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The Cook School
The Cook School
7 Moorfield North Industrial Park,
Crosshouse,
Kilmarnock,
KA2 0FE
(01563) 550008
Written by Lea Haris - See more at - offtheeatentrack.wordpress.com

With Christmas looming, BOGG, The Boy and The Daught chant the six words I have become to dread - “What do you want for Christmas?" With so many cookbooks, a new shelf was put up in the kitchen to accommodate them; with space for a few more, this takes care of presents from the kids, but BOGG struggles. Therefore, this year I'm going to ask for some cookery courses.

I had the opportunity to attend one of courses run by The Cook School and had a ball. I picked up tips, was shown how to fillet a round fish to be stuffed whole; learnt that rock salt becomes like glass when baked and an easy way to tell if pan-fried fish is almost cooked rather than my usual method - guesswork!

What I enjoyed the most was the atmosphere created by the two chefs, Phil and Jim. The banter, humour and stories from them were always inclusive; it was unstuffy, informal and fun. We didn't need to shove our hands in the air if we wanted to go to the loo, get a drink or, for those that had an addiction to nicotine, a fag break. We worked at our own pace.

The day started with coffee, tea and juice with biscotti just from the oven (sorry Phil I think mine are better!) and, with pinnies on, it was straight into the kitchen for the first demo - focaccia made by pastry chef Jim (in a former incarnation he was a fishmonger), followed by getting to grips with pudding - Baileys' crème brûlée. So many people are frightened of delish dish, but it is so simple and foolproof. Back to the demo table as the custards baked and a quick filleting lesson for our take home dish, grey sole en pappilotte. Again swift and simple then back to our workspace to rustle up our fish supper.

Time to take our brûlées from the oven to cool, then settle back to watch how to prepare our lunch, starting with mussels followed by sea bass on carbonara leeks.

I was surprised by the other class members who, over our late lunch, admitted that they were too scared to cook fish in case they either under or over cooked it, but they left the course with a folder of recipes, questions they should be asking their fishmonger and the confidence to buy, prepare and cook all manner of fish. To me this was gratifying that a few more home cooks had learnt skills thanks to the two chefs who guided them through the processes, and partners who gave them a present of a cookery class. As an experienced and confident cook, did I mind that it wasn't a challenging? Not a jot, I loved it!

Day courses include, Curry, Glorious Game, Fusion, Market Kitchen and for the festive season The Cook School is running several Christmas Party Food evenings where you can sit back and watch the chefs do all the work. In January, you can cook Food from the Sisters Restaurant with Jacqueline O'Donnell who is a brilliant chef - cheeky and cheerful; she brings laughter and fun into her courses.

In the immortal words of Shirley Conran, “Life's too short to stuff a mushroom!" I'm all for the easy option come the Festive Season - bah humbug!

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