WHAT IT’S LIKE
Malton Cookery School is a good place to be on a dark autumn afternoon. Set in a refurbished chapel in the centre of town, the school is the latest addition (and a welcome one) to the blossoming Yorkshire food scene. Walking into the open-plan kitchen, the atmosphere is immediately cosy, with scrubbed-wood countertops, white range cookers and bottles of Malton ale lining the shelves with the pots and pans.
Head tutor Gilly Robinson put the kettle on and we sat down with a mug of tea and biscuits to discuss the afternoon’s cooking – it was like being in an aunty’s country kitchen. This was to be a lesson in game cookery but Gilly explained she’d swapped out venison for beef in one of the recipes – when she went to the local butcher first thing it was the pick of the day – and changed the planned blackberries for seasonal plums. I could hardly argue with that commitment to quality and seasonality.
WHAT I LEARNED
Under Gilly’s watchful eye, our class was shown how to sharpen knives before we got stuck in to preparing rabbit legs, then jointing a teal (a small wild duck). Tackling such a diminutive bird is delicate work, and Gilly was detailed in pointing out where to cut and trim to ensure the proper portion sizes.
The afternoon was calculated to allow for efficient cooking in a relaxed style as we prepared multiple dishes. Working in pairs, we prepped all the ingredients and side dishes, then cooked our own dishes – with Gilly on the sidelines, popping our trays in and out of the ovens.
I particularly enjoyed learning how to prepare beef carpaccio (bash slices of fillet between sheets of cling film with a rolling pin directly from above, never at an angle, to ensure even thickness), and I loved the attention to detail with the garnishing and plating, too. A flavour highlight was the yellow plums we charred in a griddle pan to serve with the duck: their sharp-sweetness was the perfect match.
This course prepares you for the meaty task of preparing game, but has important lessons for anyone who wants to master elegant home cooking. The recipes weren’t shy on butter or cream – but then again, they aren’t likely to be in a town like Malton, famed for its butter-making and proud of its foodie status.
Gilly had been doing a cookery demo at the local (excellent) farmers’ market early that same morning, and during the class another local chef called in for a cuppa – stopping to help me correct my knife technique. It’s that easy-
going communal spirit that gives the school its flavour and makes it an experience far removed from a home economics lesson.