Cookery school review: Eckington Manor Cookery School
The course: Restaurant Dishes at Home (£175 for a full day)
Where: Eckington Manor Cookery School, Worcestershire
What it’s like
Arriving at Eckington Manor is like stepping onto an island of rural bliss, surrounded by a sea of green pasture. The chocolate-box main house is the centre of attention, with beds of roses and lavender swooning in the breeze. But this is a working farm, too, a fact that isn’t lost on head chefs and partners, Sue and Mark Stinchcombe. “We’re lucky,” says Sue, “we’ve got the farm, orchard and allotment, so we can design the menu around what’s coming through the ground.”
Mark, who won MasterChef: The Professionals in 2015, agrees: “It’s a chef’s dream to work in an environment where you can grow quality produce for the restaurant.” A purpose-built barn houses the school and restaurant, and there’s a neat bar, too, where you’re likely to find Eckington’s charismatic owner, Judy Gardner.
What I learned
While I can whip up decent stews and soups, anything on the cheffier side of savoury has so far eluded me. Course leader Jeff broke down how to prepare more complicated dishes. He demonstrated how to fill ravioli and make a classic vinaigrette, and we covered a host of techniques, from deep-frying fish to folding flour into egg whites, aided by smiley assistant, Scott. Jeff expected us to multi-task, resulting in me – in his kind words, caramelising” some fennel, not intended for such a fate.
Time management and efficiency were key takeaway titbits, but we had the chance to be creative, too, deciding what shapes to cut parmesan crisps and plating up dishes with micro-herbs. Our day was perfectly paced, with regular breaks to devour dishes in the adjoining restaurant – a nice touch given the title of the course.
The day struck a satisfying balance, covering both core skills and fun flourishes for elevating dishes. Although some equipment and ingredients had to be shared, this provided opportunities to mingle. For anyone looking to learn the foundations of fine cooking, with the bonus of a standout restaurant and accommodation, this is the place.