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Dinner Party Cookery Class – The Avenue Cookery School
On the hottest day of the year so far your first thought would not have been to attend a cookery class. However, once greeted with a glass of cold white wine by the very lively Diana, our teacher for the evening I was happy to be there. We were immediately shown where to wash our hands and put on our aprons and meet our companions for the evening.
The school whilst only the size of a smallish shop was an airy bright room with a clever use of mirrors, tidy shelving, stainless steel and lighting made it feel spacious and easy to work in.
First off, Diana in her effervescent and slightly eccentric style introduced herself and told us a little about the history of her cookery school which she runs with her son and daughter. She actually introduced herself as ‘Diana Darling Sweety-pie Honey Bunch’ and she certainly is.
The Avenue Cookery School Dinner Party Class offers; Innovative recipes, Great dinner party ideas, Tips on how to be organized and Spellbinding demonstrations! That together with a recipe booklet to take home. Of course for this cookery class all facilities, equipment, ingredients (and wine) are provided throughout the evening!! The skills acquired include forward planning for stress-free entertaining, time management, learning to cook a delicious 3 course dinner, table setting and much more… I can vouch for that as the evening was packed full of learning and lots of fun.
As this was a Dinner Party Class Diana unashamedly told us how important it was to lay a good table. It didn’t have to be elaborate although did have to have quality glass wear! Diana said she would go home if she was invited anywhere without decent glasses! Now I know why my friend manages to break the less good ones of mine when she visits – a big hint to get some new ones – noted! Another of Diana’s must-dos is to use Malden salt.
We were told about the menu we were going to prepare and furnished with a leaflet with the menu and recipes. These are also emailed after the event for those who prefer an electronic version.
Diana was adamant that when hosting a dinner party the menu should be something that you can prepare in advance and easily put together when you are ready to eat. This minimises the time spent in the kitchen away from guests.
We settled with a drink in hand ( it flowed all night!) to watch Diana demo the dishes we were to make. A well positioned mirror meant that everyone could see the chefs at work.
Diana kept us entertained with her witty stories and unpretentious approach to the cooking. There was a lovely interaction with her son who was busy assisting and preparing the workstations ready for us to get cooking. They obviously have a fantastic relationship which brought an extra special dimension to the evening.
Being gluten free most of the menu was perfect for me other than the dessert and I was told I was getting a surprise. I was asked if I liked White Russian which luckily I do as I was then given a spoonful of ice-cream to taste which was just like a frozen white Russian, and very strong! This is what it looked like when it was served. Everyone else enjoyed the sticky toffee pudding they had made and also tried the ice cream.
I am a relatively competent cook so it was great to learn new things and improve some basic skills.
Some of the many tips Diana shared with us included the following: Always use a good quality Chefs knife and hold it properly, at the end of the blade/handle; how many layers to peel off an onion (that the paper and one more); how to peel a garlic clove easily; how if you add salt to garlic and then use the knife blade to press it makes a lovely paste which mixes better in food; vegetables look better when they are all chopped the same size; and many more. A surprising one for me was that shiny food looks best, not dull, although when I thought about is this is obviously right.
With about 4 or 5 to a workstation, we mixed in with our fellow students and shared out the tasks so that all three courses were prepared simultaneously. We all mucked in and got along, probably helped by the constant filling of wine glasses. And it was very good wine too.
Everyone did really well and we got the food spot on. There was one very funny moment when one of the ladies was chatting away and picked up a bowl and was about to empty the contents into the saucepan of ragout when we all looked in horror and froze. She had mistakenly picked up the bowl with the vegetable peelings/rubbish! We managed to stop her just in time. Another lesson – the importance of concentration. We all had a good giggle and there were no further mishaps and we moved to plating up.
Again presentation is very important. We served our vegetable ragout in a scallop shell with the scallop on top. They looked and tasted marvellous.
I had always thought that cooking both scallops and duck was difficult to get right – you can easily overdo them. It was good to see exactly how to manage them to perfection. Scallops need only a very little time and that a good searing of the duck to get the crispy skin first is the trick before a short roast in the oven. If in doubt undercook and remove from the oven early.
We sat around the wooden long table on high stalls, laid with good cutlery and glassware obviously.
All too soon it was time to leave – it was a ‘school night’! It was a great way to spend an evening mid-week. Whilst the majority of people came as couples it was also very easy to go alone.
I left with the dinner party still in full spin – there was no pressure to leave after the meal was eaten.
On their Facebook page they say “ Individually, and as a team, we have years of experience and our passion for teaching others to cook shines through in our laid-back and fun classes. We most definitely don’t do boring and you’ll feel right at home as soon as you walk through our doors…Why wait?” I can vouch for that and highly recommend trying out The Avenue Cookery School
Dinner Party Dining Cookery Classes range from £80 – £180
Evenings 7pm to approx 10.30pm (dinner and bottomless booze included)
Vegetarian and dietary requirements can be catered for on request in the cookery class, but time restraints mean meal alternatives will not be demonstrated in the cookery class.
The Avenue Cookery School,
3 Enterprise Way,
London SW18 1FZ
+44 (0) 20 8874 7623
+44 (0) 7958 171787
For more information call Sophie Horsford firstname.lastname@example.org
The Avenue Cookery School also have a City class location at the Central Street Cookery School, 90 Central Street, London EC1V 8AJ which is well placed to cater to corporate events.