Video at Rutland Cookery School

 

rutland cookery school

Anna from ImpactvisuALS is going to make a short video showing the school in action on

Sunday 12th February 9.30am – 1pm.

This means that I need some volunteers who don’t mind being filmed…I would love it if some of my regular learners from Stamford College evening classes would like to step forward. You will get a free three hour workshop along with six other friends I will invite.

I had one confirmed, but can’t find the email now, sorry – please email me again.

Email me at info@rutlandcookeryschool.co.uk

Rutland Cookery School

When the website www.rutlandcookeryschool.co.uk goes live today it will be minus actual photographs of the school because, well at the moment it still looks like this:

Rutland Cookery School

It is a great, light space though and will look fantastic when the kitchen is fitted in August. A large and sociable work space will dominate the centre, towards one end. Clad in a huge sheet of dark grey Corian with six black induction hobs with fan assisted electric ovens underneath. I could fit more than the nine learners I have allowed for but I want everyone to have a generous amount of work space each (900mm) and not be rubbing shoulders with their fellow learners – no matter how friendly they are! Four people can work on each side with the chef tutor at one end and another learner opposite.

rutlandcookeryschool

I’m also particularly delighted to be able (thanks to Tom and Darren who are designing and building) to accommodate one wheelchair user (or in fact someone unable to stand for long periods).  The second single unit at the end opposite the chef tutor will feature a height adjustable work surface. Coupled with an access ramp Oakham Enterprise Park are building and the two single loos we are converting into one disabled access loo, the wheelchair bound will be welcome. There will be a large TV screen above and behind the chef tutor with two cameras, one above the hob and one above the workstation so nothing is missed!

Rutland Cookery SchoolThe teaching plan is for everyone to cook with the tutor, step by step. Each learner will prepare their own dish – no doubling up with another learner. I have taught this system elsewhere and am of the opinion it is for the benefit of the school (it saves money) and not the learner, who will often just be watching another learner. We will taste, discuss and present food carefully – just as you would expect a good restaurant to do.

A concrete resin topped table and chairs will form a relaxed dining area at the opposite end where learners can eat, chat and perhaps enjoy a glass of wine.

The aim is for the school to be as inclusive as possible with flexible courses that fit with busy schedules. We will start with 24 courses with another 16 to follow next year. Some courses will develop as introductory, intermediate and advanced, but this is planned for 2017. Seasonality is important too so expect Christmasy things in the run-up to Christmas, and a Pre-Valentine’s workshop for the romantics out there who would like to cook something special, for someone special. The supermarkets always jump on the bandwagon for this one, but I ask you – how romantic is a meal for two bought from M & S or Tesco? It just isn’t. Come to Rutland Cookery School and learn real skills beyond turning the oven or micro-wave on – I guarantee your partner will love you forever…T & C’s might need to apply…

I’m rather hoping we will see some familiar faces from my PCDL classes at New College Stamford. I like the evening class format very much and feel it offers flexibility for people that work and also need to keep weekends free for other things like children, housework, shopping…actually, maybe a Saturday workshop is a better option! Unfortunately we won’t have the benefit of being subsidised by Lincolnshire County Council so will not be as cheap but we do hope to offer the best value we can.

As soon as the school opens, Anna from ImpactvisuALS is going to make a short video showing the school in action. This means that I need some volunteers who don’t mind being filmed…I would love it if two of my regular learners from Stamford College evening classes would like to step forward. You will get a free three hour workshop along with six other friends I will invite. I don’t know when exactly but if you are interested email me at info@rutlandcookeryschool.co.uk

I am also hoping that the group of seven adults with learning disabilities that I have been teaching for nearly a year now in Peterborough will re-locate for their cookery class. They have made such progress in a year and I know they could do much more with better facilities.

Finally, thanks to Simon at RutlandWeb for sharing the vision and bringing the website to life. Simon is great to work with and very patient – and at times he’s needed to be!

