream packed evening of elegant baking.
Number three is our Macarons class, where we dedicate the whole evening to making these beautiful, but notoriously tricksy, jewels of the Patisserie display. Gaye Perry, incredibly knowledgeable and patient, of the Newbury-based Real Macaron Company (www.therealmacaroncompany.com) is our secret weapon for success. We have one class left before Christmas (on 2nd December), which is lucky as a bag of pretty macarons makes a perfect small present.
If sugar-shovels full of sweetness is not your thing, that’s just fine, because our line-up of classes covers an enormous geographical swathe of the world. I take charge of many of our European classes, from the sunshine of Cuisine de Provence, where the products of the Mediterranean melds into classic French cuisine.
Italy gets a look in, too, with our Spring Pasta Class. We start from scratch, hand-kneading the dough to give the optimum texture, then rolling and twisting and filling to make ravioli, stained-glass pasta, and more.
We’ve gathered together an impressive gang of guest teachers, each of whom is a specialist in their own field of cooking. So. from Japan, we have Chika Hayashi who arrives with a bundle of painted fans to cool rice with, before showing us all how to make Sushi galore.
Samar Khatiwala is busy writing his first book on his native Gujarati cuisine, but has lived and cooked for a long time in Korea. His Korean Classics class is a must for anyone with a taste for kimchi.
Jumping to India, we explore the rich, spiced cooking of the Indian Mughals (dishes like Korma and Biriyani, for instance) with the fragrant Anita Chipalkatty. More unknown, but every bit as enticing, is the marvellous cooking of Georgia, with its walnuts, herbs, spices and wine, taught by Lia Chokoshvili, an expert on Georgian cooking and literature, and all-round hospitality superstar.
Happy pre-Christmas revels,
Sophie and Team
Sophie’s Cookery School