It’s always nice to do something different, so when I was invited to visit a new cookery school opening in Bristol, with some foraging into the bargain, I jumped at the chance! 102 Cookery School is the first UK cookery school to be opened by Samsung, and is set in a lovely converted church building, alongside a kitchen appliance retailer, Nailsea Electrical – so participants in the cookery classes can literally purchase the equipment they’ve used on their way out, if it impresses them enough!
I joined two London-based food bloggers, old friend Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and new friend Urvashi from The Botanical Baker (and Great British Bake Off fame!) for a day with Toby Gritten, chef-proprieter at the Pump House in Bristol, and experienced forager! We headed out of Bristol and in no time at all reached some woodland which could easily have been in the middle of nowhere. Having worked in Bristol until recently and only ever seen the city centre, I was amazed to discover such lovely countryside so close by.
Toby took us through the woods, foraging a variety of different things as we went along, and telling us what we could and couldn’t take. The morning’s finds included Burdock (known for its drink partnership with dandelion!), fiddlehead ferns, Jack by the Hedge, wild raspberries and strawberries which run in seams through the forest (although these weren’t in fruit just yet) and it was fascinating seeing Toby pick these out from what – to me – just looked like a sea of green foliage! We tasted the different plants as we went along and also tried a couple of better known ones, such as hawthorn and Douglas fir – which I recognised, but had no idea were edible! The Douglas fir was probably my favourite, as it had a lovely fresh, citrusy taste.
We also managed to gather a fairly impressive crop of wild mushrooms, which were to form the basis of the afternoon’s cooking lesson! It was a really pleasant morning in the countryside and we even saw some fauna to go along with all the flora – in the shape of deer and frogs (and numerous creepy and crawly things to boot!)
On our return to the cookery school, Toby showed us how to prepare a meal of cod, which he’d pre-prepared by salting it to bring out the flaky texture and wrapping in cling film to keep it in a cylinder shape. This was cooked in one of the state of the art Samsung steam ovens that are available in the school. To go with it, he made a sauce from the wild mushrooms we’d foraged that morning (I not only managed to cut myself whilst preparing one but squealed in a very girly fashion when I cut one open to discover maggots had made themselves at home inside – you’ll be pleased to know that one was discarded!) To the wild mushrooms he added white wine, a little cream and a lot of foraged wild garlic. I tasted the sauce before and after the addition of the wild garlic and was amazed by the strength of flavour it added.
The dish was served with Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus. A top tip that I picked up from Toby on cooking the asparagus was to stand it upright in a tall, narrow pan with only the lower part of the stems in the water, then wrap the tips in foil. That way, the stems boil in the water and will be tender, whilst the tips remain al dente. I just need to buy myself an appropriate pan now so I can try this at home!
One of the best things about the cookery school was that the cooking stations are arranged around two islands, so it’s a very sociable way to cook, rather than participants having to have their backs to each other as is the case in set ups where the stations are around the outside of a room. Also, there’s a lovely big table in a separate dining area so guests can sit down together after their cooking session and enjoy whatever they’ve prepared. Our meal was delicious and very welcome after a hard morning’s foraging and afternoon’s cooking!
There’s a huge range of classes and demos at the school, even just over the next couple of months, catering for all levels of culinary expertise, from technical chefs keen to try the state of the art equipment, right through to those who prefer just to watch. They also run chef’s table evenings, corporate events and parties. Many of the events feature top chefs, and my fellow blogger Urvashi will be running a class there too soon. It’s easy day trip distance from Cardiff for anyone who fancies something different, or is looking for a special gift experience for the foodie in their life. If you like the sound of the foraging experience with Toby, there’s one coming up on 8th July!
102 Cookery School, 102 Gloucester Road, Bristol.