Becketts Farm's Orange Cookery School
A couple of weeks ago, we were kindly invited to attend one of Becketts Farm’s Orange Kitchen cookery school classes, and given the choice of the vegetarian or Caribbean course. I picked Caribbean. Now I don’t have anything against vegetarian cooking, but the lure of fried dumplings was too strong to ignore!
On the way to the class, I couldn’t decide if I felt more scared or excited. My culinary skills are pretty mainstream, I can whip up pasta and a stir fry, but being in a kitchen having to follow instructions, in front of other people, I thought might be a bit intimidating. I tend to read recipes the same way I read science fiction, I get to the end and think “Well that’s not going to happen”. As it turns out, there was nothing at all to worry about.
At the farm, we were greeted by Sadie, our teacher for the evening. And to help manage us wannabe-chefs for the evening, Sadie was assisted by Jason, who was on hand throughout the night to answer any questions, help with utensils, check we were doing things right…he also washed up so thanks Jason!
The kitchen at Becketts Farm is excellently fitted out with everything you could need. Each cooking station had a griddle plate, hob, fridge and sink, with all required utensils and ingredients laid out and waiting to be used. There are eight cooking stations that can be used by one or two people, so I took along my boyfriend as my sous chef (actually…it was more like the other way around, but don’t tell him that!).
Every space in the class was filled, which is a common occurrence judging by the list of classes on the Becketts Farm website, and once everyone had arrived, it was time to start cooking!
Sadie gathered the group around the main bench area and went through the plans for the evening. Sadie would take us through one dish at a time, then we would go to our stations and cook it, and then the best news, at the end not only do we get to take away what we have made, but also eat the dishes that Sadie made – these were clearly going to be better than ours, well, speaking for myself anyway.
To kick off proceedings, Sadie took us through the recipe for brown chicken stew, a really delicious Caribbean classic. It was really great to hear Sadie’s stories and own cooking experiences of eating these dishes growing up and how her mom taught her to make some seriously tasty recipes.
Sadie was a fantastic teacher, so gave us all the tutorage we needed, and most importantly, she made it fun. As we took to our stations for the first dish, I felt pretty confident that I could pull this off. And you know what, I think I did. Sadie and Jason kept a helpful eye on us to make sure we didn’t totally screw things up and with that, the first dish was bubbling away nicely and we were back around the main bench, learning this time, how to make ackee and saltfish, another Caribbean staple. The course was a great way to learn about Caribbean cooking and ingredients, as well a brush up on general cooking skills and get some great tips.
I will openly admit, my ackee and saltfish didn’t quite go to plan, but luckily, I got to eat Sadie’s later in the evening and that was clearly a fine example of how it was supposed to look and taste. Sadie also talked us through making what was possibly the nicest rice and peas I have ever had. We didn’t make any ourselves, but Sadie made enough for us all to take some home to eat with our own concoctions.
And then, as our stews were smelling pretty damn good, our final piece de resistance was fried dumplings, which were, much to my surprise, the simplest things to make. I say that, I still managed to burn mine, but they tasted good nonetheless!
And with my burnt dumplings packed into a take-away box, our 3 hours with Sadie and Jason were nearly up. All that remained was to eat our way through everything that Sadie had made. And after three hours of chopping, peeling, stirring and simmering all those fresh ingredients (most of which was taken from the Becketts Farm shop itself), we had worked up a very healthy appetite. Sadie also gave us recipe cards for all the dishes from the evening so that we could have another stab at making everything at home. I am in fact doing take two of the brown chicken stew as I write this, fingers crossed it just gets better and better. Hopefully it makes it into my, short but prestigious, list of standard dishes that I can impress with!
The course was such an enjoyable way to spend an evening, the food was great and it was a brilliant introduction to Caribbean cooking. I would absolutely recommend the cookery school for yourself or for a gift. The courses cover a whole range of specific cuisines (Thai, Moroccan, French, the list goes on - you can see them all here) as well as kitchen know-how like knife skills and fish preparation.
You can also hire the Orange Kitchen for team building, hen parties, children’s’ parties and more. For more information visit www.beckettsfarm.co.uk/cookery-school/.
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