Rutland Cookery School
Harry
rutlandcookeryschool
Mark

Great Food Club

There are a couple of big changes happening this year, which is why I have been a little quiet of late. The first ‘new direction’ is that I am now editor (South Lincolnshire) for the Great Food Club. For my local readers, if you are not already a member, you should be! It is free to join and you get a membership card and beautifully printed handbook that offers valuable discounts across the Midlands. Sponsored by NFU Mutual and Hartington’s School of Food, the Great Food Club guides you to the best local independents, from street food stalls to Michelin starred restaurants.

On Saturday Karen and I reviewed a restaurant in Stamford, No. 3, The Yard,  and very nice it was too, but with the elderflower finally in bloom I thought I’d post this. In case you are wondering, recipes will still appear here but they will be linked to my other ‘project’ which I’ll share with you in a couple of weeks.

Belvoir Fruit Farms – home of Belvoir Cordials

The unseasonably cold (and downright miserable) weather of late put a dampener not just on my spirits but on the sap and joie de vivre of the flowers and trees in the garden and hedgerows too. Of course everything will catch up, it always does but the sudden spurt in growth is more noticeable by the ‘on hold’ cold snap that preceded it.

great food club

The elderflower is now in glorious bloom. One of my favourite hedgerow plants, a native to Britain  and long regarded as sacred, it reminded me of a visit to Belvoir Fruit Farms last year and a guided tour by the charming owner and MD, Pev Manners.

belvoir fruit farms

Nestling in the beautiful vale of Belvoir (pronounced ‘Beaver’ locally) Belvoir is of course Norman for ‘beautiful view’. Belvoir Fruit Farms have been producing cordials and presses since 1984, pressing fresh fruit and infusing flowers with spring water. But it was the elderflower that was in production when I visited and the perfume as I entered the (new) factory was wonderful  – and head and shoulders above any other food and drink factory I have visited! An elderflower and organic ginger version was also being infused. Originally all the elderflowers were handpicked from bushes growing around Lord and Lady John Manners garden and the whole family pitched in to produce the first 88 cases which Lord John loaded into the back of his car to drive around local farm shops persuading them to buy a case or two.

robin stewart

Demand now is so high that the local community are called on to help with the picking.  Harvesting only the freshest flowers that must be fully open, heavy with pollen and picked on a warm sunny day to preserve the maximum floral taste. From picking to vat can take no longer than three hours.

great food club

Today this product is just one of 40, many of which have won multiple awards and are available in over 28 countries worldwide.

great food club

Picking starts on the 31st May and lasts as long as the flowers do. £2 per kilo can be earned provided the flowers are fresh and contain no stalks. They must be delivered on the same day, they go brown very quickly and are then unusable. As you would expect Belvoir Fruit Farms expect their elderflowers to be picked responsibly and the countryside code is published on their website along with times when flowers can be delivered.

So if a gentle ramble in the Vale of Belvoir on a warm, sunny, early summer afternoon appeals, remember to take scissors and a few black bin liners!

great food club

Autumn In Spring

We had some old friends over at the weekend and for some strange reason I thought of an old Roger Vergé recipe from Cuisine of the Sun.  Published in 1979 when I was a young and ‘keen as mustard’ commis chef working at the Carlton Tower hotel in Knightsbridge, London.  Michel Guérard also published two books around the same time, Cuisine Minceur and Cuisine Gourmand  and I have borrowed heavily from all books over the years.  I think it was the weather that did it, choose the menu that is, spring does not feel it has sprung yet – it is still cold and was sleeting yesterday morning. So I went the whole hog and roasted beetroots, onions in their skins, which makes a delicious and cheap vegetable and Kabocha pumpkin; a taste of autumn in spring!

I was grateful when our friends offered to bring a pudding – both pastry chefs and past examiners at Westminster College they now teach at the School of Artisan Food. Not that I was worried of course…They also turned up with a loaf of sourdough baked that afternoon. Only three ingredients – water, flour, salt.

