Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cooking Class at Lucy Cooks, Staveley in the Lakes District

One thing you learn fairly quickly on a month long holiday is that you get fairly sick of restaurant food after a while. You do your best to try and mix it up - different cuisines, a mix of posh and pub, the occasional "I'll just have an entree" before crashing out after a long day in the car...

I don't want to sound ungrateful, but night after night of eating out can have a toll on your taste buds, as well as your tummy. As much as I love trying different types of food in different cities, sometimes you just crave a home cooked meal. Something simple in the company of friends. Somewhere you can just relax, have a bit of a laugh and enjoy simple good food.

In anticipation of becoming food weary on this trip, I looked for something that might fit that very bill. I found it in a cooking class through Lucy Cooks in the Lakes District.

Lucy's started life in Ambleside in 1989 and has grown to be a veritable feast of foodie fabulousness - a combination of Delicatessen, Mail Order, Cafe & Restaurant, Outside Catering, Wine Bar & Bistro and Cookery School in the Lakes District of Northern England. Having read so much about the whirlwind that is Lucy we knew we had to eat at one of her fabulous restaurants. But after almost three weeks of eating out, could there be a better option?

We stumbled across the Cooking classes purely by accident but after three weeks of eating out they sounded like the perfect antidote to our gourmet problems. You are greeted with a welcome cocktail and following a good wander around the cooking school, you settle down to watch a professional chef create a three course meal suitable for any home dinner party. It's a relaxed mix of dinner party, learning experience and entertainment and a perfect thing to do after so much hard travelling.

We arrived at the designated time of 6:30 and accepted our welcome cocktail - a mix of rose wine, vodka, lime juice and ginger ale - gratefully. It was delicious and I am looking forward to replicating it at home this summer. Refreshing and cool it set the scene for what was to be a truly sensational night, full of entertainment, gastronomic delights and great company.

Ryan, our chef, explaining the evening's menu

We were seated around a long table with a good view of the demonstration kitchen. There were 11 of us in the group, a mix of locals out for an evening through to people who had traveled an hour or so to sample the great food. Some of the guests had done the more formal cooking classes at Lucy's before and spoke highly of the experience which excited me. That certainly bode well for the evening ahead!

We started with an introduction from our chef from the evening, Ryan Blackburn. Ryan has worked at some of the UK's best restaurants, including the Michelin starred Martin Wishart's in Edinburgh. A recent addition to the team at Lucy's he was head chef at Wishart's cooking school in Scotland before relocating back to the Lakes District, his original home where he is able to share his passion for cooking and his love of Cumbrian produce.

He has a wealth of experience, having worked at local institution Holbeck Ghyll (another Michelin Starred establishment) and as a cooking demonstrator.

Whoops! Stared eating before I took a photo! Clearly eager to taste!

We started the evening with a delicious celeriac and saffron veloute. Thick and creamy, the richness of the soup was balanced by the freshness of the produce, and it was ridiculously easy to make. The hint coriander and touch of saffron took this soup from being good to extraordinary. It was a stunning dish and really set the scene for the evening ahead.

Next on the menu was a potted trout dish. Unfortunately being allergic to a lot of fish meant I couldn't partake, but kindly Ryan created a dish especially for me as an entree - a goats cheese and filo stack served with a roasted golden beetroot and dressed leaves. The dish was spectacular - the filo was crisp and golden, the goats cheese oozing, the betroot fresh and delicate. The right amount of textural crunch matched with salty softness - it's hard to think of enough superlatives to describe how good this really was. Mr Kitty loved the potted trout, by the way - he described it as delicate and fresh with a hint of horseradish cutting through the richness. It was served with locally made toasted artisan sourdough - another highlight.

The next course was from left field. Lucy is famous for her puddings - both savoury and sweet - but we weren't expecting something so... fabulously exotic! The main course was a traditional South African Bobotie - a spiced lamb dish topped with a savoury custard. It's something I have never tried despite our travels around South Africa. I have to say it didn't really sound all that appealing at the beginning of the night but I took Ryan's advice on how wonderful it was and plunged in with enthusiasm. I was glad I did - it was absolutely delicious. The flavour of the lamb and the garam marsala worked beautifully with the sweetness of the apricots and the gorgeous unctuousness of the "custard". The best way to describe it is that's it's very much like a moussaka without the eggplant or a spiced shepherd's pie. Delicious. Moreish. Fabulously comforting. An absolute winner. The Bobotie was served with a green salad and boiled new potatoes, the perfect foil for the delicately spiced hearty dish.

Dessert - well could we fit dessert in after such a delicious and delectable meal? The answer is a resounding yes, especially when it's a fig and frangipane tart served with Chantilly cream. I had never attempted a frangipane tart - I always thought it would be fiddly and hard, but with Ryan's recipe it couldn't be simpler, or more delicious. No photos, I'm afraid - we ate our slices before we realised we hadn't photographed them. I clearly have no future as a proper food blogger. You'll just have to believe me that it was absolutely delicious - the pastry was melt in the mouth and the filling beautifully yielding and soft. I can't wait to try this recipe over summer with peaches and nectarines.

Ryan hard at work creating our dinner

Stuffed and happy, having had a brilliant night chatting with people and watching the skilled Ryan and his team - the lovely Janet and fabulous funny Tim - we resolved that if we were ever back in the Lakes District we would make a special trip back to another cooking class. Not only was the food fantastic, it was the perfect antidote for what ailed us!

Lucy Cooks
Mill Yard
Staveley near Kendal
Cumbria LA8

Ph: 015394 32288



Sydney Shop Girl said...

What a fascinating holiday food experience!

Thanks for sharing it with us, Kitty. I totally understand about the eating out whilst on holiday problems.

SSG xxx

Faux Fuchsia said...

I love a cooking class! Will you make these things again??

Miss Kitty-Cat said...

The cooking class was a welcome respite from restaurant food - if only because Mr K and I got to talk to other people instead of just each other!! And yes - over the summer I'll definitely make the goats cheese tart and the dessert (it was really easy) but I think the soup and the bobotie will have to wait for a cold snap - which I am hoping will be next winter at this rate!

Maxabella said...

What fun! I would love to travel and do cooking classes all over the world. A little dream of mine... x

Amy said...

This looks my kind of place, Kitty! I'm not sure I will get to the Lakes District on this next trip, but I will bookmark your post in any event. Totally hear you on getting sick of restaurant food....

Curious about the South African Bobotie, will be googling that one - it looks tasty!

Tell us more about your trip, I love living vicariously through you!


Miss Kitty-Cat said...

It was loads of fun and such a welcome respite from restaurants. The bobotie was really interesting - happy to send you the recipe if you like Amy?