The four-week Simple Suppers course will appeal to both novices and foodies who want to develop essential cooking skills and master new, speedy recipes under the watchful eyes and guidance of trained professionals.
Falling into the latter category, I cook every meal from scratch but tend to leave my creative-inspired cooking for the longer, more languid hours of the weekend. Weeknight dishes tend to be quick and formulaic: pan-fried or oven-baked fish with steamed vegetables, or roasted sweet potatoes with home-made guacomole - healthy and tasty, but I was looking for some fresh ideas. I also wanted to further develop my techniques, knife skills and improve presentation.
Simple Suppers fits the bill perfectly. The course is open to cooks of all levels and is a very effective way of strengthening, updating and even correcting any prior culinary knowledge or assumptions. The two-and-a-half-hour class is nonstop, but as the group is small, it isn't overwhelming.
The chefs are encouraging and helpful - for me, they were the best part of the course - and the passion they bring to their work is infectious. Watching them debone a lamb, for instance, is a lesson in artistic dexterity.
In each class you cook two main courses and a side dish or salad. You even get to enjoy one of the mains at the end of the evening, over a hard-earned glass of wine with the other students.
In four weeks, some of the dishes I have mastered include:
- Pan-fried duck breasts with plum and teriyaki sauce
- Prawn laksa with Thai basil and lime
- Crab risotto
- Cote de boeuf with garlic, thyme and red wine jus
- Harissa lamb with chickpeas and spinach
- A tasty selection of salads, such as stir-fry of Asian leaves; artichoke, pine nut and pequillo pepper salad, and - my personal favourite - fennel, orange and olive salad.
The advice and knowledge I soaked up from chefs Jenny and Shauna has been passed on to friends and family and I now have a new batch of ideas to add to my repertoire of weeknight suppers.
Leiths offers an array of classes including: one-day; evening and short courses; chef skills; food writing, styling and photography. Prices vary. For more information visit Leiths School of Food and Wine (www.leiths.com)