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Monday, 14 January 2013

The Cook School Scotland, Kilmarnock

A couple of christmases ago, I was given some gift vouchers to use at The Cook School Scotland in Kilmarnock. The school is situated just 30 minutes from Glasgow, offering corporate events, private dining, children's birthday parties and a wide range of classes. Not only do you get to cook with great chef's but you also get to work in a state of the art kitchen which is fully equipped with Miele appliances. Miele is a German manufacturer of high quality domestic appliances, regarded by many as the market leader.
After months of struggling to find a course that I fancied, I eventually booked up for the Curry class that I attended last Friday. Upon arrival, myself and the other pupils were treated to coffee and fresh shortbread as we waited on our day to start.
Just after ten o'clock, resident head chef Philip Lewis and chef Jim Miller welcomed us to the Cook School, and after running the house rules by us, as well as being given an introduction to the dishes that we would be preparing over the day, we were invited to take our place at our work station.
After familiarising ourselves with the kitchen workstation we would be using, we gathered around the demonstration area at the front of the kitchen where Jim showed us just how easy it can be to make our own naan bread to accompany the three meals that we would be preparing.
The first dish that we would be making was Lamb Rogan Josh, a slow cooked aromatic curry of Persian origin and a signature dish of the Kashmiri region. Phil talked us through and demonstrated the various stages of the meal from toasting and grinding the various spices needed, through to sealing the lamb, and getting the dish to the point when it was ready to go into the oven.
We returned to our stations where all the required ingredients were waiting for us. The first stage of the rogan josh involved sealing the lamb in a happy pan, before removing from the pan and setting aside until the spices and vegetables were cooked though.
Next, onions were cooked in a pan before the garlic and ginger were added, followed by the ground and powdered spices. Once everything was well combined, chopped tomatoes joined the other contents, finally the lamb was put back into the pan before putting the pan into the preheated oven.
The rogan josh would cook for a few hours, allowing the lamb to become wonderfully tender, and the sauce to develop the rich fragrant flavours from the spices.
Once we had got to the stage when our lamb was in the oven, we needed to start thinking about lunch. Phil and Jim called us back to the front so that they could demonstrate the second meal that we would be preparing, Chicken Korma. The Korma is a characteristic Indian dish that dates back to the 16th century.
The korma benefits from marinating the chicken with garlic, ginger and natural yogurt for a lengthy period, ideally overnight but as this was to be our lunch, we took a couple of shortcuts. In all fairness, this is a really easy meal to prepare and after a quick walk through from the experts, we were let loose back at our workstations.
At this point in the day the general noise in the kitchen dropped, probably down to the fact that we were getting hungry and we were solely responsible for the quality of the meal that we were about to serve ourselves..... Concentration levels were at an all time high as we carried out the various stages of the chicken korma.
It didn't take too long before we were serving up and heading through to the dining room to enjoy the fruits of our labour and the naan breads that Jim had prepared earlier were served alongside our chicken korma.
Ordinarily, I would never order a korma in a restaurant or think about making it at home, mainly due to the fact that my own experiences of korma is the sickly sweet, overly coconutty, heavy and creamy dish that is served up across the UK. My Cook School korma was a deliciously fragrant yet spicy, creamy yet textured curry that has completely changed my perception of what a good korma is. This is a dish that I will be cooking in Gerry's Kitchen again and again.
With the bloood sugar levels topped up, it was time to return back to the kitchen and make a start on our final meal which was a spicy Goan seafood curry. Phil prepared the fish for our curry whilst providing a little information about the importance that Goa played in the spice trade over the years. The Indian port of Goa was an important stopping point for the traders sailing across South East Asia, before moving their important cargo of cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin and peppercorns onto the Middle East and Europe. It was at this point in the afternoon that we removed our lamb rogan josh from the oven. The lamb was cooked perfectly and the sauce was deliciously rich, reminiscent of quality curry from my favourite Indian restaurant. The rogan josh was set to the side to cool, before it was packaged up for our own private takeaway.
Before Jim talked us through the cooking process of the Goan seafood curry he showed us how to make the 'perfect rice', a foolproof way to cook rice that can be served with any curry dish.
After watching our final demonstration, we headed back to our workstation to prepare the meal that would effectively bring our day to a close. This dish was a little trickier than the other two curries that we had prepared mainly down to the fact that the monkfish, mussels, salmon and sea bream that we used, all take differing amounts of time to poach in the sauce from the curry. However, by following the printed instructions and notes taken earlier, my curry was ready in no time.
Jim's rice was removed from the oven and we started to plate up our early dinner. With all the cooking now at an end, it was time to head back through to the dining area and sample the seafood curry with a glass of wine
I didn't know what to expect from the Goan seafood curry, it's not a meal that I would ever have ordered in a restaurant, but I was pleasantly surprised. The sauce which had a base of natural yogurt and coconut milk wasn't as creamy as I expected it to be whilst the addition of paprika an cayenne pepper gave the curry a decent level of spicy heat. The sea bream and monkfish worked brilliantly in the sauce but I felt that the salmon was too strongly flavoured for the sauce. I think if I were to make this meal at home that I would stick to using various white fish while staying away from some of the oilier fish.
With our dinner plates cleared away, we were served a simple palate freshener of macerated fruits served with natural yogurt. After the heavily spiced meals that we had been enjoying over the day, this dessert was a great way to end our day.
After spending the best part of six hours in the kitchen, it was time for all of us aspiring chefs to go our separate ways. However before we left we had to collect our lamb rogan josh and any other leftovers that we had from our day of cooking.
I had a great day at the Cook School and would definately go back and try another course. The curry cookery day that I attended costs £100, which I thought represented pretty good value for money. We were given expert tuition from two top chefs who each have many years experience within the hospitality industry, and throughout the day they were both on hand to answer questions and offer assistance where needed. We cooked three meals from start to finish, using fresh fish and lamb, and chicken. (The two half portions that I took home was still enough to feed me and Nicola a decent sized dinner, whilst the lamb rogan josh meant that our Saturday night dinner was also taken care of). Finally, before we left, we were given a branded bag for life, a ring binder folder with the recipe cards from the course, and we also got to take home or Cook School apron that we had been wearing on the day.
Check out the the Cook School website for information on the range of courses and events available. Keep up to date with the Cook School on Facebook and Twitter.

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