A gluten free day at Leith’s Cookery School
I’ve expanded my cooking skills at a few of cookery schools, but yesterday marked my first trip to Leith’s.
Leith’s cookery school is based in West London, not far from Shepherd’s Bush. It was established in 1975 by Prue Leith and Caroline Waldegrave and currently sells itself as the most prestigious and respected cookery school in the country. The school was, in fact, intended to be a training centre for chefs in the ever-expanding Leith’s catering enterprise, which was established by Pure Leith back in 1969.
Leith’s offer a whole host of cookery courses, which include their top-level Diploma course and many more specialist shorter courses, on food writing, food styling, and specialist areas of food and cooking, and I was very lucky to be able to attend the Creative Gluten Free Cooking course, hosted by Adriana Rabinovich.
I was really excited to be able to undertake this course as they book up very quickly, and this course was no exception, with 17 students in the class, it was full to bursting in our demonstration room. Gluten free baking can be such a challenge, and what interested me about this course was being able to work with flours I have hardly worked with before – which was largely due to availability – or lack of it – in the U.K. Where I have managed to get hold of more unusual flours such as teff and sorghum, they have been ruinously expensive (think £5 for 500g) I have been reluctant to experiment too much with them for fear of an expensive failure! Adriana is a real expert in her field and I was jumping at the opportunity to meet her and soak up all her advice. From a selfish point of view, I’m always really keen to expand my knowledge when it comes to cooking gluten free – the possibilities are endless!
The day started by congregating I guess what is essentially the common room. There, we all waited to be called into the demonstration kitchen to get started. The demonstration kitchen was very large and I was pleasantly surprised by how cool it was in there, given the fact that it was a warm day on which I visited. We worked around large wooden benches, sharing making each recipe with a partner.
Adriana was assisted by a wonderful teacher called Andrea, who was absolutely wonderful – knowledgeable, supportive, and great fun. There were also two lovely ladies in the room helping with the prep and clearing up who couldn’t do more for you, helping with finding equipment whenever it was needed. The kitchens were very well equipped and I noticed that plenty of things they used equipment-wise I have at home, so no excuses for me! The ovens, however were a different issue. Large, professional gas fired ovens were slightly intimidating. We used probes suspended in the oven and fed out to determine the oven temperature, and writing the cooking time on the top of the oven to keep tracks of things. This was actually one of the hardest aspects of the day for me – remembering when to check your dishes – being a lazy cook at home, I just set my timer and wait for that to alert me!
So, what did we make? We started off with a lovely teff bread, using brown and ivory teff flours. With all recipes, Adriana demonstrated them first, explaining what to look out for when making each recipe and then we got on with it ourselves.
We then went on to make fresh gluten free pasta, which we ate for our lunch with salad and an asparagus pesto we made to accompany it.
After lunch, we made some delicious cheddar and rosemary cheese straws, cornbread and cookies. Sadly, I didn’t manage to try everything as I had to run for my train back to Dorset and had to forfeit waiting for these to come out of the oven.
All in all, it was such a wonderful day, an informative course, and plenty of fun. I’d go back tomorrow if I could. Do keep an eye on Leith’s course list, as they run a number of gluten free courses there throughout the year.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Leith’s for the day. All opinions, as ever, are entirely my own.