Greek Class With Chef Will at Coghlans Food and Wine Experience, Rowsley
If the saying ‘start as you mean to go on’ is an omen of things to come, I’m going to be a very happy little bird in 2014! You see, the New Year had just begun and I was back at one of my fave places on the planet (Coghlans Derbyshire Food and Wine Experience Centre) to do the brand-spanking-new Greek Cookery half-day class with Chef Will Nicol.
There was originally going to be 6 of us in the kitchen, but the recent flooding had thrown a spanner in the works for 2 people so they had to reschedule...which meant there were four sets of beady eyes watching Chef’s every move. First up, after washing our hands and donning the aprons, it was the safety info (and where the refreshments were located!), and then we set-to making the dough for the gyro bread: this needed some time to prove, so that needed to be the first job ticked off.
The recipes on this course transported us to warmer climes and dreams of sitting on terraces, sipping Retsina; in reality, we were faced with a typically grey, dismal day, so the illusion was most welcome! We were going to be making juicy, flavoursome Keftedes (meatball kebabs), Spanakopita (a Spinach, Feta and Filo Pastry pie), a colourful Greek Salad and classic Tzatziki. Already, I was dreaming of the gyro bread bursting with salad, Tzatziki and flavoursome meatballs...but there was some work to be done before His Nibs and I could enjoy the [hopefully edible!] fruits of my labours.
As we all weighed, measured and mixed ingredients together, a bubble of chat and banter filled the kitchen, and that’s one of the things I love about these classes: you make friends each and every time you go. Fragrant aromas of herbs and spices wafted around, along with the characteristic note of Garlic, which is used liberally in Greek food; Will said that if we weren’t keen on it, to just add a bit, and conversely, if we love the stuff, add a bit more! Chef Will’s approach to cooking is very laid-back, his philosophy being that recipes are for guidance and, once you’re confident, tweak the ingredients to your own personal preference – sounds like my kinda cooking.
My dexterity was tested when it came to assembling the Spanakopita; sheets of Filo needed to be buttered and joined together to line the round tray, without them breaking: in all, I think we ended up six layers of the pastry surrounding our mixture when it was ready to go in the oven. My nerves were shot to pieces, I tell ya!! Miraculously, I didn’t have a single tear in my Filo sheets, so all the scrummy Feta, Ricotta (we used Mascarpone), Onion and Spinach stayed nicely snug where it should be.
Our Keftedes mixture had been chilling in the fridge for 30 minutes at this point, so we brought it out and began to form the balls of meat, putting them onto wooden skewers and flattening them slightly. Whilst we’d been dividing the meat mixture, Will had been putting out flat-bottomed pans onto a high heat and, when all our skewers were done, we popped them into the pan to sear and get those marvellous char-stripes on one side. A blast in the oven finished them off, and as they were getting bronzed, it was time to assemble our Greek Salads and Tzatziki.
It always amazes me how good something as simple as Cucumber, Yoghurt and Garlic can taste! I have to confess that as soon as our Gyros had been cooked on the hob, I was dibbing pieces into the Tzatziki....I had also been pilfering some of the Kalamata Olives as we’d putting them into our salads #sorrynotsorry. Again, Chef gave us some wiggle-room in the composition of the Greek Salad: if you don’t like Olives, don’t put them in, simple as that. Your food, your way. I tell you what though, the rainbow colours in that salad made me want to chomp on it straight away. Unfortunately for my gluttony, it was time to crack on and get the [by now] golden Spanakopita out of the oven – and by golly, did they look incredible. Having had this tasty morsel warm on the day it was made and cold the next day, I can say that my opinion is that Spanakopita gets better when it’s had time for all its flavours to meld together and harmonise...but it’s flipping scrummy either way!
There were always plenty of classes to do anyway, but with the addition of the new ones that Chefs Will and Meg have created, there really is something for everyone. I’m already looking forward to my next adventure: Turkish Cookery, again with Chef Will Nicol.
To book a place on any of the courses visit the website www.cookingexpert.co.uk or give the lovely Lisa a buzz on 01246 453131, or pop in to the premises whilst you’re at The Peak Village at Rowsley.
Huge thanks again for inviting me along. I know you all think I’m joking when I say that I’m going to set up a camp bed in the storage area at the back....!!
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