Ben goes back to school for a day at Philleigh Way, an innovative rural cookery school which offers a fantastic range of courses. Find out how he fared below!
What: Indian Cookery Course
Who: MahaMasala Spice Company
Where: Philleigh Way Cookery School
When: 2nd September
Paratha Bread, Green Chutney, Punjabi Pakore
Chicken Lahori, Paneer Butter Masala, Pulao Rice
It felt a little strange, as a chef, to be going to a cookery class – it’s been about 30 years since my last one! And that’s a good enough reason in itself; with such a strong and diverse food culture here in Cornwall it’s important to keep dipping into the melting pot.
I’d heard good reports about Philleigh Way from friends who had enjoyed their courses in the past. The school is in a beautiful setting on the Roseland Peninsula. Surrounded by fields and woodlands which run down to the river Fal, and just a few miles from the ocean, this really is an inspiring place to get to grips with local produce from land and sea.
The school is the result of a farm diversification project led by brothers-in-law James Martin and chef George Pascoe (five generations of Pascoes have called Court Farm at Philleigh their home). The programme is diverse with everything from their popular Beginner Bread and Simple Supper courses, to more technical days getting to grips with preparing and cooking game and fish. Specialist tutors have been recruited to offer real insights into topics including sushi, Italian cookery and foraging.
MahaMasala is a husband and wife team which delivers the Indian courses at Philleigh Way. Jasmine’s gastronomic journey began in her Granny’s kitchen in India. She went on to travel the length and breadth of the country, learning about different regional methods and flavours. Ben is a Cornish epicurean with an interest in the revival of traditional methods of cooking, local and seasonal produce, and slow food from around the world.
Like most people, I’m aware that most of the Indian food we have access to here in the UK is, to put it politely, somewhat lacking. I was keen to learn more about authentic Indian cooking, and I wasn’t disappointed. We learnt about the uses of different spices, and how styles and dishes vary between North, South, East and West. With such a vast country, it was good that the practical element of the course focused on the North, otherwise it might have been a bit overwhelming. Jasmine explained how culture, religion and family life influences how people cook and what they eat, as she talked us through the first job of the day – marinating chicken thighs in yoghurt, ginger, garlic and cardamom.
The chicken, which was simply baked in the oven later, was just one part of the feast we prepared throughout the day. We learnt how to make deliciously light Punjabi Pakore, a spinach and an onion version, which were more like tempura than the stodgy onion bhajis we are more familiar with. A dip of coriander, mint and garlic typified the fresh, vibrant and punchy style of cooking taught by Ben and Jasmine; forget those brown and gloopy curry sauces which all taste vaguely similar!
This was also the first time I’ve cooked with Paneer – an Indian cheese with a consistency a bit like tofu. I found it the perfect vehicle for the tasty sauces we made and might well experiment with it in my own restaurants – especially as the Paneer we used was apparently made in Penryn. A bit of fusion cooking may be on the cards!
Ben and Jasmine were fantastic tutors who imparted loads of insight and knowledge but also made the day relaxed and fun. The cooking was accessible and the recipes easy to replicate at home, showing that you don’t a huge list of hard-to-find ingredients to make authentic Indian food.
The school has been set up to provide a very enjoyable learning experience. Groups are small, the kitchen facilities are excellent, and the course was well-designed and operated at just the right pace. As well as all the useful pre-arrival information (they advise you to bring plastic containers so none of that lovely food goes to waste!) I also received the recipes via email the next day.
Whatever your interests or cooking ability, there is bound to be a course at Philleigh Way which appeals and, judging by my experience, you’ll have a great time.
As well as a wide range of cookery and lifestyle courses, Philleigh Way also run indoor and outdoor dining events throughout the year.