Thursday, 26 May 2011

Cookery School Cookbook Review

This week I wanted to try out the Cookery School book that I borrowed from the library. I enjoyed the TV series, though Richard Corrigan scared me sometimes! His stare is rather intense at times, I don't think I would have liked to have been a contestant! It was good though to be talked through a recipe and shown exactly what the method was. Apparently it was the biggest commission Channel 4 had made since Big Brother - not sure how well it did or if it'll be back for a second series.

Of course there had to be an accompanying book, and this one represents the show very well. It contains all of the recipes that featured on the show which is a decent amount. There are 4 main chapters: starters, fish, meat and puddings. Very straight forward. Then the recipes are split into basic, intermediate and advanced. Then amongst these recipes are 'skills' lessions on how to make various elements such as making crepes or bechamel sauce or how to clean or prepare squid. These skills pages are well illustrated and explained, great for a beginner and for anyone who wants to extend their knowledge. I know how to peel a prawn and make mayonnaise but I'd be grateful for a detailed description on how to make tortellini or how to make a smoker (as seen below).

There are also some notes about ingredients by Gizzi Erskine. Can't say I've actually read these, I'd rather dip straight into the recipes, but she gives info on things like herbs and different cuts of meat. Nothing too new but a nice addition in a teaching cookbook.

At the back of the book there are some super-advanced recipes which featured at the end of the series to really test the school's pupils, by different guest-chefs. There are some of the recipes that I think I could tackle. I'm happy making roasted pork belly but I think I'd have to gear myself up to make Eric Lanlard's apple souffle with salted butter caramel sauce. Sounds and looks delicious though.

The first recipe I made was the Tea-Smoked Mackerel. I've wanted to try and smoke some fish or meat for a while and this seemed like an easy recipe to start with as I had all of the ingredients rather than having to buy some woodchips. All it consisted of was some jasmine leaf tea, demerara sugar and long-grain rice. I had to make a few adjustments as Waitrose didn't have any fresh mackerel in that day so I bought some extremely cheap trout instead. Then I didn't have demerara so I mixed caster sugar with a little soft brown sugar. The rice was also changed to brown rice. I don't think it made too much of a difference!

The smoking mix was extremely easy to put together. It seemed a bit of a waste of jasmine tea leaves, don't use your best purchase! I ripped up some jasmine tea bags rather than use up 50g of our lovely tea from London. I don't think you can re-use the mix as the sugar caramelises. It didn't smell particularly wonderful, even with the rice in there to stop everything burning it still smelt of over-cooked sugar! It was only when you took off the lid of the pan that you got the jasmine scent.

It was certainly an acquired taste but after a few mouthfuls I got to like it! The flavour perhaps overpowered the trout, the mackerel probably took the flavour better. I'm willing to try again. It did keep the trout incredibly moist and it was a fun recipe to try. The recipe served the fish with beetroot stew and fresh curd but I just wanted to try the smoker so served the trout with spinach and samphire which was a gorgeous accompaniment. This was one of the advanced recipes - yay me!

To try tea-smoking yourself find the instructions here:

I then tried the Mackerel with Gingered-Rhubarb Hollandaise and Pickled Rhubarb. I used smoked mackerel, again as I couldn't get fresh. I think it worked well as it balanced out the pickled rhubarb. It was another advanced recipe and I can see why as it contained a few elements. The pickled rhubarb was simple to make and was surprisingly nice! It isn't left in vinegar for too long so it isn't too strong. Then I made a rhubarb and ginger puree which is then added to a hollandaise sauce. It's the first time I've ever made a hollandaise sauce and I've heard it can be tricky to make but it wasn't a problem. Again I feared that it would make a pretty sour and unappetising sauce but far from it, it was delicious with the mackerel and I'd certainly make it again. I think this would impress a lot of people at a dinner party.

Then lastly I wanted to try one of the desserts. I made the Fine Apple Tarts with Pecan and Maple, ignoring the accompanying custard as I was happy without. Again this was an advanced recipe. There are no basic dessert recipes, examples of intermediate recipes are Lemon Posset with Butter Shortbread or Dutch Apple Pancakes with Cinnamon and Clove Sugar (I'm hoping to eat some pancakes next week in Amsterdam!). I was pleased with how my tarts turned out, this was the prettiest one though! They took ages to cook, longer than was specified but it's probably because our big oven is rubbish and draughty! I tried to follow the skills page on how to beautifully slice and fan apple segments but I failed slightly. But hey, they're homemade and they looked it!! I used a mix of nuts as we didn't have many pecans left.

I was mostly pleased with my results from this cookbook. The meat dishes look interesting too, the Pork and Fruit Wellingtons look really appetising. There are a few recipes for guinea fowl, kidneys and veal which make the book a little more interesting and there are some good skills page on how to prepare different cuts. I think it would make a great book for a budding chef. I don't think this is something you would necessarily give as a gift to a student or someone moving away for the first time unless they were a real foodie. The food is quite sophisticated and not always the cheapest ingredients. I would recommend it for all levels though and there are enough recipes I'd like to make for me to consider adding it to my book collection.


  1. Thanks so much for visiting my blog.
    The TV show irritated me a bit - I find Gizzy to be fairly annoying, and I thought Richard was a little too aggressive for a teacher - but I do think the book looks ggod. I've wanted to tea smoke some fish for ages now and I think I could!

    Lucky you, off to Amsterdam. Hope the weather is better than we got when we went earlier this year!

  2. I got a copy of the book to review and there are some good recipes. I didn't like Richard Corrigan's attitude either, but found Gizzy quite endearing.