Editor Sarah Hardy tells us about her five-week Italian cookery course at City College, Norwich
MANY, MANY YEARS AGO, and after lots of years in education, I vowed to take a course just for fun. Once I had left university and had the time and cash to do it. Life, of course, tends to get in the way and some 30 years later, post children, I finally signed up to a five-week Italian cookery course at City College, Norwich.
There was no excuse, really. It’s just down the road, it’s not too pricey, my children were keen to see the back of me for three whole hours and well, frankly, I could do with a hobby. And, yes, before you say it, my cooking could indeed do with a bit of a lift, too!
And so last September I joined 14 other wanna-be Antonio Carluccios and, under the careful eye of our tutor, Ruth Cooper, we have worked our way through several favourites including gnocchi, risotto and tiramisu.
There were triumphs and disasters: my minestrone soup went mainly down the sink but my focaccia was much more successful. Will I ever make pasta again? No, probably not as it is way too fiddly for an impatient type like me but I will make my own pizza dough and thus my own pizzas.
I discovered I was on the ‘rustic’ side of presentation, which means my food was chunky rather than delicate but, hey, it is all about the taste, isn’t it? I also put it down to having a teenage son, with a very healthy appetite, so we are all about quantity at home.
I learnt plenty, such as decent knife skills, and can look quite good chopping an onion; and I can knead for England, or even Italy, now, after making pasta, pizzas, breads and more.
These courses are great. They are not pressurised; my fellow trainee chefs were all very pleasant and we all got along well, bonding over when to turn our aubergines for example, and having a good giggle when one of us did something wrong. I had a shocker one week – I seemed incapable of following a recipe or listening to anything Ruth said, so my first batch of cantuccini went in the bin as I simply chucked everything in the mixing bowl when the egg yolks and whites were most definitely meant to be separated. Oops!
We were given the recipes as printouts so I will be tackling a few of them again and have threatened to hold an Italian themed dinner party – with plenty of Italian wines to help the evening along.
I paid £115 for the course (Basics of Italian Cookery) which was for three hour sessions over five weeks. Most ingredients were supplied but we were asked to bring in a few extras like asparagus, mascarpone cheese and spinach. We used all the equipment at the College and even got to borrow rather fetching skull caps and aprons.
There are many different leisure courses to tackle at the College, from photography to car maintenance, plus several more cookery ones such as sugar craft. So: what next for me?
The next Basics of Italian Cookery course starts on January 16.
Visit www.ccn.ac.ukJoe Mulhall, head of hospitality, catering, tourism and Aspire, writes:
‘As students embark on a new academic year, City College, Norwich is stepping up and continuing its mission to provide inspiration and raise aspirations for the whole wider community. Sarah’s story reminds me of my teaching days in the kitchen, delivering cookery classes outside the larger 16 to 19 year-old provision. I have fond memories of sharing my expertise and chef’s secrets with a group of foodies who loved laughing as much as they did eating. For me, the reward is all about individual progress – people who didn’t think they could cook, then proudly taking home dishes they’d prepared at college, sharing them with their friends and families, and gaining confidence within the kitchen.
Do keep an eye out on our website for up and coming classes that start at different points throughout the academic year, where you’ll be able to gain new skills as well as meet new friends. For those who prefer the eating rather than the cooking, then visit the Debut Restaurant where you can sample many of the dishes that form part of our curriculum.’