Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Demo and Dine

My obsession with food seems to know no bounds. In fact, if such a thing exists, I am in essence a bit of a back seat cook. I can never let anyone just be, always looking over their shoulder and making a nuisance of myself. There was no room for this sort of behaviour at a recent demo and dine session I attended at Cookingmania in Stockbridge, where I was concentrating so intently on not missing anything, that my usual home cook urges were laid to rest for the night.

We were welcomed into the plush surroundings with a lovely glass of Prosecco, and as I sat at the sturdy wooden demonstration bench, I couldn't help but admire the beautiful glossy red kitchen. As our chef for the evening, Graziella, introduced herself and talked about her wonderful culinary background, I was firmly put in my place. This was not someone I could poke with a wooden spoon, urging them to check their seasoning.

We were treated to the insider scoop on how to make the perfect chicken curry. Starting off with a demonstration of knife skills, we were guided through, step by step, on how to perfectly spice the dish, how to keep the chicken moist, and most importantly, those bewildering secrets on how to keep washing up to a minimum!

To accompany our chicken curry we made a glorious raita, which frankly if nobody had been watching, I would have devoured all on its own. This traditional Indian dip was served alongside a generous helping of the chicken curry and rice. The dish was as promised, delicious. With fluffy white rice, succulent, moist chicken and the perfect balance of spices, this was a truly excellent curry, accompanied by a wonderful experience.

Cookingmania offer a range of cookery courses, from demo and dine to a Sunday baking club and men only evenings. You can find all of this and more on their website

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

What, no microwave?

These were the words that literally flew out of my mouth upon starting my new job and discovering that there are no microwaves. To put this into perspective, I am generally the type of person who is happy to go with the flow. I'm not bound by the laws of habitude, or plagued by the necessity of routine. However there is one exception, and that is my over reliance on the work microwave. I love a hot lunch, and in a bid not to give fifty percent of my salary to Marks and Spencer, I regularly make huge pots of soup to suppress my hunger, whilst saving me a few pounds in the process. So the news that this lunch time habit would be no longer, has had me re-evaluating my current tried and tested regime.

To further complicate matters, I'm not a huge fan of the classic sandwich. This dislike isn't rooted in childhood memories of boring ham sandwiches, but rather the opposite. Being brought up on an Italian diet, my lunchbox as a child was filled with cheese, parma ham and olives. These treats now go hand in hand with a glass of wine, which I'm pretty sure will be frowned upon in the staff room.

I have therefore been looking for creative ways to make cold lunches interesting. Now I'm sure that many a foodie will frown upon my lack of initial inspiration on this front, but as an advocate of the hot lunch, it was definitely something that needed thinking about. So as far as getting over the lack of facilities, I'm still working on that, but in terms of embracing a new way of midday dining, my mouth seems to be permanently watering. So far this week, I have indulged in a grilled aubergine and quinoa salad, bulgar wheat with coriander, chilli and beef and a slightly less inventive tuna salad.

If you have any suggestions for how to make my cold lunches more interesting, I'd love to hear them. And who knows, with your inspiration I may forever become a cold lunch convert.