Despite having been in the restaurant industry for about 25 years – I find myself, at the age of 41 with very few skills in the kitchen department! I’ve been so busy launching and running venues that I have never really spent time in the kitchen at work or cooking for a family at home, but the passion for food has always been there…
My whole life – including my business – centres around food, drink and lifestyle. I work with some fabulous chefs and operators, and have come to realise that Cheshire is home to some of the best restauranteurs in the whole country (outside London) … so when my friend and colleague Dawn Weatherley invited me to a Thai cookery course with the fabulous May Wakefield of Chilli Banana Restaurants fame, of course I jumped at the chance.
The course was to be held at The Cheshire Cookery School in Altrincham, which is a state of the art kitchen and gadget shop with a fabulous cookery school with full dining facilities – it’s a superb family run business and well worth a visit.
This was an evening course (perfect for Autumn / Winter evenings) and we arrived at 6.30pm to a delicious warm Thai coconut soup with prawn crackers … there were plenty of people booked onto the course and they were all looking forward to a great evening, it really didn’t disappoint.
May demonstrated all of the dishes in the front demo kitchen and we all eagerly stood round to observe. The ingredients were the very best – we couldn’t wait to get going.
Our first dish was Tom Yam Gung (hot & sour soup with prawns & oyster mushrooms). After May’s presentation, we returned to our cooking stations and all of our ingredients were ready for each one of us… with our own utensils. May had made such a straight-forward introduction that we all got stuck in, knowing exactly what to do.
We were using superb, fresh ingredients including lemongrass, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, Thai red chilli, oyster mushrooms and of course the most succulent of prawns, which we shelled and de-veined ourselves of course!
Everyone helped each other and we all chatted over our woks, it was great to find out why people had booked onto the course and most were there due to a genuine interest in Asian cuisine, and all of them avid fans of May’s fabulous Chilli Banana restaurants (Wilmslow, Macclesfield, Liverpool and a new ‘Street-Food’ addition in Bramhall).
When we had all prepared our soup, we made our way over to the dining table and enjoyed our creations together … what a fabulous way to learn how to cook!!
Next up was Pad Thai Gung (prawn Thai style special fried noodles with Tamarind syrup). Once again, May demonstrated for us all and then let us loose with the most fabulous ingredients. This dish – although seeming more complicated – again was surprisingly easy to prepare and again we sat down and dined together. It was delicious, and although we were offered take-away containers should we not be able to finish it, none of us needed them – Fabulous!
May then demonstrated an additional dish to us which was Yam Pla Duk (crispy cat fish with sour mango and cashew nut salad). We all tasted it and again, it was fantastic.
It was time for the main course – and we all watched May prepare her Gaeng Keo Wan (Thai green chicken curry). She made her Thai green curry paste from scratch – the fragrances were stunning! It was our turn again and we could choose to add chicken or prawns (or you could opt for the veggie option).
The curry was the best I’ve ever tasted (even though I made it myself) – none of us could manage this one as we were so full from the Hot & Sour Soup and the Pad Thai, so the take-away containers now came in very handy!
I cannot quite put into words how much I enjoyed this course. May’s cooking and recipe’s are amazing, and The Cheshire Cookery School is such an impressive place. Other courses available include French Patisserie, Italian & Perfect Pasta, Middle Eastern Cookery, Chocolate Desserts and Christmas Canapes – plus Kids Cookery Club in the school holidays.
I cannot recommend The Cheshire Cookery School and May’s Chilli Banana restaurant group highly enough – and a massive thank you to Dawn for inviting me – and Lisa, Sam and the team for taking such great care of me and my fellow students.
What an amazing experience.