It was a last-minute decision – I had looked at the classes on the internet in Australia but thought 2 days out of our 7 would be pushing it a bit, that is leaving John to his own devices for 2 days. But when we arrived and looked in the window of the Stein Seafood Restaurant the details of the forthcoming class were posted and John urged me to join them, saying he was happy to just do some of the walks around Padstow whilst I cooked.
Monday morning at 8.45am twelve students arrived at the school for 9am start. Coffee orders were taken by Paul the manager and chief demonstrator. We introduced ourselves to each other and later name stickers were issued. Paul began the course with showing us how to successfully remove live scallops from their shells and cooking them in a simple asian way, lightly steamed with some aromatics added at the end. And then it was to our well equipped stations to cook and reproduce what we had attentively watched being demonstrated. The course continued this way throughout the day and was deemed an ideal format by everyone. Every time a dish was demonstrated we immediately returned to our stoves – no time to lose the plot. We then sat down at the communal table to eat our personal best.
Around 11am out came a good white wine and any time a top up was required staff made sure we did not go thirsty. Our shiny faces were not due to the wine but the steam in kitchen!
My cooking ‘buddy’ was Glenn, recently retired from living and working in London and like me seeks a sea change. With his wife Mary they have moved to live full time in their former holiday home in Sussex. They also have bought a boat and anticipate lots of fresh caught fish in their future. Coincidentally they had just returned from a holiday in Australia.
Glenn along with me was right into the groove of documenting our hard work so I have some evidence to show my hard work in the kitchen for a change.
Only three women in the course. Is it the subject of seafood or is it a new trend for men to outnumber the women.
Andrew took over teaching at the end of each day. Just when we knew we had eaten enough he produced something so delicious we just had to fit it in.
We all gained a great deal from being shown how to descale, gut and fillet various types of fish. Buying the fish whole is one part of the equation, making sure it is really fresh and then preparing it from scratch ensures you get it at its best. Cooking is the easy part here for me, the clean and tidy filleting was the training I sought.
Not only did we have variety in the fish or seafood but the dishes were derived from all over the world.
Rick Stein devises the recipes, the staff make any changes that are required for them to be practical in the class or the restaurant.
Glenn and I weren’t always first back to the communal table with our dishes, we were taking great care in making sure we got all the details right.
Here’s our menu for Day 1.
Scallops steamed with ginger, doused and dressed with soy, spring onion and sesame oil
Hot and sour fish soup – Thai ingredients in the stock
Pan fried gurnard with sage and garlic butter
Braised brill with slivers of potato, mushrooms and truffle oil
Crab pancakes with lemongrass and coriander
Menu for Day 2.
Mussels in pilau rice with fresh coconut, cucumber and tomato relish
Monkfish sates with spicy peanut sauce
Goujons of lemon sole with parmesan breadcrumbs
Moroccan fish tagine
A little ragout of seafood with herbs and white wine and linguine
Moroccan fish tagine
On the last day Andrew who took over a couple of times from Mark decided to go all out and cook us a lobster. Not the humane way though, it went right into the boiling water. I think the chefs get a bit hardened cooking seafood all the time and have no time for PC or sentiment.
The mussels were male and female with the latter being a deep orange in colour. I found the males sweeter!!
Well worth the two days of time and the price tag and I learned a great deal and ate even more. Glenn and I had fun and of course we were convinced our dishes surpassed Mark’s every time. How is that for a confidence boost. Mark should be proud.
On the day after my course ended I drove past the school and saw through the porthole windows above that another full course well underway.