Julia shares her experience of a Valentine’s Day with a difference – at our Cookery School!

blog 1Last night mark and i benefited from our Christmas present from my parents: a cook and dine event at Hart’s Barn Cookery School. I thought we were going to learn how to make pasta and then eat a 3 course meal that included our pasta but it turned out to be WAY better than that!

We were offered complimentary drinks on arrival so i opted for hillside brewery’s pale ale, pinnacle. Yvette Farrell was very welcoming and once the third couple had arrived she took us through to meet the lovely Erin Baker, our teacher for the evening. Erin was enthusiastic about the Italian food she was going to get us to cook and got us started with tiramisu so it would have time to chill before we ate it.

So we worked in our couples to separate eggs (who knew that to fish out bits of egg shell you can use the shell you are holding to cut through the egg and pick up the little piece…. It’s almost like a magnet!), whisk up egg whites, mix the yolks with sugar and mascarpone cheese (mark and i had fun pretending we were on master chef and made quinnels with it… or at least an attempt at them… before adding them to the mix). Then we folded it all in together and put it in a piping bag. We soaked our biscuits in coffee with amaretto (brandy was on offer as its the traditional soaking alcohol, but i couldn’t resist the amaretto!) and layered it all up with the biscuits. It was fun as there was usually a job for each of us to do at similar times so we worked as a team to make our desserts.

Next we moved on to watching erin knock back the dough for the foccaccia, and then we made our pasta. Pasta flour and an egg was all that was needed, then lots of work to bring it to a soft play dough consistency.

blog 2While the dough was resting we shaped our foccaccia, adding some yummy leeks that Erin had already cooked, to the top.

And then we had fun with the pasta machine, rolling and folding several times in the widest setting, before gradually rolling it thinner and longer on narrower settings. Mark and i opted for a team effort on this too, with one of us holding the pasta and guiding it in, and the other making sure it came out of the machine nicely without folding up.

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Then we used the cutter on the machine to make strips, coated it in flour and twisted it into little nests.

blog 4And then we were allowed to eat!!

Yvette had made a lovely salad of red and yellow beetroot, with gorgonzola cheese, toasted walnuts, blood orange and rocket. I didn’t think I’d like the orange in it but it cut through the richness of the cheese beautifully. It was kind of funny sitting close to the other couples during a valentines meal, but there was a nice mixture of mainly couples’ talking time and occasional comments shared around the table.

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Then we were back in the kitchen to make our carbonara. I never knew you could just crush a clove of garlic and cook it in the butter for a bit to flavour it before taking it out. That worked really well, as did adding a teaspoon of salt for every litre of pasta boiling water!

We mixed up our eggs and cheese, fried off the pancetta (yummmm), cooked the pasta then mixed it all in with the eggs (and a teeny bit of pasta water) before garnishing it with more cheese (nope, there’s no cream in a traditional carbonara!). And our main course was ready, with the foccaccia which was now baked.

blog 6Oh my word! It was yummy! The pasta was unbelievably different, even from the ‘fresh’ pasta you can buy in the supermarkets, the foccaccia was light and airy, and just yummy with the leeks and rock salt on top. But it was rich, and sooooo filling! We all manned up though, and had room for pudding, though i couldn’t finish it. I just got to a point where i realised i could not eat another mouthful. Sad as i was to leave tiramisu (one of my favourite puddings) it was the right decision!

We were stuffed but happy at the end of the evening. I’ve come away having had fun working with mark to create a meal together, and having learned techniques and recipes that i can use at home. It was a great way to spend valentines evening.

Thank you yvette and erin for a really enjoyable and educational evening.

Visit Julia’s personal blog HERE to follow her year of creative experiences.

Julia attended our Valentine Cook and Dine – if you would like to learn how to make pasta, or even foccacia click HERE

If you would like to be a guest blogger on our website please email us on info@hartsbarncookeryschool.co.uk