Having a big family that includes teenage boys means cooking plays a significant part of my day, every day. Holidays are the worst – you mean you want to eat? Again?
What to cook – actually what to shop for, how to appease hungry boys, very health conscience girls and one who doesn’t really do meat – could dominate my day. Happily, I’ve been doing it for years and, as yet, no one has gone hungry and I get to escape once in a while.
However, when asked to spend a day at Philleigh Way Cookery School to review their Simple Suppers, I was a bit…really? Will I have to cook all day? Well, actually, yes. But you also get to eat, drink wine even and, the best bit, hear some great cookery tips and be enthused by fresh ideas, different tastes and takes on old favourites.
Coming from Truro, I caught the 9.40am King Harry Ferry (with apologies to the dog walkers I sped past because I’d previously been stuck behind the slow bus to Trelissick) and pitched up for the 10.00am start. It was a gentle start though, fresh coffee, carrot cake and a bit of kitchen envy. The setting of the Cookery School is delightful. On the edge of the Philleigh, in between the farm and the pub, the building is a low barn with high-tech cooking equipment, brick tiled floors, wooden beams and great views of pheasants dodging the shooting season by pottering in the kitchen garden.
The day was led by George Pascoe, who was lucky enough to grow up on the farm, travel the world’s kitchens to become a highly regarded chef and yet insist the best of what he knows comes from his Granny. Robyn was his trusted assistant who kept everything running smoothly by ensuring us wannabe chefs had all the equipment, ingredients and encouragement we needed and, what joy, that everything was washed up. Just in case you missed that – we all cooked up several storms but, thanks to Robyn, did not have to wash a single pot or pan!
It was great to watch George at work. The first supper he demonstrated was local mackerel (showing us how to gut and de-bone it), deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs and served with a very tasty rosemary, courgette and tomato chutney. When it came to our turn to put on our aprons and pick up our freshly sharpened knives, I was surprisingly nervous. Maybe it was the recent series of Bake-Off, Master-Chef or distant memories of Ready Steady Cook and the thought that I was somehow to be tested, but there was no need to stress. Our efforts were just for ourselves and the chance to re-discover the pleasure of cooking to create and experience new flavours.
One word of warning. When signing up for the Cookery School, go there hungry! There is so much delicious food to sample it is impossible to be abstemious.
Lamb Shank with Pearl Barley Broth was next on the day’s menu. For this, we cooked in pairs and I was teamed up with Jairzinho, who was taking a break from his job as Head of Finance for a disability charity in London by holidaying in St Mawes. No stranger to the Philleigh Way, Jairzinho told me how much he had enjoyed a Game Cookery Course on a previous visit and how he relishes the opportunity not just to cook, but to hear all the valuable asides that George throws out – like that liver from mackerel tastes just like pig or lamb’s liver.
Other cooks that day included Jean and Jenny, old school friends from Polgooth, who were enjoying the chance to cook and laugh together and George, the youngest cook of the day, who had been given the course as a gift. He told me he loved cooking but lacked confidence.
After a day with Chef George, I’m sure everyone went home with more confidence in their own ability. George is a good teacher, demystifying even homemade pasta. Making pasta was almost an afterthought to the delicately flavoured Seafood Linguine, which was a follow-up supper to Chicken with Chorizo and Saffron. Who, of a certain generation, does not have a pasta maker gathering dust at the back of a cupboard? Dig it out – it was so easy and tasty! With just 100g of fine flour, an egg and a dash of olive oil you can make enough pasta for four servings and a huge amount of self-satisfaction.
By the end of the day, we had been instructed, made, tasted and taken home four simple but scrumptious suppers, sampled Sweet Shortbread with cracked pepper (another George tip) and got to blow-torch Crème Brulee.
I would thoroughly recommend a day cooking with the Philleigh Way Cookery School, especially if, like me, your cooking has become a little jaded. It’s barely twenty-five minutes from Truro (if you time it better than me) and a world way from opening the fridge and wondering what on earth you’re going to feed everyone.
Related content: Tapas at Philleigh Way Cookery School
Find out more about Jac here.