There is an amusing and typically Gallic footnote at the bottom of Vergé’s recipe: “Roger Vergé recommends ducks that are killed in a special way – by smothering – to preserve their blood. Most cooks outside France, however, will have to be content with ordinary ducks”.  Poor me – I struggled to find duck that didn’t come with a sauce.  I suspected the shop assistant would not be familiar with the ducks demise and refrained from asking.  In the end I had to settle for just legs. What a shame,  I get so frustrated when I can’t just buy good, fresh, NOT MESSED ABOUT WITH whole food. We should be encouraging people to cook properly and not just shoving more and more convenience solutions down their necks. Nice to see all the food programs on telly are working then!

Finally, and after a break of I don’t know how long…a recipe! Perhaps save it for the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.

Robin Stewart

Autumn in Spring

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:1]

 

Product Photography

I’m registered with a service called ‘Bark’. If you need a plumber, kitchen designer,  personal trainer, accountant or…photographer in your local area  Bark provides a single point of contact for enquiries that it then emails out to registered used within the speciality required.  The service is quite indiscriminate though which means I get requests for all types of photography: weddings (no), pets (no), family portraits (no!), new-born babies (including a request to photograph the actual birth no, no, no!)  Boudoir (maybe….sorry what? Boudoir? Spoiler alert – no boudoir pictures to follow, sorry. This is a surprisingly popular genre of photography and one that many photographers specialise in. A lot of people it seems (mostly women, but some men too) want photographs of themselves in their underwear. Sometimes the enquiry comes through their partner – as a ‘gift’. Mmmm.  I guess perhaps as we get older it might be nice to have a record of just how good we looked in our prime – dam! Look at me then, I was hot! What happened over the last 20 years is anyone’s guess…

Although a recent Daily Mail (who else) survey found that:

‘Only 3% of women in the UK are totally happy with their body and 73% think about their size or shape every single day.  The survey of 5,000 women, commissioned by REAL magazine, found that 91% of women were unhappy with their hips and thighs, 77% were dissatisfied with their waist and 78% said they had cellulite.  Three-quarters of British women were unhappy with their shape, 71% with their weight and six out of 10 said their body image made them feel depressed.  Some 65% of those surveyed felt their life would improve considerably if they were happy with their body.  The women who took part in the survey had an average age of 33 and more than half fell within normal weight limits for their height. The survey also found that 91% of the women surveyed were happy with their partner’s looks.’
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-146021/Most-women-unhappy-bodies.html#ixzz451hyPHYA

We can’t assume that the 3% who are happy with their bodies all want a boudoir photographic record, so that’s quite a small specialist area to get into.

What all this means though is since I have to pay £12 if I want to follow-up a lead I am choosy and stick to event, documentary and product photography.

The thought of photographing burgers has never particularly appealed, partly because I don’t like eating them all that much. A company who specialize in vegetarian foods for food service and retail called to ask for some fresh product photography to replace the rather uninspiring images they currently use in their catalogue. To be honest I was a little concerned, the images I saw were tired, dated and downright unappetising and I worried that this was how the products would eat. Fortunately they didn’t and I was pleasantly surprised at just how tasty they were – it is a perk of product photography after all…

The brief was to show the products cleanly and simply and hopefully I achieved this. I wanted them to look as good as they tasted.  Studio lighting used throughout.  I worked on site and although the natural light was nice when I started, over an eight hour shoot it will change. Studio lighting is consistent.   I have included the current catalogue photographs as well so you can see my starting point. There were eleven products in total.

Falafel – BEFORE:

Daloon Foods

Falafel – AFTER:

product photography

Glamorgan Sausage – BEFORE:

product photography

Glamorgan Sausage – AFTER:

product photography

 Spicy Bean Quarter Pounder – BEFORE:

product photography

Spicy Bean Quarter Pounder – AFTER:

product photography

Veg Grill Main – BEFORE:

product photography

Veg Grill Main – AFTER:

product photography

Vegetable Finger BEFORE:

product photography

Vegetable Finger – AFTER:

product photography

Sweetcorn Fritters – BEFORE:

product photography

Sweetcorn Fritters – AFTER:

product photography

Chiang Mai, Thailand

The heat of Chiang Mai was very welcome after the chill in Laos and it was nice to slow down again instead of rushing around trying to keep warm. In fact this trip can be divided between going slow to generate as little heat as possible and the exact opposite in Hanoi and Luang Prabang.  Hué being the temperate exception.  Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand is a beautiful city, 700 years old and the old capital of the Lanna Kingdom. The city has 300 temples, mostly within the 1 km square city walls.

I spent a day at a cookery school – www.asiascenic.com which I would recommend highly.  They have two schools, one in Chiang Mai itself and another (which is the one I went to) just the city on a farm. They grow a lot of the vegetables and herbs used on the course and it was great to see great clumps of lemongrass and galangal as well as kaffir limes, pandan and chillies.

What I really liked about South East Asia, not withstanding the dodgy hygiene in many places, is the way that people are really connected to their food. It is such a major part of everyday life and they expect it to be fresh (and often alive). There is none of the squeamishness and ignorance towards food and where it comes from that I see in the UK.  My one regret is that I only got to try bugs once (OK, a bit shrimp like) and I only saw insects for sale in Chiang Mai and none on restaurant menus. They are a valuable source of protein, plentiful and produce a very low-carbon footprint compared to cattle, sheep etc. Maybe I was looking in the wrong places, I wanted to try them cooked, trussed and raw they don’t look particularly appetising!

I bought a new camera for this trip, my Nikon body and 24-70 lens weighs just over 3kg and is not particularly unobtrusive!  My hand luggage allowance was 7kg… The Panasonic DMC LX100 is about 500g of compact camera with a relatively large micro four thirds sensor and a bright, fast 1.8-2.8 Leica lens with a 24 – 75 telephoto range. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO and white balance are all controlled by buttons and dials on the top and back with a switch on the lens for manual / auto / and macro focusing. It also has 4k video recording and wi-fi meaning I could upload directly to my tablet whilst travelling. Optical viewfinder as well as screen, this is a brilliant camera. The only negative for me is the lack of an articulated screen.

All images are copyright – please do not copy in any way.

Chiang Mai

Chiang Mai

Robin Stewart

Thailand

Taste and Light

travel photography

Robin Stewart

Chiang Mai

Robin Stewart

Chiang Mai

Robin Stewart

photography

Thailand

Luang Prabang, Laos

It was just as cold in Luang Prabang as it was in Hanoi – and wet too. It did warm up after a couple of days. I think the Lao were in shock with the cold and huddled around little charcoal burners usually used for cooking. Luang Prabang is, as you would expect from a UNESCO world heritage site, very beautiful with the old part of the city sitting on a little peninsula with the Mekong river on one side and the Nam Khan river on the other. Food was good here, crispy river weed and the dish below which was a selection of fresh lime, ginger, shallot, salted shrimp and peanuts which are folded into a betel leaf with a little relish, this time pineapple. This is a great snack, incredibly fresh and vibrant. I love the crunch of betel leaves. I ate something similar a few years ago at David Thomson’s restaurant Nahm, in London. The Lao are also fond of water buffalo skin which they cut into strips and chew – there is a picture below and it is not particularly appetising. As usual though in South East Asia every last scrap of the animal is eaten, nothing goes to waste. Some Lao dishes reflect colonisation which in the case of ‘Luang Prabang salad’ is a shame. They are very proud of it but it felt quite European to me and missing the ‘hot, sour, salty, sweet’ balance I love and find addictive. The Lao are also closer in identity to Thailand but Thailand has never been a European colony whereas Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos have. The temples of course were many and very beautiful. They were so numerous that at one point I felt ‘templed out’ – that was until I got to Chiang Mai, which is next, and last of this travelogue.

All images copyright – please do not copy in any way.

Luang Prabang

Robin Stewart

taste and light

Luang Prabang

Laos

travel photography

robin stewart

Luang Prabang

Robin Stewart

rice cakes

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart

Robin Stewart